Monthly Archives: October 2012

October 28 Reflections…

I attended part of an intriguing iminds webinar over lunch to gain further insight into the issue of underage drinking and to find out what more we can be doing as a school.

The following were suggestions from the webinar:
*We increase risks to their safety and wellbeing when we disconnect students from school.
* It is important for us to continue to engage in a broad dialogue within our school and the community.
*Providing cross-disciplinary training within health sectors is important. it could be an annual event that provides training for schools, social workers, etc across disciplines.

It is evident that restorative practices benefit children. Keeping kids in school is preferable to a zero tolerance practice where kids are expelled immediately for getting caught under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Dr. Martin Brokenleg would refer to this practice as a reclaiming strategy. Either approach requires a clear policy in order to have a mandate to act upon.

Another community meeting will be held on Tuesday to discuss the issue, so expect to hear more about the path we take as a collective. We recognize that it takes village to address the issue.

We had an interesting and lengthy staff meeting about a number of topics. one item was a report on the results of the homework survey which was conducted last month. Parents made it clear that teachers know best when it comes to assigning homework and recognize its value in reinforcing learning. What they also said was that their children require support from teachers in making sure that students have homework written down including directions and what resources to use.

I’d like to see regular use of the agenda books to help students with organization and to help parents and teacher have a direct line of daily written communication. There are so many ways to use the agenda book besides as a way to record homework and notices. A suggestion was to have students reflect on their day as an exit activity. A thoughtful teacher can take a moment at some time during the course of a day to compose a good news note to parents. An initial would be all that it would take to ensure the note or comment was read and it can create an opportunity to recognize a child’s smallest effort or breakthrough. One keen teacher had her students bring their agenda books to Nuqai (small student advisory groups) to help them to better understand its use. I will be looking to see if the agenda books are being utilized as an organizing and communication tool and look forward to feedback.

I attended a potlatch on Friday and was overwhelmed by the dignity and respect that was evident in the events that took place. I honoured the request not to photograph any thing, but it is all imprinted in my memory.

In all, it has been a hectic weekend with a 7.7 earthquake and the tsunami advisory which had all the front row homes evacuated and earlier this evening the alarm went off at the school due to fireworks being too close to the ducts in the building… Hallowe’en will be the theme of the week! Have a good one everyone!

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Sunday Afternoon Wonderings


The days have flown and I realize that I haven’t gotten into classrooms as often as I would like to. This is the week! I realize that two staff members and a group of students are away on the annual post secondary school trek and that I have at least two parents meetings to attend to and a full staff meeting to prepare for, so my plan is to get into more classrooms on this wee.

I have to remember to order treats for our full staff meeting on Wednesday and to pass along the expectation that everyone is expected to attend this meeting – after all the children will be dismissed at noon in order for us to meet. Our highly successful staff meeting loonie-drive will continue if there is an appetite for it. Last month half of the pot went to the Terry Fox fundraiser and the other half went home with a happy teacher whose name was drawn last from the bucket. We’ll do it again and donate half the pot to the community “food bank” drive.


We have a full agenda and I want to engage staff as much as possible so that Fred and I aren’t just a couple of talking heads… The agenda needs to be revisited and trimmed down to allow for more staff engagement.

What do I want to engage teachers with? I want to know what the general professional thoughts and practices are with regard to homework and the use of the lovely agenda books that arrived after school was already in session. I have seen two teachers use it very efficiently.


Parents, in their response to the homework survey said that they trust that teachers know best about when and what to assign for homework and that it is an important practice. Parents also said that their children need help in being able to recall exactly what the homework is and when it is due. High school teachers have some clear views about assigning homework that need to be communicated to the elementary staff so that we can work together to develop habits and routines that will support homework as an effective practice to support student learning. Interestingly research says that students should be assigned no more than 10 minutes per grade. An article, How Much Homework is Too Much is a worthwhile and important read.


I want to provide staff with the opportunity to debrief the Monday morning presentation about underage drinking in our community. As well, I want feedback from staff as to whether the imind curricula has a place in classroom curricula. As a school we have made a commitment to raise awareness about the impact of underage drinking as the impacts are evident in every aspect of the children’s lives including school.

