Charting the Course

Lisa Schultz, Assistant Principal, Chestermere High School – As our design team and staff worked through the Define/Develop Stage of the Fall Playbook, an area of exploration came into sharp focus: what do we do when students struggle and how do we support them? In this context, we wanted to go beyond just supporting students academically, and explore how to develop supports around social-emotional, behavioural and academic struggles. In other words, how were the pillars we identified – Recognition, Resilience and Relational – going to hold up the pedagogical elements of Instructional Design, Curriculum, Assessment and Learning Supports to support all students at various levels?

The prototypes, or what we began calling Recognition, Resilience and Relational pillars or character pieces, emerged through processes such as deep conversations, collaboration, brainstorming, research and networking. We began identifying our go-to team members and those willing to lead the charge.

We recognized that these pillars needed to be at the forefront of our planning for sound instructional design for ALL learners. We began charting a course to ensure that our plans included student choice/voice based on sound research and practice. We realized early on that we needed to narrow our lofty professional learning map to a few areas in our first year. This would allow our staff to dive deep into the learning, rather than engage in a surface-level exploration of everything identified in our Lake House. “It is quite possible to make superficial changes to practice within shorter time frames, but the process does not achieve the kinds of deep learning that makes a sustainable difference to entrenched problems with student engagement, learning and well-being.” (Timperley, 2011. p. 17).

With this in mind, we chose to focus on a few key areas and chart a course using the support pieces in the Relational pillar from our Lake House model. The main purpose of this pillar was to look for ways to increase healthy relationships within our learning community in conjunction with the foundational safe and caring elements of Trauma Informed Practices and Conflict Resolution. Our champions were careful to use a collaborative approach steeped in research and discussions that kept community building, inclusive and diverse practices and trust building at the forefront. As Kristin Souers suggests in her book, Fostering Resilient Learners, “one of the most powerful and rewarding ways we can help our students flourish is to provide the safety of a trusting and healthy relationship.” (p. 102).  

Ultimately, all of these approaches have helped us to narrow our focus, dive deep and begin the work needed to build stronger and healthier relationships in our school. Due to the collaborative nature of this process, we think it is fair to say that there is a collective sense of pride in the design process and product. It has provided our school with a clear direction and vision as we move forward as a learning community.