The dog was dragging his tail Thursday afternoon. I had turned on CP24 to see what the topic de jour was going to be from the Premier. When I saw the Minister of Education was standing in the background, I knew I wanted to stay for the entire session. Jaimie could wait.
The two big topics had been released the previous couple of days so the content wasn’t really a surprise but the way it was delivered and response to the reporters questions had me wanting to hear more.
Fewer primary suspensions
What I heard – The Minister announced that there would be few suspensions of students in the primary grades. There would still be some when the action calls for it.
What I didn’t hear – The concept of suspensions really hit the radar during the work interruption with ETFO. Stories of teachers being attacked by students hit the headlines. I still remember the image of the protective gear that a teacher had to wear to protect herself. I’ve talked to many principals about suspensions and, particularly in the primary and junior grades, they are so hesitant to pull the trigger because of the position that it puts parents in for care. If the concept of the suspension was so wide-spread, I think that most educators would be in favour of alternative ways of addressing this. So, what would the approved ways be? Suspension rooms? More childcare workers to help students work things out and learn to handle issues properly? Or do teachers just suck it up?
What I heard – In 2021, Grade 9 Mathematics will be destreamed for students. The big bad system forces kids into life making decisions at age 13. These decisions dead-end student futures.
What I didn’t hear – So, once again, Mathematics becomes the bad subject area. It’s not the only subject area that has streams; how long before English, Science, etc. follow? When I left my school, I was Director of Business Education and our Grade 9 course was not streamed and we had a great deal of success with it so the concept definitely will work. There isn’t a teacher alive who wants to steer a student in the wrong direction. What was missing about the assertion was that students are not forced into a stream; it’s a decision that they make with their parents come course selection time. I remember our Head of Guidance telling students and parents during Grade 8 nights to take the Advanced option, knowing that they could always shift gears later if it became necessary.
Another thing I didn’t hear was how this course would be developed and, for management, what would the class sizes be? I would hate to be cynical and think that this would be a way to get around clauses in collective agreements. After all, Applied courses have smaller numbers. What happens when those courses disappear? While we’re at it; there was no discussion about French Immersion, Gifted, and Essentials courses.
Another thing that I heard was that the College of Teachers would get more involved with teacher discipline over discrimination. All that it takes is a review of the website or the Blue Pages to know that discipline has always been there. There was no idea of “how” they were going to be involved except that there will be stronger sanctions but this is an issue that no educational professional should need a memo about. Period.
A reporter asked what I thought was a logical question and that was whether School Districts would be receiving more funding for portable classroom or renting space in community buildings. The Premier responded by telling the reporter than per district spending is up. Details are short; we know that salaries have increased and cleaning expenses are going up too. Is this a case of announcing the same money over and over again.
I’m sure that there were more things that I could have included and I should have taken notes!
But you know the biggest thing that I didn’t hear?
That teachers were consulted and had input on these moves.
Just consider recent history – they weren’t consulted about closing schools this spring but they made it work. Teachers are dedicated professionals and have the insights and abilities to juggle so many priorities and issues. They’ll make these initiatives work. Had they had some input to the implementation and refinement of ultimate goals along with their safety in all of this, they could make them work better.