I’m the Assistant Superintendent for the Arrow Lakes School District and former Director of Instruction for the Burnaby School District. I am responsible for a number of portfolio areas including, MDI implementation, safe schools, SEL, and mental health and well-being. I’ve spent the last 10 years working with schools and community partners to work together in a wrap-around fashion to meet the needs of students in the middle years before, during and after school. We have used the MDI as a tool to hear student voices, inform and guide our practice, and forge stronger partnerships with groups and organizations in our community.
I feel so privileged to have worked with HELP on the MDI for many years in both Burnaby and now in SD10. I have long believed that, in the learning process, student-voice is a critical component and the MDI allows students to tell us how they are feeling and what they are thinking about. It provides a 360 degree perspective into their world of social and emotional development, perceptions of school culture and climate, peer and adult relationships, academic experience and connections to their community. The instrument takes this data and creates a rich and colourful narrative for schools and communities to view, understand and address student well-being.
The MDI has helped us to be more intentional with our work with students, has aligned well with the Core Competencies, our commitment to SEL in the district, and has contributed greatly to overall community development around the middle-years. It is not seen as just a means to collect and distribute data, but rather a valuable tool and resource for our schools and community in order to meet the needs of all students.
The tool has provided our schools with data that guides practice in the classroom, informs school goals and begins and extends conversations with parents. Some of our secondary schools are using the data to assist in articulation into grade 8 and to get a better sense of how incoming students are feeling before they start high school.
At a district level, we have used neighbourhood data to bridge the gap between our schools and our greater community by holding HELP facilitated symposiums and round table discussions with school district staff and community groups and organizations. This has had a positive impact on Out of School-time Programs and has opened our schools up to possibilities beyond the confines of the instructional day. We have seen greater success in our responsiveness to students’ needs, but we can be doing a better job in this area and are committed to continuing the conversation around “What is Possible in the Out of School-time Hours” with all our stakeholders. The MDI provides valuable data around the importance of this time, and with the redesigned curriculum focusing on big ideas, choice and flexibility, along with passion projects, OST programs are a critical link to engaging student learning and activity after school has ended.
I think the greatest value is that the MDI legitimizes student voice. The data brings value to students’ experiences and feelings, and that their words are informing how the adults in their school, district and community are responding. We know that when asked, students will tell us the truth and will continue to do so, if the adults acknowledge what they have heard and then act upon it. This empowering process allows for honest conversation between stakeholders who are attending to the true needs of students. This student voice then helps adults to avoid “fixing” problems, but rather, examine the possibilities for students at school, at home and in the community. The value is also in the galvanizing effect that student voice has in creating greater alignment and continuity between schools, district and community. The ultimate value is MDI’s magnetic ability to pull everyone together to ensure the success and well-being of all our students in school and out.