When we applied for the grant to use technology as a vehicle for integrating bansho and a constructivist approach in math, we included the term “at risk student population” in our proposal. I would like to clarify what we mean by that.
Our school is a small K-5 school situated in a "downtown-ish" area of the suburbs. Although there are some houses in the community, the majority of our students come from a series of nearby apartment buildings and some subsidized housing. Many of the families in our community are also new Canadians, and are struggling with learning the language and the culture of their new country, in addition to facing financial hardship. Unlike some other "high ESL" schools I have taught in, the students from our school come from incredibly diverse cultural backgrounds (in my classroom alone, there are at least 7 languages spoken at home in addition to English), making it even more difficult for some to find that cohesive sense of "community".
Although we do have a strong core of parent volunteers at our school, it is a small core, as many families face a variety of challenges that prevent them from being more actively involved at the school.
The teachers and staff are passionate, interested, committed, and go out of their way to "make things good" for the kids. Many after school and lunchtime conversations focus on what extra-curricular or co-curricular activities might be well-rec'd for our students, and for a small school, there always seems to be a lot happening: running club before school, chess club and dance at lunchtime, sports, music... The administrative staff, too, is always on the look out for opportunities for our students (this past December, for example, several of our classes attended the most incredible holiday program in Toronto, put on by Spinmaster and our Breakfast Club), and wherever funding is available, we seem to find it and put it to good use academically and otherwise.
Recently, a few of us went -- with our principal -- to a two part series on Poverty, co-hosted by our Board and our Teacher Local. The aptly named "possibilities" series addressed some stereotypes, and, among other things, encouraged us to replace the term "at risk" with "at promise".
With our committment and partnership, the students in our care can and will thrive academically and emotionally-socially.