Friday Two Cents: It Takes A Village


‘What has changed is that people have stopped working together.’ Michael Bloomberg

‘Whatever life throws at us, our individual responses will be all the stronger for working together and sharing the load.’ Queen Elizabeth II

For the past month I have been taking additional qualifications in an online course for kindergarten.  The course was very informative and during my final independent project I made an important realization.  I be honest I had already come to this understanding serval years ago, yet I have never seen it inside government educational documents.  It has to deal with the education team within the kindergarten program.  

With schools in Ontario and most of North America reopening due to the Covid-19 pandemic, this insight could be invaluable to parents, educators/teachers and administrators.

I may have a unique perspective as I worked as both an early childhood educator (ECE) and teacher in the kindergarten program within a school board. I have seen the good, bad and ugly of both.  

I have felt the sting of being discriminated as an ECE and a as teacher. Yet when I worked as an ECE in a classroom I was treated as a support staff and told to do whatever the teacher told me to do. This continued in many classrooms with many teachers and parents.

In many government documents they refer to the the two people in the kindergarten program as ”educators”.  Both the teacher and ECE are equal in the learning process of the students.  Even though the education policy says that the teacher and ECE are seen as equals, many do not put this into practice. 

Once when I received my teaching licence I continued to work as an ECE while I applied for a teaching position. The treatment continued until the teachers found out that I was a licensed teacher.  I was seen as a second teacher in the room, asked for observation notes, documentation and/or to plan lessons.  

In my discussions with other teachers, whenever I mention the reference of educators towards the two people in kindergarten, they say they do not like it.  They prefer the title of teacher.  When I became a teacher I was told and I had to, give up the ECE title and go with Primary/Junior Teacher.   For some reason the “teacher” title is what people (teachers, administrations and parents) wanted.  I always thought that this was a bit petty.  

When I became a licensed teacher I made sure I would not see the ECEs as lesser, as many people I have witnessed have done.  The education of the students is done by both educators in the classroom.  A fact that many forget.  

Perhaps it has to do with human nature and how we measure people.  Do we measure them by their status in a society or by their actions?  All too often I have seen people measure others because they see them as inferior to themselves and they devalue them.

During this pandemic we as a society have learned that nature does not discriminate.  Anyone can get the Covid-19 virus.  When schools are reopened in September, we as educators (Administers, ECEs, teachers) and parents need to work together as a team for the betterment of the students.  

I learned a lot of different things during his course and how to implement them.  Yet I think the biggest realization is that educating students is not done in a bubble.  We as educators must look to the team (teacher & ECE), parents, all of the other staff in the school and the community at large to help “safely” educate the children.  An African proverb says it all. “It takes a village to raise a child.” 

   I would add; “… and keep everyone safe.”

Two Great Educators or One Great Education Team

Friday Two Cents: Time for a Societal Reflection


This week I received an email saying that as an occasional teacher I can volunteer to work at  centres for children who may need help.  I would be getting paid for the work but after a few moments of thinking about going in to help, I refused.  You are probably saying I am lazy and I would rather stay home and receive government assistance than work.  But I have two very compelling arguments for saying no at this time.  The first is that I live with my senior parents and I am the one going out for them and making sure they are kept safe during this difficult time.  The other is I do not trust the system to support me or my family if I got sick from the Covid-19 virus for looking after the children of front line workers.  Why do you ask, well, let me spell it out for you.  

You see, I have been seeing a lot of news stories about how the front line workers are coping with the pandemic.  Stories about doctors, nurses, grocery store employees, truck drivers and the list goes on.  They all deserve praise for the tremendous jobs they are doing. The media seems to be fixated on these areas of the pandemic yet in all of these stories, not one was about the area of the workforce where people put their lives on the line every day looking after other peoples’ children.  They are also front line workers and yet no one cares about them.  I am talking about the early childhood educators (ECE) and teachers who work in the childcare centres where the other front line workers drop off their children. 

