By way of introduction, I am Mrs. Patricia Amos, Director of Education Emeritus for the Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic District School Board, in Hamilton, Ontario. During my tenure, the Board at that time consisted of 56 schools, with an enrollment of about 28,500 students.
In 2015 I was introduced to Tools for Life by another Director of Education. Our Principals, Consultants and teachers had already expressed a need for a resource to support the Social Emotional Learning of young children. It was important to the team that this resource not be seen as an “add on”, but rather that it be capable of being embedded into what teachers were already doing in their classrooms. I met with my Senior Team. Together we identified approximately 10 schools that we believed would benefit from this resource. I met with the Principals of each of these 10 schools to discuss the potential support of Tools for Life within the Kindergarten program. The principals went back to their schools and discussed potential implementation within their school. I was pleased that all ten schools were willing to participate in a pilot project with Tools for Life.
The price point to purchase the resources for the ten schools was reasonable and I was able to fund the cost of purchase from the central budget. The pilot schools appreciated the resource and word began to spread to other schools who wanted to be included in any expansion of the pilot. At that time, I prepared a report to the Board of Trustees on the rationale for the expansion of the implementation across all fifty-six elementary schools in the Board. I based the rationale for expansion of Tools for Life and linked it to the goals identified in the Board’s “Multi-Year Strategic Plan”. Specifically, the goal of “Student Achievement and Well-Being” outlined the need to identify strategies and supports that would create “through incisive curriculum, assessment and instructional strategies aimed at supporting the whole student.” The “Student Mental Health Strategy” was also looking to review resources to “help ensure the mental health and wellbeing of all students”. The timing was right and being connected to the Board priorities was essential.
The Board approved the expansion of Tools for Life into all Junior and Senior Kindergarten classes over a five-year period. The project was led by the Superintendent of Education with responsibility for Child Care and Early Learning. It was very important to ensure stakeholder buy-in as well as the necessary financial support through central funds.
After the initial ten schools completed two years using the Tools for Life program in the Junior and Senior Kindergarten, they were so pleased with the success they wanted to implement Tools for Life into the grade one classroom. They liked how the Strategies and Tools were easily understood and quickly adopted. They didn’t want to lose the momentum.
As the 5-year implementation continued to roll out, the expansion into Grade 1 began. The Teacher Librarians as well as the Literacy Resource Teachers and Special Education Resource staff welcomed the support that was being provided through Tools for Life. It met the goals of supporting the young learners. The staff welcomed this relationship-building solution that helped develop the social emotional learning and self-regulation of young children.
Tools for Life has had a very positive impact on school climate. The need for disciplinary actions such as “office visits” and suspensions diminished. The students were successfully using the Tools to problem solve. The Strategies and Tools taught the children how to recognize their emotions and positively interact with their peers to solve any difficulties they encountered. The children gained not only self-control by also self-esteem. Teachers stated that they had more time for teaching since they were spending less time managing conflicts. I have been impressed with the professionalism of the Tools for Life team. They sought feedback from us and they have implemented many of our suggestions into future revisions.
I highly recommend this resource for consideration in your District.
Director of Education Emeritus
Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic District School Board