Parenting, Why Schools Don’t Matter and Self-Reg – all on VoicEd Radio

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.

What will you be learning this week?

 

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The Podcast Broadcast for October 19th – What you need to listen to this week

some of the great podcasts on VoicEd Radio every week.

I am continuing my posts on upcoming episodes of the Podcast Broadcast that Stephen Hurley and I are putting out on VoicEd Radio every week.

I think this is an important series, podcasters are coming up with great material that educators need to be aware of. When we start thinking of new ways to do PD, the material coming out every week offers a wonderful variety of learning opportunities for educators. What do you want to learn? Whose voice do you want to hear?

This week, we will be talking about This Week in Canadian EdTech with Robert Martellacci, My Bad with Jon Harper, Faith in the System by Munazzah Shirwani and the upcoming Digital Citizenship Summit taking place next week in Toronto.

Two of these podcasts have to do with community discussions – this is where new learning really happens. Even in the digital age, face to face conversations offer great new, unscripted learning opportunities.

Robert Martellacci and Stephen Hurley discuss a really interesting initiative that is coming out of Sackville called Sackville 2020. I love this initiative and I would like to hear much more about this. The discussion on the podcast explored how to develop productive partnerships involving both public and private enterprises. The Sackville 2020 initiative as described in the Sackville Tribune Post is developing something new and exciting that takes education out of its traditional silo.

The Sackville Schools 2020 vision is one which includes more outdoor learning spaces, community connections, hands-on learning, inclusive education, bright and open areas, more innovative teaching approaches and so much more. It’s a concept that would help bring more 21st-century approaches to the local education system and to ensure our children are being provided with more experiential and community-based learning opportunities.

Here is part of the discussion on how this initiative is changing how people are envisioning education and outreach into the community.

I would not have known anything about this great initiative if I hadn’t listened in on the podcast this week. This really is new learning that has a great potential to bring us together in a wider community. Could this be a way to innovate into the future of education?

At the very same time, there is a really interesting conference that will take place in Toronto next week, the Digital Citizen Summit or Digcit Summit.

The collection of speakers is impressive and the conversation will be really important. Listening to In Conversation with Stephen Hurley, I realized that the whole theme of the summit has lots to do with something we featured last week when we discussed (too briefly) the work of Jennifer Casa-Todd. I love her positive spirit and the work she is doing to help educators to see the positive side and the wonderful potential of social media in the classroom. At a time when we are getting pushback from all sorts of populist forces that want to stifle the use of social media, this is an enlivening breath of fresh air.

The podcast is a great introduction to the upcoming conference which will have a positive impact on how we use social media in education. Here one of the organizers Carlo Fusco is talking with Stephen Hurley.

The next two podcasts will take listeners in a different, but equally important direction. I really like My Bad by Jon Harper. I would argue that this short, concise podcast should be required listening for educators, especially administrators. Each episode explores a mistake (My Bad) that an educator has made and what they learned from it. It is a humbling experience and one that many educators could benefit from.

In education these days, we are all about making mistakes and learning from them. But the reality is no one likes making mistakes and very few are willing to talk about them. If more people did this we would certainly have a more humane system overall.

I looked at two of Jon’s podcasts this week, one from an administrator who reflects on how she sometimes judged her own admin harshly and the second from an elementary teacher who talks about calling out a 6-year old student in front of his peers. These conversations are difficult to listen to, but maybe this is exactly what we need to be doing. Listening to the mistakes of others and learning to become a little bit more humble is a useful practice.

Here is part of the second conversation.

Finally this week, a podcast that is new to me but one that I will continue to listen to every week. Faith in the System is a podcast by Munazzah Shirwani. In her profile, she calls herself a ‘rookie podcaster’, but she is already really good. I listened to her second episode this week, Confessions of a Sikh High School Teacher.  She talks with Amrit Kaur Dhaliwal, program coordinator for a secondary school program at Khalsa Community School in Brampton where she has been teaching for over ten years.

Over 40 minutes the conversation ranges over a number of issues involving faith and schools. It is a really different podcast and it is truly compelling. At one point Munazzah and Amrit get into a discussion about discrimination in Canada and its impact on both of them. This is really important for us to listen to, I have included an excerpt here.

Again, this is terrific stuff and there is so much that we can learn here. The conversation is frank and intelligent and it leads us into a world that is probably unfamiliar to many of us. Here is the beauty of podcasting and digital radio. Within a few minutes, we can take part in important conversations that can inform our practice.

