North Surrey Secondary is in its 2nd year in a new structure designed to deliver curriculum to its grade 8 and 9 students in different and unique ways. Dubbed “the Jr. Program,” this new department and structure is meant to help support the social and academic needs of students attending North Surrey Secondary. This post will discuss the students’ social needs and how the Jr. Program supports them.
The idea of grouping students in “pods” was a result of discussions in a Social Responsibility Focus Group. Teachers wanted to look at ways to build stronger community within our incoming grade 8s in an effort to teach students how to be socially responsible. In this past year all grade 8 students were introduced to the Social Responsibility Performance Standards, specifically the Contributing to the Classroom and School Community. See attached lesson.
We then asked teachers and staff in the school to rate the current level of social responsible behaviour to establish a baseline assessment. Teachers in the program will continue to engage students in lessons and conversations about socially responsible behaviour. We will reassess in May to see if our interventions are improving levels of social responsible behaviour. We will look at anecdotal, qualitative and statistical data to see the impact our teaching has made.
The Jr. Program has also joined the Network of Inquiry and Innovation (NOII) and submitted an inquiry question: Will building student understanding of what socially responsible behaviour looks like through the creation of a “Grade 8 Charter,” guided by the Contributing to the Classroom and School Community Performance Standards, result in displays of socially responsible behaviour by our grade 8 students? What is great about joining the Network is working with Judy Halpert and Linda Kaser and the support being a part of the network brings. Being inquiry driven it allows teachers to be trying new ideas and strategies and then reflecting on their effectiveness. It isn’t about replacing previous ways of doing things. A spirit of inquiry allows teachers to take risks in a safe community of other inquiring teachers.
Another reason for “podding” our grade 8 students was to help ease the transition from elementary school to high school. Many students are apprehensive and anxious about the move into grade 8 and we wanted to look at a structure that might help alleviate their worries. The result is that students now take Social Studies, English, Math and Science with the same students. The idea behind this is to build a sense of community in the “podded” classrooms. Students now have opportunities through the use of the Social Responsibility standards to reflect on their interactions and relationships with others and be supported by their teachers who are there to help them see what good looks like and sounds like.
Ultimately we believe to be successful academically at school we also need to attend to students’ social needs. We continue to reflect on our work in the Jr. Program to ensure we are best meeting all the needs of all our students.