May 26

Special Education Part 1 – Behavioural Exceptionality Case Study

In the case of Hannah on page 125 of Special Education in Ontario Schools, we learn about the continual behavioural incidences that occurred between nursery school and her current grade 4 year. Hannah always seemed to be on the move and would run until someone or something stopped her. She regularly blurts out anything on her mind. Hannah has a history of borrowing things without permission and failing to return the items until she is explicitly asked to do so. Hannah has a difficult time making connections with her classmates and often interferes with their learning during group work. This is becoming an increasing social issue, especially because Hannah seems to be unaware of how her actions are affecting (and annoying) her classmates. She has even been rejected from class fieldtrips for her past behaviour, even with her mother as a mentor. In grade 3, Hannah was diagnosed with ADHD, however, she is currently not medicated. With the untreated ADHD and subsequent behavioural issues, Hannah has been identified as lagging behind her peers academically. Hannah’s classmates and their parents have categorized her as a problem and refuse to accept her in social circles or group projects, which has led Hannah to become very emotional and distraught.

Hannah seems to be in a much better position to be successful in school, having learned some successful self-control skills at a camp specifically designed for individuals with ADHD. However, Hannah has a reputation now, and her classmates and the school community have an expectation of her negative behaviour. Given the information outlined above regarding Hannah’s behavioural issues, there are a number of supports and accommodations that must be put into place in order for Hannah to be successful:

Instructional Accommodations 

It is important that classroom instruction is differentiated to meet Hannah’s current level of subject matter comprehension, ensuring that the work is not too advanced or unachievable given her current academic struggles. In an effort to capture and maintain Hannah’s attention throughout instructional periods, various forms of media (Chromebooks, magazines, YouTube videos) and visual aids (anchor charts, drawings, images) should be incorporated into lessons. Providing step-by-step instructions that are manageable and achievable within Hannah’s threshold of attention will ensure that she does not wander or become disengaged in her learning (Bennett et al, p. 126). It is also important to provide extra assistance at the beginning of a new activity so that she has goals and objectives outlined that she needs to achieve. Classroom instructions should be delivered in close proximity to Hannah so that the audio and visual distractions are limited and the focus is solely on the educator (Bennett et al, p. 126). Additionally, it is important that Hannah is provided with regular reinforcement and celebrations to motivate her, acknowledge her progress and achievements, and to show the other students that she is a valued member of the classroom community.


Environmental Accommodations

A suggested way that Hannah could appropriately channel her energy, especially during quiet work periods, is by having an exercise bike in the classroom or replacing her chair with a yoga ball. An important consideration when placing Hannah in the classroom is to ensure that windows or other highly stimulating areas in the classroom are considered and/or altered if distractions occur. It is also important that Hannah is placed in a location within the classroom in which she can stay focused at be successful, such as away from the classroom door and other areas of high traffic. However, it is also important that Hannah is not isolated from her peers in a study carrel or “solo” desk, given that she doesn’t have strong peer relationships as it is. It may even be of benefit to Hannah’s social connections to establish a peer mentor/buddy that Hannah could sit with. This student would naturally be a liaison between Hannah and the rest of her classmates, helping to reduce negative stigmas attached to her and to establish positive peer relationships. Following a discussion with Hannah about positive self-regulation strategies, an image of the Zones of Regulation could be taped to the corner of her desk so that she is consistently aware of her behaviour and is reminded of appropriate strategies (http://www.zonesofregulation.com). Hannah should also be allowed to listen to music during work periods in an attempt to keep her focused and avoid potential opportunities to distract her peers.

Assessment Accommodations

In direct correlation with the instructional accommodations, it is important to differentiate pieces of assessment to meet Hannah’s current level of comprehension. It is important to outline step-by-step instructions on all pieces of assessment so that Hannah has an outlined process that she must follow and items that she can check off once completed. In addition to the step-by-step instruction, the educator can create goals with Hannah in respect to deadlines and success criteria. A way to focus Hannah on the task at hand would be to assist her with organizing her work and thoughts at the beginning of the assessment (Bennett et al, p. 126). Frequent check-ins throughout the assessment process would ensure that Hannah is on task and understanding the content being explored. Incorporating visual aids would help to spark Hannah’s interest in the assessment and, ideally, engage her throughout the process.


