Category: Poverty in Schools
Globalizing Teacher Education
Educating the next generation of teachers is very serious business.
Teacher candidates now spend two years to get their degree, during that time, they are spending more hours in the classroom and more time volunteering – this is wonderful, anything that gets teacher candidates into the classroom should be encouraged.
I think there is another step that we have not yet taken that needs to be considered. Is there a place for students to spend time learning first hand about education in other countries? Do our students need to develop a global perspective as they prepare for a career in our schools?
I would argue that this is really important and we should look for ways to make this happen. A bit biased, I have been bringing students and teachers to different Latin American countries for over 20 years.
I have learned a great deal on these trips. I think the one thing that really sticks with me is that for students in Latin America, education is the way out of a cycle of poverty that in some cases stretches back centuries.
It is also really instructive to speak with the students in the countries we visit. We have done this on many trips and we find that many have the same goals as our own students with the caveat that they are very committed to bringing about positive change for their families and their country.
I think it is really important for educators just starting out to get this perspective. Societies can move out of poverty and the catalyst for this transformation is education.
There are parallels in our own schools. The last school that I worked at was in a poor section of Ottawa. Most of these families are trying to do the same thing as people in Latin America – improve their lives by taking advantage of what the education system offers.
There is so much more to learn, but this is a central point that can influence a career for a lifetime. Education is the key for so many people and teachers can change lives, here and in places we can’t even imagine.
Let’s find a way to open the world up to our future educators.
Do we see poverty in our schools?
For many years, I took groups of teachers and students down to the Dominican Republic, Mexico and El Salvador. There is no question that the poverty down there is grinding and the injustice is at times overwhelming.
These trips were very meaningful and I was fully committed to sustaining partnerships with the communities we came into contact with, especially in El Salvador.
Many of you may already see where this is going. What about the poverty in your own backyard? What about the terrible poverty in Canadian indigenous communities?
I never really had a good answer to these questions. I guess I thought that I was doing my part.
Now, I don’t see this as good enough. I have been very fortunate to work in a high poverty section of our city – for me this is a first. I am ashamed to say that I really didn’t know the extent of the poverty in these communities in our own very wealthy city.
We routinely buy boots for our kids. We support children through breakfast and lunch programs, we subsidize a whole variety of lunchtime programs so that our kids get the same educational opportunities as others in better off neighbourhoods. We are constantly applying for grants for recreational equipment, technology and improvements to our yard.
I am not writing this to make us look virtuous, this is simply some of the things you need to do when you live in a poor neighbourhood. Even in a rich city.
Sometimes you have to go cap in hand to well off schools to get help, especially at Christmas. I don’t like doing this, but it is important to help families especially at Christmas.
This year, we were turned down by one of the well off schools in our board. This same school routinely raises thousands of dollars for schools in Southern countries.
Of course, this is their choice, but what has happened to our priorities? How have we lost sight of the poverty of our neighbours?
I have no answers, only to say we still have a long way to go in the journey from charity to true social justice, especially in our own backyard.
As for our school community, we will do just fine.
Poverty in the schools – we are not all created equal
Today was a good day. We connected two of our community partners together and maybe now we will have a cooking class for our students after school – great!
I am a principal at a wonderful inner-city school in Ottawa, Canada. We have a high immigrant population and many of our families live in poverty. On our own, we don’t have much.
I am not complaining – it’s just that life in a poor school is so incredibly different from other schools, schools that are not much more than 20 minutes away.
Most people don’t see Ottawa as a city that has lots of poverty, and to be very honest, I didn’t really understand the level of poverty that exists in our city until I became principal of this school two years ago.
So, what does this mean? First, there is no equity. Some schools in our city can raise as much as $30,000.00 a year by fundraising projects and student fees. We get a stipend at the beginning of the year that represents about 20% of our overall budget and of course, we can’t fundraise.
To be successful in a school like this, you need to become a community activist. You attend brown bag lunch sessions with community service providers, you reach out to every community agency in the area, you never turn down something that is offered to your school for free.
You also become an expert fundraiser. Over the past two years, we have raised over $150,000.00 through fundraisers run by our community and by winning one very generous national fundraising competition.
All this takes a tremendous amount of work. The results are very gratifying, but even with grants there are strings attached. Well over 90% of the money we have raised goes to environmental projects. Again, this is not a complaint, that money is enough to rebuild our dilapidated schoolyard.
However, we need money for sports equipment, software licenses, computers, recreational and arts programming and good winter clothing. There are very few grants for items like these and that’s a problem.
What do we do? We keep looking for opportunities. Every child in our school from grade 3-6 has their own laptop – this is essential as many families do not have a computer so these machines go home every night and help families stay connected.
We get free swimming lessons and even free music lessons from the Orkidstra program. We have a great program called Rec Link that works to link families up to free or inexpensive recreation programs in our community. We even have a wonderful summer camp that takes at least ten to fifteen of our students for overnights throughout the year.
What does this all mean? To work in a poor school, you have to be an advocate, you have to reach out to everyone, you sometimes have to be a bulldog. But if you don’t do this, who will?
Is there equity in education? Not a chance. Whose fault is this – I leave that for you to decide. Am I complaining? No, just acting and connecting every day.