Saturday, 17 December 2011

O-Kay People, We Need Your Help here!

Dear All,

This will be a short post.  Our students face many issues in their lives, there is no argument about that.  Whether they have it harder or easier than we did growing up is not the point and not really worth arguing about.

I do know that we should all want to make some of what they face easier.  I'm not talking about lowering standards, or spoon-feeding our adloescents.  I'm talking about some of our kids facing difficulties that have had nothing to do with any decisions they have ever made.

Our kids do not choose to leave a school in October to move to another school.  Our kids do not choose to have 17 different elementary school experiences.  And our students do not choose to miss whole topics of discussion or learning because of that.

We can help.

Ideas cost nothing.

One of my teachers came up to me at the end of a staff meeting and said, "If a student returns to Forster after only a few months, wouldn't it be nice for them if they could have their old locker back?"

When students "up and move" at the end of a month, sometimes very hurriedly, leaving behind (sometimes) possessions that adults see as unimportant, but the child sees entirely differently, how important would it be for a student to be greeted by a friendly face and be told, "Here's your locker.  We left it here just for you."?

That simple idea took seconds to relate to me.  In future, it might entirely change a child's life. (Thanks Karen)

I know there are more ideas out there.

Please share them.

(Thanks to LC for the comments she's posted.  Her ideas will shape the discussion my staff and the staffs of five other schools has around this issue.  Yours can too.)


Tuesday, 13 December 2011

What I want for this blog

Dear Everybody,

I spent a few hours in the last few months gathering data about my students with respect to transience or mobility.  What I found was not exactly "heartening."  A quarter of my students had moved five or more times from kindergarten to high school.
Less than ten per cent of my students had shared my experience of having one elementary school and one high school.  One student had changed schools 17 times!  I did not want to use this information as an excuse.  I want to use it to point out to my staff and the staffs of our "feeder" elementary schools that this is an issue that needs to be addressed.

What I want this blog to "do" is establish a forum of ideas to help the students that move several times throughout their educational careers.  Although I have ideas of my own, I know that the more people who put their minds to this issue, the better the chance that we'll find solutions that will work, not only for "my" students, but for students around the country.

As I see it, there are at least three ways that transience can affect students:  academically, socially, and emotionally.  It is important to deal with all three to improve the situation for a transient student. 

Examples of solutions are: 1) academically - a family of schools can arrange courses so that topics are taught in the same order.  When a student moves, for whatever reason, from one school to another school in the same family, they will not be missing much in the way of material being covered at school; 2) socially - the receiving school can act in the same manner as "Welcome Wagon," providing families with information about the neighbourhood they've moved in to, such as who their Member of Parliament is, who their councillor is, who their trustee is, etc.  It could also provide information about local restaurants and grocery stores, along with coupons for these institutions.  It could also provide an application for library cards; and 3) the receiving school could provide a mentor or "buddy" for the student to help them adjust to the new building.

I have many more ideas, but I'd like to hear from you.

Sunday, 11 December 2011

My research project

Dear All,

This year, I'm investigating the issue of "transience" or "mobility" with regard to students.  Simply put, the issue of students moving from school to school, both during the school year and throughout their educational career.

I was fortunate growing up, in that I had a very stable upbringing.  I spent my entire elementary career at one school, from kindergarten to Grade 8, and then I spent my entire secondary career at one High School.

The vast majority of students at my school right now do not share this experience.  In fact, less than 8% of our students have this history.

For those that don't know, my High School is our school board's main English as a Second Language School.  Students come from all over the world.  For most of these students, Forster Secondary School is their first Canadian High School.  For many, Forster is their very first school - period!

For the rest, the ones from Canada or the United States, their number of school moves ranges from two (one grade school and one high school) to seventeen (17!)

To this point in my research I've found several papers on the effects this might have on students, and the issues it can present to schools.  I've yet to find any research on what schools can do to work with these students to help them.

As my work in this area continues, I'll keep you posted.  I've come up with several ideas on my own, but if you've got comments or suggestions, I'm happy to read them.
They may become part of my work! (and I'd be happy to give you credit for any ideas generated.)

Those ideas (both mine and hopefully yours) will be the subject of future posts.

That's it for now,


Saturday, 10 December 2011

The 21st Century is an interesting place

Dear All,

I was going to title this "a dangerous place," but I only partly believe that.  If you're careful, and think things through, it's no more dangerous than any other time.  (I've been careful not to hit "reply all."  I never send e-mails when I'm angry.  If something promises to be controversial, I always ask someone I trust to read it before I send it.  And I don't believe those letters that promise me a share of $6,000,000 in some foreign bank if I only send them my credit card information.)

However, the last couple weeks have reminded me that, for our students and our children, we need to make sure they understand the dangers (o-kay, it can be a dangerous place) of the internet.

Here are three of the metaphors I've heard, that might work with our children, when talking about facebook, or any of the other social networks available on the web:

1) Don't write anything unless you'd be happy wearing a t-shirt with what you've written on both the front and back of the shirt.

2) Don't write anything unless you'd be happy with it being on the front page of the Windsor Star, attributed to you.

3) What would your grandmother's reaction be, if she read what you were writing?

However, in spite of this, I know that some of our students won't get it.

I've worked with students over the last couple years who say to me, "But I was just writing it to my friends!  I didn't mean for it to get back to the school!  It was one of their faults for forwarding it on to the person I was talking about!"

I've also worked with students who've said, "My mother and father don't care what I write, or how I write it, why should you?"

Both of these situations leave me shaking my head.  Not because I believe them when they say you don't care, but because they show a lack of understanding about the nature of the internet.

Here's the reality:  Once you've written something, and posted it, or sent it - it's out there.  It belongs to anyone and everyone you've sent it to.  And you've completely lost control of how it gets distributed after that.  You might have a proviso at the bottom of your e-mail that says it is only intended for the person it was sent to, but that doesn't really stop someone from forwarding it on.

And the other reality, that our kids may not appreciate (yet) , is that potential colleges, universities, and employers have just as much access to the internet as everybody else.
They search people out before hiring or accepting them!  It's easy to say, when you're sixteen, "I don't want to work for a company that would do that, or who doesn't appreciate my sense of humour," or "But I was just joking when I posted that picture!"
It's much harder to believe that when you're nineteen, or twenty, or thirty - and you're not being hired because of something you wrote and posted without thinking.

So - to our teachers - please stress to our students the importance and sensitivity of what they write on facebook - and how it can come back to bite them.

And to our parents and guardians - please let your children know that you do care about what they write, and what image they are presenting of themselves to the rest of the world.


Friday, 9 December 2011

I'm having issues with the blog - this is a test

Dear Everyone,

I guess I'm not completely comfortable in the 21st century yet.  I'm having issues logging in - so this is just a test to see if this posts.

Nothing very interesting here, sorry.


Thursday, 8 December 2011

New Kid on the Blog

Dear All,

My e-mail memos to staff and parents apparently pegged me as a man of the 90's.  So with this blog I'm trying to move into the 21st century.

I'll include my weekly memos in this blog, plus whenever I can find a few moments during the workday, I'll add more.