There are a few other foreseen issues that Hannah may experience if these supports are not put into place. If a stable routine is not put into place, then the coping strategies that Hannah is working on may become difficult to utilize in unpredictable situations. However, once a classroom routine is established, Hannah will know when it is appropriate to do what (i.e. listen to music). It is almost important that while the educator must be flexible and adaptable given Hannah’s varying behaviours, firm expectations about appropriate classroom behaviour should be created and discussed with Hannah. This will allow her to become more self-aware of her behaviour and its ramifications, especially if teacher prompts have become exhausted.

This is a crucial time in Hannah’s academic development. It is imperative that her distractions are limited so that her academic achievement increases to a grade-appropriate level. Perhaps even more pressing is Hannah’s social development. As previously mentioned, she has established a negative reputation among her classmates and their parents. This can be very damaging for Hannah’s self-esteem and overall self-image. It is very important that the classroom teacher works with Hannah and her peers, through restorative justice and community building initiatives to mend Hannah’s relationships with her peers and provide her with a supportive and accepting social circle (Ministry of Education, p. 36). I believe that through the implementation of the suggested accommodations and considerations, Hannah can be set up for a successful academic and social development.

References

A Concept to Foster Self-Regulation & Emotional Control – Welcome. (n.d.). Retrieved May 19, 2017, from http://www.zonesofregulation.com/index.html

Bennett, S., Weber, K. J., Dworet, D., & Weber, K. J. (2008). Special education in Ontario schools. Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont.: Highland Press.

Ontario Ministry of Education (2010). Caring and safe schools in Ontario: supporting students with special education needs through progressive discipline, kindergarten to grade 12. Toronto: Queens Printer for Ontario.

April 2

A Review of FNMI Education in Ontario

By: Spencer Burton, Louise Yeon, Chris Bannon, Graeme Shaw

Our group sought to discover more about the trends in education surrounding the topic of First Nations, Métis, and Inuit peoples, as it is currently taught in the Ontario school system. Through our research we have recognized the importance of educating students about FNMI people, culture, and tradition. We found this topic to be very important to intermediate students, as they are in a period of their lives in which the formation of positive self-identity and self-esteem are at the forefront. We conducted research, distributed surveys, and interviewed education professionals to discover more about what is being taught in schools about FNMI culture, how it is being taught, what practices are being used in schools, and what else needs to be done to accurately and respectfully educate the next generation of Canadians about this topic.

In an attempt to find the answers to our questions, we created a documentary-style video about the current level of FNMI education in Ontario’s public school system. We selected a number of different individuals that we interviewed. This provided us with a holistic representation of our research. We spoke with students, asking what they knew about FNMI people and how they learned the information they knew. These student recordings demonstrated possible gaps in our students’ education on FNMI issues. We found student responses focused on cultural artifacts that were historically stereotypical of FNMI people and that students did not know about current FNMI issues. Secondly, we spoke with current teachers in the field about whether or not they teach about FNMI in their practice and how they communicate this information. From these written responses we found that teachers were divided evenly on whether the Ontario curriculum allows sufficient space for teaching current FNMI issues in the classroom. Lastly, we spoke with members of the Faculty of Education at the University of Ottawa regarding what they are doing to adequately prepare their Teacher Candidates to confidently incorporate FNMI education in their practice. These responses were optimistic about the initiatives being undertaken at the University of Ottawa, but also noted that there is still lots that can be done and lots that needs to be done for FNMI education.

In order to create a successful video we gathered information from the Museum of History.  We participated in the construction of a birch bark canoe on the University of Ottawa’s campus in support of the Truth and Reconciliation Commissions Call to Action with an Elder from Mattawa.  Members of our group also participated in a Indigenizing and Decolonizing the Academy.  All of this information proved to be valuable in learning about the topic, and the testimony that followed allowed us to complete the video and develop a greater understanding of FNMI in Ontario Education.

