Monday, November 30, 2009

Bullying in the workplace

It was 2003 or 2004. According to our teacher's Collective Agreement, if a principal wanted to discipline a teacher, s/he has the right to Federation representation. My principal, we called her "The Princess" behind her back, accosted me in the hallway. The Princess had been named this in her previous school, be her previous staff, with whom I served on Federation Executive. We knew her reputation.

I was teaching in a portable at the time, far from the madding crowd. The Princess spoke harshly, and loudly, told me I was to appear in her office immediately. My legal response was, "Not without representation." I was the Shop Steward and I knew the rules. She said, "Fine. We'll do it here." In the hallway she proceeded to chew me out, not for the first time, for an apparent misdemeanour that could not wait.

Two of my staff were just behind us, in the photocopy room. They heard her yelling at me. Parents in the school volunteering were not uncommon, and I worried that they might be listening to this verbal abuse. It had kept up for two years. It was continual, unavoidable, unpredictable, and demeaning. It lowered my self-esteem. I felt humiliated. I felt suddenly disempowered and totally in shock, having been an executive member for 20 years, a workshop presenter, a published author, a mentor, and leading Curriculum Technology expert. Eventually, my emotional illness began to become a physical illness. As a single parent, with many irons in the fire, my physical body was telling me that it could not accept this torture any more.

I tried yoga, meditation, massage, exercise, speaking to Federation colleagues, counsellors. The bullying kept up. From teaching my favourite grade 6 class, out in the portable where we could do science experiments and take advantage of the out doors.

This is an issue that is near and dear to my heart. having been bullied by my principal, which is not uncommon. A quick search after listening to a CBC radio show, demonstrates this fact. Across the world. Bullying in schools is not a new issue. It seems to be getting more press, and rightly so.

Yes, I was bullied by a principal. She bullied me, female staff, prevented my Professional Dev't, she bullied and called the police on the Parent Council chair, thinking funds had been tampered with. She was a walking time bomb.

I documented it in great detail. I took it to my union; they did not understand. I had witnessed to the final incident, who were willing to attest to the culminating incident.

I wrote a letter, documenting in 7 pages the harassment, and sent it to my superintendent.
The Sup't forwarded this to the health and safety officer who promised me help.
Suddenly, there was no bullying according to the Health and Safety document, according to management, because gender and race was not involved. The bully's husband was a principal of program in the board office.

I was traumatized and took a month off work.
I still have issues with authority.
Yes, it is PTSD. I retired early with a huge financial penalty.

I hope something can be done. Bullies in school grow up to bully in the workplace. And people who are afraid of being unable to keep their power, bullying when managing. In hindsight, I could have gone to the Ontario Workplace Safety Council. The Board did not seem to care that I needed to use up LTD time, and needed to avoid the bullying in this way. It was not my style. They preferred paying for an occasional teacher to be in my classroom. When I used the Employee Assistance Plan to speak to a counsellor, they told me that principal bullying was on the increase.

Bullying of Academics in Higher Education: Teachers want principal ...[PDF]

Principals and Teachers: Bullied and Bullying Bullying teachers don't want parents regularly complaining to the principal or berating the principal's superiors; it's a simple matter of self-preservation.

Bullying at Work | Teachers TV
30 min - 19 Nov 2006

The Bullying Prevention Handbook: A Guide for ... - Hoover -

  Teachers who bully students: A hidden trauma - Twemlow - Cited by 20
Rural elementary students', parents', and teachers' ... - Stockdale - Cited by 46

Bully Principal Costs Fortune

6 Apr 2009 ... Teachers deserve a safe and healthy workplace, too. Bullied Teacher Wins $225000
. Bully Principal and District Supporters Costs Employer

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Teachers deal with fear

Remember, we are teachers, not guidance counselors, not parents, priests or psychologists. Find out who to talk to - on your student's behalf. I think, as teachers, we must remember to respect the children's feelings, as well as the parent's spiritual beliefs. During the aftermath of dealing with a family who had lost a child, I had disclosures from students who have families involved in terrorist activities.

