The Invisible Classroom at Work in Our Community

Angela Spanier, Director of Communications - On a hunt to uncover evidenced-based practices to support Rocky View Schools’ (RVS) new 2019 – 2023 Four Year Plan, Innovators by Design, a recent online search brought me to an article on ‘the invisible classroom’. At the heart of the piece, the invisible classroom refers to the interpersonal connections within a classroom, including the behavioural, emotional and relational elements that influence the teaching and learning environment. The article mused that all parties involved in the school system, including administrators, staff, parents, students and community members should play a role in the invisible classroom, helping to improve student learning and build safe, caring learning environments.

It’s well known that to make a real and lasting difference, teachers need to invest considerable effort into building meaningful relationships with students, characterized by an ongoing display of genuine care, compassion, empathy and time. Far less detail, however, was spent describing what those relationships and contributions looked like for stakeholders beyond the classroom or school.

With my lens focused on ‘community member’, I looked out into our schools in search of evidence of high-performance relationships with students – I needed not look far.

Airdrie’s RCMP Detachment – more specifically its School Resource Officers (SRO) Cst. Morley Statchuk and Cst. Gabrielle Spencer – are two community members whose proactive community approach to policing contributes positively to the invisible classroom on a daily basis.

While I’m sure our school staff could better articulate their direct impact on students, in my role as ‘information officer’ for our jurisdiction, I have witnessed first-hand the delicate balance of care and compassion, with pressure and enforcement, both SROs afford our learning communities.

Maintaining a visible presence in schools across the city, Airdrie’s SROs dedicate considerable time and effort helping schools to hone their response to emergency situations. Through structured staff professional learning presentations or detachment participation in practice drills, our SROs help students better understand their role in an emergency and improve their response – all the while communicating without words, schools are a safe place to learn.

It’s also well known that Cst. Statchuk and Cst. Spencer frequently make deposits in students’ emotional bank accounts, as evidenced by their one-on-one approach in talking with youth about how they could make better choices, only to arrive days later with an operation freeze coupon for a Froster in recognition of a change in behaviour.

One might surmise that the Airdrie RCMP Detachment makes deposits to the invisible office too, often working cooperatively with school administrators to proactively identify and address issues that may impact a school or by popping in to the Education Centre to introduce a new media relations officer who recently joined the detachment.

RVS owes a debt of gratitude to both SROs and the Airdrie RCMP Detachment for their approach to community policing. The interpersonal connections they continue to build with our students, our schools, and our system help to improve student learning in an invisible, but mindful manner.