School health in action:

Restoring relationships

After several years of pandemic-related school disruptions, staff at Kate Andrews High School (KAHS) in Coaldale knew they wanted to rebuild a sense of community at school. They came together with a common vision: To restore positive school culture by focusing on relationships.

Teachers and other staff challenged each other to think about everyday school experiences as opportunities to grow, strengthen, or sustain relationships. With that new lens, they reflected on daily routines and schedules. They reconsidered the meaning behind school events and activities. They began to view every interaction between people at school as a chance to connect with each other. 

Let's take a look at four key strategies they put in place.

1. Advisory blocks

Each KAHS student is now paired with an advisory teacher who connects with them throughout their high school journey. Every Friday during instructional hours, students spend time in advisory blocks. Students and their advisors get to know each other and learn and practice social emotional skills. Advisors help students set goals, make decisions, and solve problems. They position themselves as "go to teachers" — adults in the school that students can turn to when they need support.  

2. Student voice

KAHS staff encourage students to speak up about what's important to them, and to be proactive and solution focused. In the fall, staff host a "club rush" to learn from students about their interests and needs. They offer new student-led groups time, space, and guidance to grow.

Staff support a variety of student-led groups and activities, including Student Council and Leadership. Student representatives from each grade work together to plan and lead school-wide events. For example, the school's HeadStrong Committee takes ownership of school activities to promote positive mental health and reduce stigma related to mental illness. They also take part in HeadStrong Summits—opportunities to learn from and connect with other student mental health teams in Palliser Regional Schools.  

3. Celebrating success

The KAHS school community makes it a priority to appreciate, recognize, and celebrate each other. For example:

  • The school hosts barbecues throughout the year to show appreciation for families.
  • The KAHS culture club plans recognition events like assemblies, rallies, and celebrations of achievement.
  • Staff offer monthly recognition awards for students who show strength of character and pride, and who demonstrate school values (passion, responsibility, inclusivity, determination, engagement). Staff also celebrate each other by passing along a trophy to recognize career achievements and life events.

4. Collaborative response

As a staff team, KAHS educators work with external consultants to ensure that all students have the support they need to be successful at school. They try new ideas, measure what's working, and adjust as they go. Here are some examples:

  • School administrators use attendance data to watch for patterns of concern.
  • Teachers take part in grade-level meetings to talk about challenges individual students are experiencing and generate solutions. These meetings have a consistent schedule and agenda, with a focus on identifying actions. They are held during regular school hours. 
  • Counsellors and other support staff maintain relationships with community agencies in Coaldale and area, ensuring they can connect students with local supports during non-school hours.

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