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Sunday, December 4, 2011

Parents: Their Future Role?

'Hold On To Your Kids: Why Parents Matter" by Gordon Neufeld versus "Early Years Study 3" by Fraser Mustard and throw in "With Our Best Future in Mind" by Charles Pascal. I am a parent, I don't have a Masters degree or mounds of research before me but I know what I think and believe.

I couldn't believe it when I read "Early Year Study 3" and it was suggesting children begin School (pre-school) at 2 years of age.  Some people thought "With Our Best Future in Mind" was foreshadowing this when it came out. Now with childcare falling under The Ministry of Education in Ontario, are all things in place for this to happen? Here are two newspaper articles: "Underminding Parents" and "Early Childhood Education for All" discussing the Study and giving a little insight.

What Mustard and Pascal's Reports have in common is the implementation of school based early learning. There are two streams of thought here for the rationale and need for this: the need for childcare and the rationale that children learn better and quicker at an early age. Which one is the truth or both?

If it was for childcare, how does Full Day Kindergarten ( & extended day programs) compare to provincial funded universal child? Working families still need pre K & holiday childcare. Childcare Centres are struggling with loss of clients due to FDK and extended day programs. "Plan Could Force Daycares to Close" Extended day programs are not viable in all areas, therefore childcare service must be viable. What is the staff/child ratio between childcare and extended day programs?  You would be surprised the number of times the government has referred to the money families have saved because of FDK. Was that the purpose or was it to streamline childcare and school?

If it is learning, why then is kindergarten optional? A child's learning mind is a sponge of absorption. The how, when, what and where of this learning is the question. "Building a Foundation" For those who choose not to participate in JK or even SK are sometimes accused of putting their children at a learning disadvantage. Will this same occur if the Study is implemented? Although things are optional, due to their nature, are viewed as mandatory. Whereas childcare, daycares, nursery schools and preschool are also optional, the stigma here does exist for none attendance.

This brings me to "Hold On To Your Kids" and the connection between children and parents and children and peers. What is the role of parents in childraising? Reading the reports it almost seems that parents are not necessary. When child and parent are separated the child becomes dependent on those around them, teachers and peers.  We read a lot how there is a need of connection between teacher and child/student for successful learning in school. I don't disbrute that. We all realize the need of socializing between children, however at times the child/peer relationship maybe stronger than the child/parent relationship. Who do we want as the child's support system, mentor and primary teacher? If a child starts school (in what ever form or name you call it) early what role does the parent play in raising that child? We question now and also know that some children are not ready for JK at age  3 1/2 years for various reasons. "Too Young for Kindergarten" All children develop differently. I realize society has changed and families have change and cultures have changed. I believe we maybe placing schools as the child raiser as well as the place of learning. The cultural and system structures of schools must change to accomplish this.

If and when this Study is played out and how remains to be seen. I believe the Ministry's thinking & planning is at times two steps ahead of what school boards can do and at the same time two steps behind what school boards are doing and will be able to do. Accommodation reviews and school closures are happening all across the province. When Pascal's Report came out schools were being closed and out came FKD and the idea of schools becoming Community Hubs. This is still playing out as implementation still is occurring. Now with Mustard's Study are school boards able to meet these potential changes. With school consolidations does this mean a wave of additions to accommodate the changes? Should school boards anticipate future changes? At what costs short and long term?

"We Want and Need Parents at the Table" the role of the Players.

I am maybe off base here and creating a conversation where one is not needed. Thanks for listening anyway to my ranting and raving.

NOTE: These are my views and opinions and do not reflect those of my associates.