ECEs are dismissed and undervalued by many people in many fields and sometimes in the very education system itself.  They are expected to preform miracles while looking after other peoples’ children, all the while they are under paid and dare I say abused by many people in and out of the system.  Here is a recent example; in Toronto a childcare centre who took care of front line worker children was closed down.  Several staff members and children contracted Covid-19.  This week they are reopening after 14 days yet during that time not once did they inquire about the health of the staff.  The media and parents’ biggest concern was that where would the other children find care.  No-one, not the different level of governments, media or parents expressed concern for the staff, the ECEs/teachers.  Though knowing something about the ECE field I should not be surprised.  

Before I became a teacher I was an ECE for many years and I worked in several centres.  I felt undervalued be the parents, government and other teachers in the education system.  Yet I am not alone with these feelings.  Every ECE I talked to expressed the same sentiment.  If you do not believe me I will recount a story about what happened to a fellow ECE not one year ago.  

This ECE was supervising a group of students tobogganing when another student rammed her with the sled and she fell over and received a concussion.  She had to be off for a a while but during that time the centre gave her no lose of salary compensation, they blamed her for being off and tried to rush her back early.  In the end she had to return before she was fully  recovered simply to make ends meet.  Not once did the centre, government or parents help, all they cared about was who were they going to replace her with.  She was an expendable person.  As were those ECEs in this current childcare centre in Toronto.  

 A year ago and today, these childcare workers, are forgotten and undervalued.  No one cares about them, all people care about is their own self interests.  Now you know why I will not go in.  I would be putting my parents lives at risk because others want me to look after their children, their self interest.  I am my parents care giver and if I get sick, no one will help me or care about what happens to me or my parents.

Many things have happened recently because of the pandemic, most importantly the way we treat others.  The deplorable why we treat seniors in long term care homes and the underpaid workers they employ.  Well, the childcare field is no different.  There are regulations and government oversight but still the ECEs are underpaid and undervalued.  I for one have been reflecting on my life and the different aspects within it.  I am making changes hopefully for the better.  I think it is time for society to take a long hard look at how we treat people who look after our family members.  From elderly parents to our children. 

Remember people, these are YOUR flesh and blood and you are asking other people to look after them.  Yet you are willing to nickel and dime their care.  What does that say about us as a society. What does that say about you?   

Comic Strips: Wearing A Mask


 Being a supply teacher and an artist, I sometimes have the opportunity to combine my passions.  Creating my comic strip entitled The Craziest Things is one of them.  The genesis of this comic strip came from the situations I have observed from the students.  I thought it would be great to create a comic strip based on those situations and thus The Craziest Things was born.  

I use many different themes to inspire me to create the comic. Some include the difference in the generations or the use of technology in the classroom compared to their parents.  Yet this month I cannot ignore the situation that is enveloping the world at this moment, the Covid-19 pandemic.  

However I am the eternal optimist, with a positive demeanour.  Add to this mix, a dry English whit and you can see how I can land into trouble on more than one occasion.  Today being May the 4th, in many circles they call it Star Wars day (may the force be with you), I thought of a situation where a bit of sarcasm and dare I say humour during these hard times may bring a laugh or two.  I will say nothing more about the comic this month and let you simply enjoy it.  

I hope you enjoy May’s comic The Craziest Things: Wearing A Mask; and May the 4th Be With You. 

Friday Two Cents: Rotating Students For Class Instruction


With the Covid-19 pandemic changing every aspect of the world that people are use to, many are wondering, no chomping at the bit to know; when society can return to a sense of normalcy.  Sorry to bust your bubbles everyone but it will never return to what it was before the pandemic shutdown. And once it does, in some small way, it will take a long time.  

This week some provinces in Canada may be opening parts of the economy in stages.  Slow small steps as they were.  In the case of schools, I am sorry to say this parents but expect schools to be closed and this school year is over. 

Using Saskatchewan’s model; they do not have childcare centres opening until phase 3 and schools are up in the air and considered to be high risk.   This is a prudent response yet the need for childcare for employees of businesses would appear to be essential.  How can people go to work if they have no-one looking after their children.  In many cases parents see school as childcare, though they are discovering how important it is beyond simple childcare.  I believe that people are beginning to see the true value teachers and early childhood educators (ECE) have in our society and in, dare I say, the economy.  

