Posted in Health & Phys Ed Curriculum

ON “Health & Physical Ed” curriculum embeds sexual & gender politics

I recently decided to read through the Ontario Health and Physical Education document to see what all the fuss was about regarding the presentation of “Human Development and Sexual Health” to Ontario’s Grades 1 to 8 children — children who range from 6 years of age to 13 years of age.

Here are the learning topics, slightly shortened, according to grade level and applicable page numbers. My short analysis is in my Endnotes.

Grade 1 — Section C1.3 — Identity of body parts, including genitalia (P.93)

Grade 2 — Section C1.4 — Outline of the basic stages of human development and related bodily changes. Also, identity factors that are important for healthy growth and living throughout life. (P.108)

Grade 3 — Section C. 3.3 — Describe how visible differences and invisible differences make each person unique, and identify ways of showing respect for differences in others. (P.124)

Grade 4 — Section C1.5 — Describe the physical changes that occur in males and females at puberty and the emotional and social impacts that may result from these changes. (P.141)

Grade 5 — Section C2.4 — Describe emotional and interpersonal stresses related to puberty and identify strategies that they can apply to manage stress, build resilience, and enhance their mental health and emotional well-being. (P.158)

Grade 6 — Section C3.3 — Assess the effects of stereotypes, including homophobia and assumptions regarding gender roles and expectations, sexual orientation, gender expression, race, ethnicity or culture, mental health, and abilities, on an individual’s self-concept, social inclusion, and relationships with others, and propose appropriate ways of responding to and changing assumptions and stereotypes. (P.177)

Grade 7

  • Section 1.3 — Explain the importance of having a shared understanding with a partner about the following: delaying sexual activity until they are older; the reasons for not engaging in sexual activity; the concept of consent and how consent is communicated; and, in general, the need to communicate clearly with each other when making decisions about sexual activity in the relationship. (P.195)
  • Section C1.4 — Identify common sexually transmitted infections (STIs), and describe their symptoms. (P.196)
  • Section C1.5 — Identify ways of preventing STIs, including HIV, and/or unintended pregnancy, such as delaying first intercourse and other sexual activities until a person is older and using condoms consistently if and when a person becomes sexually active. (P.196)
  • Section C2.4 –Demonstrate an understanding of physical, emotional, social, and psychological factors that need to be considered when making decisions related to sexual health. (P.199)

Grade 8

  • Section C1.4 — Identify and explain factors that can affect an individual’s decisions about sexual activity and identify sources of support regarding sexual health, a community elder, a teacher, a religious leader, a parent or other trusted adult, a reputable website). (P.215)
  • Section C1.5 — Demonstrate an understanding of gender identity (e.g., male, female, two-spirited, transgender, transsexual, intersex), gender expression, and sexual orientation (e.g., heterosexual, gay, lesbian, bisexual), and identify factors that can help individuals of all identities and orientations develop a positive self-concept. (P.216)
  • Section C2.4 — Demonstrate an understanding of aspects of sexual health and safety, including contraception and condom use for pregnancy and STI prevention, the concept of consent, and matters they need to consider and skills they need to use in order to make safe and healthy decisions about sexual activity. (P.218)
  • Section C3.3 — Analyse the attractions and benefits associated with being in a relationship, as well as the benefits, risks, and drawbacks, for themselves and others, of relationships involving different degrees of sexual intimacy. (P.220)

Appendices

For summary tables of the relevant topics, see pages 224 and 225 of the document.

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Endnotes: For the most part, this curriculum document is thorough and well presented up to Grade 6. In fact, I would give that part of the document an “A.” However, I would give the Grades 7 and 8 section a “B” at most because of the very lack of inclusiveness it claims to cover, as well as being way over the top as far as what topics the government is expecting teachers to teach — as opposed to health care workers and/or parents.

Moreover, I would think having male and female students learning these topics together would sometimes be acutely embarrassing. At least that was my experience when I was teaching this subject in the public system when I first started teaching.

However, regarding the lack of inclusiveness, by basing most of the content regarding gender identity on the notion of gender as always being socially constructed, this curriculum document excludes all people of faith and what they might believe about being male or female, as well as such scientific biological and genetic evidence as XY and XX chromosomes.

