We look at the exceptions and say that inclusion works, at best, this is only partially true. What happens when a system (inclusion) depends on exceptional teachers and schools? Is inclusion really sustainable when we depend on exceptional practice?
Aviva Dunsiger wrote an excellent article on inclusion as part of this debate. This is a sensitive, reflective piece and it does show that inclusion can work in some circumstances. Aviva made some wholesale changes to her classroom and the learning environment did become more inclusive. The article does bring up an important question. Is this the exception or is this the rule? In the article, Aviva writes that a board team came in and gave its recommendations and then left. It is telling that her first response was to question her own professionalism.
Well, when the team members came in and spoke to me, I left feeling as though I was the worst teacher out there. I totally broke down. Heaving sobs. They wanted me to change my classroom around for one child. Why?
Aviva was able to put together a plan with her EA, but that does not mean the system is working. Her story may be the exception. The onus is still being put on the classroom teacher to do something truly exceptional with no increase in support apart from a visit from a group of school board experts.
Is this good enough? Are we being reflective enough to bring about significant change or are we hoping that exceptional teachers and schools will simply become the norm and the problem will go away?
One person made an excellent comment on Aviva’s post. She noted some of the things that still need to be in place for inclusion to work better in schools.
self-reflective, flexible and open teachers, and as you noted:
leadership that creatively considers
-class size and composition (just because they have a dx doesn’t mean they should be in the same class every year),
-teacher training and updating of that training (a lot of parents don’t want ABA style or even punishment-reward style motivation anymore as new research becomes available)
-availability of community members that have knowledge and experience (there is no us v. them, only how can we help?)
-stress levels of families, students and staff & how we can alleviate those!
-lastly to choose staff that are open-minded and flexible and accepting that their way might need updating or that visual/reward/breaks won’t work for everyone, but it will work for more than one!
The comment about the involvement of community partners really strikes me here. Schools generally see themselves as silos and do not invite community agencies to play an active role in solving the problems all schools face. Most educators are unaware of the community resources that surround their schools. This is an area where we could really improve upon.
We need school boards and schools to be much more critical of their own practices. We all love to promote the exceptions and say they are the rule, but that is simply not the case. Who assesses school boards on the effectiveness of their own practice?
There is little oversight, so boards love to say how well they are doing in areas like inclusion. How many times did I hear that our school board was easily one of the best in the province? The more you say that the less critical you become.
I hope this debate continues. There are many great voices out there and it is good to see educators speaking out. The exceptions and innovations need to be celebrated, but the system as a whole needs to get much more responsive to the needs of our children and parents.
When I started this series of articles for the Class Struggle Podcast, I wrote that public debate on important public issues is sustained and encouraged through our media. A strong public press is essential in a healthy democracy and we are very fortunate here in Canada to have a vital and responsive media.
The article is an intelligent and sensitive report on the problems that take place every day in Canada’s schools surrounding inclusion. As a former elementary principal, I am well aware of these issues. Although I have not been in schools in the last two years, the problem obviously persists and the solutions remain elusive.
The Globe and Mail is sustaining this debate by publishing some of the comments to Saturday’s article. I have included two of them here:
In 2018, I retired after 17+ years as an Educational Assistant (EA) in elementary schools. Over those years my job changed dramatically; from helping students (with varying needs) achieve their potential in class, to keeping students with often volatile behaviours from being a threat to others while in a “regular” classroom. Most, if not all, children want to belong and succeed at school. Teachers and EAs also want to make this happen. Too often, I have seen principals and parents put their own interests and opinions ahead of the best interests of the student. It becomes a fight about which adult is right, and the student’s true needs get overlooked. It is a terrible waste, made even greater when “experts” are brought in to observe briefly, and then chime in on what is best.
