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Understanding identity building: The role of the school administrator

(Association canadienne d’éducation de langue française (ACELF))


At a time when the school and the community are focusing increased attention on the complementary relationship between school and community leadership, school administrators must give new—or continued—thought to the role they play with respect to building Francophone identity in their own setting.

Administrators of French‑language schools help build the identities of individual students in various ways. They connect directly with students and become accessible models, they stimulate and support the work of the entire school staff, and they work with parents and the community. Through unifying projects, they help shape the collective Francophone identity in both educational and community settings.

A student's Francophone identity is forged through an interplay of various social contexts from birth to school age, a process that will continue throughout the student's life. Opportunities to build identity are never restricted to the academic context.

Families and communities greatly influence the process of identity building for Francophone students. Children are immersed first of all in a family setting, and may then attend an early childhood centre before going on to a French‑language school. And they will pass through all of these stages in the midst of the surrounding Francophone community.

These settings, in their own way, provide the student with various opportunities to build an identity that gives the French language a prominent place in the student's life. Just like the other stakeholders, school administrators also play an important role in this continuum.

One of the school administrator's roles is to fully understand the dynamics involved in the interaction between the setting and the people, to fully understand the environment of the school within the broader community.

Here are a few questions to help the school administrator establish a picture of the surrounding area:

  • Where is the school located? What are the characteristics of the surrounding area?
  • What are the region's economic activities? What is the socio‑economic position of families?
  • What percentage of students come from exogamous households, interlinguistic households?
  • What are the language characteristics of the area, the means of communication in French?

Coordinating strengths

In addition to knowing the area, the school administrator must also know and recognize the expertise, knowledge and contribution of each stakeholder and partner taking part in the French‑language school's activities in the community.

Once the strengths in the surrounding environment have been recognized, they can then be maximized by means of joint, coherent initiatives that will provide students with meaningful experiences in French at school, at home and in the community. In this way, students will develop their sense of belonging to the Francophonie.

Here are a few reminders:

  • The student is at the heart of the French‑language school project.
  • The school staff implements the school's vision by creating and facilitating opportunities for learning, development and engagement.
  • The school administrator shares educational, cultural and community leadership with those around him.
  • Parents are the school's natural partners.
  • The Francophone community has a mutually supportive relationship with the schools.

Developing collaborative projects

The administrator of the French‑language school facilitates discussion around values, allowing students, the entire school staff, parents and the community to share their aspirations within a common vision for the school.

In a collaborative project, all participants from the area, regardless of their responsibilities, can lead in various ways.

Over the years, unifying projects under various names have been created in schools and communities in the form of a common vision, an action plan, an educational project or even a target school. These initiatives have a common goal of mobilizing, increasing accountability and engaging everyone to work together in order to have a greater impact on the student's development and success.

Choosing effective strategies

To promote Francophone identity building at the individual and collective level, school administrators can build on existing frameworks to inspire educational activities. They can refer to the eight guiding principles that govern educational activities for identity building and ensure their consistency.

  • Become part of the contemporary Francophonie
  • Focus on creativity and innovation
  • Promote diversity
  • Foster co‑operative action involving the family, community and school
  • Develop a positive connection with the French language
  • Establish links within the Canadian Francophonie
  • Encourage mobilization
  • Target lasting effects

To bring these guiding principles to life through activities, please refer to ACELF's Banque d'activités pédagogiques (www) English Hyperlink Notice.

Providing leadership

The school administrator can provide leadership in the following ways:

  • Mobilizing. Starting a project or leading an initiative that originates within the school and extends into the community.
  • Collaborating. Within a school‑community initiative that has a shared responsibility with community stakeholders through all phases of the project or initiative (before‑during‑after).
  • Contributing. Joining an existing initiative originating outside of the school.

Lastly, the French‑language school has two mandates to fulfill. The first is the educational mandate, which contributes to individual growth of Francophone youth by allowing them to learn and develop skills and competencies required to live their adult lives to the fullest.

Under the second mandate, its community and cultural mission, the school is responsible for supporting Francophone youth in building identity and facilitating the discovery and development of their language, culture and community. Identity building is certainly a key factor in academic achievement. The school administrator should enter fully into a leadership role in the school and in the community.

The complete fascicle on the role of the school administrator, along with other fascicles in the series Comprendre la construction identitaire, is available on the ACELF site, in the section Outils d'intervention (www) English Hyperlink Notice.