Friday, October 14, 2011

The Plate of Time

Who is adding to your workload?  Was your plate predetermine/delivered? Self determined/self served? Thrust upon you/second or third helpings?
Time is important to everyone. How we use it and manage it can help in determining your success or the task’s success and the success of those around you.
It is said if you want something done give it to a busy person.
Students, parents, teachers, principals, administrators, superintendents, staff and trustees all only have 24 hours in the day.
Students have home time, school time, extracurricular activities and maybe self time. At anytime an imbalance may occur on how the student uses their time. Homework or a school project may be given.  Playoffs or a recital may be scheduled. A change in home life and/or responsibilities may happen. Or the child may just want some my time. Who decides how this time is managed? Who is their responsibility to and to what? The debate about homework continues. The over burden child continues. Ever changing home life continues.
Parents work (if they can find a job). They are the first teachers in a child’s life. They organize home life. They are the extracurricular manager. They may also have their own extracurricular life, plus a self life. They are split between their life and their child’s life. When changes occur how do they affect the parent’s and/or child’s life? Does time allow for involvement in school life?
You can say that teachers have a least three lives. The classroom/school’s, their students’, their own and their family’s. When more is added to the teacher’s plate, how does that affect the balance? Does school life drift into home life and vice versa due to time? The communication between school/teacher and parents to inform and increase involvement falls into whose timetable?
Principals’ lives are all those who are involved in the school; students, parents, staff, teachers and Board staff. Not to forget their home, family and self life. The implementation of policy, curriculum, staff management, teacher’s resource and guidance and school operations are time commitments. The time and effort needed to make a school ‘shine’ is not just that of the principal but also that of the student, teacher and parent. Is the principal there for the school or for the Board?
Trustees, administrators, superintendents & board staff must see everything as a whole yet as individuals.  What and how they work lies in the policies/strategies they have developed.  The oneness.  The time of students, teachers, principals and parents are all affected.
Who is filling the plate? How heaped can it become? They can all eat the rewards/success but make sure it is a balanced meal.
It is said a community is needed to raise a child. Are parents, students, teachers, principals, staff, administrators, board staff, Trustees; a part of the community or an individual household? Is there a community within the school or a household? How does a household become part of the community? How do you draw them into the community? What role does everyone play within the community?  Does time play a role?
How do your decisions affect the time of those around you? You value your time but do you value the time of others?

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Teachers & Parents

Ron Clark's article 'What Teachers Want to Tell Parents' has gathered much Twitter time these past few days. Well I am about to add some more time on the subject directly and indirectly. I am going to give Mr. Clark the benefit of the doubt that he wrote the article to create discussion, not his belief.

The only aspect/side this blog will not have first hand experience will be that of a teacher, having been a student, now a parent, school volunteer, past school council chair and presently a school trustee. To be honest I don't know how or where this blog may go.

Although schools are attempting to be one to all you, can teachers & schools be one to all? Everyone, parents/students/teachers, is different: thinking, strengths & weaknesses, expectations, values, capabilities, resources, philosophy.

Parent Involvement/Engagement is all the buzz today in education. "Parent Involvement/Engagement Increases Student Success." So we are inviting parents into all aspects of education. Where though is the best placement of this involvement/engagement? What does it look like? I have question though, 'Where is the limit or boundary of this involvement?' Should there be one? Does this lead to certain expectations by/of the parents? 'Involvement or Engagement'

Is respectful, open, two-way communication the key ingredient? Don't Leave Out Parents , Questions That Create Engagement . Are teachers able to accommodate parents expectations? Do parents know how to assist the teacher. It is a learning experience for both and changes with each teacher and parent. Above all: Mutual Respect

I never hurts to 'Self Reflect' . The common ground between teachers & parents can get lost. Teachers determine what you want from parents and how you can assist them in their child's learning. Parents determine what you want from the teacher and how you will assist them in your child's learning. Mutual Goals

One can not over look 'The Relationship' between student and teacher and parent. A good relationship within the classroom extends throughout the school and into the community. This includes families (school & non school), businesses, services, organizations & governments. The saying:  'It takes a community to raise a child.'

'Help Parents Become Involved'

What come to mind is the AMDSB's  Character Attributes: Respect, Empathy, Courage, Compassion, Responsibility, Perseverance, Optimism, Honesty, Fairness and Integrity. We are all in it for the child.