Whatever. The crux of the matter is that this document is not going to be changed. In fact, even if the Ontario PCs were to gain power in 2018, they would not be able to change very much because the sexual and gender politics embedded in it are now law within the Ontario Human Rights Code — meaning that train has already left the station.

Posted in College, University, Discovery Math, Drop Out Rates, Education Reform, Homework, Parent Advocacy, The Basics

Homework ban’s long-term consequences for students & society

Credit Microsoft.
Credit Microsoft.

Some progressively oriented parents must think they can have their cake and eat it too. They want basic math facts and skills sets returned to the math curriculum, while simultaneously wanting a ban on homework. As Sarah Boesveld wrote in the National Post on September 5th, 2014, “there is a growing sensitivity to parent preference for work getting done at school.” (H/T newswatchcanada.ca)

Yet, a parent in Alberta, Dr. Nhung Tran-Davies, has a petition going at Change.org, as well as discussions with Alberta’s Education Minister to include basic math skills with the discovery emphasis. Similarly, a retired teacher in Ontario, Teresa Murray, is encouraging parents to sign a “bring back basic math skills petition.” Which makes me wonder if the thousands of parents signing these petitions realize that homework is needed to consolidate those very same basic skills?

The problem, apparently is that families are busy and parents are tired after working all day. I understand. As the saying goes, been there and done that. But, isn’t preparing our kids for the world of work our responsibility as well? School is either important or it isn’t. There are simply some basic skills that children and youth need time to learn.

I mean, think about the repetition of skills you went through to learn to drive and the point of consolidation when you didn’t have to think about the mechanics of driving or the rules of the road anymore. That process couldn’t be rushed. You simply had to drive as often as you could to get to that point.

True, I don’t agree with giving Grades 1, 2 and 3 homework with the expectation that the parents need to teach their kids new skills. That’s a teacher’s job. However, I do agree that, no matter what the age of the child, they should do some reading and calculating at home, even if it is on a multiplication computer game. Such repetition would, in fact, be particularly important for kids who are struggling academically.

Interestingly, David Martin, a Calgary teacher quoted in the Boesveld article,  believes by removing homework he has reduced the drop-out rate in his classes. Of course, keeping young people engaged in learning is a good thing. But, what does making a course so easy students won’t drop out actually teach a young person?  In my opinion, it demonstrates that when things get tough, you can simply quit or expect modifications.

The crux of the matter is that there will definitely be long-term consequences for Canadian society a decade or two from now if a homework ban becomes the norm because a whole cohort of children will not know how to deal with the kind of challenging workload they will have to face in all post-secondary programs and employment.

In other words, contrary to Martin’s non-sequitur, that one of his former students claimed he aced his university math class because of the no homework rule in high school, university and college professors and employers will not likely revise their courses or job tasks to make things easier. I have taught university and can verify that three hours a week of lecture and seminar is not enough time for university students to get their assignments done.

Rather, post-secondary teachers and employers will expect their students and employees to know how to spell and do basic calculations without a calculator, as well as how to be self-directed, motivated and organized to get their work done and on time. That, I am afraid, is the reality parents face today, no matter what their line of work, and so will their children!

Something to think about.

Posted in Career, College, University

“Talent Egg’s” website tips for finding job after college or university!

I am always looking for news or helpful information on education at all levels. Today I came across a real winner. Written in October 2013 by a Globe and Mail guest columnist, Kate MacKenzie, she presented four tips to land a great job straight out of school.

Of course it was the catchy title of the article that got my attention and that is precisely what job seekers have to do as well — get the attention of an employer who is hiring.

I also noticed that MacKenzie indicated in her byline that she was a representative of TalentEgg, although she is not shown as part of the team on their About page.  In any event, visitors to TalentEgg.ca have got to know they can count on good ideas and contacts given a motto like — hatching student and grad careers.

Hatching indeed!

Tip One:  Campus Involvement and Leadership. There is no better way to show what you are made of, and how you can be a valuable contribution to an employer, than what you did during the three or four years you were studying — be it volunteer or paid work. The reason this is important is because you would have been using transferable skills and attributes, such as showing you can lead, get along with people, organize and prioritize events, communicate in person and in writing and, last but not least, that you are reliable — that when you say you will do something, you follow through.

