Thursday, October 9, 2008

school supervision

It has been an interesting season for this issue. Ontario Today featured a phone-in on the amount and quality of school supervision. In 2007 in Ontario, teacher's collective agreements began to institute a cap on the number of supervision minutes that a principal could demand of her teachers. The issue is profoundly influenced by the lack of response on the part of school administrators to a crisis. One boy required brain surgery*. He had obviously been neglected in an office. It is not a surprise. More often than not principals are out of the school at meetings. This role falls to support staff.

Newer vice-principals, or their acting designates, are usually in charge in the office, and do not necessarily understand how to respond in a crisis. Of course, the truth is that it is the office administrator, that wonderful woman who tends to be disciplinarian, psychiatrist, nurse and protector of all, who juggles phone calls from (irate?) parents, media, trustees, etc., all the while must supervise the ill child in the "nurse's room", with no nurse available. I think that the office staff must adopt the strict guidelines in Long-Term Care homes: any incident and the family must be contacted. It is good policy and would prevent the issues identified by many families. Whether there is blood or not, any fall, a family member must be informed.

In the past, newbie principals, newly removed from teacher's federations, with little experience began to overreact to potential litigation issues. Around the year 2000, there was a 60% figure for principals with 5 or fewer years experience in this role. As principals were no longer colleagues with teachers, there was much more of an us and them mindset.

I was quite happy, as a supervising teacher, to send a child to the office, where they can phone 'home' and the parents can make a decision. The alternative is simply to have the family notified for anything that goes on. It is a simply policy and a basic priority. I did not have nursing skills, and no access to a phone. I cannot leave a yard. The protocol is to either send the child in, or send a runner to notify the office. Many schools now have walkie-talkies and office staff can be contacted. The media needs to not frighten parents. Most schools in Ontario have well-supervised yards, with protocols.

New teachers have little training in supervision or discipline issues. The bullying crisis, perhaps manufactured by the press, has gone on since my husband lived on a farm, with no electricity and hydro. New teacher do not understand how to prevent bullying and fighting. Internet "cyberbullying" issues have brought this problem to a head as the level of abuse becomes more severe. But that is a sidebar issue!

Discipline and supervision are different issues in the schoolyard versus the classroom, or lunch room. The Ontario Principal's Council is advocating for rules around ratios of numbers of children. This provides a false sense of security, since accidents, by their nature, cannot be prevented. I can supervise two lunch rooms with suppoort. I found that I could watch a soccer-field sized area, with 100 students, are watch for and prevent bullying and confrontations.

What I could not prevent were the fights and the accidents that are a result of normal kids interacting on a regular basis, confined to classrooms all day. They are advocating for a set number, but one-size does not fit all.

What we must prevent is the neglect of a child in an office, with staff already juggling people and problems.

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28 Nov 2007 ... London, Ont., parents sue school over son's skull fracture: The parents of a London, Ont., boy who needed brain surgery after a schoolyard ...

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