A principal in Toronto opened up a school to her families on Dec. 27th (2/3 of her student population were of Sri Lankan descent) and she let the children come in and play with friends, play games in the gym, whilst the parents went to temple to pray and deal with their grief.

Kids do not need to be reminded of it. Kids may or may not be affected by it. They just want to be kids. It may be fairly removed from them, it may not. The parents must take the lead in helping kids through the grieving process and teachers must respect this process.

During Ice Storm '98 (10 days in my community without power!) we talked about it, wrote about it, dealt with it.

We wrote pretend letters to relatives about what we had felt and what we faced. it was healthy. As with Play Therapy with younger students, my gr. 6s were able to face fears, express fears. Younger kids can, and will, express fears in their play. Listen to them.

During the aftermath of 9/11, very few kids were directly involved.  Those who were involved, as with kids who are going through bitter family divisions, found school to be a place of sanctuary. They found school to be a place where everything was "normal" and they could just be kids.

1. Talk about your feelings. Have them tell their story about as much as you want. Draw pictures, create poems, write letters.

2. Make a fear box. Cut out pictures from newspapers and magazines about their fears, paste around the box. Write down a list of fears and put it inside.

3. Create a worry list. Make a list of your worries from 1 to 5. Number 1 is the biggest. Talk about this list with someone you trust. Your mom, your sister, your   guidance counselor, or your friend.

4. Help others. Give food, clothing, or toys to people that need it. Suggest that your school family donates money to a related cause.

5. Put a flag outside your house. It helps remind us we are all working together.

6. Remember that we have all survived a   traumatic experience.

Tidy up song

This is the song we sang between activities. Our transition song.

We adapted a 'tidy-up' song in 2004: rewrote the words together to make it suit us. I don't know where the song came from. I wrote it down having heard it on TV. I would sing it every time I wanted them to tidy. It is a great class project. A student video-taped the process.
At the time, the board would not allow us to put the kids on tape.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Friday, November 27, 2009

Alien plasticene art

Core French learning activity for elementary students. Plasticene 'aliens' with names, costumes, and identities were developed. The students created, in French they introduced their critters and give them cartoon-like personalities. They each took a photo of their alien, with students teaching the finer points of digital photography to each other.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Elementary art idea

What a massive undertaking.

This was an art project created by the Primary team of teachers. Teaching staff researched an artist, created a learning activity, and presented it to a different class each week. They rotated homeroom classes gr. 1 - 3, with each teacher presenting the same lesson. The culminating activity was setting it up in the gym. The volunteer reception was held there with Junior students doing the videotape, interviewing visitors and staff, and reporting on the event.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Powerpoint projects with kids

Superhero owerpoint roject
There are many ways to integrate PowerPoint into curriculum with junior, intermediate and senior students. These are only a few subject areas in which technology infusion would enhance a project.
The educator must be careful that they do not use it too much. Teachers balance a huge curriculum and must pick and choose their opportunities.
  • Biography on an Influential Writer
  • English - Language Arts / Writing (Composition)
  • Interactive Map of South America
  • Social Studies / Geography   
  • Musical Theatre
  • The Arts / Music
  • European Influences
  • Social Studies / History
  • Venus Transit Social Studies
  • Social Studies / History   
  • Adding Hyperlinks and Navigation
  • Educational Technology / Multimedia Education  
  • Artist's Critique
  • The Arts / Visual Arts
  • Book Review
  • English - Language Arts / Literature
  • Emerging Civilizations
  • Social Studies / World History  
These lessons are all available on-line at Kidz On-line.
Teachers can either teach the basics, or they can send students to on-line tutorials. These are seemingly boundless! I prefer to create a simple template, which scaffolds the process. Students can take the concept as far as they can and many of my fearless students manage to figure out all the bells and whistles. It is a good way to encourage children to think succinctly. Many, when presenting projects, read the entire text. In fact, some adults do the same thing. As student participate in research projects they may better understand the rules about PoiwerPoInt presentations. They need to keep the text succinct; readers do not want to read paragraphs.
Other things to remember:
  • no more than 10 bullets per page
  • unifying content by clour and design i.e. sub-topics
  • graphics that enhance - rather than overwhelm
  • consistent backgrounds, colours and text
  • suitable font formal vs casual
These are examples of "SuperHero Projects" my gr. 4/5 students created in 2004.

