Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Junk food has no place in schools!

Given my feelings about Junk Lunches, as I dubbed it in my previous post, how could I not be pleased with the newly announced provincial School Food and Beverage Policy? This is how the policy works (from the ministry's press release):

Ontario's new School Food and Beverage Policy

As I made clear in a previous post, I am no fan of the ubiquitous "Pizza Lunch" fundraiser in Ontario's public schools. My principal objection is that kids eat far too much commercial pizza as it is. When I was a kid, no one served pizza at birthday parties; many kids (me included) didn't even like it, mainly because industrial pizza, which is the kind served most often at schools and parties, is simply boring, blah food: salt dressed up in dough, stringy cheese substance and tomato sauce. Nowadays, kids' palates have been trained from a young age to like humdrum salty foods. (My children initially disliked pizza, but after the umpteenth birthday party, their palates succumbed to peer pressure, and now they like it.)

The death of preschool

Yes, it's true. With McGuinty's Ontario, the new initiative of full-day kindergarten has destroyed the chances that our kids can just be children. Ontario has spent $1.5 BILLION instituting full-day kindergarten. Schools are crowded, and teachers, with a one-year B.Ed., are not trained in delivering preschool. They are educated in the ways of curriculum delivery in grade 1 - 6. I know. I've seen them, with their cookie-cutter art, increasing expectations beyond that which a child can manage. Young boys, especially, are not able to recognize letters or write their names, and there is pressure to do so prior to the time at which they are ready.

I have long written, participated in phone surveys before the whole plan was in place, and I long believe that preschoolers have different learning needs. While the government touts a play-based learning principle, many teachers cannot grasp this message.

Preschoolers do not belong in an institution, and a half-day program may be just the thing they need to please parents who do not grasp the activity-based education philosophy.
We have many wonderful ranges in services for them; from JK/SK, nursery school, home cay care, profit and non-profit day care, before and after school care, Montessori, and other programs that have proven successful for young children.

I have done practicum in private schools, day care centres, nursery schools, and have participated in many systems.

I have seen the benefits for our at-risk kids, who can be placed in a subsidised space, with trained Early Childhood Educators (ECE) who provide a balanced day, in an intimate setting, often homes, or churches, where a kind, caring loving placement will support at-risk families.

In day care, a trained professional, in a maximum teacher student ratio of 1:8, can be much more in touch with his/her charges. The opportunities for interaction between parent and teacher increase and a teacher has an opportunity to watch for serious issues in the children. They can advocate for the kids, find a moment to share a highlight of the day, or provide more information to the parent who may not have child-rearing skills other parents possess.

The Death of PreschoolThe trend in early education is to move from a play-based curriculum to a more school-like environment of directed learning. But is earlier better? And better at what? 
By Paul Tullis

PAUL TULLIS has written for the New Yorker, Wired, McSweeney’s, NPR’s “Morning Edition,” and more than 50 other print, digital and broadcast media outlets. He lives in Los Angeles. “The Death of Preschool” appears in the November/December issue of Scientific American Mind

Elections give students opportunities for discourse

Elections are a grand opportunity for discourse. No matter your political viewpoint, students can compare, read articles, discuss political cartoons, and a teacher can generate much excitement and interest in politics.

Religion in schools - 'morning prayers'

Much harm has been done in the name of religion, with heathens misinterpreting their religious tenets. Extremists of all faiths, shapes and colours, have forced their ideas on one another.
My multicultural classrooms were filled with joy and respect for one another.
Rather than reciting a prayer in the morning (silent or not) I would have my students speak and sign the following.

I pledge allegiance to the world
To care for earth and sea and air
To cherish every living thing
With peace and justice everywhere.

Those who chose not to, did not. It was a lovely moment.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Student-led Conferences Checklist sheet page 3

Student-led Conferences Checklist sheet page 2

Pre-Conference Reflections Self-Assessment 
Name: ___________

1) Language Arts: 
  • What I did well: 
  • Things I can do better: 

2) Mathematics: 
  • What I did well: 
  • Things I can do better: 

3) Science and Social Studies 

  • What I did well:
  • Things I can do better:

4) Classroom & Yard Behaviour: Good / Needs Improvement

5) Physical Education: 
Are you prepared for gym: indoor shoes, safety-minded, a team player?

always | usually | sometimes

Do you participate to the best of your ability, at your own level? Do you try your best, whether you are a strong athlete or not?

Which good things will you continue to do ? 

Student-led Conferences Checklist sheet page 1

Conference Checklist 
Name: ______________________

Thank-you again for attending this Student-Led Conference. The pride and attention of parents are great motivators for students. I have been teaching them to take responsibility for themselves, as they become Tweens and independent thinkers!

Please put a check mark for each item on this list as you complete them. Please pay attention to the completion of assignments. 
Look for:
N.F. = Not Finished, N.D. = Not Done! 

1) Show off the organization of your planner.
2) Speak of your learning style:
~Talk about your learning modality: are you a visual, auditory or kinesthetic learner?
~ Are you a left brain (linear/logical) or right brain (holistic) learner?
~ Which are your strengths of the 7 intelligences: visual/artistic, cognitive/mathematical, physical, linguistic, musical, intrapersonal, interpersonal?
3) Show your L.A. and Math work.
 4) Show off your other work: Science, Music/Art/Drama folders. 
5) Show the times table chart and the plant growth chart!
6) Go to the computer and show off your e-portfolio! 
7) Turn this page over to the next page (p.2)

“Conference Reflections Self-Assessment” Call Ms. Jilks over when finished.
Note: All of the work in the folder may be taken home now!
Wednesday, March 2, 2005 /Ms. Jilks

Monday, November 5, 2012

Religion in Schools - opportunities for debate or muzzling it

Community Engagement

A big trip to the US to participate in the electoral process has been cancelled. 

