It's a Monday morning at École Sherwood Park Elementary. Some students are excited and buzzing – energized by the start of a new school week. Other students are a little sleepy, still recuperating from the weekend. A chime sounds and the morning announcements begin.
The high pitched sound of a grade six student's voice is broadcast over the school's PA system: "Getting along with others helps make our school a happier place. To get along with others, we need to have empathy for each other. Empathy is feeling or understanding what someone else is feeling. This week, be a feelings detective! Try to notice how your classmates are feeling throughout the week. Watch their faces and bodies for clues!"
In Victoria O'Hara's kindergarten class, students are doing a Second Step lesson. They imagine a scenario that would likely evoke emotion in them – a playground disagreement or a rip in their new pants. Students are taught to stop, name their feeling and then put their hands on their stomachs and take big belly breaths to help them calm down.
"These skills help students calm down strong emotions when faced with learning and social challenges, which helps them succeed academically and get along well with others," explains Sanj Johal, Principal at École Sherwood Park Elementary. "Second Step lessons specifically teach about calming down strong emotions such as anger, disappointment, frustration, and anxiety."
Supporting Social Emotional Learning (SEL) is one of the school's two educational goals outlined in the School Plan. The goal specifically is: To build a sense of safety and respect grounded in the social emotional health and well-being of the entire school community. The school is investing significant time and resources into supporting student well-being and success through SEL. They are using the Second Step Program in every classroom for all grades, and are undertaking a lot of professional learning to help staff teach and model SEL to students.
The school's other educational goal is: To improve literacy skills in Kindergarten to Grade Seven students. The staff has been participating in a yearlong book club – the Reading Power Series – to help support a consistent approach of teaching reading skills grounded in research. Again, time and resources are being invested towards supporting student literacy skills.
Collaboration time and staff meetings are dedicated to professional learning surrounding the school's two goals.
"The staff here at Sherwood Park do such a great job. We need to say thank you more to them than we do," said Oliver Webbe, a parent with two children attending the school.
Webbe, his wife Aimee and their two sons attended the December staff meeting at the school to express their appreciation to staff and their support of the school's two educational goals.
"Our family is gifting $20,000 to the school this year to support your literacy goal; and we will continue to provide financial gifts over the coming years to help the school reach its goals. We are excited to commit $100,000 over the years," said Webbe to the staff. "I went to school here when I was a kid and I loved it. My kids now go here. Our family wants to give back to the school and community we are so connected to."
"I raise my hands to you for sharing and being an amazing example of generosity," a staff member exclaimed.
"Our school will definitely benefit from this," said another.
"This will make a huge difference."
The heartbeat rhythm of a drum filled the library during the staff meeting to honour the family for their generosity to the school. Q'puts (Henry Schooner), the school's Indigenous Support Worker, sang and drummed the Nuxalk Honour Song.
"We are very lucky at Sherwood Park because we have a very tight staff, beautiful diversity, and amazing parents who are very supportive of the school," said Johal.
The Webbe gift is a perfect example of the parent support for the school. It is through community support such as this that the school is confident it can achieve its educational goals of enhancing literacy skills and developing SEL skills in students.