This year found us packing away decades of memories, history and tradition as we moved into a seismically safe and state-of-the-art, student-centred school that is designed to meet today’s standards for accessibility, sustainability, and modern learning. Almost every space in our new building provides an opportunity to bring the natural beauty of our surroundings into the school. Our new school consists of eight learning communities with spaces for our students and staff to collaborate.
Not only a move into a new building but 2 years of a global pandemic where our students and community had not fully experienced community-building events led us to examine “What do we value as a community?”. This year our intentionality has been to review and revive what we are doing that’s working and how we bring these values, traditions, and sense of belonging into our new building. Below are some findings which informed our goals :
- Importance of who we are as Royals. Continuing to foster development of a stronger self/identity in our school community.
- Revival of Handsworth Pride in Arts and Athletics program and community building events.
- Targeted efforts by student council to encourage grade 8s to participate in clubs and events.
- Transition of grade 7-8 : Revival of the grade 8 retreat for September 2022 to instil our Handsworth values, traditions and build a sense of belonging in our incoming grade 8s.
- Continue to foster wellness in our staff and students. To approach situations with a trauma- informed lens.Â
During a year where significant changes have altered Handsworth’s context, we gathered information from stakeholders early in the 2020-21 school year. This was in effort to identify shifting needs due the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and the approaching completion of our new school. Here were our key findings, in summary, which informed the refinement of our goals:
- Importance of inclusivity, diversity, and belonging (shared spaces inside and out of school, non-traditional programs/alternative learning) higher than ever;
- foster development of stronger sense of self/identity and finding where it fits within the broader context of the community;
- pride in Fine Arts programs and athletics but significant changes due to the pandemic created a loss of identity. Without these programs and the loss of pride, showcasing new/innovative practices within the academics and elective areas like ADST is especially important;
- FOS communication, transition between grade 7-8, social skills, executive functioning, encouraging grade 9/10s to become leaders
As our staff and students work towards the goals highlighted in this document, we look back on feedback received from staff, parents, and students. In particular, results from past Employee Engagement Surveys alongside the OurSchool student surveys remind us of our school community’s needs. One of the notable findings of the student surveys is the high levels ofÂ anxiety caused directly or indirectly as a result of school.
Below are small steps that highlight our response to these findings:
Our Choices program created a wellness questionnaire for high school aged students. Questions were shared with Handsworth staff who could then tailor these to the needs of their classes. This questionnaire is a tool which can be used to better understand the temperature of classrooms from the students perspective. Questions range from “when do you feel you are being listened to?” to, “when do you feel it is OK to make a mistake, or show that you do not know something, or how to do something?” It may be a small gesture, but regular inquiry into student well-being (and small adjustments to acknowledge this) may provide them a platform for expression.
Handsworth’s Wellness Committee meets every week to discuss wellness initiatives for those involved in the school community. Most recently, they have been planning Wellness Week for the end of January. With involvement from counsellors, teachers and their classes, support staff, and Grad Council, a slate of events including presentations, workshops, introduction to Indigenous medicines, interactive exhibits, and wellness challenges will be on view.
The Social Justice 12 class at Handsworth is a place where students participate in project-based learning, tackling socially relevant issues that pertain to people their age. Project topics were sparked by a simple class brainstorm with the prompt, “what do students in school need?” In preparation for wellness week, students are planning dance workshops, interactive stations, art installations, and collaborative posters between Social Justice and Graphic Design classes. Some areas of focus include:
- New Masculinities in Hip Hop Dance workshop: Hip Hop artists are embracing their emotions and re-writing the script for what it means to be masculine in popular culture
- Slamming Diet Culture: Fostering body neutrality and self-expression. This workshop will help students recognize how we are affected by social media as well as the many ways that diet culture affects our daily lives. This will be displayed in the form of a dance and slam poetry performance
- The “You Are Enough” Art Installation encourages students to think of their qualities and skills beyond grades and extra-curriculars. What are some of our overlooked qualities that we have the right to be proud of?
Our students are working towards contributing to their community by building a sense of urgency – recognizing everyone’s collective responsibility on the front of advocating for wellness.Â