This Gives New Meaning to No Child Left Behind

Catoosa, Oklahoma. Just when you think you’ve heard every stupid stunt you can possibly hear, there comes another one that blows them all away. I’m sure many of you have seen the write-up about the Wells Middle School school teacher who put two students in the trunk of her car so she could take them “on a snack run” to the local Wal-Mart. It was the last snack run this teacher would ever take with a student. What happened was this:

Catoosa_teacher_admits_to_allowing_kids__2375120000_11333878_ver1_0_640_480The teacher decided to take 11 students in her Honda Accord. There were no other adults present. This is always a bad idea. False sexual allegations come out of such situations, whether a teacher is alone with a student or has several with him or her. That’s stupid move number one. Then she decided to illegally crowd her car with more students than there were seats and seatbelts. Stupid move number two. Finally, in a creative effort to uphold the “No Child Left Behind” act, she placed two students in the trunk of her overcrowded car. Student move number three. But wait, there’s more. She left two other students behind, whether they were supervised or not I can’t say, but I doubt it.

After she was reported for the incident, she offered a tearful apology to the school community. Naturally the school board voted to fire her, 4 – 1, as would I. There are some things a teacher does that are so inane as to be beyond a mere reprimand. The grand mother of one child in the trunk certainly felt that way.

“I would go to jail [for putting children in the trunk of her car]. They’d have DHS at my house!”

One of the concerns was that the children could have been hurt had there been an accident. However I don’t know about the teacher doing jail time, since there wasn’t a fatal accident and the children are okay. I know you’re thinking, “so, that’s not the point!” But it is. The teacher and the student got lucky. There was no accident and everyone returned from Wal-Mart in one piece.

I think firing the teacher was a good move. I don’t think putting her in jail is necessary. I’d like to think she’s learned her lesson (it’s all about the lessons with teachers) and, accordingly, she will think twice before stashing children in the trunk of her Accord.


Good School, Bad School

I’m taking my first course just now towards my doctorate degree in Educational Administration. It’s actually pretty easy stuff. The writings are scholarly (no surprise there) successbut not difficult to figure out after I re-read parts of them once or twice. What interested me were our readings this week about what makes a good school versus a bad school. I heard all these lovely sentiments in class discussions. Then I read the articles and I liked them a lot more than the input from my colleagues. Why? Because there is no way a person can define in simple, clear terms what a good school is in one sentence or less. No one. And the articles don’t attempt to do that.

In fact one of the articles stated it is almost impossible to define what a good schools is and it is much easier to define what it isn’t. The articles I read were written within different theoretical frameworks of course but I expected that at this level. That doesn’t mean I have to agree with them. One of the most interesting articles was the application of neoliberalism to local schools and Ontario education. Neoliberalism. You gotta love that word. I still don’t know what the heck it means but I know what it defines.

Neoliberalism is a view of the education system in light of the province’s social economy, privatization, and in particular, powerful politic influences that occasionally impose educational reform on the province. It states that politicians pretty much dictate how our education system is going to look since they formulate curriculum and provide funding to deliver that curriculum. The budget has to account for various expenditures that generally reflect the curriculum at work in the schools, so I’m inclined to agree that it is the powers that be that create both good schools and bad schools.

The framework states that politics determines funding for schools and how much schools bag_of_moneyneed to turn to the school community for financial assistance. For instance, when Mike Harris, the evil Conservative, cut $50 million dollars from the special education budget over 4 years of his first term in office, a lot of children in need of special services suffered. The cut affected such issues as purchasing assistive devices (eg. special computers), reduced the number of teacher assistants to help children to learn and remain in the classroom (inclusion), and it increased the number of special needs students who worked with special education teachers. This is a problem because the whole point of withdrawing children from class (exclusion) is to have them work in small groups, thereby receiving more teacher attention. When class sizes increased and the hiring of teachers froze, these groups became much larger and tutoring all but vanished. These are direct results of the social economy affecting education.

Turning to outside agencies for financial assistance is another. Selling chocolates door to door, gaining sponsorship from sports shops for softball or basketball teams, and ordering bulk pizzas for pizza days at reduced prices with a local pizza restaurant are all examples of external agencies that are very necessary to help fund school activities. There’s nothing wrong with community involvement in schools. In fact, it’s vital and provides a great experience for the children. But the need for financial donations and support from the community arose from the severe cuts in educational funding that began in Canada between 1978 – 1982.  Government withdrew significant financial funding for schools and left schools to work with capital enterprise in order to keep afloat.

booksThis is the system neoliberalism doesn’t like much. The theory states it is biased and, depending on the poverty or wealth of a school community, there is great inequality in funding for schools in different regions. That makes a lot of sense. Low-income neighborhoods are not able to donate money or purchase goods from schools to the same profit as schools in high-income neighborhoods. Is this a disadvantage for low-income school communities? You bet.