I hope you listen to a few of these snippets. The Podcast Broadcast will air again this Saturday at 10:00 am and I hope you listen in. You never know how these conversations will turn out, but that is the beauty of live radio.

 

What happens when we are not defined by work?

This is a topic I am learning about.

A year and a half ago I retired from a very active job as an elementary school principal. It was a good decision and I don’t regret taking it.

For the first time in 31 years, I am learning and experiencing lots of new things. I have trekked to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro through the Western Highlands of Scotland and most recently the Ausangate Range in Peru.

I am much fitter than I was when I had a regular job. Before I was just too busy to keep in good shape and I am a bit shocked how little real exercise I got. My moods were really affected by my work and it took way too long to return to a calm state after the strains of a long school year.

My pace is not so crazy anymore. Apart from my training, I write a lot more, I read and listen more too. I listen especially to lots of podcasts on VoicEd Radio and I really enjoy the work I am doing to help Stephen Hurley and this wonderful venture into the world of internet radio.

There is another side to this which I find interesting. I saw someone last week that I used to work with when I was a principal. She asked what I was doing these days and before I could answer, she made the reply.

Nothing?

I didn’t really bother to correct her, there didn’t seem to be much of a point. When you don’t have a regular job people sometimes don’t know what to do with you.

This is an interesting part of retirement, or it might just be the result of getting older. It is easier when you are not defined by your job to be discounted by others. It is easier to disappear.

It is interesting how quiet things can get. I volunteered to act as a supply principal for my school board when I retired – silence. I have volunteered and applied for other jobs with the same result.

A school in our neighbourhood doesn’t have a regular principal or VP, but because I am from a different school board I can’t even offer my services. I used to do lots of work for the local faculty of education here in our city – that work dried up as soon as I was no longer an active principal.

Other things just don’t make much sense. I visit my mother in the hospital almost daily, but my brother won’t answer my notes to him on how she is doing. It’s almost as if this work is unnecessary and irrelevant.  Friends, many of them retired as well, don’t reach out. Opportunities seem to dry up. It is a little like you begin to disappear.

This could go on for a while, as long as I define myself by who I was. At 60, I doubt that I will ever be actively employed again. This is a world that is dominated everywhere by youth – there is still little value placed on the older ones in our society.

To counter this, I need to find my new value. I need to look for the positive opportunity whenever it comes up. I don’t think conventional employers like school boards and universities will change. In some ways that is too bad because I think I have a great deal to offer – especially when a school has no administrators!

Instead, I need to find meaning and value in my own projects or in projects where the door is still open. VoicEd Radio is terrific that way and the creative work within this growing community is wonderful.

some of the wonderful podcasts that are available daily on VoicEd Radio

The work we are doing with Christie Lake Climb for Kids is a challenge and has the potential to channel more financial support to children who really need a positive change in their lives. This project was started last year when we took our first group of trekkers into the Peruvian Andes up to 5200m. The group trained and fundraised for a year and we made almost $28,000 for Christie Lake Kids programming.

So the future will be defined by the projects that work and the people who are open to what I can still offer. This is a new path.

I am no longer defined by a job I did for 31 years and how I define myself now has to be based on other factors, many that were not all that important when I was working full time. This is a work in progress, one that I don’t often read about but one that is probably worthy of further discussion.

It is interesting with more and more people retiring all the time that this doesn’t seem to be a topic that gets much attention. Do we have any sense of the social capital out there that still has great value?

Maybe this should change. Maybe we should talk more about this.

 

 

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Podcasting on VoicEd Radio – What you need to be listening to this week

Over the past few weeks, Stephen Hurley and I have started a new venture on VoicEd Radio. We are broadcasting about some of the podcasts that are produced every week on VoicEd Radio. We call it the Podcast Broadcast.

There is no firm criteria on what gets chosen, but so far we have been focusing on some of the material that has been produced exclusively for VoicEd Radio. More accurately, we are looking at podcasting that has been inspired by the explosion of material being produced by educators both in Canada and the United States about every aspect of education at all levels.

So, I am using my blog as a way to organize my thoughts before going ‘live’ to discuss the weekly collection of material. Our broadcasts are one hour long, which seems like a long time, but when you are trying to get to the heart of four very different podcasts you really have to make sure you are organized and concise.

This week we are looking at podcasts by and then about some of the best broadcasters on VoicEd Radio. 