However let us play devil’s advocate and say they will open schools soon in conjunction with the opening of businesses.  I believe, do to the risky nature of the close environment within schools, do to the classroom sizes models used in Ontario, there needs to be a gradual introduction of school to the students.  

The reality is that in the primary grades (1-3) the classroom size is 20 – 23 students to one teacher.  Kindergarten is totally different with one teacher for 15 students or one teacher and one ECE for a class up to 33 kindergarten students.  The older you get the worst the numbers are.  Junior – intermediate grades (4-8), I have been in classes of 35-39.  High school is another thing all together.  In truth how can anyone, let alone a teacher focusing on teaching, enforce social distancing in a room 5 metres by 5 metres.  

Therefore I suggest we use the manufacturing industry model to help.  The auto industry will be using a 24 hrs, three shift rotation to limit the number of people on the floor but people will be working and the production gets done.  Why not use something similar for schools.  

No I am not suggesting a 24hr school situation. I suggest that the students come in to school in shifts or blocks during school hours.  Here is how it would break down …

Block 1 – starts at 8am until 10am.  Teacher instruction for the first third of the class attendance (alphabetical).  Students leave at 10 am allowing the teacher to clean and sanitize desks and have a break. Total time 30 minutes.  

Block 2 – starts at 10:30am until 12:30pm.  Teacher instruction for the second third of the class attendance (alphabetical).  Students leave at 12:30pm allowing the teacher to clean and sanitize desks and have a break. Total time 30 minutes.  

Block 3 – starts at 1pm until 3pm.  Teacher instruction for the final third of the class attendance (alphabetical).  Students leave 3pm.

This breakdown allows for the teacher to instruct 7-10 students at a time allowing for social distancing.  Currently the teachers instructions are in math and literacy.  This can continue in a two hour block.  Music and gym teachers can teach all three blocks, once for each group for one hour out of the two during the block. This way each student will get gym and music instruction once a week and provides variety and gives the teacher prep time as well.  

I realize that this is not an ideal situation for many but this would provide the students valuable teacher instruction, which many students are asking for.  As well it allows the students to have a sense of routine while giving the parents piece-of-mind about their education.  

Barack Obama once said … 

A good compromise, is like a good sentence; or a good piece of music. Everybody can recognize it. They say, ‘Huh. It works. It makes sense.’

Barack Obama

The key is compromise.  The true test is if people are willing to compromise.

600th Post – Comic Strips: Online Learning


 Amazing! Who would have imagined when I started this blog back in November 2012, that I would be posting my 600th article.  It seems fitting that I am posting a piece of art that was inspired by the people and students around me (not literally, social distancing and all).   

Being a supply teacher and an artist, I sometimes have the opportunity to combine my passions.  Creating my comic strip entitled The Craziest Things is one of them.  The genesis of this comic strip came from the situations I have observed from the students.  I thought it would be great to create a comic strip based on those situations and thus The Craziest Things was born.  

The Covid-19 pandemic has touched every aspect of daily life, including the classroom.  With all the schools closed because of the pandemic, the education system is adjusting to accommodate the students and teachers to continue the learning, but online.  There have been may challenges but everyone is getting use to the new reality.  

Yet in the end, kid will be kids.  Not matter how much technology you add and remove the human element out of the equation, students will be themselves.  

I hope you enjoy April’s The Craziest Things: Online Learning.

Friday Two Cents: Parents … Make “Play” Your Life Lesson


So parents and people of the public in general.  Many of you have stated in the past that you can easily teach children.  That teachers are a bunch of whiners.  That you can do a much better job than any teacher and seriously how hard is it? 

Well you have had 2 weeks, three if you include the spring break.  So how is it going?  From the many posts on social media and family and friends I know it looks like the world is about to end.  I have seen and heard parents ranting and raving about their children.  “They are hungry all the time!” “They say they are bored.”  “They won’t listen to me!”  “They won’t do the work I give them.” And on and on they go.  Some I cannot repeat do to the vulgar language they use.  

So parents, it’s not that easy after all.  Hmm … This seems vaguely familiar, oh yes its exactly what teachers have been trying to tell you all these years.  Yet for teachers they continue to teach the students and the children continue to learn.  What is the difference? 