Tip Two: Make sure you have a mix of soft skills. When employers are looking for someone who has the right “fit” they look for soft skills. More often than not, today’s businesses look for team players. Being able to effectively work as part of a team is a soft skill. However, occasionally, the opposite may be true. So, being able to work independently is another soft skill. As well, as already alluded to in Point # 1, good verbal communication skills, as well as being able to problem solve on your feet, are soft skills.

Tip Three: Strong Written and Oral Communication Skills. Note that all of these tips involve skills and attributes that are interconnected. I have hired staff in the past. The key to getting an interview in the first place is the covering letter and resume because if you can’t communicate effectively in writing, most human resource people, or if a small business, the employer, will simply pass over your application. In other words, because you are marketing yourself your covering letter has to state why you would be a good choice for the job — whether it was advertised or you heard about it through word of mouth. Yes, this is one time you can blow your own horn — as long as you word things in a way that doesn’t come across as bravado or bragging.

Tip Four: An understanding of the employer and the industry. I actually believe this tip should be first. With the Internet, Facebook and Twitter, there is absolutely no reason not to have a pretty good picture of the business or industry in which you want to work. If being interviewed, you simply have to sound informed and interested.

Related to this point, but not part of MacKenzie’s tips, if you are to be interviewed, think of one or more questions you can ask. Why? Because no job interview is complete until the interviewer(s) say: “So, do you have any questions?” Always have at least one question ready because, as with knowing about the company and/or industry, it shows you really want the job.

Oh, and when you are researching the company, find out what you can about their dress code because the last thing a job seeker needs to find out at the time of an interview, is that they are over-dressed in a tailored suit or dress or under-dressed in jeans. If, however, that information is not available, it is best to err on the side of caution and simply go dressy casual.

Conclusion: The crux of the matter is that all job seekers right out of college or university need to figure out what skills and attributes they have that an employer might want. And, no, the major or specialization you took is not what I am talking about because that information is likely a given. Rather, think about what you know and can do related to your field of expertise.

To do that, you will have to brainstorm skills and attributes and prioritize them into categories and point-form lists. Then, you will have to use that information to develop a blueprint resume which can be slightly revised to reflect each job search. In fact, if there is an advertisement available, go through all the points of the ad and make sure your resume deals with each point.

That is where your education and training comes into play. If the ad says, for example, you need a B.Sc in a certain discipline, make sure you have such a degree, will soon have such a degree, or at the very least, have equivalent experience.

It is similar with covering letters, although obviously not as detailed because they are usually no more than three paragraphs. Just make sure each letter is tailored to the job as advertised. The first paragraph of such a letter describes the job being applied for, the second states why you would be a good candidate and the third and final paragraph says why you are looking forward to an interview.

Without a doubt, using these four tips to develop a personal job strategy, as well as what the TalentEgg website has to offer, is sure to put graduates on a path to getting hired.

Posted in Discovery Math, Parent Advocacy

Discovery math not enough without pre-requisite skills!

For information on Dr. Nhung Tran-Davies, read this Edmonton Journal article by David Staples entitled “Dr. Nhung Tran-Davies leading the fight in Canada for better math education.”  (H/T bonefishcove).

Like all teachers and teacher educators, retired or practising, I am aware of traditional “discovery” methods but, from what I am reading, “Discovery Math” today is being done without mastering the pre-requisite computational skills children should have at grade levels such as Grades 3, 4 and 5.

So, the very notion that teachers now expect primary and junior aged children to estimate and/or guess answers while discovering the answers, is appalling. It’s like giving a child a car and saying: “Here are the keys. Now go drive it. You can guess the rules and laws as you go along.”

Right. On the way to the first accident which is, in my opinion, an excellent metaphor for what Dr. Tran-Davies’ daughter experienced when she decided she hated math. Yet, significantly, all it took was her mother showing her how to do some basic computational calculations and she was fine.