I started this week by listening to Shukes and Giff, an edtech podcast by Jen Giffen and Kim Pollishuke. They start each podcast I think if I was still active in the classroom, I would have to listen to this one every week. Their broadcasts are usually around 30 minutes long and they really pack a punch. Both teachers come prepared with an assortment of new innovations and announcements for the classroom. As they say, they are committed to sharing the edtech treasures they love. They also start each week with a joke, it’s hard to do better than that!

Why shouldn’t you play cards in the jungle?

Because there are too many cheetahs 

Shukes and Giff

Apart for the great rapid-fire banter that goes on throughout the show, the notes included as part of their weekly work are truly incredible. Everything is hyperlinked with notes that you can use to follow up on their recommendations.


a part of the Shukes and Giff conversation on Google Classroom

Here is a sample of their notes page for this one episode – so useful!

It would be great to get to know more about these really dynamic educators. So, Ramona Meharg, in her podcast, I Wish I Knew EDU recently had both of them on for a wide-ranging conversation about podcasting, education conferences and networking and the future of education. The idea behind this show is pretty cool, to explore the things you wished you knew when you started out in education.

In this podcast, it is really interesting to hear how Kim and Jen started out and how podcasting has become a natural extension of the work they do as education resource people for their schools. People with this much energy really need a voice beyond the confines of their own district. 


This clip is worth listening to just to get a sense of the great dynamic between Jen and Kim.

On our full show, Stephen and I will listen and talk about two more clips from Ramona’s show. The great thing about her podcast is that it is one hour long, so you can really get a sense of the people she is interviewing. Ramona is one in a growing list of podcasters who are giving voice to great broadcasters who really should be heard. 

So, there is a theme to this post and this week’s Podcast Broadcast. I am featuring podcasters and podcasts about the podcasters. VoicEd Radio has created a space where people can come together and learn with each other.

What is interesting now is that there are a whole series of broadcasts that feature other podcasters. I find it fascinating to learn from the ones who are creating content on a weekly basis.

Along with Shukes and Giff, we will also be looking at the work of Jennifer Casa Todd and her Social Leadia podcast. Jennifer is doing some really interesting work that follows the premise of her book.  Social media should not be seen as something destructive for our students. Instead, we need to look for ways to empower students to use social media in positive and creative ways. The way this is approached in the classroom makes all the difference. In her podcast series, Jennifer seeks out and interviews students who are using social media in new ways that enrich the learning in the classroom.

In this episode, Jennifer is interviewing Josh Feinsilber, the student inventor of Gimkit, a game inspired by the desire to improve on the popular educational quiz game Kahoot. Josh is exploring ways to enhance the in-class experience for both teachers and students. It is a really interesting project and an excellent example of how social media is able to bring about innovation and change.

Stephen Hurley interviews Jennifer Casa Todd in his innovative series the MADPD Spotlight. Series like this one and Ramona’s are really important. These interviews give podcasters the chance to explain the ideas behind their shows. In both broadcasts, I learned a great deal about what inspires both Shukes and Giff and Social Leadia.

Shukes and Giff is all about sharing and exploring the wide evolving world of edtech – essential listening for anyone who wants to keep current on the learning tools available to teachers and students.

In Social Leadia, there is a really essential exploration of the current debate on the impact of social media on the student. The current thinking, especially in Ontario where the new government is considering banning cell phones in the classroom is that social media enables inappropriate responses from young people. Jennifer argues that we need to give children the opportunity to see social media in a different light.  Social media as a place to converse, learn and grow – there needs to be an interruption in the negative narrative that currently exists.


Jennifer Casa Todd – pushing back on assumptions

We will feature more clips on our broadcast, but this clip will give you a sense of the rich conversation between Stephen and Jennifer.

Four podcasts and one hour to feature all this great material. It will be a challenge, but if we are able to attract more listeners to these broadcasts then the effort is certainly worthwhile. There is a great new world of learning out there and I hope you all take some time to dip in for a listen!

Wanted: Mentors for the Journey

I get most of my good education content from VoicEd Radio. There’s a good reason for this. I no longer work in a school, and even if I did, there would be no way to gather up the diversity of opinion that I find on the VoicEd Radio podcasts. Working within a school board certainly does not open you up to a variety of ways of looking at issues.

This week I listened to one of the banner shows on VoicEd Radio – ONedMentors. They were grappling with the question of how you define mentorship. This is not something I think about these days. I am a retired educator, what would I have to do with mentorship? 

An interesting thing happens when you retire. Your opinion has less value. I can think of many people and organizations that valued what I had to say when I was a principal. When you leave that job, many leave you.