Please, parents and administration, gather and listen to the student, and the teacher and the Educational Assistant together. Set a few goals, be consistent at home and at school, and be kind and respectful of each other. You will see improvements almost immediately. Unfortunately this rarely happens. – MacKenzie96
Ms. Kahn is not wrong to want better services for Grayson. It is sad that services for children like Grayson are so limited. Underfunding special education programs pits parents against teachers and administrators. This undermines an education system that is the envy of the world (we rank #5 internationally according to the OECD). Please keep in mind that funding for education has been frozen for the last few years and special education in most boards has been cut. There are fewer Educational Assistants in my classroom than ever before. My fear is Mr Ford’s austerity measures aimed at health care system, social assistance and education will only make things worse. – Daysofmiracle
I don’t know if I have anything useful to add to these comments, but I do know that educators need to be part of this discussion.
This Thursday for this week’s Class Struggle on VoicEd Radio we will weigh in on this issue. As I have been saying, educators need to be heard on this issue and it would be great to see more writing from those who are active in the profession. We know there is a lack of resources when it comes to education and there are real human consequences to the underfunding that has been going on for years.
the next Class Struggle podcast will be this Thursday (January 10) at 8:00PM
The problems with inclusion are well known. Principals, especially in elementary school have been excluding special needs students from their buildings for years. These exclusions are hard to trace because they were never documented and were never part of any formal process. I remember many times as an administrator asking parents just to keep their child at home. They weren’t suspended, we just didn’t have the resources to keep them and others safe in our school.
These actions are taken by principals every day. When I excluded I always did this on my own authority. No one above me was willing to take any responsibility for these actions and when things went badly, I was the one who suffered the consequences.
Here is the problem. There are nowhere near the resources in the schools to deal with many special needs cases. As Caroline Alphonso mentions in her article, there are situations where a gifted teacher may be able to accommodate a special needs child, but such a situation is not sustainable, and not all schools have the talent to work successfully with challenging children.
More often the lack of adequate resources leads to disruptions and sometimes violence in the classroom.
In most cases, it is the educational assistant that suffers the direct consequences for the emotional outbursts of the child, but I know the results of poorly thought-out inclusion affects the entire school community, including children and parents.
The solution calls for a rebuilding of the inclusion model. Generally, the practices in Ontario at least are haphazard. Inclusion needs to be rebuilt from the ground up with a sharp focus on how best to accommodate the special needs child, their parents and the wider school community. Inserting the student into a regular classroom with some support and hoping for the best is just not good enough.
Such a rebuild will be expensive and I really don’t think we are there yet as a society to make the financial investment that it will take. Patching is cheap, rebuilding takes lots of resources and intelligent design.
I hope we have a good debate on Thursday. This is a problem that will just get worse until we face it head-on. Again, good for the Globe and Mail for keeping this important issue in the public eye. As educators, we need to do our part to make sure it stays there.
So, what were the big political issues for you in 2018? Why do these matter if this is directed at educators? Do educators have political opinions? Can we express them?
This is a blog post that acts as a run up to our next edition of the Class Struggle podcast – week two of something new.
Tonight, we will be talking about what our big political issues were for 2018. We are still getting our sea legs, so it really hasn’t been determined if we are supposed to stick to political issues that have an impact on educators, or any political issue.
I am going with a wider interpretation here, but that’s just me. I think as educators, our opinion needs to be heard. We have a public role, maybe not the same as journalists, but we still are in the public forum and can contribute to any public discussion.
For me, the main political issue continues to be the political turmoil in the United States. Democracies are fragile entities, and what we are witnessing daily in America is an assault on this very public institution by the chief executive, Donald Trump.
CreditCreditTyler Comrie; Photo by Paolo Gaetano/Getty Images
This sounds all too familiar, although the destruction of a democracy can be a long process, something really dangerous is happening in the United States right now and it deserves our attention.
I am not saying that we all need to stop what we are doing and focus on the American shutdown, but we do need to acknowledge that something profound is going on. Avoiding making a comment means we are missing an opportunity to speak in the public forum.
Stephen Hurley has contributed his view to our on-going conversation.
For me, one of the most important political issues goes beyond partisanship to the way we interact with each other. We need to learn how to conduct our conversations in a manner that holds open the public square in a different way.
I hope you join us tonight as we continue this conversation.