Abbey Emily  Kaisa Kara Pauley Philip Jenn Jordyn

These templates took a lot of time to create, but simplifies the task for students to enter and edit as they choose. 
See also:

PowerPoint Tutorial | PowerPoint Tutorial 2 | Kidz On-line Training | PPT FAQs | PowerPoint templates | Creating Classroom Presentations PowerPoint in the Classroom(amazing resources and information) | Tutorials in Print | PowerPoint Tutorial | Technology for Teachers: PowerPoint
You can find templates and more templates | Storyboard template |

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Narrative Writing

Rationale—Narrative Writing offers students an opportunity to express themselves imaginatively and personally. The emphasis on style invites students to show their flare for creative writing.

Time—Three class periods of 75 minutes
Definition— Narrative Writing is an imaginative composition; such as a poem, script, short story, or personal essay. Narrative Writing is noted for its emotional connection with the reader and its entertaining purpose.
Description of the task—You will use writing process to produce a piece of Narrative Writing in the form of poetry, personal essay, short story, or script.
Final Product—You will submit a polished personal essay, short story, poem, or script. Attached to the final product should be your Writing Performance Sheet.
Expectations covered in the task:
Students will

• demonstrate an understanding of literary forms, such as poems, short stories, scripts, and essays
• use a unifying image, emotion, or sensation to structure descriptive paragraphs or poems
• use literary forms suited to various purposes and audiences
• edit and proofread to produce final drafts, using correct expression
Assessment and Evaluation:
The rubric provided will be used to evaluate the final product. Listen carefully while the teacher goes over the rubric before you start. Your teacher will indicate to you whether or not the Checklist and Writing Performance Sheet will be assessed.

Narrative Writing Task:
Write a personal essay, short story, poem, or script on one of the following topics: friendship, a special moment, or your future.
Purpose: To entertain the reader.
Audience: The audience is an adult reader who wants to be entertained by the personal or imagined experience of the student writer.
Length: Approximately one to two typed pages in 12 pt Times New Roman or Palatino font.
Due date: _______________
What you need to know before you begin:
1. Successful Narrative Writing comes from the heart as much as from the head. Write about a topic or experience for which you hold intense feelings. Strong feelings help you find the words to express yourself.
2. Experiment with form. Once you have selected a topic, free write in one form; then, try another form to see if it is more appropriate to your purpose of entertaining the reader. Get a writing partner’s opinion on which form is more effective.
3. Narrative Writing must have impact on the reader. Polish the final product so that the reader is delighted by powerful language.
4. Know and understand the features of good Narrative Writing. Effective Narrative Writing has:
• impact (writer captures and sustains the reader’s interest throughout),
• credibility (writer selects details that are sufficient, credible and specific enough to support the intended effect),
• appropriate form (writer presents fully expressed ideas or feelings in an order that makes sense and in a format that suits the purpose and audience),
• superior style (writer strives to express ideas, feelings and supportive details in superior words and strong sentences that suit the purpose and audience), and
• polish (writer polishes words, phrases and sentences so the reader is delighted by powerful language and not distracted by errors in spelling, grammar, and punctuation).

Process to follow to complete this task.
1. Select one topic: friendship, a special moment, or your future.

