If you are… A School Personnel
WHAT IS THE NSSSA?
The Nova Scotia Secondary Schools Students’ Association (the NSSSA) is based on the concept of “student empowerment”. It is unique and presents somewhat of a challenge within the confines of our school structures in Nova Scotia. It is entirely run by and for students. This obviously includes students who have not necessarily had any experience with some of the challenges that they will face. Thus our role as advisors is critical. We walk a very narrow line, being very cautious not to do what we teachers and other adults are so tempted to do. Sometimes sitting back and watching someone fail at a task and/or make a poor decision. It is critical that a feeling of mutual trust be developed between the student leaders and the advisors.
WHAT IS YOUR ROLE?
Some tasks need to be tackled head on however. Your involvement will be appreciated. Here are a few suggestions for School Advisors:
Identify your school representative to the NSSSA Regional Cabinet in your area. Each school has one. Contact your Regional Co-Premier if you are not sure who your school rep is. Their information can be found on the contact page.
Discuss a plan with your rep regarding any conferences that your school wishes to be involved in.
You can download the forms for the conference from our website and start discussing conference opportunities with the students at your school.
Have a meeting with any interested students very soon to see what kind of numbers that you are dealing with.
Make it very clear to all students that you are collecting the forms and payments should be made out to your school’s name. Then you would send in all the forms and one school cheque at the same time. This is more time consuming but it assures that you are in control of who is actually attending from your school. The forms ABSOLUTELY must be signed by the advisor.
Your school policy regarding student participation in extracurricular events takes precedence over everything here. You absolutely have the final say. Some schools have students pass through an academic review committee. No applications will be entertained by the organizers without your schools approval.
Set a deadline for the students to get their forms and cheques to you, about a week before the NSSSA deadline so that you give yourself some leeway.
The rules regarding Advisor: Student ratios are from the Department of Education. The NSSSA uses a maximum of 15 students to 1 Advisor (approved by the school Principal as their designate). Thus if you are taking 16 to 30 students, you will need 2 advisors. Schools use many different adults as Advisors: teachers, retired teachers, community members, alumni, parents, siblings, community police officers, school board members, etc. The Principal of that school simply must approve them. Our experience is that the longer the school waits to organize this , the bigger the problem.
All school Principals and Advisors will be emailed the final list of participants at least 1 week before the event. You will be asked to check this list for any omissions or errors. There should not be any. If one of your students has to drop out after the refund deadline but you are able to find a suitable replacement, the organizers will attempt to accommodate your school. However it is totally dependent on you getting in the appropriate paperwork to the organizers.
Travel arrangements to and from the NSSSA events must follow the Provincial regulations. No students may drive to or from the event. It is suggested that either parents drive their children or the school organizes a bus or the students take Acadian Lines. There will be absolutely no exceptions to this rule and you must be aware of each student’s plans.
I suggest that a few weeks before the event that you organize a parents’ meeting to share what will happen at the conference. Most parents do not have any idea and are totally amazed that their children arrive home in a state of euphoria. The NSSSA provides positive experiences for 99.9% of students. If you wish to have a current NSSSA Cabinet member attend the meeting, they would be delighted. Just contact myself or the Co-Premiers or Co-Chairs.
You are directly responsible for the well-being of your students while at the conference or other events. The organizers arrange for Chaperones who are former NSSSA Alumni, to patrol all night until wakeup in the morning. They are present to help maintain the safe environment. If anything should ever happen to one of your students during the night (illness, injury, breaking rules, etc), you will be immediately awakened and involved with the resulting actions. You will have the final say on any disciplinary actions involved. Although the NSSSA policy on the 3D’s is very clear. Drinking Alcohol, Use of illicit drugs, or Doin’ It (sexual activity) involves parents being immediately notified and the delegates being picked up by them as soon as possible. Incidents are very rare at the NSSSA but they have happened and the organizers are totally committed to these concepts.
We suggest that you arrange to meet with your students at a particular spot twice per day for about 10 minutes. It is especially appropriate just before or after breakfast and supper. This will be in the schedule but it is up to you to be very strict about the students’ attendance. You should debrief on how things are going for them. You can share what you are experiencing. This will give your students a chance to see another side of you. If a student does not show up for your meeting, inform one of the logistics people and we will do a search for them. They will never miss more than once.
The Provincial Conference is based on the Skillbuilding groups. At each of these 8 sessions, various personal and group skills are discussed. Games are played, etc. The Logistics team travels around the campus during each session, checking attendance. They report back any absentees and these students are searched for until they are located. Most of the time they are just late, they are given a warning and usually it doesn’t happen again. There is always the possibility however that a student has become ill or has left the campus. After doing a regular search of the Dorms and other locations, you will be notified and an emergency sweep of the campus is organized. All students would be brought together at a central location and divided into their school groups. If this still results in a missing student, then we would notify parents as well as the RCMP. We have only had this happen once and the parent who suspected something resolved it. That was fun !!!
During the waking hours, you would be expected to attend your Advisor Sessions and the Keynote Speakers and the large activities such as the Talent Show, the Dance, the Opening and Closing Ceremonies, etc. No one may leave the campus at all. We are totally dependent on knowing exactly where everyone is at all times. If you have an emergency then please contact myself and we will make arrangements to cover your students in your absence.
You are also expected to check that all your students have arrived safely at check-in as well as checking your students off as they are picked up by their parents or the bus at the end. This goes for any NSSSA event.
Some Advisors have been taking turns covering at conferences. This is fine as long as the organizers know exactly what your plan is. It is not acceptable to leave before your replacement arrives, for example.
You are the continuity at your school. Your students will definitely have a changed opinion about you (or a further enhanced picture). It is a unique opportunity for developing Student Leadership in your school. After the conference is over, you will see a change in the students who attended. You should definitely arrange a “Debriefing” meeting. I can give you other suggestions if you contact me.
Very often, the Grade 10 students, experience a shock to their system over the first day or so at the conference. They might not be used to students, walking around, hugging strangers, exchanging little strands of wool called “warm fuzzies”, etc. They might need your guidance. Keep your eyes open for this. Normally after the first day, these students are found cheering on top of tables “Fire Engine, Fire Engine, Stinky, Stinky, Tall”.
I hope that you experience what I have come to love. It is truly a unique time for you to share with your students.
HOW CAN YOU FIND OUT MORE INFORMATION?
If you have any other questions our Provincial Advisor, Lorne Abramson, would be delighted to speak with you anytime.
Lorne Abramson , aka “ABE”
Provincial Advisor, NSSSA
Nova Scotia Secondary School Students’ Association
Email: Lorne Abramson