Here are some responses to Ron Clark's article: 'What Caring Teachers Want to Tell Parents' , 'A Letter To Ron Clark' , Wars Between Parents & Teachers' . 'Response to Ron Clark'  I know @sheilaspeaking , @lornacost & @bachtrac and others would like to know your thoughts. Thanks for the support.

I previously touched on this issue in: 'Parent Involvement' , 'Parnet Involvement II' & 'Questions on Engaging/Involving' . I know I will be returning to this topic often.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Past Present Future

Doing some filing and came across these 2 speeches/presentations I did during an Accommodation Review (ARC) that involved my children's school in 2008/2009. Reading these over made me reflect on what I knew or thought I knew then, the Past. The Present, is what I know now and how my views or opinions have changed or not and the knowledge I now have. How I will use my knowledge will be put to the test as a new Accommodation Review within my Board begins in the fall, is the Future.

I presented 40 Years Ago at the first ARC meeting (Oct) involving my children's school and 4 other schools. I sat as a parent on the Committee. ARCs were new to me and much research was done in preparation. Perception has a large influence on how people see & interpret things. Would I change much if I was to rewrite this speech, No. I will stand by my last statement: 'All I ask is my fellow committee members and the public are open-minded and receptive to ideas and suggestions to make the best recommendation or recommendations to the board, and that the board seriously wrestles with their ultimate decision concerning the future of these schools.'

Process, Policy & Procedure was presented to the Board & Trustees after the Administration presented the final Accommodation Review Committee Report to the Trustees (May/June). Much occurred during the ARC and at times it seemed to have a life of its own. Again, would I change much if I was to rewrite this speech, No. Perception means everything, Even when all information is presented it is hard to change what one may perceive. I am guilty of that.

Now I sit on the other side of the table, a Trustee. Will I eat the words I have spoken? No. These words and the knowledge acquired will aid me in making sure the ARC process is as transparent as it can be and all information is presented. The passion one has for their child's school and education will result in many questions being asked and many answers being giving. Putting all the answers and information together will result in the decision.

Will the process be easy? Will the process appear flawed? Will the decision be easy? Will people understand the rationale behind any decision?  Will the decision please all? We will wait and see. 

I will wait and see if I can live up to my expectation and yours. Words &/or actions? I am sure that I will be returning to this issue.

These are my words and thoughts and may or may not Represent those of the AMDSB.

A Note: I did not go into details of the actual ARC and its decision as it would go for ever. If you are interested go to 2008/2009 ARC  .After this ARC's decision the Ministry revised its Accommodation Review guidelines as thus the AMDSB's,  now Policy # 15

Sunday, July 24, 2011

What I Have Learned & Forgotten

I know I have probably forgotten much of what I have learned but does that stop me from wanting to learn more. No. As I thought about writing this post I came across 2 posts by @reeducate  'What Does It Mean to Love A Child' & 'Not Learning' that seemed appropriate to my writing.
What drives me to want to learn more? Is it intrinsic or extrinsic motivation? It is my desire to be as knowledgeable as a can at what I am currently doing. Can I know everything? No, but I can continuously learn more. Is this self motivation and/or motivation due to expectations?
Currently in education there is much discussion about schooling: teaching methods, curriculum, testing, learning and expectations.
A starting point, school structure & function. Stuck In The Groove. A Critique of Compulsory Schooling
Lets start with 'Are Your Local Schoolchildren Students or Learners' .
I cannot remember when I was attending school what drove me to learn. Was it a natural instinct, was it a competition to learn more (be smarter) than the kid beside me or was it because I was being taught?
A question arises these days "What is more important having the knowledge or knowing what to do with the knowledge?" Where & how does testing & its form play in the answer to that question? I guess that depends on your answer. Is what we need is thinking? '10 Ways to Create a Culture of Thinking'
If a person has an interest in something they are more apt to be willing to learn. The connection to relevance between the subject and the student is important. 'Seven Sins of Our System of Forced Education' What subjects need to be part of the curriculum? Many types of jobs in the future don't currently exist so how can we teach/learn for them? Does the old cliche 'Well Rounded Education" apply? Is that STEM or includes arts, history etc? How personalize should schooling be?
'The Object of Education is Learning Not Teaching' What is your perspective?
Once again I maybe ask more questions then give answers. Is learning giving the answers or asking the questions? 'Great Questions Have Legs'

