Our School Story
WHO ARE WE?
Robert J. Tait Elementary is a vibrant Kindergarten to Grade 7 school in the very north central part of Richmond. Our geographic location is one of the things that really sets us apart. We are located between Bridgeport, River, Number 4 and Shell Roads. Highway 99, the Fraser River, and local business and industry also help define the borders of our community. Being 4 Kms from our feeder high school, Cambie Secondary, adds to our unique culture.
But what really defines us as a community are the people. A broad range of ethnicities make up the families/students at Tait. We literally have families who originate from all over the world providing us with a rich and diverse student population. This fusion of cultures provides us with so many opportunities to learn from each other and find common values. The wonderful group of educators that we have here at Tait endeavor every day to help our students find their own, as well as a common, sense of identity. As educators we realize that it is our responsibility to be proactive in aiding the young people in our care to develop their personal and cultural identities and social responsibilities. So in the spring of 2016 our staff began the process of collectively asking ourselves:
How do you define the values you would like your students to identify, develop and internalize in a community of such amazing cultural diversity?
OUR JOURNEY BEGINS - 2016-2017
In the Spring of 2016 our staff began to look at our school and students through a new lens to see if there was something we could be doing better through our teaching or putting extra emphasis on as a community. That year our staff was a mix of established teachers and EA’s who had been at Tait for a number of years, mixed with new staff who had come from other schools around Richmond or were new to their profession. We also had a new counsellor join our ranks who provided a new perspective to how our students were coping socially and emotionally.
During the last few professional development days of last year, we began as a staff to wonder whether it was a time to make a concerted effort to teach social responsibility as a part of the curriculum. We have always prided ourselves at Tait of the job we do on a daily basis of integrating aspects of social responsibility into the learning taking place in our classrooms and that our students behavior reflected these practice. However, after a scan of the students in all aspects of their school experience from a new perspective, we felt that the timing was right to set a goal for Tait to re-establish positive values of social responsibility.
The time was right. The new BC Curriculum was being introduced, there had been some turnover in our staff, and our new counsellor was also a part of our A.C.T. Team here in Richmond. We decided to introduce two new initiatives to address social responsibility and connect what we would do with the new curriculum and the District Code of Conduct.
First, we entered into a two-year commitment with the ACT Team to systematically teach the social responsibility “Traffic Light” program in our school. Second, we decided as a staff that it was time to re-work our school acronym and school matrix to better reflect the values we wanted to impart on our students and connect to the new social responsibility components of the new curriculum.
During our final staff meetings and our last Pro-D day of the year we developed the concept of:
“At Tait We Are All - T.I.G.E.R.S.” Each of the letters in tigers would represent a would or values that we wanted to focus on, and we wanted these to connect to the new Core Competencies in the BC Curriculum, especially the Personal and Social components. Thoughtful represents how our students are prepared for learning. We want them to be thinkers and goals setters. We want to develop young people who take responsibility for their learning. Inclusive speaks to the positive personal and cultural identity and how we need to recognize all people with differences and accept each other for who we are. Generous is about how we give back to our family, school, community and society. Eco-friendly recognizes that we all live on this planet together and we have a responsibility to protect it. Responsible is the all-encompassing value that connects to how we carry ourselves and take ownership over our actions. Safe is that part of social responsibility that we owe to ourselves and others.
The next step in our journey was to introduce these concepts to our students. At the beginning of the 2016 -2017 school year we have a couple of days, the Wednesday and the Thursday, when students have not moved into their new classes for the year and are temporarily with their previous year’s teacher. We decided that we would use our Family Teams system to develop some activities during those days to introduce the new acronym. Our students are divided into 24 family teams each made up of students from grades Kindergarten to grade 7. These teams already provide us with opportunities to develop positive social interaction with our older students acting as team leaders, our younger students a chance to connect with older students and all students the ability to work cooperatively.
During the Fall of 2016 our teachers began implementing the ACT program in their classrooms. We would meet as a staff, and in conjunction with the Area Counsellors, on our Pro-D days to discuss and evaluate how things were progressing with the lessons. It was during this time that we also created a Tait Social Responsibility Committee to oversee the progress on implementing the new acronym and develop the corresponding school matrix. We also hired Creative Insignia, a graphic design company we have worked with in the past, to develop a banner and posters with our new Tait T.I.G.E.R.S acronym.
Once the new acronym was introduced, the visual posters were up and the ACT lessons were fully underway, we wanted to find the time and develop a plan to introduce each of the words/concepts in a more meaningful way. Our SR committee decided that we would use each of our monthly Family Teams activities in the second half of the year to develop and implement a lesson to reinforce each word. January became Thoughtful the first month of a new year and perfect for goal setting, February was Inclusive which connected to Pink Day, March was Generous, April was Eco-Friendly which coincided with Earth Day, May was Responsible and June was Safe which enabled us to talk about safety over the summer. Our staff organized themselves into six teams, each responsible to developing and implementing one of the lessons.
2017 - 2018 - Year Two - Our Journey Continues
Keeping in mind our Tait values and our ACT lessons that were taught as part of our commitment to the program, our focus continued, this year, with the social/emotional development of our students. Throughout the year the students read stories that demonstrated many skills and strategies that they could use when they felt the need. We also felt that continuing with the Family Teams activities, which were student-centered, would provide a consistent reminder and support for our key focus which is our TIGERS acronym. In each Family Team event, the students worked cooperatively and were expected to tell us on which of the values we were focusing. The students were also provided with opportunities to self-evaluate afterwards and to express their learning through a variety of written and oral communications.
Below is a description of each of our Family Teams activities that we feel were incredibly successful:
Self-Regulation: This was our first activity of the year. We felt that it would be a great way to begin our school year by speaking about various negative feelings and how to deal with these in a positive way. Many strategies were shared and it was incredible how the students came up with some wonderful and useful ideas. After a short video and sharing of ideas, the students were asked to answer the question: ‘What helps you self-regulate or be calm?’ Each student then prepared a half page poster that was then hung around the school hallways for all to see and make connections.
STEM Activity: This activity was created for students to focus on team building, cooperation and problem-solving challenges. This was a hit! Each team was provided with a small amount of materials such as plastecine, toothpicks and a planning page. Their goal was to create the tallest tower that could hold a tennis ball for at least 5 seconds. WOW! Did they ever meet this challenge with fervour! Our students demonstrated incredible collaboration between all grades, they were engaged and inclusive of all abilities. They couldn't wait to share at the end.
Inclusive: The focus during this event was on multiculturalism and diversity and overall, being inclusive. Our students were read a story, Hello, My Name is Octicorn, which was to be the basis of the group discussions. Students answered questions about how they were alike, how they were different from each other. The task afterwards was to create a puzzle piece that depicted each of their differences. Each team created a puzzle piece that was then glued onto a large T-shirt template and was later unvailed at our Anti-Bully assembly the following week.
Neigbourhood Clean-up: Our final event was one that would include the student body as well as Parent Volunteers. We wanted our students to be actively involved in caring for our community, which is linked to our TIGERS values (Generous and Ecofriendly). Our endeavour was to do a walk-about in the neighbourhood and to pick up garbage as we strolled through the community. Student leaders took photos along the way on the various routes around the school community which were to be made into a picture story. All of us were amazed at how much garbage was left on our roads and walkways. This was a true eye-opener for the students. Great job everyone and thank you for doing your part!