Ensuring a Sense of Belonging in our Schools

Flag art from Donna Gabriel Robins Elementary

“Those who have a strong sense of love and belonging have the courage to be imperfect…” — Brene Brown

Belonging for all students and staff is of paramount importance for the District to reach our mission to inspire all learners to reach their full potential and create a positive legacy for the future. Author Brene Brown, in her quote above, strikes at the heart of step one of our journey to fulfill our moral purpose. The District needs to maintain its focus on creating schools where, in the words of Kevin Lamoureux, allows students to feel safe and exhale (release their anxiety). The District has been working towards creating a foundation of belonging for the past three years through our work with Jennifer Katz and now with Kevin Lamoureux, both educators focused on inclusion. The understanding we all have is that this quest to nurture our learners, creating the environment where safety and courage are the foundation, is our vision.

A highlight for February has been the Odyssey Conference organized by District staff.  All District staff stopped what they were doing for one day and learned together under the theme of “Listen. Reflect. Act. Waking up to our collective responsibility.” Specifically, as described on the conference website, the three speakers’ presentations were focussed on the following:

Mryna McCallum – Truth, Trauma and a Fractured Landscape Called Reconciliation
Drawing from a self-awareness model, this keynote will identify trauma in a collective context and examine how it fragments relationships while also offering insight into how the power of witnessing, acknowledging and practising empathy can repair fractures for the benefit of advancing reconciliation.

Kevin Lamoureux – Healing the Wound with the Weapon: Reimagining Schools as Places of Healing
After more than six years since the release of the final report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission there is much to celebrate still so much to accomplish. Schools remain crucial as we work to heal from the wreckage of the past and learn to walk together, in a good way. Where schools were once used as a weapon, our schools must be places of healing and wellness for all of our children.

Dr. Jo-ann Archibald – Hands Forward:  Getting Ready to Listen, Reflect, and Act
Indigenous traditional and lived stories are a core part of Indigenous ways of knowing and being. Indigenous teachings, and approaches that center Indigenous stories for inclusive and engaged learning and teaching.

Special recognition to all those who had a part in organizing the day. It was wonderful to all staff involved in learning together. It was a day to help set the tone for District’s Diversity and Respect Week later in the month.

Diversity and Respect Week which took place this past week is a time “to promote Awareness, Acceptance, Reconciliation, and Inclusion for all members of the school community.” It is also a week to celebrate culture, ethnicity, individuality of our students, staff, and families. Our schools have been taking part in events and activities that highlighted kindness, care, and connection for each other. I am proud to see staff collaborating and strengthening our work in ensuring everyone in our community feels that they belong. I know this commitment to continue learning and fostering an inclusive and nurturing culture extends beyond this week of formal celebrations.

Mal Gill
Superintendent of Schools