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Trustee Trusteeship

AMDSB's Character Attribute for June was Integrity. When I was writing the following presentation I began to question myself and my performance as a Trustee.

Integrity ‘doing what is right and honourable.’
When you look up integrity in Wikipedia you will find ‘Integrity is a concept of consistency of actions, values, methods, measures, principles, expectations, and outcomes. In ethics, integrity is regarded as the honesty and truthfulness or accuracy of one's actions. Integrity can be regarded as the opposite of hypocrisy,[1] in that it regards internal consistency as a virtue, and suggests that parties holding apparently conflicting values should account for the discrepancy or alter their beliefs.
The word "integrity" stems from the Latin adjective integer (whole, complete).[2] In this context, integrity is the inner sense of "wholeness" deriving from qualities such as honesty and consistency of character. As such, one may judge that others "have integrity" to the extent that they act according to the values, beliefs and principles they claim to hold.’
What do you stand for?  What do you say? How do you act? What is your rationale?
‘Wisdom is knowing the right path to take, Integrity is taking it’. Can you have integrity without wisdom? Is wisdom knowledge?

As trustees we have and will make decisions that are controversy. At times we may struggle with making a decision and question our decision but we take the knowledge we have and the information given us and we make the best decision we can. Is that all that is asked of us? If we are consistent and confident in the decision making, yes. We may be questioned and even attacked over the decision. We are responsible to the whole board not just to the constituents and communities that elected us. Do we see the whole picture? Yes, but what affects all affects one.

A building’s integrity is its structural strength. If this structure is weakened it could collapse. Is a person’s integrity their inner strength and wholeness of character? What happens when a person’s integrity is weakened?
Tanveer Naseer ‘If we expect to be a strong leaders and confident team players, we need the rare ability to listen to things that are tough to hear, and say things we don’t think will be popular.’ This could also be as simple as knowing what to say and when to say it or what not to say.

"Blessed is the servant who loves his brother as much when he is sick and useless as when he is well and be of service to him. And blessed is he who loves his brother as well when he is afar off as when he is by his side, and who would say nothing behind his back he might not, in love, say before his face." - St. Francis of Assisi 

I am not going to say where I think I failed or give reasons why. Improvement is all I can ask of myself. Here are my first steps:

Do I need more focus & direction? Determining Leadership Focus & Direction 
Where should advocacy lay? Trustee Advocacy 
Asking questions benefits all.  Question Everything
Learn from all. Lessons in Principalship 
Who do you please? How To Overcome People Pleasing
What is needed to be a leader? 10 Things I Learned About Leading

I hope I did not turn you off with all these links to wonderful & informative sites. My Path of Learning continues as does it for all. School Trustees Don't Know Who Does What.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Finance & Budget

If you haven't noticed by articles in the news, it is budget time for School Boards in Ontario. June 30th is the deadline for Boards to pass and submit balanced budgets to the Ministry of Education (GEDU).

As a new Trustee I was somewhat afraid of what the budget process would be like and rightfully so. School Boards in Ontario receive all their financing from the Ministry of Education since local taxation was removed. This move was made to equalize the playing field between Boards, no more have & have not Boards. Education Funding 2011/2012 GEDU outlines this complicated funding system. There is base funding, enrollment based funding, special funding, program funding, etc. etc. The application and reporting  for and of the funds can be followed through the Financial Analysis & Accountability Branch of the Ministry. Throughout the year new funding maybe made or program changes or new programs introduce. These are made through Ministry Memos: B & SB Memoranda . All this creates a reporting overload. At times the Finance department could be working on 3 different budgets: the previous year's, the current year's and next year's with different numbers: final figures, initial estimates, revised estimates and projected estimates. Trying to follow things at times makes one's head spin.