The powers that be determine how financially profitable a school will be during a given academic year. The “profit”, btw, is directed back into the schools. Money from pizza lunches and bake sales purchase text books and technology. No one pockets a fatty paycheck. Not unless you’re a crook. Neoliberalism is all about the capital market that discriminates against the many and benefits the few. It sounds quite Marxist, doesn’t it? And that, of course, is the next article on the itinerary.


3 Reasons Why School Becomes Undesirable

Here’s a great blog explaining 3 reasons why your child is reluctant to attend school and may be “skipping” school.

Report Cards are a Test of Parenting Skills, not just Your Child’s Progress

It was the second last day of school when an irate mother stood in the hallways of our elementary school, confronting one of the best teachers I have ever met about his “lack of communication” with her. She was incensed that her daughter had received “Cs” in language arts and she hadn’t seen this coming. Why hadn’t he told her? The teacher calmly replied that the work had been going home throughout the year and didn’t she see for herself how her child was doing? The mother ignored this of course. It wasn’t her fault. It wasn’t her child’s fault. It was his. Blame the teacher.

The first thing everyone does when they look at a report card is to flip out when they see a grade or a comment they don’t like. Sometimes, as in the example above, the anger is directed at the teacher (foolish). Worse, sometimes it’s directed at the angry-woman-Manaschild (really foolish). I had an interview two parents of a wonderful little girl who had a B+ average, probably the highest average any child will get in elementary school nowadays. The grading system is different when we were growing up. We don’t give A’s when a child does the assigned work perfectly well. This is the provincial standard and an expectation of our students. A’s belong to children who function beyond the curriculum, who clearly bring more to their learning than necessary for that grade level.

This mother ranted and nearly yelled and cried, red-faced, accusing, at me and the other the classroom teacher. She was furious that her child wasn’t getting better grades. The whole time the little girl sat silently, witnessing her mother’s tirade. Wonderful motivation. Interesting how responsibility is never directed where it belongs – at the parents, the judges of the report cards. Why is this the case? Let me explain.

If you have a child in elementary school, being grades 1 – 8, your child needs great guidance in how to learn, when and how to do homework, learning the importance of learning and not just for the grades. You, the parent, are fully responsible for this. Yes you would think your child, by grade 6 or 7, would have a grasp on this and simply do the homework. If your child is reasonably mature, obedient to you and your rules, and if you have done your job well and your child has learned self-discipline and the importance of homework, your child will settle in and get the homework done every evening. If your child is immature, disobedient towards you and your rules, and if you have not done your job well and your child has not learned self-discipline and the importance of homework, then you will have to continue a highly structsuccessured homework routine in your household in order to get it done. Yes these are harsh words and yes, many of you need to read them.

Homework is a significant factor in getting good grades. It is a great way to establish communication between family and school. What better way to know what your child is learning in school than to examine nad participate in the homework? What better way to demonstrate your sincerity in assisting your child’s academic success than to supervise and help your child with homework? So what you’re tired? So what you’ve had a long day? So has your child.  That’s one reason why children are called a sacrifice. If you aren’t willing to make that sacrifice then don’t have kids. Now get on with it and help him/her get the homework done.

Some parents work two jobs and aren’t home to help their child with homework. This is very difficult. In that case your child might have an older sibling who can help him/her with homework. No? Then hire a teenager in your neighbourhood, or a kid from the local high school, to work with your child. They don’t cost much. Work out what you can pay, say, $10 an hour, or less if you’re lucky. It’s good work experience for a teenager’s resume and you have peace of mind knowing your child will get the work done.

teacherThe teacher does her or his job – material gathering, lesson planning, teaching, classroom management (that means telling your child to settle down and pay attention and yes, your child is one of the disruptive ones now and then), grading papers and projects, supervising work groups, communicating with you whenever there are concerns on either your part or the teacher’s, attending professional workshops to keep skills current, enrolling in further university degrees to increase knowledge, and much more. Full load, right? And so it should be. That’s our job. Your job is to raise your child. Along with that responsibility comes teaching your child how to be in school and how to manage homework. Before you get the “dreaded” report card in your hands and start spewing fire at the school, the teacher, and your child, consider these tips:

  1. Have ongoing communication with your child’s teacher about his or her success. If you have concerns about a particular subject, behaviour, bullying, family issues that could be affecting learning, anything else that affects your child at school and at home, it is YOUR responsibility to take control over the situation. The teacher doesn’t know if you just lost your job or there is a sick person in the family. These are serious issues that are affecting you and therefore your child. Does that affect learning? You bet it does.
  2. Establish a homework routine for your child. This video deals with high school but is applicable to children in all grades. Every day after school your child needs ME time to recuperate from a long day of listening and learning, just like you do after a long day at work. Let your child play video games, go outside, visit a friend, have a snack, etc. After there is at least an hour’s break get the homework started and if you’re lucky, it might even get finished. Depending on the amount your child has, it might not. It might have to be broken into sections where some homework is done before dinner and some is done afterward. This is perfectly acceptable.
  3. Are you having difficulty establishing a homework routine? Search for ideas on Youtube, ask the classroom teacher for ideas, chat with your friends and see what they do at home. You’re not in this alone, including at home. Whatever you do, do not make rewards an incentive for homework completion. Homework is a given in the household, just as picking up the clothes off the floor, making the bed and going to bed on time. Negotiation about when homework will be done and who will help your child is fine. Rewards for doing homework is not. Try these ideas:
    don’t do homework in the bedroom or in front of the TV. designate a special area for homework, complete with a table or desk and table lamp, as well as needed school supplies.
    – have a minute timer or a regular clock on your child’s desk. Set the timer by short intervals for young children. They will need a break probably every 10 minutes. Longer work periods and fewer breaks is okay for older kids.
    – go through the homework with your child to determine what your child understands and what s/he is finding difficult. Sit with your child for the difficult work and assist him/her. If you are the impatient type, do your child a favour and skip this step. Find someone else to help your child with homework.
    lay out the required work in front of your child. Place a math book, and a language arts book on the table/desk. Open the books to the homework and discuss the length of the work with the child. Make sure your child has a visual reference and knows when s/he is done. The visual can be helpful in maintaining focus. Simply thinking “I have homework” is too abstract for some children.
  4. Consider acceptinbooksg help from the school social worker. You might be in a difficult situation where parenting your child on your own, or with a partner, is challenging. This can happen for many reasons, none of which may be “your fault.” There could be issues in your child’s character that are beyond your control and are seriously affecting both his/her school success and sense of well-being. We don’t want to place blame. We  don’t look for reasons to think you are a bad parent, even though we know that’s what is worrying you. We want to help you get your family on track so your child can succeed at school. Social services are a vital service and exist because they are necessary. The social worker is there for you. Use him/her.
  5. Contact the teacher if you have concerns about the amount of homework your child is doing. If your child is completing more than a half hour an evening from grades 1 – 2, that is too much. From grades 3 – 4 about 45 minutes an evening is reasonable. The amount a child can handle increases by approximately 5 – 10 minutes per grade thereafter. School isn’t all about homework. If your child isn’t getting most of the work done at school you need to know why. There should be ample time to get most academic work done during the school day. Personally I’m not a fan of homework assignment for the sake of assigning homework. I send home whatever isn’t getting done in class or the work I can see the child is struggling with and needs to practice. For instance, multiplication tables are difficult to learn for grade 3 children. When a parent or sibling is willing to drill the child and make it into a game, that is very helpful for the child in learning answers.
  6. Boy-ReadingContact the administrator if you have serious issues with the teacher. If the teacher isn’t responsive to your phone calls and notes, if your child is telling you s/he feels intimidated by the teacher and isn’t willing to ask for help. First start with the classroom teacher. Don’t accuse and yell. You’d be surprised how often your child is lying to you because s/he has been put on the spot at home about a poor grade. You’d be surprised how often your child refuses to utilize classroom time to its fullest even when you and the teacher are communicating about his/her learning  behaviour. If you don’t like what you are hearing from the teacher, by all means, speak to the principal.

We are a partnership – child, parents, school community and teachers. It takes a village to raise a child and it takes a village to educate a child. Your child is one of the many in our village. We want to help you. We want your child to succeed. We want your child to feel good about him/herself, learn social skills and teamwork, and take pride in his/her school accomplishments, in other words to build a solid character in the community. Along with academic achievement, this is the main point of being in school. And when that happens, there are no “nasty” surprises on the report card; when it doesn’t happen, rest assured there is no one to point fingers at except yourself.





