Conversation, Awareness, Transformation
Student success is a focus of the Abbotsford School District. The desire for student success permeates through all levels, from senior management to building administrators, classroom and support teachers, education assistants, and students. At Abbotsford Traditional School (ATS), we have a reputation for preparing our students for the expectations and rigours of university–academic student success. This is one kind of student success. Another kind of student success is accomplishing academic achievement in parallel to student well-being. This relatively recent emphasis on student well-being at the secondary level has come to the fore in ATS and has opened doors to students that haven’t been particularly open before. Now we have an opportunity for students to discuss their own student body health and mental health, having a voice and a “say” on how school happens for them and what school could look like for them.
At ATS, a new school inquiry is a part of our school plan: "How can we work with staff to improve student mental health at ATS?” Our 2021 student/admin group led by Stan Wiebe has been working since the spring of 2021, beginning with attending a district student mental health forum. Since then, the students involved have met a group of teachers and presented to staff and shared their experiences at the forum – they shared their perceptions of school and when school can become stressful and how it might be less so. This is a conversation that is essentially just beginning but will be ongoing, and the students involved feel empowered, and their confidence is growing.
Similarly, our 2022 student/admin group led by Becky Toews has started this year with a focus on a concept called “street data,” where students and staff look at the voice that students have and the layers of school culture that impact learning. This group has met with the street data groups at the other secondary schools in Abbotsford at two day-long conferences and spent time learning about issues our schools face around equity. They are working on narrowing a focus to dive deeply into and come out with a greater understanding and possible ways to make changes in the school that improve student life and increase their voice and confidence.
The hope is that these two student/admin groups can begin to create a dialogue among the students, teachers, and administrators that bring awareness to student mental health, well-being, and equity through an increase in student presence and conversation with the adults in the building. Together we can collectively improve student life at school. Our students can begin to tap into their new platform and have a seat at the table to help transform the culture in our school and to help increase the sense of ownership and belonging that students want to feel when they come to school.
REG GABRIEL, PRINCIPAL
Abbotsford Traditional School