My Facebook reply to a discussion on bullying.

A couple of days ago, I posted a link to a Quebec Gov website consultation on bullying.  In response to a comment suggesting that our schools had the power and tools they need and that this was perhaps simply a distraction. I expanded greatly on why I think this is worth responding to and I spoke to some of the problems we face in dealing with the issue.

Here is my reply:

See, there’s more to it than just “the power and the tools”. Frankly, I am not at all sure that they have the tools either. Sure, we all know that we need to address bullying when we see it. And even the definition of bullying is fairly clear. But the  “always on” piece of it that we have today is not something a school is equipped to handle.

For that student who arrives at home to find 50 messages posted on whatever website, driving the point home that they are in fact worthless.  For that student who’s had a compromising picture taken and now finds it spread to friends and foes and everybody else. Neither of these things have occurred while in school. But the school, with funds cut year after year, the school is supposed to have the resources to be able to handle what is in fact a social problem that extends well beyond its walls. We demand more from our schools. And we give them less.

Move to the governance side of things. Two major problems in reporting right now.  An act of bullying that results in “a complaint” that is reported to the Principal of a given school becomes an individual issue that is to be reported to the Director General of the school board, along with a summary report on the incident and the follow-up measures taken.

So – what is a complaint?  When does something become a complaint?  How is a complaint defined from one school to another?  How is a complaint defined from one school board to another?

As parents, you and I will say that a complaint is the natural result of a bullying incident being recognized and dealt with within the school.  How many of these incidents do you think happen in a school in a given week?  StopaBully.ca reports that 64 percent of kids have been bullied at school.  13 percent report being bullied once or more times in a given week.

So – we have 13,500 students in our school board.  Let’s go with just the kids being bullied weekly.  That’s 1755 complaints that must be summarized, reported along with follow-up measures. And received by the Director General.  EVERY WEEK.  That’s only 43 incidents per hour based on a 40 hour week. Heck – she’s got more almost 90 seconds to deal with each one, if this is the absolute only thing she deals with bar anything else. Tell me – what in the world is that Director General supposed to do with that?

Now – let’s say school “A” reports that 13% of incidents.  School “B” reports 7%.  School “C” reports 20% and school “D” reports 3%.  Well obviously, school “D” is best.  Or maybe it’s definition is a little more narrow than school “C”’s definition.

Bring it a step further along.  Look at school boards.  How are they reporting?  What do we, as a board, do when the other school board in our territory reports 1% bullying.  We report 13%.  Holy cow! Put our school board in trusteeship, for God’s sake!  Something is horribly wrong!  Or there are no norms, no clear rules, no clear definitions and no clear directions to move in.

Bullying is a complicated issue. It’s a societal issue.  It exists in our schools and well beyond our schools.  It is insidious, often goes unrecognized and it deeply damages children – often for their entire lives.

Personally, I am glad that we at least recognize it and we’re trying to do something about it within the Education Act.  It’s a step in the right direction.  But do I think we have it covered?  Not by a long shot. And do I think the Education Act is the only place this needs to be addressed?  Not by a long shot. Are there enough resources being applied to the problem?  Not by a long shot.

So yes – the Quebec Government is keeping the issue alive. Talking about it. Asking people to think about it, to discuss it, and they are gathering information that will hopefully lead to greater understanding and better ways to recognize, deal with and report on incidents of bullying.

I don’t think that this is a distraction at all.  I think it’s something we need to pay attention to. To be involved in.  To understand, to talk about and to maintain as a major priority in our society as a whole.

I am quick to point out when Government is wrong. In this case, I’m going to point to this and say that it is a step in the right direction. And every step counts.

Truly,

Steve

http://www.stopabully.ca/bullying-resources/bullying-statistics

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“My wife is a lazy-liar” post.

As we near the end of this K-11 school year, as a Commissioner, I would send out a special thanks along with this tidbit of humour.

I first saw this post on a friend’s FB timeline – she is a teacher and she posted it on her husband’s timeline. I found it to be very funny, but so much I know resonates.  My own wife has returned to early childhood education, and I get to say things at 9pm in the late evening like, “Oh – you’re cutting out walruses – it’s ‘W’ week already?  It seems like only yesterday we were cutting out butterflies!”

It’s a fun read, and it’s also a real glimpse into the reality of today’s teachers. They really do all of those ‘crazy’ things in there.

http://smithdeville.com/2014/06/06/my-wife-is-a-lazy-liar/

THANK YOU, and enjoy the next 3 months that you have off.  Or maybe just the same time-off that most people enjoy – teachers are in school long after the kids are off and they’re back long before they arrive. And teachers, by nature, will likely spend some summertime ‘leisure time’ reading books and papers that boils down to professional development.