A Traitor Amongst Us

My administrator, the boss of me, us and the whole school, has turned on us. Unbeknownst to me until this afternoon, I discovered this principal who works with all of us, teachers, whom Hudak hates (see my previous blog), is VOTING PC!  I can’t believe that.  He knows the consequences for his colleagues:

  • merit pay
  • lack of pension funds
  • much larger class sizes
  • budget cuts in various areas of education, such as special education
  • cutting 19,000 teacher assistant jobs

Merit Pay
This is an American thing, a terrible system whereby a teacher’s salary reflects the overall grade point average in his or her school. Qualifications, seniority, pay grids, none of it has anything to do with our salaries. That means that children who are very low academically, and those who have special needs, will also contribute to my salary. It won’t matter that we work our lives out to help these children to succeed and close the gap between those who earn provincial standard grades and those who don’t. Our merit stems only from the outcome with student learning. I realize that sounds reasonable to those of you who have no concept of teaching, and who have a child who probably isn’t the best in the bunch in terms of achievement. Here is the reality of it: if I teach in a community of overachievers who have big plans for their kids, and people who are quite affluent, you can bet your bottom dollar (which is where ours will be if this teachermerit pay comes to pass – god forbid), then my salary will be considerably higher than if I teach where I currently am teaching, in a high needs community that struggles with crime and often has Children’s Services involved with its families. Does that seem fair to you? Would you work for merit pay with your company? If your corporation is significantly down in the second quarter would you expect to be paid significantly less? Didn’t think so.

Lack of Pension Funds
Our pension is the same as anyone with a union – 10% of our overall salary. It’s a decent pension. For those of you without one, you can always invest in an RRSP using 10% of your salary. Hudak wants to cut our pensions significantly. We’d be lucky to get 5% of our salaries now. This is for no reason other than pouring every dollar into big business and tax write-offs for corporations. Not for you, the individual. For business, many of whom are firing a lot of good employees even as you read and I blog somewhere. I refuse to be a Walmart greeter when I turn 60. And before you say, well get your own RRSP, that will be difficult to do when I’m working for merit pay. I really would appreciate keeping my medical coverage and living just above the rate of inflation. That would be great, especially considering how much money I have to spend on supplies for my classroom due to that non-existent budget in our school.

Class Sizes
They will increase by at least 8 – 10 children. There is no cap on Kindergarten class size as of successnow. Most of the teachers in our school have up to 29 or 30 four and five-year old children in their rooms. Standing room only. Somehow they manage to get every child in the room to do academic work. They refuse to simply offer a “play-based” curriculum, as established by Mrs. Dalton McGuinty. Her plan was to allow the children to play all day, without attempting any written or somehow applied academics. Art, perhaps. Storytime, most likely. But that’s all the kids are supposed to get from Kindergarten.Yes I know McGuinty was a liberal, but there are some issues I disagree with in my party. Shocker. Now add about another 10 four and five-year olds into the classroom. We’ll be lucky if children don’t get hurt. Not only that, but children in all grades will get far less attention and assistance from the teacher. There will be 40 of them and 1 of her. Good luck with that.

Budget Cuts
You remember how Snobelen (Mike Harris’ choice for Education Minister) slashed the Special Education budget by $50 million. You may remember Snobelen’s comment to a reporter before the mess he and Harris made of this province. Snobelen’s comment was “we plan to do a lot to curb the crisis in education.” The reporter replied, “what crisis? There is none.” Snobelen’s answer was gold: “Then we’re going to make one.”You find that back_to_schooloutrageous?  Hudak will make Snobelen and Harris look like boy scouts. A severe budget cut means less supplies, textbooks, assistive devices and just less of everything for the kids. Think about that if you will.

And this is the party my principal is voting for. Why? Because he is a sneaky guy who is all about the bucks. Administrators do not have a union. They were exiled from OECTA and the OTF eons ago. What have they got to lose? We have a huge budget for supplies this year but he refused to allow us to use it. We got maybe half of what we were entitled to which was a whopping $400.00 for the year. This isn’t money in our pockets. This is strictly classroom and school investment. One thing I will say about our administrator: he certainly doesn’t care about the financial, psychological or educational effects of the PC party in our school. And if he isn’t with us, he’s against us. Not the wisest move to pull on his own staff.

Job Losses
19,000 teacher assistant jobs will be cut over the next four years if Hudak pollutes this province with his politics. In the previous link, watch Hudak trying to sidestep his own campaign about job generation. What a turd. There will be no qualified Kindergarten teachers anymore. There will only be Education Resource Workers (ERW) teachers educating your children. They have never been to teacher’s college. They have no formal university degree. They have no experience teaching an entire classroom of children. They do not know the Ontario curriculum for Kindergarten. Some of these ERWs will probably do a decent job however they aren’t trained in how to observe, assess and evaluate children. Teachers have taken years of this in order to give your child a fair and accurate grade. Don’t forget. These hard-working but unqualified people will be trying to manage 30 – 40 children in the same room without an assistant.

