On Oct. 22, a group of 30 parents and 10 administrative reps gathered at Winston Churchill High School Learning Commons to “Just Listen” to parent perspectives around Diversity and Inclusion in Lethbridge School Division.
Three questions were posed to this parent group. The parent group represented many different perspectives and opinions within the Lethbridge School Division parent body. We genuinely appreciated the open, respectful and transparent conversations that took place. We look forward to planning next steps addressing many of the issues that arose from the evening such as:
- Continuing work on effective and supportive transitions for students from Grade 5/6 and Grade 8/9
- Continuing to provide EA training in response to the ongoing turnover of staff, new hires and the need to continually build capacity (i.e. SIVA, Literacy for Complex Needs, Meeting the needs of student with Complexities)
- Enhancing a deeper understanding of EA roles and responsibilities through the lens of fostering student independence
- Working on website and ensuring there is sufficient information for parents on the topic of inclusion and diversity
- Hosting two more evening events this year - one on Jan. 21 with Shelley Moore addressing “What is UDL” as this was a question that came from the parent body, a second evening will be hosted in the spring with a “Diversity and Inclusion Student Panel” for Parents
- Establishing a Parent Group for parents/families of FNMI ancestry
To build understanding and build the capacity of our greater school system and parent body, the organizing group feels it is important to share the parent feedback from the evening. This memo will be shared with parents (via website), administrators and staff (via staff meetings, website and/or Instructional Services notes).
What is your perception of diversity in your child’s school setting?
There were many different perspectives shared around what diversity looks like in Lethbridge School Division schools. Parents recognized that teachers “have a lot on their plates” and that they are “doing a great job” in their classrooms. There were concerns related to funding and that the level of diversity or inclusion is directly related. Although many parents indicated that effective practices related to inclusion and diversity are more visible in elementary schools, they acknowledged that middle and high schools are starting to develop more strategies to promote and support inclusive settings to accommodate diverse populations (i.e. universal self-regulation equipment, universal bathrooms, mental breaks, cultural evenings).
Systemic concerns were also addressed i.e. funding, training, cultural understanding/learning of our staff and greater community, sufficient staffing. One parent said inclusion involves all students as we are all unique. Another parent indicated that, “diversity is not always visible." As a group the parents identified that there is socio-economic, academic, physical, social, emotional diversity that also needs to be recognized and honored by our school system. Parents recognize and value the importance of working as a team with teachers while respecting the teacher’s “full plate” to meet the needs of their children. The City of Lethbridge is continuing to evolve and we all identified that the population of Lethbridge is becoming more diverse, as a result so are our schools.
What does inclusion look like in your child’s school?
Many of the discussions that occurred with responding to the initial question nicely folded into this question. Parents recognized there are efforts made in our classrooms to support students to feel included, although there is still room to grow. Parents were very open saying that students are more accepting of diversity than the adult community and that students need to continue to receive learning opportunities about inclusive practices and assisting their peers. All staff in the school system are seen as facilitators/supporters of inclusive learning environments, Administrative Assistants, Caretakers, Bus drivers, Teachers, Educational Assistants, and Administrators. Parents are happy to see more universal practices around literacy, self-regulation, active opportunities, scheduling that is considering the diverse student population that our division is programming for. Parents acknowledge that the struggles they have in their daily lives are more complex than parent struggles of the past. They shared they hope teachers understand the challenges they face i.e. poverty, complexity of family constellation, homework support, transportation, social isolation and they recognize that classrooms are presenting with greater challenges for teachers.
What are some topics for exploration, learn or celebrate with regards to diversity?
There were several topics and issues that our parent group articulated they wished to further explore and discuss. The team of administrators who attended the evening and hosted tables identified the most common and key priorities that are presented in the introduction of this document. As we offer events and learning opportunities throughout the year, we encourage parents to share ideas/thoughts at these events so we can continue to grow and respond to issues/challenges that present. In May of 2020 we will likely start to plan for events/learning sessions in the following year.
If you have further ideas or thoughts about Diversity and Inclusion in our school division, please do not hesitate to send those ideas to Associate Superintendent, Instructional Services, firstname.lastname@example.org or Director of Inclusion email@example.com as the organizing team will continue to meet and discuss planning, organizing and topics relevant to our division.