Rallying the troops
Activities boost morale in Gjoa Haven school

Kerry McCluskey
Northern News Services

GJOA HAVEN (Oct 25/99) - Teachers at Gjoa Haven's one-year-old Qiqirtaq high school have been reinforcing the age-old adage that the smallest effort makes the biggest difference.

After noticing school attendance was down and seeing the same groups of grades 7 to 12 kids sticking together in the halls, principal Brenda Tudjan and her colleagues came up with a plan.

Just a few months later, the difference is palpable.

"We sat down and brainstormed on how we could help, what things we could do throughout our regular day," said Tudjan.

Collectively, the staff of nine teachers and three support workers decided to hold school spirit events. Tudjan said that at first they had wanted to schedule them regularly, but when they realized how tricky that could be, they decided to hold them when they noticed the students' energy was beginning to lag.

"We do it when we feel we need a boost of morale in the school and the students. We hold the spirit event so the students and the new teachers feel like they're part of the atmosphere of their school," said Tudjan.

Choosing a school-wide sporting event so that exercise is rolled into the event, Tudjan said that just before or after long weekends -- when students might be considering a little extra time off for themselves -- proved to be a key time to raise the energy.

"It gives them a little extra incentive to be there," said Tudjan.

Since starting the new activity, the school's attendance has risen and the students have become more social with their peers outside of their usual groups. Tudjan said that increased socializing would go a long way towards raising the amount of peer-to-peer counselling that went on.

"That will help later on when students can go to their older peers for help. They can go to kids who've already experienced that in the past."

Tudjan also noted that the exercise developed a stronger sense of camaraderie among the students and the teachers, the old staff and the new staff and between the staff and the principal.

"In the past the principal has stayed in the office. I'm not really a sports person, but I try to get out there and participate and the teachers like that."