Impose Extra-Curricular Activities
All extra-curricular activities are already covered in the Ontario curriculum. Let’s say your son or daughter likes to play soccer and wants a soccer team at school. Soccer and other ball sports are are already in the physical education program. Imposing means hours and hours or more overtime without receiving a penny, something we do anyway marking, planning, preparing our lessons. Would you work for 14 – 20 hours of unpaid overtime a week? Didn’t booksthink so. Schools already provide wonderful extra-curricular programs. Some teachers lead extra-curriculars for 20 – 30 years, or the duration of their careers. Why? Because they love to do it and they want to present their children with the opportunity to experience teamwork. Hudak, like Harris, is good at making it seem as though teachers don’t care enough about their students as it is. However it would appear that 37% of the idiot voting body have already thrown the baby out with the bath water. To those who vote for Hudak: when we slip into another recession, when you lose your job due to budget cuts in your corporation, when your child is barely making passing grades because of class size and a lack of assistance from the classroom teacher, just remember: you’re the one who voted PC. Not happy with any of the candidates? Fine. Get off thte couch go to the voting polls and SPOIL your ballot. At the very least exercise your right to vote. If we’re going to lose humanity with the PC government (on a worst case scenario), at least keep democracy somewhere in the picture. You give Kudak the opportunity to turn Ontario into the dictatorship he envisions, he’ll move faster than Hitler grabbed the mantle from the dying German Prime Minister and imposed Facism on Germany for 8 years. Don’t snort. It’s happened there, why not here?





Holy Houdac Horrors, Batman!

40 years of faulty wiring

I hate Tim Hudac. Who? Hudak is the idiot running for Ontario Premiere as a representative of the equally idiotic Ontario Conservative Party  in a neck and neck race against Kathleen Wynn, the representative of the Ontario Liberal Party. Hudak frightens me on so many levels. In the mid-1990s, when Mike Harris butchered the province’s funding, damaged the education system with by cutting 50 million dollars in funding, made the medical establishment work about 20 hours overtime unpaid without enough doctors for people who were placed on wait-lists for a year or more, and messed up a number of infrastructures in law enforcement, that was bad. It was the darkest time in Ontario’s political history. Jobs were cut in both public and private sectors. Of course being a corporate kiss-ass (that, after all is that the Conservatives are about), he made life for corporations and profiteers as cushy as…

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Gangster’s Wife

Some months ago a mother arrived at our school to pick her up child. Her husband, apparently, is a gang member in the area. This is no surprise considering the school community is a high needs area. Gangs aren’t common but they aren’t rare. Drugs are rampant. “Parties“, that is to say people packing into a small house and dealing and buying drugs all night, are fairly common. Two years ago, a gorgeous mother of two nice little girls in our school was shot execution style in the back of her head the Sunday before the school returned to school after the Christmas break. It was a drug deal gone wrong. Her children and their story were in all the local newspapers. This was a horror even for our community. But it happens.

So when this mother showed up to pick up her son in a lovely t-shirt saying “gangster’s wife”, it wa600full-my-wife-is-a-gangster-2-screenshotsn’t a surprise. But it was vulgar.  Let me be a little clearer. It didn’t state “gangster” exactly. It actually said the name of the gang although I can’t remember what it said. I shall offer the Cripps as an example because they are so well-known. In that case her t-shirt would have said “Cripp’s Wife“. Lovely. It made me look twice. I mean, it’s one thing to have a spouse who is in a gang and another entirely to advertise it. Why would anyone do that?

The shirt told me a lot of things about this family. Two words and I could read everything I needed to know about her son, her, and her husband:

  1. School will never be a priority
  2. Her son is a handful in the school and constantly in trouble
  3. Every family member exhibits several morally and ethically inappropriate behaviours

The thing about gangsters is they make their own rules. School rules? Ha. Everyone else is expected to acquiesce to these families or they will make a lot of noise and even contact the superintendent of schools to make ridiculous complaints. Gangster and criminal families threaten teachers with making complaints to the Ontario College of Teachers rather frequently. Of course, the issues are so ridiculous that it is highly unlikely the College would even seriously consider the complaint, never mind find in the family’s favour.

You know what kills me about this? They don’t get it. They truly don’t understand that exaggerating a school sigangster-smokingtuation (or outright lying which is done fairly often) is not going to grant them the “closure” they are seeking. They won’t get what they want. Sanity will prevail (so far as I have heard thank God) and eventually the complaint will be quashed and school life returns to normal. I’m not talking about families who make frightening, false accusations against teachers and their support staff. That stuff is murderous to a reputation and about 82% of the time, completely false.

