How do We Respond to Violence in our Schools?

This morning I listened to a very disturbing interview on CBC Ottawa. A local Ottawa teacher was being interviewed about a violent incident that ended his teaching career. You can read an article about the incident here.

This is a very brave teacher. He is speaking out about violence in schools, a topic that does not get enough public discussion.

It is hard to read this article. In cases like this, the rights of staff to remain safe in their workplace are not being considered. When a student is suspended, their right to privacy trump the rights of staff to work in a safe environment. Merely moving a violent student to another school does nothing to solve the problem, it simply moves it along to another school where teachers are equally in the dark about the presence of a violent offender in their midst.

The CBC asked teachers to speak out about violence in their school and I hope they respond. The Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association (OECTA) commissioned a study that reported 60 percent of teachers surveyed have personally experienced violence in the school.

I think the actual percentage is much higher than this. I have heard of incidents this year where students have actually tried to break into classes to get at students. Schools seem to be helpless when it comes to dealing with these incidents.

I remember being in a situation where we actually had to physically restrain a student who wanted to get at another pupil who was locked in my office for his own protection. As the incident played out, students in the school had to be rerouted to other parts of the school to keep them safe. While we were able to keep the violent student restrained, the incident was never debriefed and the only feedback we received from our school board was criticism on the methods we used to restrain the student.

These incidents happen every day in our schools. In many cases, educational assistants are the ones who are being injured. While some of these staff members have training working with violent students, teachers and administrators seldom receive this type of training.

The system is skewed in favor of the student and their need for privacy. When a student receives a suspension or some other consequence staff members are rarely informed. There is no procedure to keep staff members safe from a violent offender and their right to privacy comes before the right of school staff to remain safe.

I am not surprised to read that violence is increasing in the schools. Whatever is happening in society is reflected in the school. Andrew Campbell wrote an excellent article on the lack of mental health services in our schools – The Hypocrisy of Student Well-being. In his article Andrew points out that very little is currently being done to provide schools with the resources they need to deal with a growing mental health crisis in the schools.

So during a time of crisis, as students are suffering and educators are getting hurt, the ministry’s new well-being program is more focussed on funding active transportation and breakfast programs than providing front line support to children with mental health needs. In fact the major initiative to address student mental health is a provincial support team that doesn’t work directly with students. Unacceptable.

I hope that this excellent article will get more attention. It is hard to hear about a teacher suffering a career-ending injury and it is troubling to know that these incidents will continue to happen until we begin to take a serious look at the growing mental health crisis that is making our schools an increasingly hazardous place to work.

Move Like a Cat: Challenging the System Every Day.

from George Couros – Only Schools Can End Schools

There are some education writers who always catch my attention. They are provocative and they give me ideas on what I can write about.

Two of these educators are George Couros and Greg Ashman.

In a recent post, George Couros wrote about institutional change and the school. He featured a quote that mentioned businesses like Netflix, Uber, and Airbnb and how these innovators have challenged or replaced institutions that believed they were secure in supporting the status quo.

Greg Ashman seems to come up with something challenging almost daily. Recently he wrote a biting critique of the 6C fad, 21st-century skills and the current belief that teaching collaboration beats out traditional content. I love the title – Can we add ‘move like a cat’ to the list of 21st century skills?

There may not be too much in common in the two articles, but both challenge complacency and that is a really important service that all educators need. Greg Ashman’s article, in particular, would be a wonderful opener at a principal’s meeting at my former school board! Greg, I would have added this video.

Funny, but are there ever workshops at education conferences on reforming the system? Is this a topic that is just a little too uncomfortable?

While these ideas are important for our growth as a profession, George Couros makes the point that the people who really need to hear this message are not even listening.

They are not listening to Greg Ashman’s challenge of the sacred cow that is the 6C’s – maybe better called the silly C’s?

My point is that these and other writers need to hold a central place in our discussions on how the education system needs to evolve. There should be a place for these discussions at education conferences and we need to realize we can do better and we need to challenge more.

We do not have to be slaves to alignment. Maybe we need to move a little like a cat!

The education hierarchy may not be interested in such talk, but neither were the owners of Block Buster.

So, let’s move.

How to introduce a great digital program – Discovery Education

Introducing new digital programming to schools and districts is not an easy thing to do. How do you decide what is good? How much should you be spending on these programs? Why should you spend anything when you have free resources like Google?

First, just like anywhere else, there is no such thing as a free ride. Quality programming costs money. The challenge is where do you spend your limited resources.

The other big problem is a very hard one to solve. Once you have a program ready for implementation, how do you find the time and resources to train a busy staff on how best to use this new program.

I don’t think we have solved this last problem yet.