School trip cancelled amid pro-choice controversy

Nov. 2 – Two days before dozens of students from an Ottawa Catholic high school were scheduled to go to Ohio to help “Get out the vote” for the U.S. election, the field trip has been cancelled following a storm of controversy on an anti-abortion website. An article posted to LifeSiteNews.com characterized the teacher organizing the trip for St. Peter students as pro-Obama — and, therefore, pro-choice. 

Yikes. As if this one plank in Obama's platform colours the entire trip. It would have been an opportunity of a lifetime. It is important to encourage young people to think, reflect, debate and vote. This way they will turn into adults who care.

Anti-abortion website sparks cancellation of high school trip

Nov. 3 – Students from St. Peter High School and St. Matthew Catholic High School ... The field trip included lectures at Youngstown State University and a chance to participate in the political process,” said St. Peter principal Norma McDonald.

Joel Westheimer, in an interview on CBC Radio, is so right. We should encourage debate, discourse, discussion. Unfortunately, Canadians do not like to rant. And we continue to fund Catholic schools that continue to inculcate students in Catholic dogma. My husband grew up in a Catholic community where you were not taught to think, you were taught to memorize. This is why they didn't print the Bible in languages the congregants could read. 
There is no place for contention and controversy in the Catholic system, and this is why it is so dangerous. Some families send their kids to protect them from the real world, where they are anti-gay, anti-choice. Others send them to Catholic schools to escape the heavily loaded special needs students, the kids with serious learning disabilities, or mental health issues in the public system.
December Celebrations from around the World

I had a student abandon my special needs class for the Catholic school. They handed her a wafer during mass. "This is the body of Christ."
"Yeah, right," she responded. She was expelled from the school and ended up in a foster home in the long run. That is the Catholic school system.

I enjoyed hosting a good debate in my classrooms, but I taught in public education where all students were entitled to an opinion. I do remember talking with the kids about death and dying when a young sibling of a student passed away naturally.

One Muslim student told us he thought it was a good thing, since the very ill child did not commit suicide. However, his uncle was a suicide bomber, and that was OK, too. This is what they were taught in their Saturday Arabic schools. I jumped in and told him that that wasn't acceptable in Canada.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Will a national strategy end bullying?

Teachers must be vigilant

But we should thank our teachers. I have had many teachers: elementary, high school, university profs. Our first teachers are always our parents.
The best teachers we have are the bad things that happen to us.
I was bullied in elementary school. I never learned my lesson. The name-calling, stealing some of my cheap, but important possessions. I did learn from those who bullied me.

I never spoke up when I was sexually assaulted on the TTC.
I never spoke up when I saw a man flashing his penis at me. It was at the corner, in his car, on my street. No, never told me parents, but I did tell a friend.
The friend told her mother, who told my mother. Thank goodness, or that incident would have festered in my mind for years. I felt guilty. I felt it was my fault. I felt dirty.

I learned from it. When I faced bullying in the workplace I spoke truth to power. There are many cases of Principals bullying teachers, women bullying co-workers. That power promised to protect me from a female boss who verbally abused me. The Powers-That-Be, however, are afraid of bad publicity in the media. They fear the consequences of bullying, whether it be data about suspensions for bullying, or an apparent perception that they failed somehow to prevent it.

It is my premise that a Federal piece of legislation will not prevent bullying. Ever. There will always be children who bully and bosses who bully. Perhaps, like child abuse, teachers must be obliged to report. I don't know. This doesn't stop some principals from telling a teacher not to report it, or interfering in other legal situations. Situations such as children stealing from one another, or from staff, children vandalising property.

No. Bullying will stop when someone steps up to stop it. We cannot prevent young people from committing suicide from mental health issues, but we can teach some of them how to manage bullying. These are life lessons.

They must demand passwords from their children, get on-line and see what their child is doing. Get in their face on Facebook, that grand experiment in Social Media. Check out their friends, check the browser history. Take away the cell phones, webcams, place the computer in a main traffic area of the home. Keep kids away from chat room. Using a family computer is not a right. I used to put the keyboard in the trunk of my car when I went to work. I would withdraw priviledges as a consequence for something or other. It worked well.

We must blame the bystander, and the bullier as much as victims are to blame for not reporting in some situations. Parents must speak to kids about abuse, speak truth to power.
If this does not resolve it, and often parents are unable, unwilling to do so, then we must step it up.

Family Members
Siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins all must be aware of what is going on and help speak truth to power as well.

Teachers and Principals
We cannot blame teachers, I think, as they are often unable to do something, due to principal interference. Principals demand proof, which is often not available.
We have a grand portfolio of preventive measures. You can read some here. I have explained many of the things I have done. Just listen to Rick Mercer: Canadians are afraid to rant. They are afraid to speak out. Teachers are well-educated in face-to-face bullying, and cyberbullying. Sometimes they cannot act. What if teachers cannot help a child?

The Bullies
Once we identify them, we report them to their ISP (e.g., abuse@yahoo.com), we talk to their parents, we confront them at home, at school. We use Restorative Justice.

The Victims
We must teach children how to help themselves. I've had shy students who embraced the bullying, as it was the only attention they got from peers.
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