2. Brainstorm for details by imagining the situation you wish to write about.
a. List details that come to mind immediately. Do not reject any detail yet.
b. Add details that appeal to the senses.
c. Add details that suggest body sensations.

d. Add details of colour.
e. Add details of weather.
f. Add any other precise details.
3. First Draft: to clarify ideas, feelings, details in a double-spaced rough draft. It is easier for most writers to write freely.
4. Print a copy of your readable rough draft if you are working on a computer for this task.
a. Complete the Checklist for Narrative Writing on your own before you work with a writing partner.
b. Do not show the Checklist to your partner until after the end of the writing conference.
c. Conduct a writing conference with a writing-partner regarding your rough draft.
d. Read the readable rough draft aloud to your partner.
e. As the partner listens, s/he should be filling out a blank Checklist for Narrative Writing to assist discussion after you have finished reading your paper.
f. Discuss the differences between your two Checklists.
g. Conference with another student if you wish another opinion about your rough draft.

6. Revise your printed rough draft based on the feedback.
7. Revise and proofread by using SCRAD: seek opportunities in your writing to
Substitute (words, ideas),
Correct (errors in spelling, grammar, and major errors),
Rearrange (move sentences or words elsewhere if the move makes the writing clearer),
Add (words or details or sentences to improve the clarity and interest)
Delete (unnecessary words or sentences)
8. Word process the final product, if possible, and submit double spaced.
9. Attach a completed Writing Performance Sheet to the final copy.
10. Your teacher may ask you to submit ALL rough work by hand or on computer from the start of the assignment to finish.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Talking about traditions

Holiday Traditions ______________________________________

Here is our classroom questionnaire. Here are some questions to help you get

What do you celebrate during November, December and/or the Winter Solstice?
Where do you go if you have worship services, prayers, ceremonies or special
Do you travel, or visit special places during this time? Do you have parties?

Do you go on a holiday, and if so: where? you have visitors?

What kind of special preparations do you make?

Do you
give special gifts?

Are there any
favourite songs you listen to during your celebrations?

Are there traditional foods you eat?
What are the symbols you
associate with your celebration?

What kind of vocabulary words do you associate with your traditional celebration?

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Remembrance Day in schools

I spent many hours working with students on this topic. I know of military families who travel to Cenotaphs, especially the one in Ottawa. Today, Prince Charles will be attending this one.

There are those who disparage our schools and the general public, who are apparently unaware of Remembrance Day, and its significance. In my mind, I truly believe that we do a fine job in the schools, and this is where the truth lies.

In fact, this is the first time in a long time, that war has had an impact on our young children. A high school honoured a graduate who died in Afghanistian. Some have lost significant others: Canada has lost 133 soldiers and this impacts the entire military family.

Ceremonies continue at Cenotaphs across our nation. They are not forgotten. Pick up a book, or visit a website and find out more.

We honour our men and women. 

Our Highway of Heroes has honoured the 133 soldiers from those who have died serving others in Afghanistan. The video shows the view from the bridge where people line up as the caskets pass by. 

Peacekeeper Penpals...... My grade 6 class at Manordale P.S.,  in Nepean [Ottawa], wrote to  Canadian Peacekeepers. Dennis  Irwin wrote us back. The students  were thrilled! 

Dear Ms. Jilks' class, Here are some pictures of our trip over  in the Arabian Sea.  Maybe your  students might enjoy seeing them!        

The HMSC Preserver- The supply ship I am sailing on! This is our ship fueling with another ship at sea. See the big  hose between the ships?   The Iroquois is a lot older. It was built in around 1971-72. Dolphins come right up to the ship and play by showing off, all the time. They will dive  under the ship and come up on the other side. They are fun to watch. We have seen sea  snakes and large sea turtles this trip. This is an Iranian gunboat checking us out  because we were just outside their 12 mile  limit. This a gold jewelry store on a street in Dubia U.A.E. which is on the  very tip of Saudi Arabia. There had to be well over 100 of these  stores all on a couple of streets. This what the sunsets are like nearly every night. Justice's Ostinato was performed in an assembly. 


He e-mailed us some  photos, too.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Students accused of abusing peer

By law, ANYONE in a position of authority MUST report child abuse directly. Not the principal, not the parents. The teachers. Their teaching certificates should be taken away if they are found guilty of a cover up. This private school should be fined, if these are proven to be facts. 