I’m referring to parents who are annoyed that their child isn’t allowed to bring a switch blade to school “just for fun.” Naturally she won’t use it. It’s just to show off (in other words, intimidate other kids). Parents are annoyed when their kids can’t wear do-rags or gang colours or nasty slogans on their t-shirts. I’m not kidding. They send their sons to school in what I crudely call “wife-beaters”, those undershirts that gap away from the child’s shoulders and underarms. Gross. I make the kids put on a sweater or jacket. I don’t know what anyone else does but I won’t allow that kind of clothing in my classroom.

When I see a “gangster’s wife” emblazoned proudly across a woman’s chest, I know we’re in for a tough go with the child in this particular class. And maybe the child’s behaviour will affect the rest of the school. Personally I don’t believe troubled children who hail from such dysgangster kidfunctional backgroundsshould be permitted into the mainstream school system. They are intimidating. They bully other kids. They disrespect education and teachers. Why be here then? Send them to a behavioural school with specialists who are trained in dealing with severe emotional and behavioural needs. Mainstream, regular schools cannot deal with that type of behaviour. Most classroom teachers who have never taught in a behaviour specialist role do not know how to discipline and set boundaries successfully for these students. When this type of family allows their daughter or son to attend a special school, the kid wins (she or he can finally begin to learn and to make friends), the staff wins (specialists are very skilled at setting up formal behaviour programs and involving the family), the parents win (very few complaints anymore since the negative behaviour is usually dealt with internally in behavioural schools).

But I don’t expect “gangster’s wife” to understand that. Instead, she wants us to bend the rules for her daughter and ignore everyone else’s needs and concerns. And if that terrible day happens in our schools, it’s time to get out of teaching and look for work where I can feel safe in my work environment and respected by the people around me.


False Allegations and Teacher Vulnerability

So it finally happened. I was falsely accused of committing a physical assault against a student by a different student who insisted that last week, for no particular reason, I:

  1. hit this student in the head
  2. grabbed him by the front of his shirt
  3. pulled him out of his seat and
  4. put him firmly into another chair

scared womanRiiiiight. At first he said his friend had told him that. I looked at the friend in front of the class and asked him if this was true. No, said the friend, but my accuser kept nodding. I asked the class if they had witnessed this assault. All 29 of them shook their heads and I heard a few whispered “no‘s”. They looked like deer in headlights.

Down to the principal’s office we went. At first the child said he hadn’t seen it, then he had, then he hadn’t because he had his back turned and was sharpening his pencil. If that doesn’t border on pathological lying (or is pathological lying) I don’t know what does. The thing about this kid is he is a nice kid. He’s never caused problems for me or any other teacher. I was aghast that such an accusation was made against me and particularly from a nice, quiet kid. Now for the first time I get what Churchill meant when he said, “keep your friends close and your enemies closer.” I believe this was stated earlier in history by Aesop:Know thine enemy.”  I don’t want to think of the study body as the enemy. I always thought of us as partners in their learning. Now I must be on my guard when I am teaching, a job I thoroughly enjoy and still love. A shame.

This child’s mother arrived at the school later in the day (I was not in attendance). The principal explained this didn’t happen. It was a lie. I don’t know if the mother chose to believe this or not. She didn’t defend him and she didn’t chastise him. I suspect there will be no consequence for this behaviour and that’s precisely what is wrong in the teaching system and the kind of power families have over us (as I mentioned in the previous blog).

I spoke to panic disorder picmy OECTA rep about the situation, distraught as I was. Belinda told me that had the mother wished to pursue the matter Children’s Aid would have been called to the school and I would have automatically been suspended with pay. Seriously. For doing NOTHING. During this suspension CAS would supposedly conduct an investigation, but this can take weeks and weeks. They’re busy, you know. They have better things to do.

When the CAS finishes its investigation there would have been 1 of 2 outcomes:

CAS would determine that the likelihood that the incident occurred was improbable
CAS would determine that the likelihood that the incident occurred was probable

Had the latter been the case I would have remained on suspension with pay. Ah, but that’s not all. Then I would have been brought before the Ontario College of Teachers (OCT) for a formal disciplinary hearing. No joke. And this would go into my professional file with the College and with the school board. Even though the entire time I WAS INNOCENT! You have to wonder what goes on in people’s minds when they believe an outrageous accusation such as this one. When a child is the only one confirming that a teacher committed a questionable or outrageous act, and no other student agrees, nor does another teacher in attendance, shouldn’t that raise a red flag for a parent? Thankfully in this case, it did.

bag_of_moneyIn this business you are guilty until proven innocent and the only people interested in proving a teacher innocent is the teacher and the teacher’s union. The school may or may not support the teacher but it bears no weight on the final outcome. Had I been suspended with pay over this false allegation I can promise you one thing: my next move during the suspension would be to secure a lawyer and file a grievance against the family for defamation of character. I’d make sure I got my legal fees paid, at the very least. It wouldn’t be so much that I wanted financial retribution from this family (money always talks) it would be a warning to them and other families in our school community: think twice before you pursue an accusation against a teacher.