To strengthen our knowledge we administered a survey to teachers to see how FNMI students and culture is represented in their classrooms and how it could be improved.  We have compared teacher answers to students’ knowledge in regards to how FNMI are represented in their school, and what students know about indigenous culture. In order to educate students, the Faculty of Education at the University of Ottawa is trying to shift away from the colonial approach to education and allow student teacher to decolonize education.

From gathering recordings from students, teachers and faculty members, we found that there is still a significant need for further education on current FNMI issues in Ontario schools, and in the University of Ottawa Teacher Education Program.

September 23

Schooling the World

schooling-the-world
In one of my university courses yesterday, we watched the film Schooling the World: The White Man’s Last Burden. Admittedly, the internet does a better job of summarizing the video than I would, so here you go:

If you wanted to change a culture in a generation, how would you do it?

You would change the way it educates its children.

The U.S. Government knew this in the 19th century when it forced Native American children into government boarding schools. Today, volunteers build schools in traditional societies around the world, convinced that school is the only way to a ‘better’ life for rural and Indigenous children.

But is this true?  What really happens when we replace another culture’s canon of knowledge with our own?  Does life really get better for its people?

Deep, I know. But there were many good takeaway messages that I wrote down and wish to share here (I apologize if the topics and ideas jump all over the place):

  • The overt goal of residential schools was to kill the Indian inside the child
  • Traditional ways of showing kindness and helping others is being replaced by careers that “help people”, such as doctors or engineers
    • Changing away from teaching students about the heart and spirit, to teaching them about material wealth and gain
  • If you’ve lost your history, then you’ve lost everything
  • Traditional education taught students about their own soil, environment, and how to survive in their own community for generations
  • In modern education, students learn how to use corporate products in urban environments
    • They are unable to survive independently in their own community
  • “We are creating incomplete human beings” because we are teaching information that feeds into a consumer society’s beliefs
  • Schools are factories in which raw materials – students – are to be shaped into functional beings
  • People provide educational aid out of the goodness of their heart, but they don’t stay long enough to see the overall impact and they don’t look broadly enough
    • Forget their own culture, traditions, and language
    • More damaging than good

testing

May 17

“Get Through The Week” Advice

Work can be a stressful place sometimes. Due dates, timelines, tasks… Things are constantly running through our mind, forcing us to over-think everything, making us feel that the things we are working on are way bigger than they actually are. But work isn’t the only place this happens.

Often as adults, we overlook the stressful lives that children in this day and age are living. The strange part is, many of the stressors that adults experience are the same as students in the classroom are experiencing. Students have deadlines. Students have work. Students have social pressures. And yet, we as teachers do not always do an adequate job of preparing students for these stressors that they will most likely experience for the rest of their lives.

Self-Care2

There is a movement in the world of education to break down the stigma of mental health by explaining exactly what it is to be depressed or anxious. We also explain to them the importance of seeking help and we provide them with different resources they can contact. On a day-to-day basis, students experience a number of different stressors, but does this make them depressed? In the short-term, no. So, shouldn’t we also prepare them for the daily stress they’ll inevitably encounter?

This video from Dr. Mike Evans explains (using an awesome visual aid) the various ways that you can get through a “crap” day or week. Here is a brief summary of his “get through the week” advice:

  • Stick to the basics:
    • Sleep
    • Activity
    • Get perspective
    • Eat
    • Go on a date
    • Clean up your space

Self-Care
In its very essence, his advice explains the basics of self-care. This is something that is of great importance to all people, students included. Each of these little topics can be used to start a class discussion about mental health, self-care, and realistic and achievable methods of dealing with stress. Even a 20-minute discussion once a week could provide students with an understanding of their own stress and how to cope with it, so that they can continue to reach their highest potential.

Self-Care3

For your viewing pleasure, here is Dr. Mike Evans’s video:

February 18

Bill 13: The Accepting Schools Act

Impressions of Bill 13

As teachers, we enter into the profession to change lives; we want to have a positive impact on every student we interact with, encouraging them to be the best possible version of themself. We do this in more ways than teaching students through a mandated curriculum; we promote and exemplify what it means to be a positive, contributing member of society. This is further promoted through creating an accepting and inclusive school environment.