I am very interested in Discovery Education. I have used this resource for years, I have attended their principal’s conferences and have trained our staff on how to use the program in the classroom. For a time, our school was the only one in our district that had access to Discovery’s Science Techbook.

I have also done work on the Science Techbook revision that has been taking place over the past year.

So, I know this resource and I believe it has a huge amount to offer educators. The problem remains, how do you tell busy teachers and administrators about a resource that could really enhance student learning?

This has been difficult. Sadly, in my former board, they have cut back or possibly eliminated the use of this resource. They have done this for a simple reason – people were not using it.

Again, this is understandable. People are very busy and they really need to take a pause if they are going to learn about new resources and tools for learning. There are so many out there – how are they to choose?

The answer is a simple one but it takes time. Districts need to commit human resources and time to teach people how to use complex digital tools. Putting them out there and expecting something to happen just won’t work. Teachers are simply too busy.

While I am happy to talk to anyone about Discovery Education, I am not getting lots of offers to come in and teach teachers about Discovery. Maybe the best thing for now is to simply blog about Discovery Education.

So, I have set up a new blog Discovery Education In Canada and I plan to post every day on some aspect of Discovery Education and how it can work as an excellent digital resource for teaching and learning.

This is a bit of a challenge as I have to download material from the DE site so that people who are not registered with Discovery can see the material I am referring to.

I have four posts out now and I started on Saturday. No idea if this is going to spread the good news, but if you don’t try you will never know.

So, the experiment begins. I hope you take a moment to look and maybe even share a post or two.

Can Ontario fix its maths curriculum – Not Yet: Response to Greg Ashman

Greg Ashman seems to be one of the few people writing in opposition to the ongoing disaster that is math instruction in Ontario. This week, he wrote another great article on what is not working with math in Ontario – Can Ontario fix its math curriculum.

Great article and really interesting comments. I agree that Ontario’s obsession with Michael Fullan is misplaced and he needs to move on. However, from what I have seen, Fullan is still the hero of the Ontario education scene and he can do no wrong. The solution to the problem of low scores in Ontario is just to train teachers harder in the inquiry-based system. You can get a good sense of this in this recent interview with Dr Mary Reid of OISE http://www.cbc.ca/player/play/1041393219874/

True enough, no one will listen to the critics as we have been marginalized and to speak out against Fullan and the dominant ideology in Ontario is a huge risk to your career in education. As Greg Ashman writes,

There are a few prominent Canadian voices on Twitter but, as far as I can tell, they hold no positions of authority in Canadian education and will be easily marginalised as eccentric, old-fashioned conservatives.

I have felt this way for awhile and as an administrator here in Ottawa, I knew that to publically speak out about the inquiry obsession would have been very unwise from a career perspective. Now as a retired educator I can speak out, but it is not likely that what I write will have any impact.

The trend will continue to be to emphasise inquiry over explicit teaching and results will continue to go down. Senior administrators and ministry officials will continue to drink to constructivist kool-aid because there is little critical thinking going on and school boards demand conformity from their educators and conformity to some really bad thinking is actually the way to guarantee an advancing career for an administrator.

How many years will this silliness continue? How long will we put the blame on teachers who just don’t get inquiry? How long with Ontario’s math curriculum be directed by people who do not need to face its consequences in the classroom?

Thank-you Greg Ashman for your clear perspective on math in Ontario. We can only hope that someone here is listening!

Community Response to Five Ways to Damage a Good School

A week ago, after Doug Peterson’s suggestion, I came up with a brief survey to see if I could gain any more insight into actions that might damage a good school. No survey on Twitter is going to elicit much response. Even so, I have received 10 responses to my survey. The results are summarized here.

To be honest, I don’t know if we moved the discussion much beyond Greg Ashman’s original post. He is provocative and he comes up with excellent points to ponder on a regular basis. He has another post on education and non-conformity and I really want to read this and look for more writing prompts based on his thoughts!

There were a few suggestions that are certainly worth mentioning here from the survey. The one comment that dominates has to do with developing positive relations with staff, students and parents.

Build a community & relationships. If you don’t have positive relationships with your students, then nothing you do in class really matters. The same applies to admin. If you don’t take the time to build relationships with your staff, then it will be difficult to get staff buy in for positive changes.

I agree with this comment. If you do not engender positive relationships with the people you serve and work with, no infusion of educational technology or educational theory will make a wit of difference in your school.

In education, we all seem to love the newest fad or upcoming idea, whether it be social-emotional development, deeper learning, inquiry-based learning, project-based learning – the list goes on and on.

We often fail to see the enduring importance of developing and maintaining a respectful relationship with all the people in our buildings. It is almost as if developing a community of respect and caring is a second-tier idea that should be seen as a given and not worthy of discussion.