To put it bluntly, have education bureaucrats and teacher educators in Canada’s Faculty’s of Education and provincial and territorial governments completely forgotten about:

  1. Neo-Piagetian cognitive-developmental theory regarding readiness? (Link)
  2. Learning accommodation & automaticity — when learning sticks? (Link)
  3. Learning styles and Multiple Intelligences differences? (Link)
  4. Mastery learning & pre-requisite knowledge and skills — building one skill upon another? (Link)
  5. The Fundamental basic math computational skills — which are needed before children are faced with problems they can’t solve?

As I wrote in my post the other day, to improve standardized math scores, those in positions of authority should not tell teachers to throw out what they are doing now. Rather, they need to be allowed to blend the teaching of the basic skills BEFORE they give children problems to solve that expect automaticity in those skills.

The crux of the matter is that just as we need a balanced or blended approach when teaching reading and writing (e.g., a combination of reading basics with reading discovery experiences), we need the same when teaching math.

Note that even though Dr.Tran-Davies petition is related to Alberta education, I have already signed on behalf of Ontario parents. I have also linked it to all my Friends on Facebook, asking them to sign. Readers can do the same by visiting this Internet link.

 

Posted in EQAO, Standardized Testing

To improve EQAO math scores, ON teachers should include drills

Originally published on February 6th, 2014.

As a former teacher, and later, a learning specialist and teacher-educator, I can confirm that it is acceptable practice when Ontario teachers use problem solving and discovery math approaches.

Yet, something is not quite right, otherwise there would not be a decline in EQAO standardized test results at the Grade 3 and 6 levels.

Some say the “problem” is too much “problem solving” and “discovery math.” I don’t believe that is the case. Rather, I think it is just that something is missing — multiplication table memorization and old fashioned basic skills drills.

First, however, I would like to clarify why blanket reform of how math is taught in Ontario is not necessary. Discovery math has been around for a very long time. It simply means a child is provided with a math related problem and in the solving of that problem, not only build on math skills they already have, but learn new ones through trial and error.

For example:

Back in the late 1970s when I taught Grade 5 math, I taught measurement by discovery. The preamble the students were given was that the classroom had been destroyed (by fire or flood) the night before and everything had to be replaced. They were provided with a sheet of paper that had the prices for all the replacement products. They then had to measure the floor and chalk/bulletin boards to know how much tile/slate/wall board was going to be needed and how much it would cost. By the time they were finished, they had indeed “discovered” everything they needed to know about measurement.

However, that was not the only way we taught. Over and above regular lessons, I had daily oral time tables practice and daily computational written drills.

Now, think about it. Above, I was talking about a measurement discovery exercise that today’s parents (now 40ish) probably experienced because that math curriculum unit was in an Ontario province-wide Junior level ministry document. Yet, when we did that, we not only didn’t yet have personal computers, we didn’t have fax machines or cell phones either. And, that is just over thirty years ago!

So, change and discovery is non-stop as is technological invention. Reform that goes back in time is simply not the right direction we should be moving our children. However, that is not to say, Ontario’s curriculum planners and teachers should not include the kind of standard lessons and drills we did back then within today’s curriculum mix. They should.

That the Ontario Liberal government is going to put $4 million into teaching teachers math skills is rather strange, unless the teachers in the classroom today were never taught the basic skills in the first place. Since it is not that many years ago that I taught prospective teachers, I doubt that very much. Rather, I think it is simply government covering over a problem with a band aid.

The crux of the matter is, then, that for Ontario’s children to improve on EQAO standardized math tests, teachers need to be encouraged and allowed to integrate old fashioned math practices, which as I said above, needs to include the memorization of timetables and basic number facts, into their current problem solving and discovery approaches.

Posted in Public school issues.

Port Colborne elementary school cancels Halloween!

Can you believe it? If it means kids having fun, schools are cancelling it. Can’t have that. Now its about Halloween, traditionally a day to recognize the dead. In our culture, it is about trick or treating. That’s it. Nothing sinister.

Last year I wrote about how some schools were cancelling the annual Halloween parties and parades for politically correct reasons. So, it seems the trend continues to upset the majority in favour of the few. Which is a shame because one of the safest locations for such a dress up party is a school auditorium or sidewalk around a school yard.

Back in the 1970s, when I was teaching elementary school, the one or two families per class that disagreed with Halloween simply kept their children home on the day of the dress up parade. Why the change? Why are schools changing long held Canadian customs to accommodate the few?