School Board's budgets are huge, creating the need (and appropriately) for accountability. Approximately 80% of a Board's budget is for salaries: whether it be teachers, EAs, principals, administration staff or custodians. This leaves 20% for transportation, capital, utilities, supplies, technology, programming, etc. How & where this money is spent is a challenge, there never seems to be enough. When money is short programs, services, repairs may need to be cut or reduced. Boards and staff do this to the best of their ability to minimize cuts. These days improved standards/achievement are the push with the public wanting (appropriately again) the best for the buck.

One thing that I was not prepared for in our local budget process was the fact that the Administrative staff presented the Finance Committee with a balanced budget. Maybe because this process does not make the headlines. Is this the right process, for us I would say yes. Who better than the staff to make priorities and know the consequences of cuts. Yes, we still see the figures and have our say and question the short term and long term financial and programming ramifications of the budget. Does this minimize accountability?

Can I say where and how every dollar is spent, NO. Do I trust the people with the knowledge who provide me with the information and numbers, YES. Do I want to know more, YES. Will we (Trustees & Staff) always be questioned on the budget, YES.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

The Question of FDK/ELP

Has our society/culture abandoned our young? What does family life look like? What is the interaction/social time within the family composed of?  How, when, why, where and who does early learning? In a previous Blog Questions On Engaging/Involving shows what could be considered the extreme in what is expected of Early Learning. When are children to be children?

This Vancouver Sun article 'Study Raises Questions About Full Day Kindergarten" adds to the debate over Early Learning Programs and Full Day Kindergarten. Another article in the Telegraph claims ''Thousands of Children "Not Ready For School" at Five' . 'Too Young for Kindergarten? Tide Turning Against 4 Year Olds' in the New York Times poses the questions how young is too young. 'Why Preschool Shouldn't Be Like School' what school/teaching should look like. From Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children comes 'shows a connection between full-day kindergarten enrollment and later success in elementary school on the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment (PSSA)'. Assessment - Standardized Testing is that all learning is? Parental Choice has some thoughts.

One system does not fit all. All children are not at the same level. All children do not learn the same. All children are at different maturity/social skills. Remember ALL children are CHILDREN.

PS: Be sure I will  be returning to this topic again.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Voice Ends Involvement Ends

This post is in response to a tweet by @Mrwejr  about an article by Jane Steffenhagen from the  Report Card in the Vancouver Sun about parent involvement in school/education. It is about a school board not dealing with a parent advisory group because it did not have representation from enough schools. Should there be qualifications on representation? This is more from an Ontario perspective.

The Ontario Education Act provides guidelines/outlines how School's Advisory/Community Councils and Board's Parent Involvement Committees are to be structured and function. There is flexibility on the composition/representation on the councils/committees. The Act does state that the majority of members must be parents and what constitutes a quorum. I guess it would be within the by-laws and procedures to determine how the councils/committees would determine minimum representation and how it would function below this level. Does it still have a voice?

On School Councils do two or even one parent give voice? Why is there only one voice? Are there other avenues to provide input? Is the input appreciated or just participation show dressing? Ever School  and community is different so every school council is going to be different. Are school councils a voice or action? Each school council must find their way. A voice is a voice but is it representative?

Parent Involvement Committees (PIC) are officially new to Boards although they may have existed previously in some boards in another form. PICs must be clear on their mandate and not to create another level of bureaucracy. Boards can determine how parent representation is determined on the PIC. Is it by selection board wide or by regions? Are members elected by regions or schools? Or is it who volunteers? Are these members to represent their own views or those views of their school or region? Ultimately it should be what is best for all. As with school councils when does representation/voice not be representative? Why is their no representation/voice? What Are PICs To Do?

