Sunday, January 23, 2011

The great art show!

Some kids interviewed art gallery visitors!

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 my gr. 6 Junior students doing the videotape, interviewing visitors and staff, and reporting on the event.

Here is the video the kids made of the event.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

School overcrowding across the province

What is the problem?
It's the move to full-day kindergarten. Mind you, not all places. Not in some rural towns, e.g., Muskoka & TLDSB.

Early Learning Phase One
7 Dec 2010 In September 2010, day kindergarten program will be available in nearly 600 schools in every school board in Ontario.

What were they thinking? Kids don't need a full-day educational program. They need a balanced day of Early Childhood activities, in a cozy environment, with naps, and care arrangements for working parents.
They don't need to hear bells all day. We'll see real school fatigue by grade 8, I'm sure. And do we want 4-year-olds on all day? They need comfort and relaxation in a caring place. I've taught in day care, done home day care, and taught JK and SK. There is no comparison, especially regarding the hot meals offered in day care, a cook, and a soft place to land with a caregiver, not a teacher.

This is the impact to the rest of the children in the schools system:

Board offers six options for school overcrowding
January 11, 2011
...OCDSB presented six possible short-term solutions...Ottawa South and Centretown. The board would continue to try to find a...feasible," said Mike Carson, the board's superintendent of facilities...

Parents hear plans for crowded downtown schools

Parents hear plans for crowded downtown schools. About two hundred parents from the Glebe and Old Ottawa South attended.

Kanata Area Elementary Schools Interim Accommodation Measures
A discussion paper on the proposed interim solutions for the Kanata Area Elementary Study.

What were they thinking?
Early learning does not mean early teaching. Children learn best by play-based activities in an open-ended classroom.

And many parents realize this fact. To quote one person: 'The simple truth is that not all parents are supportive of full day kindergarten in Ontario.'

Ideally all kids should be at home in a safe, stimulating enriched environment. This is not possible for many families. As they say in a critique of the
Pascal Report, not all kids are going to benefit from a classroom of 25 - 28 kids, in an institution. The differences between day care and school are enormous. Some kids need more enrichment that others, and many parents need help finding affordable day care. 

PASCAL: “Early childhood programs that offer full-year, full-time options support the ability of parents to earn a living without compromising children’s early experiences” (Baker, Gruber, & Milligan, 2005…” ) Quoted in this PDF file

 "We uncover striking evidence that children are worse off in a variety of behavioural and health dimensions, ranging from aggression to motor-social skills to illness. Our analysis also suggests that the new childcare program led to more hostile, less consistent parenting, worse parental health, and lower-quality parental relationships."

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Merit Pay for teachers - what are they thinking?

Ramble Dumbly, in the Ottawa Citizen suggests:

This is the debate in B.C.
I cannot see this, myself. Each school, each student, each region, province, is different.
In Canada, our pay is based on years of experience and education. The pay grid rises, and stall, in many school districts, after 10 years.  We are paid a fair wage, unlike teachers in the US, where this debate has begun. Inner city teachers teaching in poorer school districts do create miracles, but rather than merit pay, simply pay them a fair wage.
Who would decide?  There is some debate there. One's performance appraisal, whether in education or private business, or the civil service, is not always a fair assessment of performance. There is too much ego involved. A principal is not necessarily a fair person to judge one's performance and tie this to salary. I've had principals whose teaching style was so far removed from mine that I saw them as dinosaurs. I had one principal who had last taught a classroom when I was in grade 7. Seriously! Another who saw me as a threat, especially as the Shop Steward. She was threatened when I was directed by teaching staff to pose a question at a staff meeting.
Music lesson, reporter's photograph
These days, with some becoming principals after only 5 years teaching, they are not in a good position to judge. Some are threatened by the old f@rts, like me. Pay based on 'competence' is a subjective thing. Perhaps, with a wide range of abilities, or disabilities, my performance would change. One class I had consisted of 35 students, in a gr. 4/5 split, with kids with various issues: behavioural, intellectually gifted, a few with learning disabilities. Juggling these things would be a difficult thing compared to, say, a special education teacher with 10 kids in a class. I have taught JK to
 Compare this to a kindergarten teacher with 28 students, and an ECE Educational Assistant in full day kindergarten. Then look at an Ontario primary teacher, whose class is limited by legislation, to 20 or so students to her colleague with 35 grade 8 students. Even at the high school level, I cannot see how it would work. We all have horror stories about kids just waiting to turn 16 to quit school. Then there are those struggling to achieve high marks for university, who argue with teachers over a 97% or an 98% mark. 
Presenting at an IT workshop
Students and parents are not a fair judge, either, nor are the superintendents or trustees. Crows don't hatch canaries, and I can imagine working with families who don't like what you do could bias them for or against you. I recall one family upset with my disciplining their child, the principal sided with them, and didn't quite understand the whole situation. She was more concerned with placating the superintendent, and the parents, than letting the child understand the meaning of the word 'NO!'
I would say that education and years teaching is the only fair index, and that is factored into Ontario pay scales. Once you hit the ten year mark, I imagine a bonus for taking extra courses at night or in the summer, might help. You almost learn by osmosis in these situations. But, on the whole, I am against this. I began leading workshops at the end of my career, for which one does not get paid. We are given release time to share our expertise, but that is it. I presented at IT workshops and special education conferences on release time, weekends, and in the summer (in fact on Mother's Day weekend, 2006, when my mother died). This is how one can judge the merit of a teacher. Yet, we get nothing for these extras. It is a way to give back to the community. 

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Child abuse

It is egregious that some children suffer from Child Abuse. I was involved in the Muskoka CAS, legally known as Family, Youth and Child Services Muskoka. I've met with staff and seen how hard they work.

This video surprises me. It is a dual agency that provides children with foster and kin care, as well as mental health services. The reason I want to draw it to the attention to the educational community is that often teachers are the only professionals involved in such cases. It is the law in Ontario that we report such situations.

It breaks my heart to read of any CAS worker not doing his/her best, many overburdened with complex cases, long driving distances to clients, nowhere for families to turn.

Concerned mother speaks about her experience with the Muskoka CAS from Canada Court Watch on Vimeo.
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