I don’t think this is the case and I do believe we need to reexamine how we treat the people we work with.

I have come to a number of schools where administrators didn’t seem to have a clue how to work in a constructive manner with their staff. This lack of ability needs to be addressed because failing to deal with an uncaring attitude can really damage staff members. I have often worked with gifted administrators who truly understood the importance of empowerment and I really think their contributions need to be recognized and celebrated.

I think one reason why the work of George Couros gets so much attention is that he really gets this. Throughout his book, The Innovator’s Mindset, George continually focusses on the importance of developing positive relationships with the people you work with. This is such an essential point it can’t be overemphasized. Everything needs to start with the promise that the administrator will honour and respect the people they work with. If this is the starting point, all manner of innovative and wonderful things can happen at a school.

As we enter another school year, let’s try to remain positive and keep in mind what truly makes for a wonderful school – a group of people who strive to respect, honour and empower every person in their building.

The Importance of Being Civil to Others Part II

Last week my post The Importance of Being Civil to Others was featured on Voice.ed Radio.  A great discussion and thanks to Doug Peterson and Steven Hurley for featuring this post. I think, and they agreed, the discussion needs to go further. In the original post, I mentioned specific situations where we are no longer as civil as we should be, especially in the field of education. I wasn’t writing as much about civility in general society where I agree with Steven, society in Canada is very civil and I appreciate my daily dealings with people.

People can be very civil when you do not upset the status quo when you do civility becomes strained.

I have to admit I like to push the envelope and write about controversial topics like Catholic Education in Ontario and the inability of school boards to bring about significant change. These are topics that need to be written about. At no time do I ever focus on individuals or write in any way that can be seen as disrespectful.

These are topics that seem to bring the knives out.

Several times, mainly on Facebook, I have been called naive and simplistic and people have expressed ‘surprise’ about my posts, especially regarding Catholic Education in Ontario. On Twitter, I have actually been blocked by a member of the senior administration from my former Catholic board.

The blocking might not mean that much, but to me, it is a sign of incivility. Usually, I block the Twitter accounts of trolls and those who do not follow the rules set out by Twitter for inappropriate content.

I never block people who I disagree with, I usually try to engage in positive conversation and if this is not possible, I simply unfollow them. Blocking someone you don’t agree with is cowardly behaviour and I would say lacks civility.

On Facebook, when the conversations threaten to get out of control I simply delete the entire conversation. Sadly, this seems to be the only way to stop people who quickly lose the ability to be polite on-line. The worst offenders tend to be Catholic educators, which I find troubling.

I hope this clarifies my position. Again, thank goodness for my very supportive on-line PLN – all are wonderful and always civil!

31 Days of posting

blog

This week marks my final week in formal education as a principal.  This is my 31st year in education and I retire this Friday.

It is with mixed feelings that I leave, but it is time for new adventures and most importantly, it is time for some reflection.

What have I learned over the past 31 years?  I need to begin the process of sorting that out.

I want to do this through blogging because I find that writing really helps me to clarify my ideas and helps me consolidate my learning.  The pace of the day in our school – in any school is simply too hectic to allow time for proper reflection.

So, starting in the new year (taking a break for Christmas), I will be writing 31 blog posts on some of the things I have learned and am learning about education.  I see this as a great way to begin the process of renewal, by reflecting on what has gone on and what the future holds.

Topics?  Not sure, but I am sure a whole bunch will come to me.  I am open to ideas.  If you can think of something I should write about, let me know and I will give it a go.

For now, here’s to 31 great years and to whatever the future holds!

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Poverty in the schools – we are not all created equal

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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.

Call for Presenters!

Discovery

university of Ottawa

University of Ottawa: Teacher Education Program

“ Minds on Learning for a Digital Age”

September 16 & 17, 2016

Call to Presenters

 

The Teacher Education Program at the University of Ottawa are thrilled to host two days of professional learning that are focused on three goals: Learning, Sharing, and Connecting for a Digital Age.

 

  • Friday, September 16, 2016- 8:30 am -3:30 pm– Professional Learning for Lead Associate Teachers and teacher candidates.
  • Friday, September 16, 2016- 5:30-7:30 pm– Ignite Event
  • Saturday, September 17, 2016- 8:30 am -3:30 pmDay of Discovery presented by Discovery Education

 

We would like to invite you to lead or host a 45 minute-long workshop, presentation, hands on activity or demonstration at the upcoming professional learning event on September 16 and 17, 2016. As a presenter, you will work with groups of educators to explore and share ways to integrate digital media and technology tools into the curriculum and classroom. You might share how you integrate digital media resources into your lessons, share a favorite project or app or anything else you think our attendees would be interested to learn about (like digital citizenship, STEM, Coding…). Your workshop could be done individually, in teams, or in coordination with a community organization.

