Thursday, October 10, 2013

All of us must stand up to bullying

I often think of how we are either bullies, the bullied or bystanders. All of us must provide support and find a solution.
Caine Stands Up from The Bully Project on Vimeo.
Directors cut content from the BULLY movie vaults.

Stacy Dorman 
The school board did nothing. We moved to a zero tolerance district for his 8th grade year. Bullying there was at times, worse. So, we moved back to Pennsylvania last summer. Caine is now 15 and doing well. Thank you all, so much. The love and support is what has given my son hope, and a reason to keep moving forward.

Monday, October 7, 2013


Here is an interesting Action Research study from CJAR!
Lauren McNamara


This article describes the first two years of an ongoing, collaborative action research project focused on the troubled recess environment in 4 elementary schools in southern Ontario. The project involves an iterative, dynamic process of inquiry, planning, action, and reflection among students, teachers, university researchers, university student volunteers, and community agencies. The goal is to proactively transform the social landscape of recess into an engaging, positive, inclusive, and active environment. We present a brief review of research on recess in order to contextualize our project and highlight the important links between recess activities, school engagement, and academic outcomes. We then highlight the children’s voices about their recess environment, and add perspectives from the teachers, principals, and playground volunteers. Finally, we present our collective suggestions for action that will lead us into the next phase of our project.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

What is the deal with homework?

Here is the list of homework 
I listened to a CBC radio show on homework. The host, Gordon, asked some good questions.
Parenting columnist Samantha Kemp-Jackson joined Karen to talk about the bugbear of every child...and
parent: homework. More specifically, how much is too much? 

For more of Samantha's thoughts on parenting issues, you can visit her Multiple Mayhem Mama website

Samantha Kemp-Jackson may be a parenting expert, but she is not teacher and doesn't get the big picture. Whilst she has four children, this doesn't make her a school expert! One should watch when a blog is written for profit, there are many ads on the site!

Even the 'experts' have issues with homework:

Alfie Kohn (The Homework Myth: Why our kids get too much of a bad thing), guru of the modern educational movement, says homework is useless. I cannot imagine how he can write a whole book on this topic, research can only apply on a limited basis. 

To me, this is just wrong. There is a purpose.

DEFINITIONS - from OCDSB Policy and Procedures (posted in 1998!)

2.1 Homework comprises curriculum-related tasks assigned by classroom teachers to be done
during non-instructional hours. Homework is given in order to complete, review,
reinforce, apply, integrate, and extend classroom learning as well as to prepare students
for future classroom learning.

OCDSB is a bit vague. Plus, it is hard to find the policy on their website. Each teacher, it seems, must convey the homework policy to their families. I always sent a letter home at the beginning of the year. Here is my blog post about my policy.

Natalie did the calendar
Chris: equipment manager
 -he would hand out any papers or tools
Sana: assistant teacher
-she would post assignment from other classes for us
How do I know if my child has homework?
You should ask. They ought to know! All of the schools I worked at gave kids an agenda or planner, where the kids were to write down homework. I had a spot on the blackboard where I had the kids write down an assignment for their peers. I appointed one child to be assistant teacher, and for the week they did this job for us all. The ticket out of the class at the end of the day, was me seeing that they had written down the assignment.

Also, I asked the parents to sign the planner at least twice a week. It truly is the tool for the student, not the parent.
I had one child, with undiagnosed dyslexia. The child was unable to write down a simple note from the board (see the examples!). His last year's teacher told me he was fine, and reported this to the family. I knew there was an issue. The child was referred for private testing. The report stated that the parents told her he was fine the previous year. Apparently, it was my teaching, not the last year's teacher, which was the problem. In fact, he slipped through the system. Indeed, we got him some help and extra support.

When is homework too much?
Kindergarten shouldn't have homework. I'm just sayin'.
Now, each school board should have a policy on how much homework is appropriate. Young teachers may or may not have read this. It is up to the principal to know the policy, and convey this to their teachers. They should know what is going on in each classroom.
That said, OCDSB, for whom I taught for 25 years, leaves it up to each school and principal to devise a policy. This is just plain wrong.

For many, they say 15 minutes in grades 1 - 3 is good. A half hour in grades 4 -6, is what I always assigned. By grade 7 and 8, intermediate school, the work should increase and a child should be able to do an hour. This may vary. But the math teacher should assign a half hour of revision, and then the geography, history, or other teachers may assign projects or other work. This is a good idea.

What happens when a child doesn't understand the homework?
What happens when the parent cannot explain it?
Simply write in the student's planner, "We tried the homework, and couldn't do it. Please provide some more guidance!"

There is nothing wrong in admitting you do not understand it. This should be the fault of the teacher or a child who didn't pay attention. Both issues should be brought to the attention of the teacher.
 If they didn't teach the prerequisite knowledge, then they need to do some follow-up. Sometimes, with the 'new math' text books, they don't teach prior knowledge, nor bother to review skills previously taught. I loathed them.
They assign complex problem solving, without simple steps to follow.

What happens if my child NEVER has homework?
It could be that s/he finishes it in class. Some kids are faster than others. It is hard for a teacher to balance enough homework for some, and too much for others. I always told my kids to do a half hour of math, then stop. This would give the kids some parameters. I would have preferred that kids would do a few questions well, rather than getting frustrated doing an hour or more.
The average student should have some. I had a hard time giving enough to some of my high achievers.
It could be that the child is not bringing home the homework. There should be consequences for this, and a reward, once they begin to participate. A simple phone call to the teacher should clarify when you should expect homework.

What should I do if my child refuses to do homework?
At the end of the week,
this was sent home.
No homework on Fridays, just catch-up
I am a great believer in external motivation, AKA bribery. Or consequences. TV is off until homework is done. I took the computer keyboard to work as a consequence. But just once. Homework wasn't done when I arrived home from work. He had 3 days without computer time.

How do I facilitate the doing of homework?
Kids need the proper peace and quiet. They need a routine. Snack first, then homework before dinner. Or else, setting them up at the kitchen table after dinner. Routines are the key.
Of course, is a child has difficulties learning, it might be hard to get them to do it at all.
This is
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