What I have failed to consider is that retirement can turn you into a mentee. I am not offering my opinions and advice very much these days, but I need new information, I need to learn once again from others.

Retirement allows you to try new experiences and start the learning journey all over again. If you let yourself, you can take new risks and you can really open yourself up to learn from others.

Now I am interested in mentors to help me learn about digital radio and podcasting, trekking and climbing, and photography! These are all new passions that I simply didn’t have time for when I was working in a school.

Getting back to the original question – what is mentorship? I think the definition is simple – mentorship is all about connecting to life-long learning – we naturally seek out mentors as we move into new areas that we are not comfortable in – so we seek ideas and help.

When you put yourself in risky situations, and by that I mean new learning you are forced to grow and seek out others who can help you out. Along with the great podcast, a few of us followed along on Twitter.

New can be scary – new means taking a risk and it is OK to acknowledge that this is a challenge and can sometimes be scary. Try doing something really new and really scary – once you do that you will seek mentors.

I have a whole new group of mentors now. I am learning about digital broadcasting, I am following a tough physical training program for the first time in my life. I am committed to taking on high-altitude climbs and I really need to get better at documenting these trips. 

The people who are helping me probably do not see themselves as mentors, but they are. They are leading me in new ways and I am very grateful to them.

So, the risks and discomfort are worth it. It is Ok to say you don’t know, even at 60. So, take a risk, get a mentor and learn something new – it is never too late!

Our next big trek is the Tour de Mont Blanc for Christie lake Kids, July 2019

Where to go now? Education in Ontario

wordl of 251 responses to our survey on education issues in Ontario

Over the past three weeks, I have conducted an entirely unscientific survey on education issues in the Province of Ontario. I have closed the survey down now, but you can still see it here along with the responses – all 251 of them! 

This was an interesting exercise, largely hijacked by the opponents of Regulation 274 (Read – ‘Rescind Regulation 274 (2), Eliminate Regulation 274, Put an end to Regulation 274 finish what Lisa MacLeod started!’)

If you sift through the noise, there are some interesting comments in the last section of the survey. Here are a few:

Make the funding for support teachers in school libraries, special education and guidance equitable in staffing and budget by school per student. Monitor this spending.

There are way too many classrooms across Ontario that don’t have enough textbooks, novels, access to technology or breakfast/snack programs for students that need them. There needs to be WAY MORE equity in education. It has become the schools that have versus the schools that don’t.

Class size needs to be capped at 20 for Kindergarten to grade 8 for the mental health of the students and the teachers.

Why do we only fund one religious board? Don’t the other faiths/religions matter?? Shame on Ontario for not fixing this sooner! Discrimination is deadly in today’s culture.

Not a remarkable collection of ideas, but at least people took the time to write these and many other comments. Maybe some of these should be addressed. If there are 251 comments on a Google Form, even if there are lots of repeated grievances, doesn’t this mean we need to hold a public dialogue on education?

There are more voices out there. Stephen Hurley wrote this yesterday:

Along with health care, education is the largest financial commitment that any provincial government makes to citizens and, vice versa. Yet, when was the last time that we were able to step outside the fury of political cycles in order to have open and honest questions about the complex array of issues that have emerged over the last 50 years?

We can do better than a prolonged discussion on Regulation 274. We can do much better than an ideological argument about turning back the clock on health curriculum.

There are smatterings of intelligent debate all over social media, well beyond the current debate that really belittles the conversation. This morning, prompted again by Stephen Hurley, a group of us had a wide-ranging conversation about the possibilities and options for one publicly-funded system of education here in Ontario. I tried to collect the spirit of the conversation here.

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Obviously, nothing was resolved, but at least it is an airing of the issues and the people in the conversation are credible and have a very effective voice. What would happen if this conversation caught fire? What would it be like if people really got involved in discussing public education in this province?

I hope the conversation continues and I really hope someone is watching all of this. As Stephen Hurley writes, public education is one of the biggest ticket items in Ontario so we need to have some good, serious conversations that go beyond a 30-second sound bite.

Thanks to those out there who are encouraging the conversation. We deserve this, we need this.

Teachers Stepping Up in Ontario

I did a quick informal survey of edutwitter this morning. I found the usual interesting tweets about education initiatives, conferences and new ideas. I was encouraged to see that teachers, especially in Ontario continue to push back on a number of local and national issues.

This is really important. Educators need to understand that especially if they are active on social media they have a role to play in making statements against policies and practices that are unjust and that need to be opposed.