In the past, the topic of bullying was approached with a reactive approach, tackling the situations as they arise. This approach is not enough; the principal office would regularly have students who were bullying or had been bullied by someone if the school only chose to react to situations. What I like the most about Bill 13 is its proactive approach, implementing mandatory preventative strategies and requirements. In a perfect world, if bullying can be prevented at the source, there will be no need to react to the situation because it would never get that far.

Equity and Inclusive Education

Creating an inclusive classroom is essential to the academic success of all students. It is one thing for a student to feel understood, but it’s another to feel accepted for who they are. In order to create a realistic sense of equity and inclusion within the classroom, I would strive to provide a culturally and ethnically diverse curriculum for my students. This could include reviewing educational material and selecting lessons that the diverse students in my classroom could relate to, as well as promoting and encouraging group learning experiences in the classroom which will foster a sense of cooperation among members of a diverse society.

Through implementing an equity and inclusive education policy, we can create an accepting school through mutual respect. By creating an environment of respect, I as a teacher can ensure that all students feel appreciated and valued in the classroom, thus leading to more confidence in their academic abilities. I could also show respect for students of different cultures by learning a few words in the student’s first language or demonstrating some knowledge of their culture’s traditions and beliefs. Ultimately, the key to respect for all cultures is understanding.

Professional Development Programs, Bullying and School Climate

Bill 13 outlines a number of different policies and procedures that teachers are expected to follow in order to ensure that the school is deemed safe and accepting. However, this can be a daunting task if not provided with the appropriate resources. Professional development workshops are an effective way of presenting, creating, and implementing bullying prevention strategies within the school. As educated professionals, staff collaboration is a great way to provide a support system while also making the task of creating an accepting school more achievable.

One hesitation I have about this section of the bill is that the professional development programs are only required to be provided on an annual basis. While I understand that teachers and administrations will be implementing and adhering to all of the other requirements of this bill to create an accepting school, I feel as though collaboration among school staff is essential. Bullying is a daily problem in schools, yet annual professional development opportunities seem too sporadic to effectively achieve the goal at hand.

Programs, Interventions and other Supports, Bullying

By having programs to support the bullied, the bully, and everyone else affected, Bill 13 assumes a very holistic approach to the topic of bullying. As a teacher, this will prove to be very beneficial. We may have a class of 30 students, and while only 2 of them are immediately involved in a bullying situation (the bullied and the bully), there are many other students that are either friends with the students involved or witnesses of the act. Thus, the issue becomes larger than what one teacher may have the resources to address. These programs can take many different approaches, while also recognizing that there is not a “one-size-fits-all” solution; the program for the bully can look very different than that of the bystander.

As teachers, we seek to create the best possible learning environment for our students. Through the help of social workers and psychologists, we can work collaboratively to find a solution to any problem that may affect the learning environment. Although I have an undergraduate degree in Psychology, I by no means have the training and resources that a psychologist would have. Therefore, by including professionals outside of our immediate profession of teaching, students will be given the support and behavioural management required to foster an accepting and inclusive classroom environment.

Bullying Awareness and Prevention Week

I have constructed three ideas that can be used in conjunction with one another during Bullying Awareness and Prevention Week. Firstly, I would have my class collectively construct an Anti-Bullying Mosaic. This will be completed by having students decorate a 12×12 medium (paper, fabric, wood), expressing what a “safe space” means to them. The final product can be posted in the front entrance of the school to promote the school as a safe environment.

Secondly, I would administer a Random Acts of Kindness Passport to my students, which would contain a list of multiple random acts that students can do. Throughout the week, the students would complete various acts and have someone sign as a witness. At the end of the week, the student with the most acts completed would win a prize. This would take a proactive approach to bullying, teaching students to be kind to one another and positive members of the community.

The last event would be an Eat Your Words Bake Sale, where students and staff bring in baked goods, pay $1 for an item, and write in icing a word that they have used to bully someone. They would then “eat their words”, expressing to themself and others that they will no longer utilize that word or any other negative words to harm someone else. All proceeds of the event would go towards supporting an anti-bullying campaign or future anti-bullying programs in the school.

