What I heard and didn’t hear

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?

Destreaming

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.

Author: dougpete

The content of this blog is generated by whatever strikes my fancy at any given point. It might be computers, weather, political, or something else in nature. I experiment and comment a lot on things so don't take anything here too seriously; I might change my mind a day later but what you read is my thought and opinion at the time I wrote it! My personal website is at: http://www.dougpeterson.ca Follow me on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/dougpete I'm bookmarking things at: http://www.diigo.com/user/dougpete

4 thoughts on “What I heard and didn’t hear”

  1. Hi Doug!

    I turned in yesterday (Friday) to see if the Premier and Minister Lecce would offer apologies for the words they had uttered the previous day: “the teacher unions need to get on board” in supporting anti-racism and “if a teacher demonstrates racist behavior, they will be gone,” and “the education system is broken.”

    Sadly, there was none of that.

    There was the launch of “Buy Ontario made” campaign from the shop floor of a Vaughn Skylight manufacturer, with stickers to come (I’m trusting that the Premier’s family business isn’t making the stickers). Minister Lecce was there, because in the premier’s words, “we know all of the questions are going to be for him,” but in the end there was only one education question, as the reporters asked for additional clarification about the new “Buy Ontario“ announcement, and primarily COVID-19. Apparently in their infinite wisdom, somebody’s going to be hosting a big offshore boat party in the near future and inviting folks from the southern border of Lake Erie to come across for a visit. Fortunately, the Premier indicated he wasn’t too keen on that kind of thing happening.

    I will confess that I really enjoyed the “real life math problem,” that was circulating on Twitter the previous days wherein educators and parents were guided through a calculation based on facts to determine how far the “extra funding for cleaning” Ontario schools will actually go If it is allocated to hand sanitizer. Three weeks. Sadly, there was no question of the minister regarding that, either.

    The minister has also been waffling about exactly what September will look like. Apparently spending a day to deep clean the school between cohorts is not OK as it reduces the number of days available to keep kids in school. So after giving boards the responsibility of coming up with a plan, they are now back to the drawing board and trying to figure out how to make it happen.

    The way I see it, the Ministry of education has a chunk of questions to answer, and he’s got nada in terms of truly supportive replies.

    IF he’s looking to maximize the time kids spend in schools so that their parents can go back to work, then it is clear there are a few key questions he needs to be prepared to answer:

    1) If all kids are to go back to school but simultaneously learn in classrooms with a cap size of 15, where is the funding for the extra staff going to come from to supervise kids in smaller cohorts?

    2) If all kids are going back to school with in learning spaces with a maximum of 15 kids for social distancing safety, where are that extra classroom space is going to come from? Are schools going to build extra classrooms spaces in school libraries and gymnasiums?
    3) Both the CDC and the WHO recommend that busing companies ensure that kids are appropriately distanced while on the bus. Does this mean two sets of busing roots, depending upon the cohort of the day? If all kids are going back to school, will they have to run twice as many buses, or stagger/double the number of busing routes to accommodate?

    3) I’ve heard of school boards that are looking at moving grade 11 and 12 students into a 100% virtual program. Certainly this would allow for redeployment of grade 9 and 10 students across the complete high school facility. Is the minister going to support such a plan? Or are they rather in favour of ”finding” classroom space in empty mall stores to create more classroom space?

    There was also a question about whether or not Premier Ford felt the border should be reopened. I was pleased to hear him comment that although we love our cousins to the south, now is not the time to rush the reopening of the border. Informal poll results put the number of Canadians advocating for a continued closure of the border ranked in the high 80s. It had its own #Trending tag on Twitter yesterday

    Like

  2. You and I share some of the same questions, Doug. There seem to be more questions than answers coming from these press conferences. The famous extra 7 cents per child allotment for soap and hand sanitizer doesn’t seem to be going up at all. I’m fairly certain that teacher will make it work, and that some teachers will make it work for them personally by not returning to school in the fall (due to their own health and that of their family). People definitely want this all solved now. I’m reminded of my first years of teaching in Ontario. Due to funding announcements and other things I still don’t understand, all the LTO placements and new jobs were posted when principals went back to work. I was hired three years in a row in mid-August, and I know plenty of people who were hired later than that. That feeling of not having time to prepare because one doesn’t know what one will be doing is very stressful.

    Thanks for explaining some of the ins and outs of streaming. I don’t teacher high school and didn’t understand most of how this happens. I was right in my assumption that choosing a certain stream is a decision students and parents make with the guidance counsellor. I also think it is no coincidence that this is happening as he tries to raise class sizes. Is it considered streaming when grade 11 or 12 students start to choose university or work related math classes? For example, I would have floundered in Calculus and didn’t need it as a university entrance requirement so in grade 12 I was taking Algebra (and doing alright but not great.)

    Like

Comments are closed.