Follow-up to OCT 28 SJ post

As part of the ED 808 class I have just finished completing, we were to take action towards a social justice issues important to us. You can read more about this from my October 28th post: Social Justice: Taking action GSAs

I decided to write a letter to four people, regarding the need for Gender & Sexuality Alliances (commonly known and Gay-Straight Alliances) to be implemented in all publicly funded schools within Saskatchewan. If you’d like to check out the letter, you can view it here.

I though I would share the response I received regarding the letters I sent about gender and sexuality alliances (GSAs) in schools. I wrote to Premier Brad Wall, Bill Hutchinson, Rob Currie and Don Morgan – the same letter sent to each person individually.

December 11 – I received a response from Don Morgan, Minister of Education in Saskatchewan. I found it interesting that he states that he is responding to the letter sent to Brad Wall and not the letter I sent him. While his response tells me nothing new (he references many things I researched in order to compose my letter), and no action that will be taken by the government, I do appreciate receiving a response.

December 21 – I received a response from Premier Brad Wall. His response is very similar to Don Morgan’s; none the less, I appreciate hearing back from him regarding my letter.

Letter of response from Don Morgan

Letter of response from Brad Wall

 

 

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Social Justice: taking action GSAs

For ED 808, we are to,

practice agency in trying to ameliorate, solve, or otherwise begin to improve an issue of your choosing involving a social justice cause. It may take the form of a petition, a letter to a politician, a personal/group action, setting up a website, volunteering some of your time somewhere where it’s needed, or other initiatives to foster positive local, regional, provincial, national, or global change.

I decided to write a letter to four people, regarding the need for Gender & Sexuality Alliances (commonly known and Gay-Straight Alliances) to be implemented in all publicly funded schools within Saskatchewan. If you’d like to check out the letter, you can view it here.

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After I mailed the letters to the following people:

  • Rob Currie – Director Education, Regina Catholic Schools
  • Premier Brad Wall – Premier of Saskatchewan
  • Don Morgan – SK Minister of Education
  • Bill Hutchinson – Local MLA

I was pointed to these articles, which offer information regarding GSAs in schools.

The first is an article, “Catholic schools ahead of push for gay-straight alliance support groups: Students needs forcing issue, bishop sayspublished October 28. This article is a step in the right direction, however the central problem remains: students are forced to “come out” or to specifically ask for a GSA to be started, and many times, these groups are not approved by school administration.

The next article was a document just published by the SK Ministry of Education – Deepening the Discussion: Gender and Sexual Diversity.” This document is also a step in the right direction, but as with the previous article, the central problem still remains. The other area of my concern is what is meant by the term inclusion. While well meaning, this term still “others” LGBTQ youth and I question as to whether the information presented in this document while help the inclusion of LGBTQ youth in our schools. This document does however works to support staff, offering them information to help understand LGBTQ youth, to work to support these students, and links to the SK Curriculum. On pages 28-31, the area (which I am concerned about) that discusses GSAs, I believe not much has been offered holding schools accountable to make sure that GSAs are approved and started. It is recommended that students are questioned as to why they would like a GSA to be started and there is no mandate that an adviser will be made available. Regardless, the document is positive, and I hope schools take the time to read through it and adopt the practices it is suggesting.

 

 

#saskedcamp – May 9th

This post is a little late, but I wanted to share my thoughts about a great professional development experience that I was part of recently. A group of educators who organize #saskedchat on Twitter recently hosted #saskedcamp on May 9th at the University of Saskatchewan. I headed up the day before to spend sometime in Saskatoon, SK since I’m rarely ever there and then headed to the education building that Saturday for a great morning of engagement and learning.

My understanding of an edcamp is a conference organized by teachers and those who want to present. The idea is that people write down topics that they wish to learn about, wish to discuss, or wish to facilitate a session / discussion around.

The following video explains the concept better than I have / will do:

Kelly was one of the people who helped organize and get things started. Him and his team (I apologize, I don’t remember everyone’s names) organized a great day. Once people listed topics on sticky notes, there were about 4 sessions running at the same time for about half an hour, and people went to the sessions that had the topics they expressed interest in, and they also had the freedom to get up and go to different sessions during the same half an hour. This was my first edcamp and I found it to be a great experience. In each session I went to, there were many great discussions where teachers and other educators shared their practice, their ideas and their knowledge with others, and some stimulating conversations took place. I made notes from each session with thoughts and ideas that I could take away with me. I brought a friend with me, Yan who was visiting from China, and she also had a great time. It was great to see everyone’s voice being heard and valued and lots of different ideas were shared. It was also interesting to hear everyone’s different experiences, things that have worked for them, and to discuss challenges or areas that people were interested in. Overall it was a great day.

