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Blog: Thursday, April 30th, 2020

Student Voice: Are you Really Listening? (#4: Robert Bateman Secondary)

By Dr. Kevin Godden, Superintendent of Schools

I was fortunate to host my fourth student meeting of the year just prior to Spring Break, and before the pandemic postponed face to face classes. Much like the previous meeting with students from WJ Mouat, I was impressed with the deportment of the RBSS students, and how warmly they spoke of their school experiences. I write this post now to honour my commitment to these young people, and to punctuate the importance of student voice at a time when I think it is needed more than ever.

What words come to mind when you think about school here?

The answers to this question yielded some similar responses to meetings with students from other schools. They used words like busy, unexpected, exciting, confusing, home, safe, and social to describe their experiences. Interestingly, HOME, SAFE and SOCIAL were more consistent with students from other schools. At a time when our lives are ruled by physical distancing, it is important for us to remember the powerful impact that school plays in creating welcoming spaces for social connectedness and belonging.

Things I value about my school…?

Students responded with a wide array of answers to this question:

  • Athletics and extracurricular activities;
  • The opportunity to run with your ideas;
  • The ability to build a helpful, safe and welcoming community;
  • You get the resources to succeed in and out of class;
  • Teachers who truly want you to succeed, and who adapt to your needs;
  • The ability to build confidence, have fun and make friends;
  • Relationships, with peers and adults;
  • Interacting with people with different perspectives;
  • Teachers giving you the opportunity to improve and succeed; and
  • Feedback and recognition for hard work.

The students punctuated the idea that everyone can succeed at RBSS if they worked hard enough and asked for help because the staff was invested in their success and improvement.

What would you like to see more of?

The responses to this question was less varied than the other student groups, but no less interesting:

  • Smaller classes;
  • More one on one attention;
  • More experiential learning;
  • Mental health training for teachers so they could help students dealing with stress.

As with other student groups, student mental health and well-being emerged as a topic. Much like the students at the other schools, these students acknowledged that the reason why there was so much more focus was needed these days on this issue related to their dramatic access to media and less stigma as compared to previous generations. They emphasized the idea that the school’s focus on mental health should be a “year-round thing,” and that the staff should openly engage them as leaders in addressing this issue.

Are there three (3) adults in the school who you feel know you well and to whom you can talk about what matters most to you?

To me, this is the most important question that I ask the students. Almost all of them said YES. When I asked them to tell me more about what these teachers do to engender such positive regard I got the following ideas:

  • They push you hard and teach life lessons;
  • They teach in a way to make you want to come to school;
  • They demonstrate empathy and understanding;
  • They have warm personalities and create positive bonds;
  • They make you see them as a person, not just a teacher;
  • They let you know they care about your success, and connect with you even after you have left their class.

Do you feel prepared?

Understanding that it is difficult for students to truly know if school has prepared them for their futures, I still ask them to identify the experiences at RBSS that are designed to do this. They spoke about: the many options they are exposed to try things to see if they fit; the various ways they are assessed; their leadership program; and their opportunities to developing connections with various peers.

What questions do you have for me?

One interesting difference with this group compared to the others was that there seemed to be some evidence that they had (at least attempted) to discuss what they wanted to tell me ahead of time.  So when I asked them this last question, I saw some furtive glances around the room before the following questions surfaced. They wanted to know about resources for their teachers, technology availability and connectivity, as well as how we could celebrate more of what goes on in their school.  I delved a little into the district’s IT Roadmap design as well as impressed upon them our joint responsibility to celebrate public education. Questioning the superintendent about how well he is supporting your school takes courage, so I took the opportunity to explain how things worked.

Similar to students from the other schools, the students from RBSS were engaging, respectful, thoughtful and appreciative for the opportunity to represent their school. Thank you, Elizabeth, Owen, Kenzie, Andy, Maya, Truce, Josh, and Emily for sharing your voices.

By Dr. Kevin Godden
Dr. Kevin Godden
Dr. Kevin Godden

By Dr. Kevin Godden, Superintendent of Schools

Kevin has been the Superintendent of Schools for the Abbotsford School District since July 2011, overseeing some 19,000 students and 2,500 employees. Kevin is committed to student success in all forms and envisions a school district that can nimbly respond to the ever changing needs and interests of its students.