Parents think that school is fun and full of play, where in fact it is a place of work.  I keep telling parents that school is work for the children.  They have expectations and things they need to do just like you do when you go to work.  There are also consequences for you when you do not do your work, the same is true for the students. So what is the problem.  Quite frankly, parents are trying to teach their children the way they think they should be taught, with no education or training on how to do it.  

They are giving worksheets and math problems they got when they were younger.  They are trying to turn home, a safe environment where children can be themselves, into work places.  That might be alright for adults who know how to focus and work on their own.  But truthfully  isn’t it a little hard too.  

Parents are worried that if they don’t work on the basics that they will “fall behind”.  That it will be harder for them to catch up later when school starts again.  

Well parents, I have one thing to say to you.  STOP!!  Stop worrying about them falling behind.  There is no evidence that supports this idea of “falling behind”.   Since the 1990’s parents have over scheduled, over-tested and put more undue pressure on their children to succeed and achieve more and more.  The results is an entire generation of children and adolescents over stressed, medicated, alienated and depressed.  STOP what you are doing. 

 This is not the time for worksheets or math tests.  You should not be worried about the curriculum or how to teach it.  In other words don’t try and recreate school at home.  

You should not be worried about how quickly school can reopen.  Instead insist the government put in supports for the teachers so they can help your children when school does reopen.  

We are in a unique situation where we can ‘pause our lives’ from all the stress “we” have placed upon ourselves and our children.   Instead, paint or draw a picture with your children.  Bake something with them.  Go bike riding.  Read a favourite book with them.  Work in the garden if you can.  In other words … Play with them.  Your children are only little once and you will be surprised on how amazing they truly are.  I will leave you all with a quote and a poem to help inspire you into action with your children.  

Inspirational Quote 16
A verse by an unknown author at the entrance of the Louisiana Children’s Museum in New Orleans

Make “play” your life lesson for your children during these unsettling times.  For what we do today will be with them for the rest of their lives and maybe generations to come.  

Comic Strips: Cursive Writing


 Being a supply teacher and an artist, I sometimes have the opportunity to combine my passions.  Creating my comic strip entitled The Craziest Things is one of them.  The genesis of this comic strip came from the situations I have observed from the students.  I thought it would be great to create a comic strip based on those situations and thus The Craziest Things was born.  

I use many different themes to inspire me to create the comic. Some include the difference in the generations or the use of technology in the classroom compared to their parents.  This is where I get my inspiration this month.  

On many occasions the students ask me how I can write and print letters so well.  They also ask me how to write certain words in cursive writing.  For cursive writing has been removed from the curriculum.  Many students do not know how to write this way but on some occasions I have taught it as part of an art lesson.  The students love the different way to write but there are times when the modern world does not translate smoothly with time honoured traditions.  

I hope you enjoy March’s The Craziest Things: Cursive Writing.

Comic Strips: Complain, Complain, Complain


 Being a supply teacher and an artist, I sometimes have the opportunity to combine my passions.  Creating my comic strip entitled The Craziest Things is one of them.  The genesis of this comic strip came from the situations I have observed from the students.  I thought it would be great to create a comic strip based on those situations and thus The Craziest Things was born.  

Going back to work or school after winter break is difficult for many people.  Yet many look forward to getting back into a routine.  For some there are other reasons. 

I find it fascinating how parents underestimate their influence on their children.  Many think that playing with them, helping them with their homework or directly spending time with them is the only direct influence they have on them.  Yet it’s the times that they do not that might have the most influence.  Parents are always surprised at how much their children pick up when they think that they are not listening.  I have seen this in many classrooms.  You can tell right away when the students are talking about something in the real world, that there might be a parental influence there.  

I hope you enjoy January’s The Craziest Things: Complain, Complain, Complain.

Friday Two Cents: The Teaching Iceberg


With the ongoing dispute between the government and teachers, I have been hearing more and more people weighing in on the current situation.  Yet I have heard many people are continuing to spout the usual negative view of teachers.  “Oh what do they have to complain about. They have paid vacations, summers off and they finish work at 3 pm.”  are some of the things I hear and not only from parents and the public. Some are from my own family.  I have said many times that if only they truly knew what teaching truly entails.  