Thank you,

Truly,

Steve

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Peel board’s “STAR” committee

Am I just being too cynical, or is this as silly a statement as it is sounding to me right now:

The committee is composed of trustees, senior administrators, communications staff and principals.

Their research has identified safety, uniforms, sports, academics, school proximity and busing, and values as key reasons for the enrolment migration or failure to attract students.

The StAR committee has developed recommendations intended to level the student recruitment and retention playing field.

I dunno. This seems fairly obvious, no? They needed a committee to figure this out?

Truly,

Steve

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Wouldn’t it be nice…

… if elected leadership spent its time reflecting on articles like this instead of wasting so much time on … balderdash.

Truly,

Steve

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Transparency in government

It must be four, maybe five years ago now, where I first called for Commissioner expense accounts to be posted online for all to see. “Why not?”, I asked…  I certainly don’t feel I have anything to hide. And I don’t really think anyone else in our Council does either.

But no – we still don’t post them.

A glimmer of hope now – maybe a real shift in the culture of governance in Quebec:

“People want to be better informed,” Fournier said.

“Good governance raises the level of confidence of Quebecers in their institutions and allows better participation by Quebecers, organizations, the public, in public debates,” he said.

“It is a completely different approach,” he added, explaining that people have a cynical view of transparency.

(Full article here.)

Well, there’s an election coming for school boards across Quebec. Think about this one when you’re casting your vote. Ask the candidates about their definition of “transparency”.

Truly,

Steve

 

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The common core

The words “common core” are being somewhat villainized in educational circles these days. And sadly, I think it’s justifiable.

Wikipedia defines the common core as:

The Common Core State Standards Initiative is an education initiative in the United States that details what K-12 students should know in English language arts and mathematics at the end of each grade. The initiative is sponsored by the National Governors Association (NGA) and the Council of Chief State School Officers(CCSSO) and seeks to establish consistent education standards across the states as well as ensure that students graduating from high school are prepared to enter credit-bearing courses at two- or four-year college programs or enter the workforce.[1]

It makes sense to have standards. It makes sense to measure against these standards. It makes particular sense to have a common standard for ELA and math. But. How is this really manifesting itself in education today?

Have a look at this video where comedian Louis CK speaks to the common core in an appearance on David Letterman:

http://www.mediaite.com/tv/louis-c-k-continues-going-after-common-core-on-letterman/

It’s funny, and it’s not. Louis CK also posted a number of pics of the homework his kids are doing. Check them out here:

http://www.mediaite.com/online/comedian-louis-c-k-goes-off-on-common-core/

One tweet in particular kinda sums it up:

My kids used to love math. Now it makes them cry. Thanks standardized testing and common core!

We really have to be careful as education continues to evolve. Standards are good. Assessment is good.  But…  it’s easy to see how quickly it can all go off the rails.

There’s an election coming in school boards across the province of Quebec. Education matters. And like it or not, school boards and their Councils of Commissioners have a key role to play. Make sure you are electing the people you think will support positive educational leadership; people who can support a real vision of 21st century learning and the people who understand that they are accountable to the public at large. It’s important to get out and vote.

Truly,

Steve

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7 Ways to Transform Education by 2030

I don ‘t think any of what is in this article is “new”, but I am also not sure that we have made much progress in getting there, so, I thought it would be good to look at these real simple point-form goals.

  1. Change the focus from rote learning – the memorization of specific facts and figures – to the development of lifelong learners who are able to think critically and solve problems.
  2. Encourage learning through cross-disciplinary and collaborative projects that are relevant and useful to their community.
  3. Create an environment where students work in fluid groupings that combine students of different ages, different abilities and different interests.
  4. Shift the role of the teacher from “chalk-and-talk” orators to curators of learning, helping students grow their knowledge and skills.
  5. Measure learning progress using qualitative assessments of a student’s skills and competencies, rather than using high-stakes examinations.
  6. Ensure that all groups – teachers, parents, governments and students – have a seat at the table when building the framework for learning.
  7. Empower students and teachers to experiment with new ideas in an environment where they can fail safely and develop confidence to take risks.

Thinking critically and solving problems. Teachers as “curators of learning”, actually teaching; being the infamous “guide at the side”.

Measuring learning qualitatively.

The full article can be found here.

There’s an election coming in school boards across the province of Quebec. Education matters. And like it or not, school boards and their Councils of Commissioners have a key role to play. Make sure you are electing the people you think will support positive educational leadership; people who can support a real vision of 21st century learning and the people who understand that they are accountable to the public at large. It’s important to get out and vote.

Truly,

Steve

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