I want to know more details about the pro d day coming up on Oct 31st. Self regulation is a topic that is supported by research so I hope this session is enlightening. I hope my mindup books arrive soon.


I also want to hear more strategic discussion and planning from high school teachers about the greatest areas of need as a result of their department meetings last Monday afternoon. What goals will be made and what will we do to address them? What will that look like and what resources might we need?


After an intense week of DIBELS training last week, we need to provide time for elementary teachers to have an open discussion about classroom schedules that will allow enough time for literacy and interventions. It warms my heart to see the intense dedication that teachers have for improving student literacy.


After our classroom discussion on Friday with one of the grade eight classes, I am looking forward to seeing them arrive with all their “tools” for learning so that instruction and engagement does not have to be compromised by taking time to locate tools before each class. As well, I look forward to seeing more students in classes rather than in the hallways. This will be a topic of discussion in response to the highly inappropriate graffiti which appeared in two washrooms last week.


I am grateful for the visit from the chiefs, the elder, and the community resource providers who showed up on Friday to address the high school students. The message was delivered in ways that left students with the opportunity to volunteer to be part of a youth committee to address this issue. Afterwards, at my request, three students who were disruptive to this assembly, had an opportunity to go to the elder and apologize for their behaviour. To this, the elder graciously replied that she was so happy to hear this as she knows that all of the boys come from such good families. The boys were so uplifted that they each gave her a hug; as a result, they walked away with a renewed sense of themselves. Addressing incidences with students provides them with opportunities to grow in ways that classroom curricula may not.


Ahhh Monday!

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The First Storm of the Season!

The power went out in Bella Bella on Monday evening about ten minutes after we arrived home from a community settlement feast. Vic has just arrived back after a very quick business walk with our dog Eddy and in a split second we were cloaked in darkness, a darkness that we hadn’t seen in a long time.

All through the feast, the wind had been gusting to about 80km per hour and I wondered if the roof was going to blow off! People looked hesitantly at the ceiling with every howling gust of wind. I was in awe at the power of the wind. Torrential rains made it all the more intimidating as we maneuvered our way home.

Do you think we could find our flashlight? After looking in every possible place and wracking our brains as to where it might be, Vic found it! Eddy, in the meantime was so frightened of the storm that he put himself to bed and never came out until there was light in the sky the next morning.

Luckily I had made a pot of tea moments before the power went out so we sat in the candlelight and listened to the unrelenting storm.

The next morning a group of elementary teachers showed up to school despite the power outage and engaged enthusiastically with a DIBELS training session with two presenters who had flown in the day before. Linda and Madeline did a great job despite not having access to any of the power points that they had so meticulously prepared. I was so impressed with everyone’s willingness to engage with this process. After school today, this very tired, but highly dedicated group of teachers met to debrief the process that has consumed them since it began. One more day and they can finally rest!

We are settling into a season where the days will be shorter and the rain ever present. It will be harder to get out with my camera but I will wait for the smallest breaks to get out and capture life when it isn’t sunny and light. Maybe I need to turn my lens onto what is going on indoors- at school and in the community…

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Soccer Mania Hits BBCS Gym!

I watched several children playing their hearts out yesterday at the soccer camp hosted by Vancouver Coastal Aboriginal Sport and Recreation.  They were exhausted but all smiles when they were required to take a break to go home for dinner with the invitation to return for another session. I recognized all of the children especially the ones who had been seen in the office lately.  They played well together and happily took their turn in goal when it was time to change. If you are on Facebook, check out the Heiltsuk Nation group to see the photos that I posted.

I am thinking of these students as tomorrow we will be holding a pro d-day with community members and the entire BBCS staff to raise our awareness of underage drinking and drug use in our community.  We need to do all that we can to prevent bored or disengaged children from starting down the path of underage drinking. We need to raise  awareness about the prevalence of underage drinking.  Dr. Evan Adams, aboriginal health physician adviser in the office of the Provincial Health Officer reiterates the message: “It (meetings) have to be initiated by us – as First Nations – and it needs to happen at every level.” For that reason, a meeting, which took place just over a week ago, will occur on a monthly basis to ensure that community members are engaged with the steps that we take to address the concern. Hosting a pro d day to raise the awareness of our entire staff at BBCS is the schools’s commitment to one of the important goals that the community considers to be a high priority.