We are starting our second year of Climb for Kids and this July, we will be trekking around Mont Blanc through three countries over 14 days – a total of 170 km. Again, we are doing this to raise money for Christie Lake Kids, a truly transformational organization that changes the lives of low-income children every day of the year.
a great new graphic showing the reach of CLK programs throughout the year
Last year many of you supported my fundraising efforts and I was able to raise over $2000 for CLK. Again, I would like to thank you for your support. Overall, we raised $28,000 to support CLK programming throughout the year.
Here are a few examples of how your donation would be used:
– $25.00buys: a good sleeping bag for a first-time camper who may arrive with their “kit” in a garbage bag; sports equipment like soccer- and basketballs; art supplies for a STAR arts session.
– $50.00 enables CLK to purchase: 2 new canoe paddles (all kids learn how to canoe at camp); out-tripping park fees for kids who go long-distance canoeing and camping for the first time in their lives; kitchen equipment for after-school cooking lessons led by people like our daughters, Colleen and Mairi.
– $100 purchases: hockey safety equipment (so expensive!); a uniform and supplies for a little girl just starting out in Martial Arts.
– $200 leads to: a new mountain bike for the summer camp; supplies and food for a weekend get-away camp for inner-city kids, organized by people like our son, Liam.
This year, my personal goal remains $2000 and as a group, the 14 trekkers will try to pass the $30,000 mark. We need your help to make this a reality and you can do so today by contributing on my Canada Helps Page here.
this is what my Canada Helps Page looks like now – I hope to see this donation amount change starting today!
If you are interested in coming with us we can still take more climbers. here is the booking form – if you fill it in and return it to Karlie Reinberger at Merit Travel we will put you on our waiting list. Once we have four people on the wait list we will open up new spots.
This is what the Tour de Mont Blanc looks like – want to join us?
Just like last year, we will have fundraisers in March and May – these are great opportunities to get out and support a really important social enterprise.
I hope you will support me again this year. Any contribution is truly appreciated and your donation really encourages others to help out.
We can make a difference in the lives of young people. If you make a contribution you are doing something really positive that certainly will have a direct impact on the lives of others – what a great, positive way to start the new year!
I wish you all a wonderful new year and thank you for your important support for Christie Lake Kids!
a small postscript, this post came out yesterday and the first donation – anonymous – for $100 came in today – a great start!
I think it might be good if we all introduce our perspective on things, like where we’re coming from. We all have unique places that we are at and I think it would be good for listeners to get to know some of that!
This is beginning to take shape. We have a name for our political voice podcast – Class Struggle thanks to Heather Swail and several co-hosts – Heather Swail, Derek Rhodenizer and Stephen Hurley. Stephen has made the suggestion that we all make our views and background known to listeners so our bias is evident. We are planning to do this on our first podcast next Thursday, December 27th at 8:00PM.
While this will be an interesting ‘live’ experiment, I think it would be a great idea to put down here some of our thoughts and ideas on where we are coming from. It takes a while to figure this out and at least for me I do better writing down some of these ideas first. If the other co-hosts want to do the same I will roll out their ideas here as part of this post.
I will start. My political beliefs are informed first by my faith. It is hard to believe this is still true because I no longer attend church on any regular basis, but I was brought up Catholic and I taught in the Catholic system for 31 years. Within that structure, I was mainly influenced by Catholic Social Teaching and the life and struggles of Archbishop Oscar Romero, a cleric and martyr from El Salvador who was canonized just a few months ago.
What was truly formative for me have been my travels to Latin America with students and teachers. Over the past twenty years, I have travelled there many times and I have learned lots about poverty, injustice and the abuse of power by the privileged.
All of this has given me a strong sense of community and a better appreciation of the importance of speaking out against hypocrisy and injustice. Working at my last school, St. Anthony here in Ottawa gave me a wonderful opportunity to put some of these beliefs into practice. It also led to lots of run-ins with my superiors which eventually led to my retirement. There was more work to do at my school, but it was becoming increasingly difficult to work for an organization that valued compliance over social justice.