Yes, all the other Twitter traffic in education is fine, but at a time when there is so much going on in the province and the world, can an educator actually have a public profile and not make statements about what is going on? If an educator doesn’t take a stand are they avoiding an important responsibility?

The issues are so important. VoicEd Radio, Derek Rhodenizer and Debbie Donsky are actively promoting Seven Fallen Feathers through podcasts, tweets and Facebook posts. Because of them, I am reading the book and am horrified by the long history of abuse and injustice against First Nations people that has yet to be resolved in this country. I knew about this sad story, but when you bring it down to single students, it really hits home – a huge shame against individuals and a people.

At the same time, educators are also reacting to the ludicrous actions of the new Conservative Government in Ontario who are unilaterally censoring public Health Curriculum for students, a document that received a full consultation including parents from every school in the province.

Now some people are publically declaring that they will continue to teach about social media, same-sex marriage, consent and other issues vital to the education of our students. As one parent stated – these are issues too important to be left up to parents – we all need to be aware of how these issues are being addressed in the public forum of our schools.

Associated with Seven Fallen Feathers is another issue, the ending of curriculum writing directed by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. The Ontario Government is actively trying to head back to the old days, not only when it comes to Health Curriculum but also how we look at issues surrounding indigenous people in Canada. The blatant ignorance that prevailed up to the recent past is something the current regime wants to return to. All teachers worth their salt need to publically condemn this action.

Teachers teach. It is their vocation. To remain silent at this difficult time is not responsible. It should not be up to a valiant few to protest the actions of the new populist government or to publically examine our shameful history regarding indigenous people. It is the responsibility of all educators.

So, educators, continue to tweet about what you are reading and learning about this summer, but make sure you make yourself heard on social media about the bigger picture. Silence is acquiescence and we don’t do that.

 

Some Suggestions and more responses on what to do with Education in Ontario – a rolling blog

results 1

This image has been updated from July 7th. This wordl includes some of the key words in the 148 responses to our survey.

This past week a very interesting article was published in the Hamilton Spectator by a retired teacher, Ken Durkacz –  An open letter to Premier Ford on education

So, I have to say I find all of his suggestions appealing and it would be interesting to see what others think. Here are the author’s main ideas, I will paraphrase, but you can click on the link above to get the details:

1. Eliminate standardized testing. It would save tens of millions per year, which could be reinvested.

2. Move to one publicly funded school system. It would save millions in the duplication of services.

3. If you must cut from boards, cut from the top. There is a widespread feeling among front-line workers in schools that boards are bloated with people in positions that have little to nothing to do with the day to day education of students.

4. Reintroduce principals and vice-principals back into teacher unions.

We tried to survey people interested in issues during the election and it did work a little. You can read how people responded to an open-ended survey I wrote here. Thanks to Google, the 44 responses to the survey are summarized here. If you ignore the obvious overrepresentation on Regulation 274, there is no clear consensus on what the major issue in Ontario education is. So, I think Dan is heading in the right direction by making some very practical suggestions on how to improve education in this province. People who took the survey certainly echoed what he wrote.

Rather than giving my opinion on what might be the most popular ideas, let’s open this up to others who have an interest in public policy and education in particular.

Here are some ideas:

  • a survey (who doesn’t like a good survey) on what are the best ideas to pass on to Mr. Ford
  • a series of podcasts on some of the key ideas in the article. We will take care of that using our series – First Hand Stories on VoicEd Radio.
  • (a postscript – here is the first of our podcasts  and here is our second podcast
  • our third is here
  • a summer panel discussion – what are the key ideas that the new government should be considered in education? I think this would be a great discussion for VoicEd Radio. Maybe one episode per idea?

Summer is a great time for wondering about new ideas and initiatives. Maybe the new Minister of Education, Lisa Thompson could be a special guest on one of these shows? I will certainly share the survey with her.

We will start with number 1 – a survey for all of you. How would you rank the four suggestions? Do you have your own suggestion? Let’s see if we can generate some interest in education issues here in Ontario for the summer.

Postscript:

After 59 responses in less than a day, the results can be seen here

It is a little hard to interpret the results except to say all four issues seems to be important to respondents. What is most interesting so far are the comments at the end of the survey.

It is unfortunate that most are dominated by the Regulation 274 robots. This is to be expected, but what is a bit disappointing is that other educators in the Twittersphere are not all that willing to enter the debate, retweet or even like this discussion. I do hope this changes, the debate on the future of education deserves to be joined by more education opinion-makers.