The Lunatics have Taken Over the Asylum…

It’s been ongoing for many years. The mainstream school system protects outrageous student behaviour and disciplines teachers’ reasonable responses to this behaviour. Let me explain.

successThere is a child in one of my classes named X (obviously not his real name). X is spoiled at home beyond belief. Whenever he commits an outrageous act against a teacher he ventures home to tell his mother that the teacher is picking on him for no reason. The mother then phones the school and screams at the principal for a good half hour or so. Sometimes she insists she doesn’t want her son in that teacher’s class anymore (oh happy day).

Let me describe the behaviour (no doubt it wasn’t delivered truthfully to Mother Dearest). X began my lesson with sarcastic comments about me and the subject I had arrived to teach. My response was to tell him this was unacceptable and he was to go to the principal’s office with work to do to keep him occupied. Not only did he throw a sarcastic insult at me as he left the room, he stood in the hallway after I closed the door, giving me the finger several times and snickering at the class as he looked through the window. I heard him explaining why he was in the hallway, yelling loudly “because of my stupid teacher!”

panic disorder picOne would presume his behaviour would be dealt with quite severely. A suspension perhaps. Move for an expulsion, since this behaviour has been ongoing for three years with various teachers. Nope. Not with this kid. His family claims he has Aspberger’s syndrome (a form of autism). This is their wild card, their ace in the pocket so to speak. When the principal moves to suspend the student (he has on 2 previous occasions), the family appeals this consequence based on X’s diagnosis. If this child suffers from Aspberger’s, the system won’t touch him.

Why? It’s a legality. Any child with any type of neurological disorder must be accommodated by the school no matter how outrageous the behaviour. The home supports his antics and his temper tantrums. They believe firmly that their child is innocent of all accusations by the school and that he is the unfortunate victim of a critical school system. Personally, I think this child should be directed into a behavioural school. Alas, such a move isn’t possible with any child in the province of Ontario, with the exception of children who commit assaults or other criminal acts within school, or on school property.

Suspending these children can be very difficult. All the family has to do is whisper “autism” or “Aspbergers” no matter how high functioning the child is, or that the child knows right from wrong, and the school will lose a legal battle. Once the family appeals a suspension based on anything to do with ADHD, ODD, CDD, Autism, and other disorders, the school has been trumped.

It’s a matter of time before X does begin assaulting teachers and students. Hopefully, police will be called and the legal system will get involved. JAIL-BARS--I-TRIED-TO-CREATE--psd24339It isn’t just for the school, the educators and the other students. This child needs guidance in his life or eventually he is going to enter the juvenile prison system. At that point in time however his family will still be claiming their precious son is not at fault. This time it won’t be a school that is picking on him unfairly. It will be the community and the harsh criminal laws he is obliged to follow. They will use the Aspberger’s defence in court. It is highly unlikely this will save him from a prison jumpsuit and a jail sentence, at least, not after enough criminal acts.

This is another role educators play in shaping a child’s behaviour. The idea is to keep children from choosing a self-destructive role in life. Unfortunately, the parents of such children don’t get it. They are running the asylum (the Education Act, not the schools). It’s a losing battle all around.

Attending a Catholic School and Avoiding Catholic Teachings

This one comes straight out of the archives of Monty Python: and now for something completely different. Let me get this straight:

  1. a father wants his non-Catholic son to attend a Catholic school
  2. he wants his son exempt from Roman Catholic religious studies and “activities” (including liturgies and religious retreats)

booksThose are the facts thus far. A writer named Davide Mastracci agrees with this Brampton father, that is, that non-Catholic children have the right to attend a Catholic school yet not attend Catholic faith-based courses. My question to this father and to Mastracci is very simple: if a person wishes to have a non-religious public school education, why attend a Catholic school? Doesn’t one rather cancel out the other? Has the public school system gone crazy or is it just me and my outdated Catholic education beliefs?

There is a hidden agenda on the part of this Brampton father, Oliver Erazo. He isn’t supportive of the public school system. He has issues with it or his kid would be attending a public school. Nope, he doesn’t like the public school system so he sends his son to a Catholic school, not due to support of the Catholic mandate (clearly) but because this man is side-stepping an issue with the public school board he hasn’t yet revealed. I can’t wait to hear that one. The Erazos are fortunate to live in a community and a country that offers two publicly funded school systems, private schools, distance education and the right to home-school your child. Pick one of those. Stop being such a thorn in the crown…oops, I meant the side, where the lance went….oops, I meant, well now I don’t know what I meant. Silly me. I must stop letting my Catholic faith interfere with my religious beliefs.