Now I have been retired for two years and I have spoken out much more since that time. The issues I write about are diverse, but anything that smacks of injustice and the abuse of power catches my attention. Apart from writing, I try to do something positive by supporting Christie Lake Kids, an organization here in Ottawa that works to transform the lives of low-income children through recreation, arts and leadership programs.
I do think that teachers have a duty to speak out. We as educators play a unique role in a democratic society. We are responsible for passing on to a new generation the laws, customs and beliefs of our society. We are leaders by the very fact that we hold such an immense responsibility to the youth in our society.
This view is not shared by our large corporate-like school boards. Loyalty means to be silent and compliance is the key. I think we are selling our educators short in this corporate culture and teachers need to have the freedom to express their opinions and speak out against injustice when they see it.
That is where I am coming from and I hope in our new show we will tackle some of the big political issues that swirl around us in this society. Maybe not all educators see this as a role we should assume. That is fine, but I would love to hear people actually say this.
I will keep this blog rolling out new comments from now until our first podcast this Thursday. You can write a comment at the end of this blog or DM me and I will add your material to this post. This sometimes can actually change the nature of a blog post. I am all for that – the voice of educators is so important – let it be heard.
This being a rolling blog, I am adding comments directly to this post. Here is a comment from co-host Heather Swail.
Heather Swail here. My political ideas and opinions were at first informed by school and community. I too was educated in the Catholic system. A number of my high school teachers were CND active or former sisters who were very involved in the lives of the disadvantaged in Montreal; at least three of my teachers had lived in Central America and followed and spoke about liberation theology and social justice. Their few stories – they were humble about their experiences – and the videos and news items they showed us inspired me to learn more about the world and to study politics in university. I did an MA in Public Administration in social policy and knew that my vocation was to work in the public or community sectors. Since my 20’s I have participated in community projects and initiatives that have attempted to develop opportunities for those with little power. I was approached once to run as a school trustee, but was not interested in that life, especially with a young family. My style typically is more diplomatic and questioning, rather than pedantic and being on the podium (family members may have a different opinion!)
I have been formed as much as by what I heard, learned and witnessed, as by what I did not hear. Ours was not a political family, neither parent spoke about politics. But there was a strong current within the larger family of pro-status quo and business. On a few occasions, when young, I was told not to ask so many questions. Paul and I raised our children to be aware of politics and inequalities. Perhaps too much at times, they would remind us.
Now, as an educator of 12- and 13-year olds, I prefer to ask questions and see where kids go with their observations and answers. I am more of a storyteller than a lecturer, I think. I will directly instruct about contentious or difficult issues and then ask students to explore further. By exposing younger people to information about what is going on in this world – good and bad – I am giving them the chance to see beyond what is apparent and certain. Children this age are very passionate about equality and justice – they just need help finding the stories.
Adding to our post is Stephen Hurley. We now have three of our hosts writing about brings them to this podcast.
I’m Stephen Hurley and, after retiring from 30 years of teaching with Ontario’s Dufferin Peel District School Board, I continue to be passionate about the conversations in education.
When it comes to teacher voice, I have some very specific ideas, but I look forward to this voicEd Radio series in order that these ideas might be challenged, deepened and, quite possibly, modified.
I have to admit that I have always resisted any monolithic characterization of voices in education. I bristle when politicians, union leaders and others make blanket statements like, “Teachers believe this” or “our members will actively fight for this.” I understand the efficiency and even the effectiveness of making statements like this but, for me, they undermine the fact that everyone who walks this planet has a unique perspective that is formed over the course of a lifetime by myriad events, experiences and encounters.
I think that, if we’re going to take the idea of teacher voice seriously, especially in the public square, we have to be prepared to make space for the individual stories that give way to a sense of subtlety and nuance. Our current conversations in education, especially at the political level, are not informed by these subtleties and shades of gray.
I look forward to entering into the Class Struggle conversations on which we are about to embark. I look forward to the honesty, the discomfort and even the disagreement that comes from opening up a space like this.
Educators no longer have a political voice and that is a problem.
I have written about this before, but now I propose to do something about that. More on this later.