What a criminal story. Blaming the victim by covering it up. In some instances, the child is not telling the truth (stories abound of false accusations), but  in many instances, when a child discloses, the adults do not believe him/her. It is not a teacher or principal's job to determine if the accusations are true. It is up to child protection agencies to do the work. In this case, according to the Globe, there was no disputing of the facts, but there was a cover up. 

If a child discloses, remain calm, do not overreact, reassure them, listen and report the incident immediately. ( 

This sets us back 30 years. Canadian authorities have learned so much about reporting child abuse, and ensuring that such a thing never happens again. I hope the truth comes out. 

CLEO writes:
If you are not the child's parent . . .
If you are not the child's parent and a child discloses any kind of abuse to you - you are under a legal obligation to report this to the police. Although your first reaction may be to pretend not to hear it, or pass your concerns along to the parents, this is not the appropriate action. The child is putting his or her trust in you as an adult. Help the child. Call the police and child protective services immediately.

The teacher, the administrators need to report these incidents to the authorities. What a breach of trust. The victim will need counselling and those who witnessed the incident (whether they participated directly or not) can suffer PTSD consequences, as well. The gang that perpetrated this alleged crime, are at risk for reoffending. This type of incident desensitizes the perpetrators, which is partly why statistics show that victims often become abusers themselves. You live what you learn - whether it be physical, social, emotional or sexual abuse.

Statement of claim filed by parents against Ashbury College says their son and his two siblings were treated like assailants and 'effectively expelled'

Prevalence of child physical and sexual abuse in the community ...

A history of child physical abuse was reported more often by males (31.2%) than females (21.1%), while sexual abuse during childhood was more commonly reported by females (12.8%) than males (4.3%). Severe physical abuse was reported by similar proportions of males (10.7%) and females (9.2%). A greater percentage of females reported a history of severe sexual abuse (11.1%) compared with males (3.9%). 

Child Abuse Reporting Trends

File Format: PDF/Adobe Acrobat
Reports to the Ontario Child Abuse Registry from 1979 to 1985 increased threefold from. 700 to 2200, with child sexual abuse reports accounting for most.

CLEONet - Reporting Child Sexual Abuse

community legal education in Ontario. A project of CLEO logo. Reporting Child Sexual Abuse. This guide is meant to help parents and guardians.

Child Sexual Abuse - Circle of Trust Abuse Resources : The Zero ...

Report from the Ontario Ministry of Attorney General, 2000, regarding sexual abuse and exploitation in Canadian schools.

Protecting Our Students - Executive Summary and Recommendations
Report from the Ontario Ministry of Attorney General, 2000, regarding sexual abuse and exploitation in Canadian schools.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Peanut Allergies - fact or myth?

I remember, back in 2000, I had a number of students with allergies. One of my kiddies had anaphylactic allergies, but then so did another. The one mom, a nurse, trained the staff in delivering the Epipen.
The other mom was fearful and frantic.

From then, the principals, in trying to cover themselves, created peanut-free classrooms. This worked well. The school custodian would endeavour to clean the desks immediately after lunchtime. All was well.

Some schools created a peanut-free lunchroom: either the nurse's room, or a classroom where one child was joined by others from different classrooms. It was my belief, however, having dealt with a number of students with varying issues, that kids need to learn to protect themselves. Whether it be a diabetic gr. 1 with a shunt, a child in a wheelchair from spina bifida, another with neuofibromatosis, and physical concerns.  How many children are not allowed to eat peanut butter for lunch due to one child in the school with an allergy? A great number, I imagine.

There are those who believe that the quantity and the severity of cases are over blown, in an attempt by Family Physicians, to cover themselves. If a child has a mild allergy to peanut butter, there is no reason s/he should live in a hermetically sealed environment, like a bubble boy.

Canadian Food Inspection Agency - Food Allergens 

It was once thought that peanut allergies were lifelong. However, recent studies show some children may outgrow their peanut allergy

Then, there are the horror stories. Did you read this news item?

