Category Archives: Commentaries

General commentaries

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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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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Filed under Commentaries, Education, Redistribution

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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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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Virtual Field Trips

Google has been amazing with its offers for Education. The fact that they have given so much has also pushed others to up their game – Microsoft now has Office 365 free for students, in order to compete with Google Apps for Education.

But with Google+, Google has an offer beyond everyone else.  And they’ve upped it yet again – check out Google’s Virtual Field Trips:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GDwEjqkgwyI

Neat stuff.

Truly,

Steve

 

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Filed under Commentaries, Education

The state of this province

On Tous le Monde en Parle last night, PQ Minister Réjean Hébert showed his great concern that patients in hospitals should be free from the worry of their Doctor or Nurse wearing a hijab.

The idea that *this* is his priority, when Quebec hospitals and healthcare in general is in such a poor state? It’s pathetic. Time for an election and time to kick these sad clowns out.

“Those ostentatious symbols create a distance, and they could cause certain problems in the relationship between the nurse, the doctor and the patient, and that’s what should be avoided,” he said.

Read the story on The Montreal Gazette here.

Personally, I’m interested in educated, highly competent people who care about their patients. The idea that this government is actually concerned about their religion, or what they wear? 

Holy crap, this is ignorance beyond compare.

Aha! This is why the keep cutting money from education! Long term effort to expand their base! Keep ’em ignorant! I get it now…  they’re brilliant. Uh huh.

Truly,

Steve

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