 

If you are interested, please submit a brief proposal for your presentation by May 31, 2016, by sending an email totcrowe@uottawa.ca with the following information:

 

  • Your name, association, and contact information
  • A short description of the workshop/breakout session you would like to present
  • The teacher division most appropriate for your workshop (Primary/Junior, Junior/Intermediate, Intermediate/Senior, or all)
  • The number of participants will be capped at 30 participants
  • Your technology/room requirements (laptop, smart board, projector, etc)
  • Your availability: (please list all that apply)
    • September 16, 2016- morning or afternoon or both
    • September 16, 2016– Ignite Event
    • September 17, 2016– morning or afternoon or both

If you are interested in presenting at the Day of Discovery event could you also register at Day of Discovery

 

For more information, please contact the symposium planning committee at tcrowe@uottawa.ca.

 

We look forward to hearing from and working with you.

Have a great day.

Tracy Crowe

Directrice adjointe, Assistant Director

Teacher Education

Faculté d’éducation/ Faculty of Education

tracy.crowe@uottawa.ca

Tél. | Tel. : 613-562-5800 (4149)

Téléc | Fax : 613-562-5354
145, Jean-Jacques-Lussier (341)

Ottawa ON Canada K1N 6N5

www.education.uOttawa.ca

 

ECOO 2014 Some of what I learned – part II

I was really struck by the keynote by Ron Canuel.  I have never heard him before, but I could listen to him all day.  What great ideas!

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Here are some of my notes and my thoughts since then -the italics are my comments tonight.

Impressive But not convincing – this was the name of the talk

Technology and integration into the classroom – this was the key point – technology is great, but how is it implemented?  This should be the major challenge for the administrator
If teachers are not on board, nothing happens. Average number of teachers a child will see K-12 is 55. Teachers have an enormous challenge.

You want to move an agenda forward? Surround yourself with people more intelligent and talented than you – to really move things ahead. A good note for all admin

CEA – Transforming Education – research-based , best practices based organization. We do not  base practice on solid research – this is what we need to do. Join us!  Excellent point – what research do we have to know that we are doing the right thing?  What really is effective, what do we really know?

 

Domains that we need to focus on:

Student engagementyes, but what about parent engagement
• Teaching the way we aspire to teach
• Challenges to change – a keynote in itself – covered very well by  George Couros’ keynote on the Friday
• Effective integration of technology into classrooms – what is effective? Nothing worse than bringing tech into the classroom and doing the same old thing.
• Neuroscience and the classroom
Technology that is transformational –

Students and teachers have done great things with chalk, pencil, etc technology is a portal to the imagination – who is on the other side – the student. What an important point!

Tech is not a tool – it is a portal to students – a really good point, we can’t see our new technology as ‘just another tool’ it is so much more than that!

“The more you trust teachers and decrease regulation achievement goes up”  What a great point – do boards listen to this , does the province consider this?

“The role of the teacher is to create the conditions for invention rather than provide ready-made knowledge”
Seymor Papert – this is the basic idea that motivates the work we are  doing on Makerspaces

Constructivism, Technology and the Future of classroom Learning – – quote on change in teaching methods http://ww.alicechristie.org/classes/530/constructivism.pdf
technological changes that have swept through society at large have left the educational system largely unchanged. In the course of 20 years, a dramatic rift has opened between the process of teaching and learning in the schools and the ways of obtaining knowledge in society at large, a rift made obvious by the fact that the process of teaching has not changed substantially, even in the past 100 years everything that you do has to be in moderation – it has to be in balance – 10% effective integration over 90% mindless implementation

Four common strategies from resistors of change: John Kotter Phi Delta Kappa magazine Dec 2010/Jan 2011

• Fear mongering eg. Wifi is harmful
• Death by delay eg. Pilot projects – what happened to that idea? Piloting create a very specific base of teachers trained – what happens when they move? We have to train the base, not jus a specific group of teachers.
• Confusion eg. Media focus
Early adoption – we have to see, how will it transform practice?

Blaming current technology on declining relationships in schools is disingenuous, to say the least – totally agree – technology connects people, helps kids to collaborate

Machines have nothing to do about encouraging positive relationships – this is what the teacher does.

We are in a structure that was created in 1894 and 1895 – designed to mimic the industrial system at the time.  When will we finally act on this and change our structures??

Students value teachers more on who they are than by what they say.

Learning how to think differently is what is important

Are students engaged? Rapid decrease from grade 5 to grade 10 –we need to change this, why are students not engaged – a question for all of us.

No courage = no change

Early adaptors don’t convince mid-adaptors do –what a key point!

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