Teachers at Netagamiou School in the Lower North Shore community of Chevery were already integrating GOAL into their classrooms, whether they called it that or not. But how much more could be accomplished, they wondered, if they took stock of their individual efforts and fashioned them into a school-wide action plan?
Rebecca Nadeau-Monger is one of the teachers who took part in the two-day planning session last August that included the school’s entire 12-person staff. “The idea was to look at what everyone was doing on their own and see what we could share and maybe do better,” she explains. “We are such an isolated community and our students don’t see a lot of career diversity. We are looking for every way we can to help our students know themselves better so they can plan for the future and make choices that are right for them.”
The school called on GOAL coordinator and guidance counsellor, Charles Lasnier, and external consultant, Lise Palmer, to facilitate the planning process. First, staff identified basic GOAL activities they were already doing, such as helping students make connections between concepts studied in class and actual jobs. As a group, they realized that many other ongoing activities—graduation planning, peer tutoring in math, Meals-on-Wheels volunteering and drama performances for the community—could, with just a little self-, community-, and career-awareness tweaking, become part of a larger action plan.
Information treasure hunt
Then staff came up with their wish list: what else could they do to expose students to more careers, develop their entrepreneurial and life skills, and ultimately allow them to make a life for themselves in their own region? Teachers put their names beside activities they would be willing to lead, support or participate in.
Already, the school has put some of those new ideas into action. In a sort of “information treasure hunt,” each school house team was assigned a local business owner to visit and interview. The students had a checklist of questions and every team member (from pre-kindergarten to Secondary V) had a role. Each team then created a portrait of the business and its owner on a giant poster, which they presented to the rest of the school. The whole exercise was completed over two 50-minute class periods.
Every month, teachers also take turns proposing the “job of the month” and it is up to the students to post information (salary, job description, interesting facts, etc.) about that career on a common bulletin board. Each house team gets points when one of its members adds to the pool of information.
Parents and community are on side
Netagamiou’s Community Learning Centre is doing its part to involve parents and community partners in the action plan. Coordinator Ana Osborne put together a “simple one-pager” to explain to parents what GOAL is and what they could do to help their children identify their academic and career aspirations. “We also used the school Web site and local media (community newspaper and radio) to get this on the parents’ radar,” she says.
In addition, she has asked community partners to give her a heads-up when professionals from different fields are visiting the area. Recently, she was able to arrange a presentation to the POP class by a team of dental hygienists who were visiting the school anyway to do check-ups with students.
In yet another example of community outreach, former students––back home on breaks from post-secondary studies elsewhere—are being invited to talk to current secondary students about what to expect when it’s their turn to leave home to live and study in the city.
Both Rebecca and Ana credit the action plan with crystallizing in everyone’s mind how different GOAL activities are leading to clearly stated desired results. “Now everyone realizes they have a role to play and we all need to make links between our teaching and careers, our kids’ personalities, likes, dislikes and choices,” says Rebecca. Adds Ana: “I’m amazed at the breadth and depth of the different things we are doing and how well integrated they have become into the life of the school and at home too.”