CTV News | Teenager with peanut allergy dies after a kiss

25 Nov 2005 ." -- A Quebec teenager with a peanut allergy has died after kissing her boyfriend who had a peanut butter sandwich. Fifteen-year-old Christina Desforges died Monday. She went into anaphylactic shock and in spite of being given an adrenalin shot, could not be revived."

Did you read the update? -- is more to the point. It is amazing that the press fails to deal with the misinformation they broadcast!

Lack of oxygen killed teen, not peanut kiss - More health news ...

6 Mar 2006 ... MONTREAL - A lack of oxygen to the brain likely played a role in the death of a teenager once thought to have died of a peanut allergy after...

The young lady had attended a party, where there was smoking. The coroner corrected himself with little fanfare:

Coroner Michel Miron told The Associated Press that it appeared that Christina Desforges, 15, had suffered from "cerebral anoxia," or a lack of oxygen to the brain, which caused serious damage.

1.52 percent of Canadian children were found to be allergic to peanuts. A comparable study, performed in 2002 in the U.S. found that .83 children are allergic to peanuts. Tree nut allergy in Canada was also found to be about 120 percent higher for Canadian children, compared to .51 percent in the U.S.

But did you read the original article?

"The data are not complete – they reflect about 90 per cent of the 9,000 individuals who took part in the telephone survey – but give a good indication of how many Canadians are affected by peanut, tree nut, fish, shellfish and sesame allergies."

Plus, it was a PHONE SURVEY! How accurate is this? No actual testing. In Canada, we have universal health care and kids get tested for free if referred by a doctor. In the US, this is not the case. In addition, the US stats were from 2002, the Canadian data from 2008

More kids, tested more times, with more sensitive tests. It fail to report if these were skin allergies, or more severe allergies in which skin contact or inhaling the peanut allergen provokes a fatal reaction. There is a huge difference. My kids are allergic to cats, but we had a cat. They washed their hands if they touched it and they knew to protect themselves.

It is amazing the knee-jerk reactions to this issue. Parents need to be better informed than this. If you are reading a blog post - ask questions... Rely on someone with experience assessing the validity and reliability of scientific studies.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Integrating technology

I learned my computer skills for work in 1989. Doing classroom newsletters, I added to my skill set in order to teach it to my students. I found, through my work at uOttawa and the Faculty of Education in 2005, that many professors have not successfully integrated technology into their curriculum. Not to say they do not use it, but they have not bridged the gap from dispensing URLs like holy water, to fully understanding how we balance computers, digital tools, and curriculum with classroom management and the practical aspects of the process.

Above is a photo of the computer equipment one of my special needs students was given to use at home or school. The other students were not allowed to use it (Board/Ministry policy) and they locked it down. He would take the computer to and from school.

This is the technology I learned to use at work. We could scan a page of difficult reading for a student, and the application would read it aloud for them. An e-dictionary would define the word for them.

Instructional Repertoire
Curriculum is much more than learning activities, it is a balance and a dance of much more than this. Curriculum is a balance of Instructional Repertoire that helps the educator manage students, curriculum, the classroom environment, human behaviour and integrate what they knew about the brain, pedagogy, psychology, sociology, and facilitate the learning process.

Open Concept Classrooms
Unfortunately, the powers-that-be did not understand how the influx of technology impacted the entire classroom. Like the 70's invention of Open Concept classrooms, where they built schools without classroom walls but did not teach the teachers how to change their pedagogical skills, curriculum and practices to accommodate this change. many classrooms had to have walls built.

Whole Language
Or the invention of Whole Language, an holistic approach that was supposed to begin with the theme, and then break down the components of language to punctuation, phonics, syntax, grammar, spelling. Some did not stay for the whole workshop and eschewed these notions. A large group of children were harmed in this process. Those most at risk for failing to master the finer points of putting language together.

In the early 2000s, with funding for ISA equipment these intensive needs students were given locked down computers that did not integrate well into a classroom where teachers were fighting for classroom control. The middle-aged teachers did not understand, and did not have experience managing a classroom in which students were free to move about, to seek help from others, while s/he worked on lessons with other students. Many chose not to use the technology, as it took time away from actually interacting with the students.

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