I mean, schools are actually cancelling Halloween!

This year the party poopers are officials at McKay Public School in Port Colborne Ontario, although there are plenty of  other schools around who are cancelling the dress up day as well.

Or, in their words, simply changing Halloween to be a more inclusive “Spirit Day.” I hesitate to ask  how Spirit Day will be significantly different?

I mean, for an example of what happens when well meaning people take political correctness to the extreme, check out the bottom of this Peta page regarding Easter — to eat your veggies, not your friends. 

Anyway, to all those who love Halloween and hand out treats at the door, enjoy the children and the fun they have. I know I will!

Posted in Teacher Merit Pay, Teacher Unions

Fraser Report re basing “teacher pay” on student outcomes not realistic!

While it may not be a popular notion for me to suggest elementary and secondary teachers should NOT be paid merit pay on the basis of student success, I am going to do so anyway because the subject comes up every couple of years.

Today was no exception. Ken Moore, who operates a blog called Metanoodle, seems to think establishing teacher excellence would be a relatively easy process. As he wrote in a post this morning: “Why aren’t tests of student learning the track to better pay? There are good teachers everywhere but what evidence that college and promotion produced them?”

Well, for one thing, in terms of evidence, teacher graduates receive their licencing certification from their professional college just as is the case with other professional bodies.

In other words, they passed the requirements leading to that certification which, contrary to the opinion of some, can be quite rigorous (e.g., in some cases, a four year university degree that included a final year studying all aspects of teaching and learning and 8 – 12 weeks of practice under the supervision of a practicing teacher.)

Apparently Moore’s comments were related to the latest Fraser Review of the Literature Report — which “recommends new policies that will potentially enhance the impact that teachers and school administrators have on the academic achievement of public school students.”

Now let’s look at that final statement again — the impact teachers and administrators have on student achievement. No where does it question what the impact student ability and attitude might have on their academic achievement. Teaching is an act between two human beings. Each has a duty to the end result. I mean, teachers cannot simply open a child’s head and pour in knowledge and skills.

Yes,  I know I will be accused of being part of the “education-blob”  and therefore biased because I am both a former teacher and teacher educator. Yet, I have also done research on teacher behaviour and student success when I was in private practice operating a reading and learning disabilities clinic. My results suggested that a variety of methods of student evaluation should be used.

So, the very idea that the Fraser Institute’s review of the literature indicates that (according to the Globe and Mail’s analysis) school principals should be able to fire teachers based on student outcomes in order to establish winning teams, is absolutely abhorrent.

What an absolutely cut throat idea for everyone. Schools would become a very nasty place to be that is for sure because an individual principal would have too much power over everyone. And, I have taught in schools where that kind of scenario existed and it was not pleasant.

I mean, we are dealing with human beings here and not processes or products. Is success an extra 2% on standardized test results in reading, having 2 completed science projects or having done better in everyday work than last year?

Will such variables be considered such as a child having after-school tutoring or an older sibling who helped them with their school projects?

Given what I have written lately about Jake Barnett (here and here), readers may wonder how I can be against the system in some ways but not in terms of merit pay.

Well, to my mind, they are completely separate issues. We cannot expect teachers to teach to the needs and talents of each student, while at the same time, to a specific generalized “standardized” test result.

In fact, in my opinion, the two notions are incompatible. Rather, what should happen is that each child’s outcomes be based on a comparison of what they did last semester or last year compared to the present.

Merit pay, on the other hand, or value added compensation as the Fraser Report refers to it, based on standardized test results or GPA scores will have teacher’s teaching to the test and not to the needs of each student.

Plus, there is the issue of compensation equality. While I may be critical of teachers’ unions from time to time, there is absolutely no doubt whatsoever that when it comes to the establishment of a gender neutral pay scale, they got it right. Opening up that criteria by adding in merit pay based on a principal’s interpretation of student outcomes could adversely affect the gains women in education have made.

In my opinion, then, the crux of the matter is that no matter how many times think tanks like the Fraser Institute recommend teachers be paid based on student success, it is simply not a realistic possibility for some of the reasons I have given.

[…]

Updates

Cross-posted at Jack’s Newswatch.