February 2

Adult Education: More than a Second Chance

Adult Education2 More than a Second Chance introduces the concept of mature student programs. These programs are provided to individuals who are over the age of 18 that wish to obtain their high school diploma, increase a mark in a specific subject area, or upgrade their overall skills. Often, these programs get referred to as a “second chance,” making the assumption that the adults enrolled in the program are there simply because they dropped out of high school. This is not always the case, and with the continual immigration of individuals into our country, Canada faces additional challenges with determining the level of education that these individuals must achieve to have their previous education equated to that of Canada’s.

In my teaching experiences, I have worked with diverse populations in various settings. At Essential Skills Upgrading in Kitchener, I worked with adults with a number of cultural, language, racial, and socio-economic differences. Essential Skills Upgrading is an adult learning centre, with many of the individuals using the centre to work towards entering into college or writing their GED. At ESU, the students learn in a classroom setting with other adult learners. However, since each student attends the program to achieve a different goal, they tend to work on their own lessons at their own pace.

Adult Education3During my orientation, the teachers at the program explained to me that these individuals typically have a lower self-esteem, especially because they are adults who did not do well in school in the past or they have recently been laid off. Therefore, the teachers make the conscious effort to call these individuals “learners” rather than “students”. It was explained that many of the learners are currently using the centre because they did not have positive experiences with the education system in the pass, thus leading them to do poorly in school, be truant, or drop out. Therefore, the use of the word “learner” is to remove that negative mindset, boost their morale and self-esteem, and ultimately allow them to do better in school.

While working with one of the learners at Essential Skills Upgrading, she opened up to me about her life and the struggles that she has gone through. She explained to me that her and her family lived in Palestine for a number of years before coming to Canada. She was a teacher in Palestine, teaching the Arabic language to young elementary school students. The learner told me that her life turned around when the war in Iraq began. She was afraid to put her three children in school in fear that they would be unsafe. Finally, in 2008, she immigrated her family to Canada to start a new life. Since her education was not recognized at an equal level in Canada, she must attend the program to upgrade her education.

This just goes to show that we cannot buy into the specific viewpoints that surrounds the adult education sector. Everyone has a story and each person is working towards their own end goal. We must be supportive in every venture that a student takes.

Adult Education

November 29

Re-Situate “Curriculum”

FullSizeRender
Ayers (2010) presents the struggle that every teacher experiences throughout their entire career: Defining curriculum as a “means to” rather than an “end goal”. The curriculum outlines the important aspects of learning that students should demonstrate throughout each year of their education. However, we cannot allow this curriculum to be the only accepted learning in our classrooms.

Teamwork, initiative, responsibility, interpersonal relationships… these are all skills that are important aspects of learning that perhaps aren’t explicitly outlined in the curriculum. Also, what about the teachable moments that arise each and every day in our classrooms? Should we refuse to build on those, simply because they are not outlined in the curriculum? What if a student wants to solve a particular problem that is covered in a later grade? Should we delay this learning to ensure that everyone’s education is at the same pace?

Curriculum
As every educator should do, we must re-situate our initial understandings of “curriculum”. Ayers poses an number of interesting questions that guide his approach to implementing a curriculum:

  1. Are challenges from classroom to community fair game for investigation?
  2. Are there opportunities for discovery and surprise?
  3. Are students actively engaged with primary sources and hands on materials?
  4. Is productive work going on?
  5. Is the work linked to student questions or interests?
  6. Is work in my classroom pursued to its far limits?

There is so much more to student learning than what is outlined in the mandated curriculum. I am by no means “rebelling” against these documents; in fact, I place extremely value on these documents as they truly do guide teaching and learning. However, I do believe that we as teachers must do more than simply follow the curriculum. We must create these situations in which students can explore and learn to become efficient learners, rather than focusing all efforts on ensuring each students achieves every specific expectation outlined in their grade level.

curriculum

November 19

To Kill the Indian in the Child: The Apology

“At 3:00 p.m. exactly, Prime Minister Stephen Harper appeared on the screen and the crowd fell silent” (p. 165).