I am not entirely sure why this is the case. Part of the problem is that most of us work for overly bureaucratic school boards where having a political opinion is anathema. Part of the problem, I think, is that educators have gotten so caught up in their professional discourse that they have forgotten that they still play a public role as opinion leaders in a democratic society.
There is no question that the popular leadership in our society is now played exclusively by the media. This week in Ontario the Globe and Mail is leading the opposition against a corrupt newly elected Progressive Conservative government who sees no problem with selecting underqualified cronies to the top position in the Ontario Provincial Police – see their latest editorial here – Globe editorial: To end the OPP scandal, Doug Ford has to make a U-turn.
The same government seems bent on dismantling new initiatives focusing on indigenous education, after-school programming and in-school tutoring. The earlier assault on the 2015 sex-ed curriculum still remains in effect even after consultations in Ontario overwhelmingly rejected the substitution of the outdated 1998 program. Now it seems the government is considering walking away from the consultation saying that it was ‘flooded by unnamed groups‘.
In the United States, media outlets like CNN and the Washington Post daily speak truth to power as they cover the chaos in the American political system. Today they are tweeting and broadcasting about the American pullout in Syria that has led to the incredible public falling out between Donald Trump and his Defense Secretary James Mattis. If you haven’t seen the astounding interview Wolf Blitzer did with Stephen Miller you really need to witness this.
I listen to lots of podcasts and read my fair share of education blog posts and one thing I can conclude is that teachers are not publically commenting on these stories – with the notable exception of Andrew Campbell. At this point, Andrew is holding the political mantle for all Ontario teachers. There needs to be more public discourse where educators express their opinion on the political issues of the day. There is a notable political vacuum out there.
So, here is my proposal. A weekly political column or podcast by an educator (me) on one political issue that needs more discussion. Maybe I will be alone on my show, maybe it will only air on Sound Cloud, but it needs to be done. I am not saying that I have anything really new to offer to the political debates swirling around us, but educators need to at least express an opinion.
Maybe people will join me, maybe not. No matter, teachers need to exercise their political voice and this needs to be done in a public forum.
I took a little break from podcasting and blogging in November. There are lots of things going on here that kept me away from my computer and it didn’t hurt to be away in Italy with our son Liam for two weeks.
Now I have a great reason for getting back to writing. I am preparing for another episode of the Podcast Broadcast with Stephen Hurley that will be on VoicEd Radio later this week. I have spent a few days combing through tracks and I think I am ready to go. This week, I am trying the thematic approach and we are focusing on podcasts about music.
So, I tried something different. I went into VoicEd Radio and did a search on music. I also sent a note to Stephen and asked him for podcasts on music. Together, we came up with some really interesting material. This shows that the ever-evolving database of VoicEd Radio podcasts is a great resource for educators no matter what you are teaching. Making the podcasts more searchable is something we will continue to work on.
So this week we will be looking at work by Gavin Foster, a music teacher from Belleville, the Bedley Brothers,Shane Lawrence, and Mark Carbone. They are all talking about music and education. Pretty ambitious for one podcast, but I have been away for around a month now, so I need to do some catching up.
When I moved to elementary, I found that one of the most important subjects was music. Generally, there was only one music teacher in the school and they had the responsibility to teach everyone in the building about music. In many cases, by grade 7 and 8, this might be the last formal music instruction students would get – ever.
When you think about this, it is a pretty immense responsibility.
We talk and write lots about math these days, especially in Ontario where math scores on EQAO have become a regional obsession. It would be great to step away for a while from the imbalance this is creating and look instead at how we are developing an appreciation for art in our schools.
I have to throw in at least one reference to our Roman holiday here. What endures now in the Eternal City is not so much the math that was done by ancient scholars but the beautiful artwork that still graces the city. Art is universal and it speaks to all of us at some level.
Back to podcasts – Gavin Foster is new to podcasting and he is doing some really interesting reflections on his current teaching practices. This is important work – I think we need more teachers broadcasting about what is working and sometimes not working in their classrooms.
He starts out in a podcast entitled ‘Tech Fail’ by talking about a new program called BandLab and relates how he tries to set up one of his classes almost as they walk into the room. I can certainly relate to that, this is easily something I would do!