I didn’t take too many pictures or send out too many tweets during the event. This is the only picture I have which is of myself writing down some ideas before the sessions were organized and the day began.

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Here are a few notes I jotted down (general ideas):

 

Below is an archive of the day with many pictures and great tweets capturing our learning and the great people who came out. Edit: I forgot that wordpress.com doesn’t let you embed a Storify post, so here is the link:
http://storify.com/kwhobbes/saskedcamp-may-9th-2015/

I enjoyed this experience very much and hope that I can make it to future edcamp events. It was also great to meet some people face to face that I know from Twitter, it turned into a great networking event as well. Thanks again to everyone who put it on!

 

 

Standardized Testing

In February 2013 Saskatchewan’s Ministry of Education proposed adopting standardized tests for every student, every year.

Dr. Marc Spooner from the University of Regina talks with Alfie Kohn about Saskatchewan’s proposed standardized testing:

Some reasons against standardized testing:

A) Standardized testing diverts teaching time and monetary resources away from student supports, teachable moments, and direct teacher-student contact time (i.e., Kohn, 2000, 2011; Sahlberg, 2011);

B) They are one-time snapshots that do not accurately measure how a student performs day after day, or what a student actually knows (i.e., Harris, Smith, & Harris, 2011);

C) They are culturally biased, and biased against those for whom reading and/or English is a challenge (i.e., Sawa, 2010);

D) They are more reflective of depressed socio-economic neighbourhood conditions than student learning or quality of teaching (i.e., VASS News, 2012);

E) they often induce unhealthy anxiety in students (i.e., Gail, Jones, Jones, & Hargrove, 2003; Segool, 2009);

F) The results of standardized tests, when published in newspapers carry negative side effects, including a significant drop in student and teacher morale (Paris & Urdan, 2000);

G) Teachers teach to the test (i.e., Volante, 2004) rather than teaching students to think through complex social problems, such as dealing with climate change and a fragile global economy; and

H) They run counter to Saskatchewan’s stated goal of improving retention and graduation rates of Aboriginal students, since these tests often serve to further marginalize and push out students for whom the system disadvantages (i.e., Crandall & Kutz, 2011).

Quotes taken from the “About” information section for this YouTube video.

 

 

Numbers

Image credit: Yorkton This Week

Now that school has started again, so has substitute teaching.

I have been in a few schools already and have many days coming up for the next few months up until January even. I have primarily been in what I consider an upperclass school and one of the community schools here.

It intrigues me, bothers me and makes think when I walk into one school and see class sizes of at least 25+ kids in the younger primary grades and the upper middle years classrooms. One school is running out of room – out of classrooms, space within rooms and even space in the gymnasium. However, the other school is smaller class sizes some as small as 7 and others as large as 23. This schools is seeing a rise in the younger grades, but it will take time for the upper grades to grow in size. One school is bursting at the room, and the other is growing smaller each year.

I guess my question is why are there so many students at this one school, while the other one and other schools in the division are smaller in student numbers?

  • The curriculum is the same
  • All schools have great teachers and administration
  • Access to technology – SmartBoards, computers, document cameras, internet etc. are equal among the division

For some, it may be convenience. They live near one school so they attend there; or the bus for this school will pick them up and sometimes parent transportation may not be an option for some. One school is French and English, and this may attract families that want their children to learn French Immersion – I support this. One end of town is booming with new construction and homes and there is only one school close there.

I don’t know how it is all decided as to which students attend certain schools. I hope that some families wont see  “community school” and think less of its students, teachers, expectations and opportunities. I interned in an upperclass school and recently spent two and a half months in a community school this past school year. From those and all of my other experiences in schools, I have seen all students in both types of schools being challenged, supported, and reaching their goals.

I really hope that out of the four Catholic elementary schools here, there wouldn’t be such a visible division of class seen among students when I walk through the school doors. Likewise, I wish this for all schools in the province.