There is no secret success that works for all School Councils and Parent Involvement Committees. Each has their own strengths and visions. The sharing of best practices and ideas can only help parents that want to be involved. I will leave you with this post by @SheilaSpeaking 'That's It I'm Done'

Don't worry I will be returning to this topic and related ones in the future. This is an area that deserves much attention.  Robert

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Questions on Engaging/Involving

I will apologize if this blog jumps around or repeats thoughts from previous blogs or seems like a rant. I am writing about parent involvement in education, again.

Where do we start? Parents. Teachers. School. Board. Ministry.

Are these the kinds of Parent Involvement (school) we want? Ivy League Minded Mom Sues Preschool & Fast Tracking to Kindergarten . Is Preschool Shouldn't be Like School more to your version. Parent philosophy on schools and learning vary greatly and so do their thoughts on parent involvement.

The first question one should maybe ask is "What role does the parent want to play in their child's learning/education?" Are they supportive or inquisitive? Does the parent trust that the teacher/school is doing their job properly? Does the parent trust that their child is interesting in learning? What drives the child to learn? Depending how these questions are answered is a starting point of engaging involvement. Does the parent have available time?  Does the parent even have enough understanding to assist the child in education/learning. Involving Parents in School - The Family Path highlights and initiative taking to entice parents to participate.

The second question should be "What is the communication between the parent/child and the teacher/school?" Do they know what is being taught? Why is it being taught? How is it being taught? Is the only communication when the report card comes and the parent/teacher interview? Who should initiate this communication, the teacher or the parent? Whether the child is underachieving or overachieving a line of open communication can help to solve problems or potential problems. Timely dialogue about assessment (not testing) is imperative. Is the parent welcome in the classroom? Do they have the time? When one knows what is happening, it makes things easier. Having Parent Support

When one talks about involvement at school or board level it sometimes refers to input on school/board policies and procedures. This is one of the roles of SACs/SCCs. Don't assume all the facts are known. Explain the reasoning or rationale behind why a decision/policy is being made. Do parents feel comfortable with this level of involvement?

As for the Ministry I hope they continue to develop and promote parent involvement. Human Capital

I have posed a lot of question here and I could have asked many more. Like many people I am trying to wrap my head around them to get the answers so that parent involvement is something all can do and want to do.
Parent Involvement - What's Your View

Parent involvement will always be a topic of mine as we try to make the best use of what each of us has to offer.

Friday, April 29, 2011

The Value of Quotes

A few quotes of interest from my Twitter Favourites List. Some people just have the right words.

 The Dennys 
The object of teaching a child is to enable him to get along without a teacher.-Elbert Hubbard 

"Seek first to understand, not to be understood." (Bob Kegan)

 Chris Spence 
The 5 R's of successful classrooms: responsibility, relevance, rigor, respect and relationships

 Jerrid Kruse 
Sometimes quoting others only serves to demonstrate that you haven't actually thought about the ideas for yourself.

 Joe Bower 
The greatest evil school ever committed was to convince children to hate learning.  

 Remi Collins 
Share info so parents can help their children, share what you are doing so they can help at home. Parents want to be involved

 Mike Roberts 
Leaders must ask themselves, "Am I building people, or am I building my dream and using people to do it?"

 Tom Whitby 
W/o knowing what jobs the future holds, we need to teach kids the skills to learn. Life will be their school, if they have skills. 

 Salome Thomas-EL 
Teach children not to fear failure...but to embrace it... own it....learn from it...grow from it!

 Angela Maiers 
RT @: A great school community must develop where administrators, teachers and studnets all make valuable contribution 

 Chris Spence 
Leadership is not popularity, rank, privilege, title or money. Leadership is about influence, responsibility, results and integrity