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Building POWERful Connections

Research clearly shows that students who feel connected to their school community, and to the adults within that community, are more likely to experience academic success. In "Relationships Matter: Linking Teacher Support to Student Engagement and Achievement", authors Klem and Connell state that "students with caring and supportive interpersonal relationship in school report more positive academic attitudes and values, and more satisfaction with school." (2009) Regardless of other variables, such as socio-economic background, relationships matter.

At A.R. MacNeill Secondary, we have several structures in place to faciliate relationships between students and staff in order to increase their feeling of connectedness and belonging. We understand that relationship don't just "happen", but must be mindfully and intentionally nurtured.

The Advisory model is one such structure that is in place to intentionally foster relationships. Students are assigned to…
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Five Essential Elements of a Successful School Community

While it's true that each school context is unique and comprised of diverse needs, challenges and strengths, I would suggest that there are certain elements that form the foundation of all successful school communities.  These are what I identify as the "non-negotiables".

1. A clear, consistent vision. 

It is impossible to move forward if we don't know where we're going. A clear "road map" that provides a community with a sense of direction is essential. Finding a common purpose should be a collaborative process, and ultimately clearly communicating that vision of the future is the next essential step in any change process. In the midst of what what might be perceived to be competing agendas and initiatives, it is important that we are able to identify and articulate a common vision. We need to be able to "connect the dots" for staff and students, giving purpose and focus to individual initiatives under the larger umbrella of that shared vision…

High School Stories

As a high school vice principal, and as the mom of a seventeen year old son, I spend the majority of my days and nights immersed in the intricacies of "high school life". And while many of my days are filled with moments of joy, success and hope for the future generation, there are times when I am also overwhelmed and saddened by the challenges and obstacles that teens face on a daily basis.

On my drive into work over the past week or so, I've been listening to the CBC radio series, Matheson. Addressing topics from racism to vaping, we are provided with a glimpse into the life of Surrey teens as they make their way through the halls of L.A. Matheson Secondary.

After over 20 years in education, none of the topics that were covered in this series were news to me. I meet with teachers, parents and students on a daily basis regarding these same issues. And as I said, I have a seventeen year old at home who overcomes his teenage unwillingness to "hang with his mom"…

"Family and School Should Walk Together"

I was given the gift of a new perspective.

After over 20 years in education, as an educational assistant, teacher, and now school administrator (not including my own experiences as a "less than successful" student), I thought I had a pretty good sense of the education system - both the benefits and the challenges.

But this past week, through conversations with two families who are new to Canada, I gained a deeper understanding, and an even deeper sense of responsibility. 
In one conversation, a parent was looking for ways to connect her son to the school community. An ELL student who was older than some of his classmates, he was struggling to find a place to belong. An energetic and outgoing student in his home country of Brazil, the parent was beginning to see her son withdraw, and was understandably worried. 
I assured her that there were opportunities for her son, both in the classroom and through extra-curricular clubs and sports. As we talked, she shared with me some o…

The Gift of Understanding

All that we are is story. From the time we are born, to the time we continue on our spirit journey, we are involved in the creation of the story of our time here. It is what we arrive with. It is all we leave behind. We are not the things we accumulate. We are not the things we deem important. We are story. All of us. What come to matter then is the creation of the best possible story we can while we're here; you, me, us, together. When we can do that, we take the time to share those stories, we get bigger on the inside, we see each other, we recognize our kinship-- we change the world, one story at a time. 
--Richard Wagamese

In the midst of busy days and numerous demands on our time and energy, it is easy to lose sight of this simple, yet powerful message. Each of us has a story, a context, that we carry with us through our day. We come into contact with numerous individuals throughout the course of our day-- at the drive-through picking up our morning coffee, at the grocery sto…

Navigating Negativity: Five Steps to Strength-Based Leadership

People don't typically don't come to me when things are going well.

This isn't a complaint. It's the reality of the life of a school administrator. We are the problem solvers, the peace keepers, the crisis responders. On any given day, I will usher crying students, angry parents and frustrated teachers across the threshold of my office. As I walk the hallways at break and lunch, I am bombarded by questions and queries, complaints and conflicts. When my email dings or my phone rings at eleven o'clock at night, it's rarely good news. 
So in the midst of what can sometimes feel like a sea of negativity, it is even more essential that I maintain a positive mindset and strength-based approach to leadership. 
I have developed the following strategies to assist me in this approach:
1. Start with relationships. Relationships form the foundation for any successful organization. Students and staff need to feel connected and cared for. As such, leaders need to take the tim…

The Power of Your Words

On World Teacher's Day, a reminder of the impact of our words and actions in a child's life...

For sparking imaginations,
For inspiring creativity,
For igniting passions,
For shaping minds,
For all that you do,
Thank You.

YOU make a DIFFERENCE.