School Community Building at Livingstone Elementary

COVID- 19 has presented many challenges for educators.  As we have become more comfortable with Health and Safety protocols, attention has shifted to building school community.  Assemblies and whole school activities have always been a way of bringing students together to develop of sense of belonging.  enjoy performances, celebrate events and share learning.  This year we have tried to replicate this experience online.   Ms. Liang has booked performances that classes can access online for a given time frame.  Ms. Presley led the charge in sharing student learning during the Winter Show N’Share.  We have brought the students together for online assemblies on the All Students TEAM created in September.  The performance aspect has been strong but the back and forth exchange of information has been lacking.  Until today.

As a staff, we did decide to carve out the first Monday of each month at 2:15 pm for a whole school assembly.  Division 1 students shared the Indigenous acknowledgment and I talked about the importance of the place where we work, learn and play on our daily lives.   Living in a temperate rainforest impacted the lives of the Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh people, just as it impacts ours.  Never has this been more evident at David Livingstone Elementary, as during Covid.  Everyday is an outdoor day.  Our provincial health officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry, tells us it is the safest route for recess, lunch, and physical education lessons involving high cardio activity.  Students now have a greater appreciation of dressing for the weather and are expanding the possibilities for outdoor plan on rainy days.  We also have learned why cedar was so integral in culture of Coast Salish people.

The success of our assembly yesterday was in the staff and student sharing.  Students reported classroom learning including vinegar and soda explosions, financial explorations of cold coins, boxes of letters, Valentine’s Day art featuring the colour white, space stations, physical and chemical change, changes states of water and studies of stories.  Then just as it started to hail, then sleet, then snow. Div. 3 unmuted and shared the hero journey from the story Frozen.  Perfect timing!  Perfect moment!

Mr. Bring is sponsoring student council this year and shared some of the events planned for us by our student leaders.  Friday, February 19th will be “Blast from the Past” Day.  With my big hair, the 80’s will be my pic.  It will be fun to see the clothing and hairstyles or days gone by.  It is also a way to share a common activity and admire it from afar. 

Student Council is also promoting Pink Shirt Day.  Leading up to February 24th students will be discussing how three Canadian boys were pivotal in kicking off a movement that has helped us rethink about people’s right to be themselves, how bullying happens and our role in stopping it.  Students are encouraged to wear a pink shirt.  Teachers, SSA’s, the supervision aids, the custodians, the Office Assistants, the Spare Time Coordinator, our Director of Instruction, and I will all be wearing the CKNW shirts with “Lift Each Other Up” printed on it for Pink Shirt Day and periodically throughout the rest of the year.  Proceeds support local anti-bullying programs that teach empathy, compassion, and kindness.  We want kids to understand their shared role in defining who they want to be in the world, supporting each other across cohorts, and in the larger community. 

Shirt days have also been a positive way of facilitating group activity and stimulating conversation, largely about social justice issues that are so closely tied to social studies curriculum, and social emotional learning.  Terry Fox shirts came out en mass for the annual Terry Fox Run.  Our favourite Canadian hero had lots to teach us, even though we participated at different times of the day in cohorts.  On Orange Shirt day, students learned about residential schools, and the learning shared with us by our Indigenous people.  Black Shirt Day refocused our attention on the purpose and meaning of the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights and Freedoms.  February 24th, Anti-Bullying Day is on the horizon.  Another opportunity to understand that what we say and do matters. And to “Lift each other up.”

My first effort to build student community online in March was met with marginal success.  I would video-tweet out a message to students from various places to connect with students via the Twitter feed on the school web.  I was never  satisfied that I had managed to connect with our students.  I have had more success with building community on the Ms. Froese Reads channel of YouTube.  As a lover of books, reading and sharing books is already a well established part of my life.  Literature provides the opportunity for us to walk new paths, empathize with the main characters, and learn about ourselves.  I have been sharing my favourites and many of the library purchases, carefully curated by Mr. Muress, our librarian.  The books celebrate the different faces, experiences, and possibilities. 

Emily’s Idea was the picture book read last week.  Many classes of students are using the template and colouring a paper doll chain of themselves and two family members or friends.  The paper doll chain of our students with different types and colours of hair, different colour and shapes of eyes, various shades of skin colour, and  styles of dress, all joining hands through-out the library and the hallways. 

Students are also invited to make book recommendations for their peers and Mr. Muress to provide input into library purchases. The link to the form to share books is shared on the All Students TEAM under the Book Recommendation channel.  A list will be collated with all of the student recommendations.

We continue to look for ways to include parents more in our online school community.  PAC Meetings have all been online since March.  Access to the school has been limited.  Parents do have online access to the All-Students TEAM through their child.  This was most widely accessed during the Winter Show & Share.  Some parents continue to enjoy the regular tweets about school activities and resources that are available to parents.  I am also trying to write more blog posts to provide parents with specifics around instruction and reporting.  My recent post, Reporting Student Achievement in British Columbia, provides parents with an overview of recent changes in reporting in British Columbia and what they can expect in the formal written reports being issued in January.  I’m looking for more ideas, if you have suggestions.    

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