From the early 1830s to 1996, thousands of First Nation, Inuit, and Metis children were forced to attend residential schools in an attempt to aggressively assimilate them into the dominant culture. During Stephen Harper’s speech, which proves to me a monumental moment in Canadian history, he says:

“I stand before you – in this chamber so central to our life as a country to apologize to Aboriginal peoples for Canada’s role in the Indian Residential Schools system” (p. 167).

Residential Schools
Despite the importance of this moment between the Canadian government and the affected Aboriginal peoples, it was not universally received as a positive apology. It is always difficult when individuals of a marginalized group continue to feel as though the apology and the means in place of rectifying the injustice are insufficient. There continue to be individuals who take the “too little too late” response, accepting that an effort was made but refusing to recognize it as sufficient.

My questions is: What apology would be sufficient? Should they receive a massive monetary compensation for the disgusting and inhuman actions that took place within the residential schools? Should there be a First Nations, Inuit, and Metis subject introduced in schools to educate students on what really happened? What can we do as a country to make everyone feel proud of being a Canadian?

These will never be easy questions to answer. Hundreds of years from now, when there are no living victims of the residential school system, there will still be hard feelings because it still happened, affecting the ancestors of many families. So where does that leave us? Is there anything we can do? Perhaps not to the standards that will be universally accepted. However, with each action of rectifying the situation, more and more people are learning to start anew. As Knockwood shares in Out of the Depths (2015):

“My main reaction to this formal apology was to feel that although I wasn’t able to forgive the government and the church for what they did to my parents and ancestors by legislation, I was ready to accept the apology. […] This would also be a new start for me, and mentally I turned a new page and wrote the word “pride” on it.” (p. 169).

Residential Schools2

November 13

The Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA)

Yesterday, I wrote a post about EQAO testing. To continue with the theme of standardization, let’s take a look at PISA.

The Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) is an international survey that is administered every 3 years. PISA aims to evaluate education systems worldwide by testing the skills and knowledge of 15-year-old students. PISA discusses what makes them different on their website:

PISA is unique because it develops tests which are not directly linked to the school curriculum. The tests are designed to assess to what extent students at the end of compulsory education, can apply their knowledge to real-life situations and be equipped for full participation in society.

Just like the EQAO standardized test, PISA has created large debates within countries around the world regarding where they rank in comparison to the other countries. Here is a televised discussion regarding Canada’s PISA ranking:

What are your thoughts on standardization, either within Ontario (EQAO) or in relation to countries worldwide (PISA)?

November 12

Education Quality and Accountability Office (EQAO)

Standardized testing is a very controversial subject within the education system. The goal of standardized tests are to outline the achievements and shortcomings of schools within a specific subjects, as compared to other schools within a similar area. EQAO (Education Quality and Accountability Office) is an example of a standardized test within Ontario. EQAO seeks to measure Ontario students’ achievement in reading, writing and math at key stages of their education, such as grade 3 and 6. Here is a video outlining more about this process and mass amount of work that goes into creating these tests:

However, there are many opposing views to standardized testing. Tests perhaps aren’t the best representation of a student’s understanding of a particular subject. Questions are also raised surrounding the idea that Mathematics and Language are being placed at a higher importance than the other subjects simply because they are the only subjects represented in the EQAO tests. There is also a lot of money that is put into these tests that could be put elsewhere in the education system.

The EQAO test has also created some controversy by publishing the results of every school on their website. For example, here are the results for the school that I am completing my Community Service Learning and practicum at:

EQAO - Pinecrest Junior
Alternatively, here are the results from the school that I attended elementary school:

EQAO - St. Matthew Junior
The differences between these two schools are significant to say the least. Does this mean that my elementary school provided a better education than the other school? Perhaps. But also, perhaps not. Standardized tests provide a very narrow view of whether or not students are capable of achieving a high grade on a written test for a specific subject. There are many variables that go into the EQAO scores, yet these results are displayed at face value on an open forum. This could lead to the formation of a negative impression of a school, discouraging families from sending their students to that school or even living close to it.

Should standardized tests be administrated? Should their results be available to the public or used specifically for internal knowledge and making the schools better?