Monthly Archives: February 2015

Science Squares and Sex Education

punnett3Why is it that everything I seem to be reading in the headlines lately about educators is, well, none too heartening. This story made me guffaw, albeit in a “you’ve got to be kidding me” kind of way. In Henrico County, Virginia, at Harry F. Byrd Middle School, a grade 7 teacher put a new twist on punnet squares. Do  remember punnet squares? Science teachers use them to explain very basic genetics, 101. They look like little tic tac toe boards, except rather than playing with X’s and O’s, physical characteristics are written into the squares to determine the odds of a living organism inheriting certain characteristic. Punnets don’t just apply to humans. They can apply to animals and plants. Anyhoo.

The example I included in the blog shows the genetic contribution from both a mother and father for a child. Let’s assume the B means brown eyes and the b means blue eyes. The punnet results suggest that if these two people have a child, the odds of it having either brown or blue eyes are 50%. The capital B suggests that this trait is dominant and the small b suggests that this trait is (no, not submissive – stop that, you) recessive – that is, where you see the Bb, the child is supposedly destined to have brown eyes, since brown is a dominant colour over blue (at least it is in this punnet).

Of course this is far too simplistic to truly explain the how and why of genetics, but it’s the very beginning step in explaining genetic inheritance to children. This teacher wrote a scenario on a science test for her/his 12-year-old students and included this question:

“One of Opal’s children is born with shocking red hair. Is Orville the father of this child? But wait, Opal swear she has been faithful and claims that the hospital goofed and got her baby mixed with another. Is this a plausible explanation?”

homework4-1Seriously. The teacher might as well have written “Opal had sex with another man and is trying to avoid a divorce by insisting her child was switched with another child at the hospital.” For all intents and purposes (and I don’t really know what the purpose is here – maybe to stir up suspicion in some of the school community’s married families) that is what the teacher presented to her or his students.

Of course it wasn’t long before a parent, Patricia Galvan, contacted the school. “I was appalled, I was very bothered by it. I’m now having to explain to my child about being unfaithful, why do I have to explain that to my 12-year-old?”

Hold on, it gets better. Galvan’s son’s class was given a social studies assignment where they had to research a character from the 1920s and speed date with other class members. The students also had to make a fake profile. Say what? I guess the social studies teacher never heard the names Jeffrey Marsalis or Wade Ridley. So, the teacher’s approach was to first teach children about sexual infidelity, then introduce them to

Maybe the teacher should have used Ashley Madison in the curriculum instead.



And Why School Bus Drivers Shouldn’t Use Facebook

518646041_2_570_411Seriously. It’s all so out of control now (this is sarcasm). Check this article. An Ohio school bus driver’s Facebook photo appears to show her drinking alcohol on the bus, and it’s landed her in serious trouble.  The driver herself of course took the pic and posted it onto her account. She seems to be holding up a bottle of booze and drinking it on the bus when there are no children on board. The thing is, the cap is still on the bottle. I mean seriously, shouldn’t the company overlook the picture and give her a break (more sarcasm)?

One parent commented, “Oh, she doesn’t care. She obviously doesn’t care about her job … Why do you have it there in the first place? It is inappropriate.”

I’m inclined to agree. Maybe the cap is on but if the bottle contains alcohol, why is it on the school bus at all? And in what parallel universe would that driver think this pic would prove amusing? The woman was an employee of First Student Transportation. According to a statement the driver has been “removed from service.”  Here’s a happy thought: FST is the region’s largest school bus operation.

111914_bus_driver_640The sad thing is, the woman is probably a good employee who was a very good driver and kept children very safe during her probably short-term career. But again, this is stupidity in action and the powers that be had no choice but to fire her. She isn’t the only school bus driver to be caught drinking on the job. The picture on the right shows an elderly woman driving a Texas school bus who is enjoying a can of beer as she drives along with popping pills – anti-depressants and painkillers. Kathy Legrand, 61, was arrested and charged with felony DWI after she nearly destroyed the bus with 30 children on board. She hit a curb and a tree. You can’t make this stuff up.

Her explanation to the company as she drove? “My bus is kind of all out of kilter,” said Legrand on her bus radio. Later, she told an official, “Something is going big-time wrong,” she said. It certainly was…in her head.



Keep Music in the Public Education System

Best comment I ever heard about curriculum in all of my career. Currently I teach music, dance and drama to 355 children in my school and have been for five years. I completed grade 9 classical piano with the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto when I bnlwas 17. Quit after that, got bored. My parents – the opposite of most families where music and education is concerned – weren’t pleased. I have no regrets. Ultimately they were right to insist I continue to learn piano long after I hated practicing. It got me a job.

That’s the issue with public education and music. During the Mike Harris years in Ontario when Snobelen was the Dreaded Minister of Education  (and just about destroyed the system in Ontario), the Juno awards took place on television. At that time the Barenaked Ladies actually won a Juno – not so much because they are talented, which is questionable, but because of their long-standing success insofar as Canadian pop bands are concerned. (Pop? Rock? What do they call themselves, one wonders). The best comment that the band ever released was during that award night. It was Steven Page, still with the band at that time before his crack cocaine habit (it wasn’t straight cocaine, it was actually crack), eroded his music performance, who stepped up to the microphone and stated, “everyone here has become successful in music because of our high school education in music. Keep music in the public education system.” Sadly his music education and professional success wasn’t enough to prevent Page from developing a drug habit but the legitimacy of his perspective is undeniable.

It was a deliberate political statement. Financial cutbacks to the Ontario education system were at an all-time high and schools were suffering. Usually the first subjects to receive the least amount of funding and qualified teachers are the fine arts. Teachers who had been hired specifically to teach music – such as myself – found themselves back in regular classrooms. Schools could no longer justify paying a teacher’s salary simply to teach the arts. Page didn’t have to point fingers at Snobelen or Harris. His quiet statement was a powerful one. Whether or not it had an impact on the powers that be in the province, who knows. But music never did leave the curriculum and hopefully never will.

It’s parent-teacher interview night. I have zero interviews but I intend to remain at school as late as everyone else in the hopes that somebody would like to discuss a child’s progress in music. You never know what the future holds.