Although this first attempt doesn’t work too well, he persists and by the next podcast, Bandlab has become one of his teaching tools.
You can hear him here as he discusses how to develop a great reflection on the iconic Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald by Gordon Lightfoot.
I like how Gavin flips his classroom, it must be really great to be a student in his class. He is willing to try new types of technology and he readily shares what he is learning with others.
The next podcast is from the Bedley Brothers. Apart from the fact that they have the best intro for an education podcast, the brothers always have interesting guests and topics on their eclectic broadcast. In this one, the main topic is all about using music to engage students. The interviewee here is not a music teacher but uses music to keep his social studies students engaged.
Tal Thompson uses songs like Hall of Fame, by Script a song about confidence and being the best you can be. A pretty important message for kids to hear every day. He also uses current pop songs and changes the lyrics to fit the content. For example, what is the greatest break-up song ever? Taylor Swift, ‘We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together’ – sings America to King George. There must be a Canadian equivalent!
I never did this as a history teacher but as a principal, we always played a song over the PA at the end of the day on Fridays. This was a pretty cool thing to do – the kids loved it!
Shane Lawrence always does great interviews about the teaching life. This one is called – ‘Music for Rebels’ with Emily Langerholc. This is a great conversation and Emily is really entertaining. She has so much to say about teaching music, I could really listen to more from her. She has a great attitude and a terrific sense of humour!
This is from her blog masthead
Welcome! My name is Emily and I teach music. If you’re looking for teachable moments in popular music, you’re in the right place. Commentary and free teaching goodies are also included.
Content is available on the blog, which you can read here!
I teach traditional ensemble music classes (band & chorus), but my after-school class materials are sponsored by Little Kids Rock.
To find out more about people all around the country (and world!) who are involved in Popular Music Education, I urge you to look into and join the Association of Popular Music Education, aka APME.
If you are so moved, you can support my writing/conference travel/etc. by buying me a coffee!
This blog is an amazing resource. If you are reading this and you know a music teacher please share this with them. I did already.
The podcast ranges all over the landscape of teaching music in elementary school. One part I found particularly interesting has to do with using pop music in the classroom. Her question is interesting – why would you not use the tool of popular music in the classroom. If you are teaching time signatures for example, why not challenge your students by betting if any song on the radio is in 4:4 time (she does this).
Finally, Stephen Hurley put me on to this podcast. It is by Mark Carbone and it can be found here on his blog. Soon it will be on VoicEd Radio and I will be certain to tag it under ‘music’.
This one really blew me away. It is an interview with former CBC broadcaster and Peabody Award WinnerJowi Taylor. We used to listen to Jowi Taylor on Saturday nights on CBC. He hosted a ground-breaking show called Global Village that was all about international music. It was a weekly tour around the world that actually encouraged travellers to record their own features that were later broadcast on the show. The show was cancelled in 2007 and there has been nothing like it since.
The interview with Mark is all about a current project by Jowi called ‘Six String Nation‘. It started while he was still hosting Global Village and it continues to this day.
The idea has a real nation-building quality to it. A guitar called Voyageur was constructed from 64 pieces of bone, metal, wood, stone and horn. It was constructed to act as a symbol of national unity and its contains pieces come from across the country.
Jowi describes the project here
This is pretty exciting stuff and it is really wonderful to hear the entirety of Mark’s interview. I took four clips from the 26-minute broadcast and I don’t know if I will get them all in, it is that good of a segment.
I will get in a short clip at the end of Mark’s podcast. Near the conclusion, Jowi’s challenges the audience (you) to help him come up with focused, coherent workshops for students in different grades. This is a great challenge and I hope this is something that VoicEd Radio will be involved in starting in 2019.
Here is the final clip
This would be a great way to truly integrate music, story-telling, art and country into a workshop – what a great opportunity!
This is lots for one podcast. We will see how far we get. Writing all this down is a sort of pledge to get it all done. I hope you listen to us – let’s see (or hear) how it goes!
We are getting closer to having a full group, I can feel it in my bones.
