Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Why Wait For a Conference in Oder to Take Students to a Workshop?

My school board (YRDSB) has several amazing conference opportunities a year. There are two particular conferences that I could potentially take students from my grade 6 class to: ''Our Voice" which is an anti-bullying conference and "Peace Tree'' A conference for grade 5-6 students on building a peaceful school community. However, not every teacher is able to bring students and not every student gets a chance to access these kinds of leadership opportunities. Another set back is as students get older, the same students typically get selected for various leadership activities over and over, while other who vary well could be interested, sometimes get over-looked. So what to do?

Well... why not expose your students to workshops right in your own school? Providing student-friendly workshops within a school (potentially even created and led by teachers within your school), has so many benefits:
  1.  Provides leadership opportunities to teachers in your school who may not be ready or able to present at a school board level 
  2.  Provides opportunities for students who may not have ever got a chance otherwise, to access more leadership driven opportunities
  3. Connects students to more adults in the building (beyond their homeroom teacher)
  4. Provides teaching experience/opportunities for teachers to work with different age groups
  5. Allows students & teachers to receive "P.D." on hot topics which may be slightly outside the standard curriculum
  6. Allows students to learn from an expert of their own domain
Last year at HBPS, for Mental Health Awareness Week, we had several teachers in our building create and lead workshops of their own. What risk-taking on their part! Our administrator was so supportive and provided us with the release time to carry out the workshops. We created a schedule and invited classes to sign up for a workshop that their class would benefit from. Our workshops all focused on a central theme of "healthy outlets'' for emotional well-being and mental health. Our workshops last year included: healthy communication, yoga, visual art (which I presented) and a creative word art workshop. 

Here's a picture from my workshop last year of artwork being created. This particular student described to me that they felt their emotions were all over the place and this is what they produced! 

Teachers expressed that they enjoyed the experience of learning from one another and felt it provided a unique opportunity for their students. This year, we brought back a yoga workshop (taught by a professional instructor this time), an art workshop (done by a retired art teacher & artist) and a mindfulness workshop led by Ms. Amanda Saunders (one of our kindergarten teachers). 

Students loved being part of workshops again this year and found them to be fun and a great opportunity to learn more about mental health.

Invite teachers at your school to lead workshops for one another. The process can be surprisingly rewarding for all!

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