Class Assignment: Crafting Connections
BY: PATTI OLIVEIRA, COMMUNICATIONS COORDINATOR
INTERVIEW BY: CHANTELLE QUESNELLE, MENTAL HEALTH LEAD
GUEST: Deanna Neville-Verardi, Elementary School Principal
August 29, 2023
There is nothing like a good party, with the right people – and 20ish years ago, I wanted my wedding to be a good party. It goes without saying that quite a lot goes into planning the whole event. You need the right venue, the right entertainment, the right menu, the right partner! There’s a big investment of time and money, and you just want it all to go smoothly and for the memories associated with it to be good ones.
One of my biggest priorities though, was getting the seating plan right. I didn’t want to simply group families together at each table. Uncle Joe eats dinner with his kids every night! I wanted to switch it up to maximize the time my family and friends spent together celebrating. My guests were all people that I care about and know very well; their personalities, relationships with each other, age groups and interests… Admittedly, it created more work for us (especially factoring in late RSVPs and last-minute cancellations), but we were able to create table arrangements that worked really well – the enthusiastic thank you’s from cousins throughout the night was evidence of that!
The process of assigning students and teachers to classrooms is similar to the meticulous planning that goes into creating a well-balanced seating arrangement at a large gathering.
Instead of a table for 10, what exactly goes into putting classrooms of 20 students together? Like a guest list, the enrollment roster is lengthy and changes and updates are inevitable all the way up until the 11th hour and beyond. How and when are those last minute changes handled?
Deanna Neville-Verardi, principal at Monsignor J.E. Ronan Catholic School in Beeton, Ontario joins us on Beyond the Bell to discuss the process of classroom assignment. Part of the Simcoe Muskoka Catholic District School Board family for 21 years, Deanna has worked in both elementary and secondary panels.
Chantelle: Deanna, I know there are so many factors that are involved in class assignments, whether it be for teachers or students or administrators, it's a quite complicated process. So, can you tell us a little bit about that?
Deanna: It’s definitely a process. We start early in April and into May going with the numbers that we have and the students that we know, and we get our teachers involved because they are the boots on the ground, frontline workers. They are the ones who know these children and can make strong recommendations for the setup of the next year's class… They sit down with spreadsheets that are specific to the students in their class currently and make recommendations on who the students can be with. At this point, we haven't looked at teachers, we just look at which students work well and would be, you know, suited together.
Chantelle: So in true education form, Deanna, the process really centres on and starts with the students.
Deanna: That is 100% - we are all about our students. We need to make sure that they get the support they need to be successful… I also have my special education resource teachers who, with my vice principal and myself, look at any students with exceptional needs and make sure they are set up for success in a space with other students that would be helpful for that. We look at students that have educational assistant support and if there are other students in that classroom who would benefit from having an additional adult in that room. We're really focusing on the needs of our students. There are additional pieces, like class sizes that all come into play ultimately to set up our students for success.
Chantelle: The class cap factors into requests for students being with certain teachers or with a certain friend… It must be hard to manage personal requests that come from families. Do you get a lot of requests? Is there a process that kind of guides the decision-making for you whether those types of requests can happen or not?
Deanna: I do get a few. If a parent has a request, I ask them to send me an email, and I will take it into consideration on a case-by-case basis. With all of the other pieces involved, it depends on the child, the classroom, the dynamics. It's hard to do because with class-caps in particular, there are already 20 students in both classes, if I was to take one and move them, that means I have to take another one and move them out. Knowing that my staff have spent a lot of time and energy looking at things like: what are their reading levels, what are their math scores? There’s a lot to consider when building a class where the students can work well together, and support each other.
Chantelle: What advice do you have that might be helpful to parents and caregivers, so they can support their students as they hear about what class they’ll be in, in September or have to navigate any changes?
Deanna: You really need to trust the professionals – a lot of thought and care goes into this. We have some amazing staff that recognize, lead and really nurture our children to be their best… We make sure that we have everyone in a seat feeling welcome on that first day of school. That's the big piece. And then if we do, for a variety of reasons, have to make any changes in September again, we try to handle it very delicately. So just patience on everyone's side and, and be ready to experience something new for a new school year with a fresh start.
Large family gatherings bring together relatives of all ages, personalities, and interests. Just like in school, where students have different needs, personalities, and dynamics, in both scenarios, the goal is to ensure a positive and enjoyable experience for everyone involved.
Both processes require a delicate balance of various factors to create an environment where everyone can thrive and have a positive experience. Both involve planning, consideration, collaboration, and adaptability to ensure that individuals are placed in settings that encourage growth, connection, and comfort… and while school isn’t always a party, that lays the groundwork for making some really good memories.