This week, the wonderful people at Merit Travel got us an extension for joining the Tour de Mont Blanc until the 21st of December. The wonderful Christie Lake Kids Board is also helping us make sure no one misses out on this trip.
So, if you are pondering taking this great adventure on, you have more time. If you need any more time than the 21st of December, we will make sure you get your spot.
We simply can’t let dates and details get in the way of a grand adventure that is supporting so many children here in Ottawa.
All the details are still here and you can email me or call me (613-218-9615) if you need any more information.
This year is year II of a continuing community project to bring people together to help great kids through Christie Lake. Once you come with us once, you may find it hard not to continue climbing with us again.
Keeping fit and living life large is a full-time activity and we plan on raising much more money for CLK this year, more than the $29,000 we raised last year. And it really is all about living life large. Your body becomes the vehicle that can help you do great things. You meet wonderfully like-minded people and you become part of the support network that is changing the lives of kids.
That’s living life large. That is an important story, it’s compelling especially the adventures that we choose are really hard. You will be challenged physically and emotionally and maybe even spiritually.
So, no one should worry about the dates – it’s a big decision. Don’t worry about anything, just change the way you live your life. Take the great leap and join us now on this adventure – you will not regret this!
Isn’t life all about accepting challenges, meeting people and helping out?
This is not a post on how technology is changing life in the classroom. There are already way too many articles on this topic and I am really not all that interested in how Flipgrid is revolutionizing education.
This more about a different path for an educator – me.
I retired as an active educator, a principal almost two years ago. I didn’t retire because I couldn’t do the job anymore. I loved the chaos and energy that came with being an elementary principal. I retired because of the unrelenting pressure put on me by a vindictive school board that was committed to turning me out any time I tried to do something different. The last straw for them had to do with my efforts to update lists of eligible FSL teaching candidates for principals on a Google Doc.
In my last year, I was called into the superintendent’s office for a little ‘talk to’ even before the year started. My resignation letter was a defence against senior officials who were set on intimidation.
This, however, is not the main subject of this post. While I am still angry with the school board, there is nowhere to go with this so I just bury it in a dark place, unresolved.
More positively, I am finding my life as an educator continues. Now I have the wonderful responsibility of looking after my 91-year-old mom who moved to Ottawa from Montreal at the end of the summer.
What a wonderful situation. I am freed up from the day to day struggle of being a public (separate) school principal to focus on the woman who raised me and formed me. What a gift this is.
My mom’s residence is just five minutes from our house. She loves it there. One day I arrived to see her sitting on their lovely broad porch sunning herself in the early autumn sun. Eyes closed, big smile, she was so happy and at peace. She said ‘I just love to be outside’.
After a month in the new wonderful residence, she had a series of falls, one resulting in a fractured hip. The hospital was just a few minutes from the residence and I was able to be there within a few hours of the fall and sat with her as she went through all the preliminaries leading up to an operation to fix the hip.
We were at the Ottawa General, and I can’t say enough about the level of care and respect we receive there. I met at least four doctors before the surgery who carefully explained the procedure to me. The chief of emergency medicine talked to me about a procedure they were about to perform. He was a former student I worked with at Holy Trinity High School when I worked on the school’s leadership camp program. Now, many years later, he is a wonderful kind, gentle man who reassured us that my mom would be ok.
Now a month later, I go to the hospital almost every day. I am meeting with care providers, nurses, doctors, physiotherapists and occupational therapists. They have become our happy medical family and they treat my mom with beautiful dignity and loving care. They have even set her up with a radio she can listen to in the hallway so she doesn’t miss any of the action.
This is my new life as an educator. Now, I am focusing on just one person and doing my best to support all the medical and health care workers who are helping my mom. It is far from the roles I played in the school system, but I am part of a system and I can see how all these people work together for the care of the elderly.
Family dynamics still play a role in all this. All the members of our family here in Ottawa help out. They visit mom when I need a break. But families are strange. While everyone here is a great help, my one brother living in Toronto refuses to have any contact with any of us and has shut himself off from any information on my mother’s condition. Again, as an educator, this is something I saw when working through difficult family situations. The only difference now is that this is happening within my own family.