We have completed our first podcast on our response to the article – you can listen here

A follow-up podcast is now out here

Our third in the series is here

Facilitating Student Voice in the Classroom

 

finishing a podcasting session with Heather Swail’s Grade 7-8 class

I started out today watching a conversation between Sarah Huckabee Sanders and the Washington press corps. I shouldn’t really call it a conversation. The reporters asked on three separate occasions about the current US policy on separating children from their parents when they cross the border. There was no response, just a lot of avoidance and some pretty insulting retorts.

Nothing was resolved, no questions were answered, no problem was even acknowledged. Both sides scored points, but an injustice is still being done.

In contrast, I have spent the last week listening to grade 7-8 students talk about social justice. What a difference!

I  got involved at the end of a month-long process that saw students choose a social justice issue, research the issue, debate the issue with peers then finally develop a persuasive piece that they then blogged about.

Their blog posts are all attached to their teacher Heather Swail’s blog and can be found here.

I really encourage you to read a few of these great pieces. The topics range from residential schools in Canada to water issues in South Africa, child labour, gun violence and racial profiling.

Little did I know that Residential schools were a lot deeper of an issue than just boarding schools that were wrongful to a misjudged people. They literally destroyed Indigenous culture for generations to come, and what really surprised me was that even after everything we did them, Indigenous people are still being treated unfairly today.

excerpt from student blog Residential Schools Revisited

All the posts are well-considered and intelligent. What makes the real difference is that this was a facilitated process. Students did not simply strike off on an issue, they had to go through a deliberate process with identifiable steps.

This is a well-known process that starts with the head moves to the heart and finishes with the hands. What is the issue, how does it make you feel, what are you going to do about it? A version of Heather’s methodology can be found here.

We took one final step by doing a series of five podcasts where the students talked about their issues. You can hear one of these podcasts here more will be coming out on VoicEd Radio soon.

It is at times like these that I really wish I was back in the classroom! My visits to Room 201 and to the student blog posts were a refreshing break from the media wars that are going on everywhere right now. Well considered opinion, well expressed, backed by evidence and part of an intelligent thought process.

When I see the faces of these children and when I read their words, I do think there is hope for the future. When students learn how to think, research and write well thought out pieces I know there is still room for intelligent debate and discussion.

My hope for all of these students is that they carry these valuable lessons into the future.

 

 

Responses to Education Election Issues: Are we creating the optimum learning environment for our students?

Over the past two weeks, I have been collecting ideas and suggestions on what needs to change in Ontario’s education system. Clearly, there are lots of issues that are on the minds of voters and it would be great to see some of these important ideas debated during the current campaign.

Obviously, some issues are overrepresented by people who really have a bone to pick – Regulation 274 being one – but we can still get a sense of what some of the major concerns are, none have to do with returning to a ‘kill and drill’ math curriculum.

So what are some of the big issues?

School safety and mental health are related issues. There are several comments on the need for better mental health supports in schools and for the need to protect students and staff from violent outbursts. The safety of students and current class sizes comes into this. One respondent wrote that they did not feel that having potentially 36 students in a kindergarten class was safe for their child.

I think you could wrap all this into one overall issue – the quality of care in the classroom. Do we have enough support for children in our schools and are we creating the optimum learning environment for our students? Are schools really equipped to adequately deal with mental health challenges and the complex needs of children?

I don’t have a good answer to this question, but it is certainly asked a lot in the survey.

My daughter was supposed to be entering JK in the Fall and we’ve chosen not to enrol her, because 36 kids stuffed into a play-based program with limited resources and objects being thrown at the teacher’s head is not my idea of a good learning environment for ANY child. It fills me with sadness that as a public school teacher I don’t feel safe enrolling my own child in my local public school.

This is actually something that can happen. When we had half-day kindergarten, there was a hard cap of 20 students in the classroom. If you went over 20 students, there was a good chance that another class would have to be created. That cap really disappeared once we went to full-day kindergarten. Sometimes you will be able to split a class of 32 to 36 children into two classes, but there is no guarantee that this will happen and if it does take place it is usually a month into the school year.

Yes, there are other issues that need to be addressed based on this survey. EQAO, teacher hiring practices, the overlap caused by funding Catholic and Public schools, EQAO etc. But let’s start with this issue. Are we doing our very best to ensure a high-quality environment inside the classroom? Are we living with less?

If we could be doing better for our students in very concrete ways why are we not doing this? Why are more educators not saying anything? This is the time for debate, let’s hear more from parents and educators in our province.