Delta Hosts International Educators

Category: District

Hot on the heels of last month’s visit by 16 educators from Hackney in London, England, the school district hosted educators from Sweden, Wales and New Zealand on May 9 to share leadership best practices relating to diversity and inclusion, including ways to bring Indigenous knowledge into learning for all students.

The delegation visited McCloskey Elementary, where students served them breakfast, before they participated in the Division 2 lesson on teamwork led by educator Nicole Gordon.

“As a school, McCloskey has been putting considerable effort into community building, emphasizing our motto of “respectful, responsible, safe and kind” daily. As a grade 6/7 teacher, I noticed after spring break that our class unity was not as strong as it once was. In an effort to reestablish our connections to one another, our class began to explore the themes of teamwork, community, and reciprocity,” said Mrs. Gordon.

The class brainstormed a list of things that looked like, sounded like, and felt like teamwork in anticipation of their team challenge with the visiting educators. They hung the chart in a visible place when they began the challenge with the educators who were eager and positive participants!

“We divided everyone into random groups and asked them to build a pyramid of cups without touching anything but strings tied to an elastic band. The groups had to work together to move their cups into different formations to achieve their goal. Every group succeeded!” said Mrs. Gordon. “As groups completed a task, a more challenging one was presented. As we wrapped up our activity, I invited the participants to look at our “Teamwork Chart” and see how many of the attributes we had associated with teamwork had been present in their group. From my perspective, all the groups demonstrated McCloskey’s motto incredibly!”

The visitors then headed to Gunderson Park to meet educators Michelle Jones and Jessie Richardson and their class from Jarvis Elementary for an outdoor lesson. Ms. Jones and Ms. Richardson have been working together to create more democratic and mindful classroom environments. There the visiting educators were able to speak to Jarvis students about the Circle of Courage and participate in practices that encourage a sense of belonging.

These experiences were developed in collaboration with the students who chose the location and contributed to the content of the time spent together. This ongoing work is based in indigenous ways of knowing and being which are described in the Circle of Courage, Reclaiming Youth At Risk: Futures Of Promise and Ensouling Our Schools. The Circle of Courage is grounded in the four spirits: Belonging, Mastery, Independence and Generosity and offers a model of resilience and positive youth development to help educators and youth workers connect with traumatized youth by integrating Native American knowledge and modern behavioural research to build and strengthen relationships in the classroom. Ensouling Our Schools weaves together interpersonal neurobiology, indigenous worldviews, universal design for learning and the interconnectedness between people and nature. The authors describe three key practices which include democratic classrooms, supportive buddy groups and learning about the importance of listening to and valuing diverse perspectives.

Ms. Jones and Ms. Richardson have found that setting up the classroom with a culture of care, individual and group accountability, and student voice, has gone a long way in helping shape resilient and mindful young leaders in the district.

The final stop of the day was at Seaquam Secondary where the international educators visited the Life Skills class where they met educator Shannon Miller and the education assistants that support the Life Skills students. Ms Miller explained how students with exceptionalities are integrated into school and community life by participating in regular classroom lessons, volunteering in the community and going on field trips. Some of the visiting educators from New Zealand delighted the class by performing a traditional song about being together.

The visit, which was led by retired Assistant Superintendent Nancy Gordon, was initiated by Dr. Judy Halbert and Dr. Linda Kaser, leaders of the Transformative Educational Leadership Program at the University of British Columbia. Through their work with the Network of Inquiry and Indigenous Education (NOIIE), Dr. Halbert and Dr. Kaser have been supporting educators around the world on their journey of continuous improvement. As part of this visit, the educators also attended the 2024 NOIIE Symposium in Richmond on May 10 and 11.