Today there are lots of meetings to attend and phone calls to make as we arrange the transition of my mom back to her residence. We have a great, effective team working through this. I was getting emails about the transition as late as 8:30 last night – how great is that!
I am learning lots. We are so fortunate to have such an excellent health care system here in Ontario. We are doubly blessed to have a system that shows so much respect for the elderly.
I love my new role as an educator. I retired into a new role as a caregiver and I feel like I am doing something special.
That deep, dark place recedes more every day. There is so much good out there when you have the opportunity to look for it.
This week I am a bit behind. I am continuing to put out posts to supplement the work that we are doing on the Podcast Broadcast very Saturday on VoicEd Radio. The episodes are archived here.
We do this show because podcasters deserve an audience. They are coming up with great material and it would be very sad if they were voices in the wilderness. They offer refreshing perspectives on a wide range of topics. Conflicting ideas expressed with passion.
The first one – Teaching Keating with Weston and Molly and Wes Kieschnick is called Bad Moms. They are pushing here and I think this is good. What is the role of parents? Are they stepping up as much as they should – does there need to be a more effective bond between the school and the home? Are we only doing half the job?
What would happen if you started a parent-school symposium with this podcast? What energy would be immediately infused into the room – so much better than the usual bland welcoming note for the hapless superintendent!
Their podcast is fun and lively and related always to some movie that acts as a loose intro to the topic. Here is how they linked parenting and Bad Moms in this podcast:
Their comments challenge, so this is a good podcast. It provokes and it stirs things up. I think that is good and you should listen to it. There is definitely an argument that parents could be much more effective as positive partners with their schools. Maybe if they pushed back more in a constructive way we would have a more effective system.
The next podcast is Seal It With a Smile with Juan Campos. This broadcaster is provocative so he is interesting and puts out an effective message. This week he comes right out and says – school is not effective, school is not doing its job.
In the cast of Matthew, one of his students, he is totally right. Matthew has not been seen for his whole school career. What are we doing that this can be allowed to take place? Why is he invisible? What behaviours stem from that?
Here Juan talks about Matthew:
I love this podcast because it is so honest. It is dark and there seems to be no solution. In this case, the story works out because Matthew does finally find a redeeming solution. He does find a sort of family – important because nowhere in the podcast does Juan mention family.
This is an important message here on the limiting and the sometimes alienating impact of the school. Matthew’s solution has nothing to do with school.
Finally, I pulled up a podcast that was actually put out last year. There seemed to be a parenting theme to the week, so I went searching for more material on parenting and school. The impetus has to do with another discussion on VoicEd Radio on This Week In Ontario Edublogs. I am not going to include the clip here, but it involved discussion on a post by Jonathan So entitled Soft Eyes.
It is a good post and it led to a challenging conversation on Twitter. My perspective right now is skewed and it is a challenge for me to see the Soft Eyes perspective. It is true that we can do better with children with an approach that is softer, but there are many cases – especially starting in intermediate – where a harder approach is necessary to protect the other students and staff. Schools remain a battleground, but we don’t talk about that – ever.
Needless to say, my perspective didn’t get any sympathy on Twitter – the soft eyes approach is conventional wisdom now.
So, in a spirit of cooperation, I included a podcast on parent self-reg which was really interesting. It circles through the parent perspective and our need to understand the motivating factors behind the good and bad behaviour of parents. It is a good discussion which concludes with a really helpful outline of the 5 R’s of self-reg.
Reframing – stress behaviour not misbehaviour
Recognize the stressors
Reduce the stress
Reflect – develop stress awareness
Respond – replenish our energy
This is a good guide for all of us as we try to understand self-regulation as it applies to parents, teachers and students.
We didn’t get a chance to play this clip on the broadcast, so it is good to include it here. There was so much to discuss coming out of all this material, but an hour passes very quickly!
Another interesting week with varying and I think, conflicting perspectives. I hope you list to these clips and maybe even the whole podcast. These people – podcasters and bloggers – are offering important perspectives that we are trying to capture every week. The voice of an educator is important and we all need to share what we are hearing.