Tomorrow, teachers will be apprised of the goals that emerged from that meeting and they will be introduced to curricula, which was developed by the Centre for Addictions.  iMinds is a health education resource for grades 4-10 that aims to help students maximize their drug literacy – the knowledge and skills they need to survive and thrive in a world where drug use is common.  Sports and recreation plays such an important role in the lives of many of the children who play basketball in Bella Bella but for those who do not; we need to provide other options. If kids can go fishing or play soccer or other recreational sports, then they are not only keeping healthy, they are avoiding being bored and taking the path that may lead them to underage drinking.  Here’s what Larry Bird has to say about being involved in athletics and recreation:

Coaching your students to remain drug free is a championship.  Join our team.  Larry Bird Coach—Indiana Pacers Former Boston Celtic 1998  Basketball Hall of Fame Inductee 12-Time All Star 3-Time NBA MVP 2-Time NBA Finals MVP

 For anyone involved in coaching, please take time to read through this highly informative Coaches Playbook Against Drugs.  In particular, look at page 15.

Take some time to look at the resources from the imind curricula, which has been reviewed and approved by the British Columbia Teachers Federation School Counsellors Association.  Teachers will have an opportunity tomorrow to review the highly acclaimed curricula for use in classrooms not as an add-on, but as supplemental to what is already being taught. A facilitator from imind will meet with us via skpye to introduce the curricula to us.  Afterwards teachers will have an opportunity to review it in cross-grade groups.

A FNESC publication provides ten suggestions in dealing with drug and alcohol issues.

  1. Face reality and know what’s going on. Do not ignore or de-emphasize the impact of student drug and alcohol use on the learning environment of the school.
  2. Take a stand. Be consistent about the school’s opposition to drug and alcohol use.
  3. Organize staff to address the issue.
  4. Teach health and prevention to students, and possibly in parenting workshops as well.
  5. Showcase special projects such as peer counseling, drug-free clubs, and drug and alcohol awareness weeks.
  6. Provide a safety net of support for anyone who is affected by drug and alcohol abuse.
  7. Nurture the parent connection and ensure that drug and alcohol awareness effort are coordinated in partnership and with parent reinforcement at home.
  8. Deal with staff drug and alcohol problems, and ensure that the school staff members act as role models for the students.
  9. Provide healthy outlets and alternatives, including extra-curricular activities physical education activities, and high academic expectations.
  10. Keep at it.

School is not just about teaching to the IRPS; it’s about providing interventions when children are struggling with numeracy or literacy and it is about intervening when issues impact a student’s ability to attend to the daily requirements of being a student.  The latter is what tomorrow morning is about.

On October 19, a group of community people, chiefs, and elders will meet to have a conversation with the students to show our care and concern for what happens to them.

Please feel free to leave your comments and questions, as I am truly interested in others’ experiences with addressing underage drinking and its impact on young people.


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A Tribute to Teachers at BBCS on World Teachers Day


Today is world teacher day, a day to recognize the people who parents entrust their children for 30 hours or more every week.  Parents send their children to school so that you can teach them to read and write and to sing and to dance. They send us their children with the hope that they will be uplifted in ways that will allow them to find a path leading to success and the opportunity  to lead a fulfilling and fruitful life.   

Teaching  is a demanding and challenging job that we grow into over years of experience.  Many of you put in long hours planning and creating learning opportunities that we think will inspire and motivate your students.  Teaching is hard work. It’s not just teaching.  It’s about making connections with students who may not want to be there or who have family issues that weigh on their hearts and minds. It’s recognizing small gains and good efforts.   It is draining and exhausting because it is not just about teaching.  It is about building connections with kids and finding ways to deal with what they arrive to classrooms with or without…  It is about not giving up on the child who sometimes presents you with his worst and you have to find it in yourself to overlook that in order to see the child beneath that facade.  My friend David Rattray’s mantra is one that I force myself to believe  when kids present in this way: look for the beauty.  Look for the beauty. Look for the beauty.
I want to take this opportunity to commend you for all that you do.  

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