Category Archives: Blogging

Just your average blogging

What’s the role of a school board for “unschoolers”?

As most of you probably know, I view Home Schooling as not only an absolutely legal alternative, but one that deserves support from the school board itself.  Our mandate given to us in the Education Act is very clear:

207.1. The mission of a school board is to organize, for the benefit of the persons who come under its jurisdiction, the educational services provided for by this Act and by the basic school regulations made by the Government.

The mission of a school board is also to promote and enhance the status of public education within its territory, to see to the quality of educational services and the success of students so that the population may attain a higher level of formal education and qualification, and to contribute, to the extent provided for by law, to the social, cultural and economic development of its region.

2008, c. 29, s. 23.

So – given that the very same education act specifically exempts students being home schooled from attending our schools, our role is simple: support the efforts of the home schooler such that those students too will attain qualifications and contribute to the social, cultural and economic development of our region.

Now, are we doing all we can do for this group? We’ve made progress, but…  we can do an awful lot more.

But what about unschoolers?  Read this recent article in The Gazette to learn more about unschoolers:

http://www.montrealgazette.com/life/Unschooling+Quebec+classes+schedule+tests/10122656/story.html

Certainly the chosen title for the group “unschoolers” may send the wrong message. I don’t think any of these parents are interested in keeping their child ignorant in any way whatsoever. Their approach to education is quite different, and it may not be something you or I understand. But, if at the end of the day these people are developing happy, successful, interested and productive people? Maybe what we need to do is look again at what our role can be here.

How about working together, as a community, and ensuring every child has the tools they need to be successful. And how about allowing for a variety of definitions of the word “successful”.  Most home schoolers do an amazing job – just look at their results.  Unschoolers?  Let’s work together with them to define what success looks like to them.  And let’s focus on the big picture – let’s help our community learn, and each contribute in their own way to the social, cultural and economic development of our region. That’s our role.

Truly,

Steve

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Kids “building benches” against bullying.

I had read something on using a “Buddy Bench” as a means to help kids who are being bullied, and it seemed like a smart idea to me – any time you have a kid-led initiative like this, it’s at least something you need to explore, because it likely speaks very well to the actual need.

Here’s a short video of a young student describing her success with these in a TedX talk:

You can read about other student led initiatives using “buddy benches” with the following links:

http://www.theridgefieldpress.com/30779/buddy-benches-battle-bullying/

http://www.kptv.com/story/25643580/salem-school-using-buddy-bench-to-fight-bullying

Kids leading kids against bullying is a winning situation.

Truly,

Steve

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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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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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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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Preparing students for jobs that have not yet been created?

From the Action Canada website:

Education systems in most industrial societies have historically focused on the direct instruction of facts and methods. However, this model of information delivery has changed substantially as a result of new technologies that enable unprecedented access to knowledge and information. In this context, the role for education systems is no longer as dispensers of knowledge, but rather facilitators of learning. In order to ensure that Canadians are resilient in the face of rapid change, education systems must be adapted to “prepare students for jobs that have not yet been created, technologies that have not yet been invented and problems that we don’t yet know will arise.” To do so requires a paradigm shift in which teaching students answers gives way to teaching them how to ask the right questions, evaluate information critically, and communicate effectively.

Read the full report here.

Does the Ministry of Education understand and support this? Do our school boards? Do our schools?

I know we have a lot of people in our board who understand. But are we giving them all the tools they need to deliver on this massive change? Something to work on and move forward this last year of my mandate.

Truly,

Steve

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