It is almost like seeing an iceberg.  What you see on top of the water is very different than what you see underneath.  This metaphor can be used in teaching.  People only see the top or what is in front of them, they never see underneath or what is behind the senses.  

Well I put my visual and graphic arts skills to work and came up with this poster.  I found many things to go underneath and I will explain them but I realize that there may be more to add. 

What people do not see about teaching …

That we are teaching life skills – we teach strategies to help the students in their daily life.   Money, time, reading, writing and many people forget this one, social skills.  Working and living with others is skill like any other.   

30+ students in one room in middle school and kindergarten classrooms – if you have ever been in a room of more that 20 people all having their own individual conversations or ways of doing something, then you know that it is not the most productive environment.  

We can make mistakes and still be good teachers – everyone makes mistakes the only thing we can do is learn from them and try not to make the same ones again.  Hmm isn’t that what we expect from our students?

That we are counsellors, confidantes and nurses – I have my first aid certification and I cannot tell you how many times a day I have to use it.  Not to mention students telling me things that they only feel comfortable telling me and not anyone else.  

We are human – yet we are expected to be super human and infallible.  

We love our students like our own – I am guilty of this.  

The biased assessments that we are required to give.  I challenge ANY politician to take the EQAO tests. – enough said.

Sports, clubs and extracurricular activities are all volunteer time – every extracurricular activity be it sports or clubs is volunteer work by the teachers. We do not get paid to these activities.  It is not part of the job description.  We do them because we want to and we want the students to learn a new skill outside the classroom and ultimately have fun doing it.   

Our “paid vacation (Summer, winter and spring break)” is actually our 9 month salary spread over 12 months.  – We are not paid for the summer, winter or spring breaks.  Our salary is spread over the 12 months.  And we supply teachers, if we don’t work, we don’t get paid.  

PA days is actually Professional Development – students are not in school but teachers are.  We have those days to learn, to be up to date in our training and professional development to better help the students.  

Grading papers on our own time – if we do not grade the work at school many bring it home and do it.  

Poverty – many teachers live in poverty.  These are some of the population who are classified as the working poor.  

The struggles of our students, some are living nightmares – if you knew what some of these students (children) have to live with, it would make you cry.  

Public scrutiny – no matter what teachers do either good or bad the public will constantly judge them.  Sometimes for something as simple as their personality or what they wear.  

The accountability – no matter what you do you are accountable the students, parents, administration and government.  

Physical, verbal and emotional abuse from parents and students. – I have been and seen this everywhere I go.  Yet in other workplaces if this is happening there would be an intervention and it would stop immediately.  But teachers are expected to take it?

Helping students after school – who remembers going after school, during lunch or at recess and have the teacher help them with something.  

The hours of lesson planning – for every lesson plan it sometimes takes hours to set up and implement.  And many teachers do 4 – 6 lessons a day.  Imagine the extra time needed for all of them.  

Parent teacher conferences – we are accountable the parents and we always work around the parents schedule to met them.  

ILP meetings – Individual Lesson Plans – for students who are having difficulty, teachers create an ILP to help the students in their learning.  These take hours if not days to create and months to implement.  Imagine in a class or 20 you have 9 ILPs. I do not have to imagine because I have seen it with my own eyes.  

An iceberg.  Yes if only the public knew what it takes to be a teacher they may not complain so much.  If only.  

Comic Strips: The Policy


 Being a supply teacher and an artist, I sometimes have the opportunity to combine my passions.  Creating my comic strip entitled The Craziest Things is one of them.  The genesis of this comic strip came from the situations I have observed from the students.  I thought it would be great to create a comic strip based on those situations and thus The Craziest Things was born.  

***

The “Me Too” moment came out of the entertainment industry and has grown to span the globe.  Its effects can be felt in different fields and why not in the professional sports fields such as the National Hockey League. Students today are inundated with information on every media outlet there is on the ongoing developments.  Entertainment, politics and now sports.  How far will their minds push this movement and belief.    

I hope you enjoy December’s The Craziest Things: The Policy.

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