01_05_09_specialHopefully Catholic schools embrace the Catholic faith far more than through “courses” and “activities“, as has always been my experience as a Roman Catholic student and now, as a Roman Catholic teacher. For instance here are just a few of the “activities” that help to enhance the faith-based foundation of the elementary separate school system:

  1. Monthly awards for children who demonstrate one of the Catholic virtues: faith, hope, love, acceptance, and so on.
  2. Pageants and ceremonies (Christmas pageant, Easter stations of the cross).
  3. Ongoing masses reflecting the religious calendar.
  4. World-renowned speakers and performers attending Catholic schools to demonstrate their manner of celebrating the Catholic faith.
  5. Morning announcements that include prayer, a reading from the bible and an interpretation of its meaning.
  6.  Continued reiteration and reminders to children during the day about how we use our Catholic faith as we interact with one another.
  7. We teach not only academics but also a conscience based on the tenets Jesus Christ brought to this earth.
  8. As teachers we strive to function as exemplars of our faith in and outside the classroom and school.
  9. A spirit of faith and Christianity that permeates the school.
  10. Religious retreats – you know, the kind the Erazos are kicking up such a fuss about.

JesusChristcopy-1In Canada, the term separate school refers to a particular type of school that has constitutional status in three provinces (Ontario, Alberta and Saskatchewan) and statutory status in three territories (Northwest Territories, Yukon Territory and Nunavut). In these Canadian jurisdictions a separate school is one operated by a civil authority, being a separate school board, with a mandate enshrined in the Canadian Constitution or in federal statutes. This mandate manifests itself in the Program of Studies and the curriculum, exercises and practices, and staffing.  It is to provide education in a school setting that the separate school board considers reflective of Roman Catholic (or, rarely, Protestant) theology, doctrine, and practices. Do you get it Mastracci?

bag_of_moneyI love the argument that all taxpayers fund public schools as well as Catholic schools. It would seem to be that non-Catholic students attend Catholic schools, ergo, non-Catholic taxpayers are funding schools that educate non-Catholic kids. Listen, there’s always seven other provinces to choose from if you want to attend a Catholic school and slip in under the religious enrollment radar.

This isn’t about a Brampton father seeking rights for his non-Catholic son to attend a Catholic school yet be exempt from the teachings of the Catholic faith. This goes way beyond this single incident and that’s what scares me. Should the powers that be agree with this father then this case sets a precedent in Catholic schools: you may attend our religious institution but if you don’t want to enroll in our religious courses and practice our religious faith, that’s okay with us.

Look at the public school system today. What’s a Christmas tree? (community tree). What’s an Easter egg?  (spring sphere). What’s a Christmas carol? (no 0ne knows anymore – public school classes aren’t allowed to sing them and besides they forget the words). What’s Halloween? (orange and black day). I don’t know if kids are allowed to wear a crucifix in public schools but I do know that Sikh children carry kirpans.

alphabetchalkboard1The public school system and our communities in Ontario generally have lost the right to celebrate Jesus Christ and Christianity, even though it has been a practice in Ontario almost since the beginning of the education system itself. Are we now going to allow non-Catholics to start eroding our rights within our schools? God, I pray that isn’t the case. And there’s an ulterior motive with Oliver Erazo. It’s not just that he wants Jonathan to be exempted from Catholic studies, he wants the school to babysit him. Really? At 16 (grade 11), isn’t Jonathan legally old enough to look after himself at home? Erazo’s lawyer summed it up as such: “The perfect solution, at the end of the day, would be if there’s supervision for Jonathan to go to either the library or the office.” Wrong. The perfect solution would be to send this kid to a public school. But there’s something there that Erazo isn’t letting us in on about public education. Put money on that one.

Tell you what, Oliver Erazo, you suffer unbearable torture for several hours, carry a cross to the top of a hill whilst wearing a nasty crown of thorns stuck into your head, get crucified and hang for three hours until you suffocate, come back from the dead for 40 days, and you will have the right to insist on any type of public, non-faith, atheist, agnostic,occult, or other faith-based school system you want. That includes insisting on supervision for Jonathan while he is avoiding Catholic-related activities.

I shall conclude with Mastracci’s own question, with a slight twist at the end: Should students at Catholic schools who are not Catholic be allowed to exempt themselves from Catholic related courses and activities?
The answer is clearly no.