March 10

Teen Stress in our Schools


Teen Stress in our Schools
is an article written by a professor and PhD student that have worked to create the StressOFF Strategies program. This program features a 45-minute session that introduces middle and high school students to the concepts of recognizing stress and utilizing coping skills to minimize its effects.

The program features four key components: psychoeducation, decreasing stigma, coping skills, and follow-up. Psychoeducation seeks to teach students about stress and how to recognize it within themselves. The program seeks to decrease stigma around mental health by encouraging discussion and providing examples of celebrities that have talked about stress. The body of the program revolves around presenting three different types of coping skills: cognitive, physiological, and behavioural strategies. Lastly, a pamphlet and website accompany the program for future learning.

Teen Stress


It is important that the themes of stress and coping strategies are being addressed with a large emphasis in every school, starting at a young age. Every students experiences stress, perhaps even bouts of depression, and therefore it is important that students know what to do in these situations. In my opinion, while it might sounds like a great idea, I do not believe that coping skills can be adequately taught in 45-minutes. Yes, coping skills can be introduced. However, these strategies are behaviours that must be practiced and personally used, especially since coping methods vary from person to person.

It is important to have a plan in place within the school if a student feels overly stressed and overwhelmed. This can include telling students how to appropriate communicate their feelings to the correct adults in the school, such as the teacher, guidance counselor, chaplain, or principal. It could also be beneficial to implement mandatory meetings for students with their guidance counselor to check in with academic, family, peer, and personal struggles. This would provide students with an ongoing opportunity to share, discuss, and learn how to deal with the issues they are facing in their lives.

It is also important to look at the root causes of their stress. What is it about academics that are making students experience stress? Is it the unrealistic expectations place on their performance by their parents? Is the student struggling with the subject matter because they have an unrecognized learning disability? Or perhaps the student simply does not have proper time management skills, thus forcing them to feel the time crunch of attempting to finish work at the very last minute. Once we understand what is causing the stress, then we are able to adopt a proactive approach to stress, which is the best form of coping skill.

Here is an insightful infographic about stress among teenagers:

Teen Stress2

March 5

Practicum Reflection: Week #4

This week was one that was full of culminating task work. With all of the snow days and student absences, I was forced to delay my culminating task for my math unit, thus placing it during the same week that the geography culminating task was taking place. In hindsight, this meant that the students were able to focus on the tasks at hand, rather than stressing about learning new material and being exposes to new topics.

At this point in the year, I’ve learned a lot about my students’ abilities, both intellectually and in work ethic such as time management skills. With the number of students in my class that have IEPs, both accommodated and modified, there is a great deal of differentiation that I must consider and implement so that all of my students are capable of achieving success. This poses some difficulty, especially since my grade 7 students range from a grade 2/3 level all the way to grade 8 in math.

Data Management
For the math culminating task, groups of students designed, conducted, analyzed and reflected on their own survey. In an attempt to achieve grade-appropriate evaluation while still setting my students up for success, I placed students in groups of 3-4 of varying abilities. Each student was graded on the group’s final product, their own individual reflections and conclusions, a peer evaluation, and a self-evaluation. I believe that this produced a fair evaluation of each student’s ability while also adhering to the grade 7 math curriculum that each student is expected to learn.

The geography culminating task had students using Chromebooks and Google Slides to produce a research presentation about their chosen natural resource. The use of technology truly allowed those students who typically struggle with writing to feel liberated through their comfort and ability to use the internet and typing. Additionally, it provided high achieving students with the opportunity to go above and beyond with their information by using photos, stating references, and including links to various internet content. The final products were a great testament to how much of an impact technology can have on the learning of today’s students.

Throughout the week, students rested their eyes from technology and picked up pencil and paper. We are currently studying optical illusion art, especially that of M. C. Escher. Here are some of the final products:

Escher Art
We continued the art into a science lesson, where we created food chain pyramids. The pyramids were a great visual representation of the various types of consumers, as well as the amount of energy that gets transferred from one level to the next. This task was extremely beneficial for my ELD (English Language Development) students because it exposed them to terminology while also providing a visual that they could refer back to throughout the week. Here is some student work:

Pyramid1 Pyramid2    Pyramid3

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 9

The 13-Point Bullying Prevention Plan

The 13-Point Bullying Prevention Plan suggests a comprehensive program that can be implemented at a low cost into any school system. This plan targets every aspect of the issue of bullying, including the school environment, the staff, students, parents, and the administrative components that are involved. The 13-Point Plan is as follows:

  1. Involve the entire school community
  2. Establish a bullying prevention committee
  3. Create a caring school climate
  4. Implement a school climate survey
  5. Identify school “hot spots”
  6. Ensure teachers know how to deal with bullying
  7. Teach students bullying prevention strategies
  8. Establish clear, consistent consequences for bullying behaviour
  9. Don’t turn a blind eye to cyberbullying
  10. Establish a school bullying tracking system
  11. Establish a confidential reporting system
  12. School staff must provide support for victims of bullying
  13. Bring new staff members into the program

Despite years of implementing various bullying prevention programs and strategies into the school system, bullying remains prevalent in our school and society as a whole. The image below provides us with information regarding the types and prevalence of bullying. Simply put, the numbers are astounding. Looking at the chart, one would immediately picture the school ground as a battlefield! Children are being tormented at an alarming rate, and yet the majority of bullying goes unnoticed by the teachers, parents, and other adults in the child’s life. Why is this? I believe it’s because children are starting to accept that bullying is part of “growing up”; it’s something that everyone goes through. Due to this mindset, kids are starting to blur the lines between “friend” and “bully”, accepting them both into their friend groups.

Types of Bullying2
In my opinion, the 13-Point Bullying Prevention Plan provides a holistic approach to a complex problem that exists in every school. It is not realistic to place pressure on the teaching staff to address bullying and teach students not to engage in that behaviour. Rather, the principal, administrative staff, teachers, parents, and students must all be involved in the implementation process. Everyone must have the tools to address bullying and work in a consistent and uniform fashion.

January 31

When Students Drive Improvement

Student Voice5
Eric Hardie, author of When Students Drive Improvement, details the most useful wealth of knowledge when it comes to changes that should be implemented in the school: the students themselves. Hardie suggests that teachers can only assume what issues students are facing and what feelings they have about school. Therefore, when teachers and administrators attempt to implement programs that rectify these issues, they may not be fully effect or at all relevant to the feelings the students actually have.

By truly listening to students and creating opportunities for the students to take control of their own school, the information provided and implemented within the school is invaluable. One school created a student council consisting of students from a wide variety of areas within the school (academics, athletics, arts, etc.), which created a system to solve the problem of individuals feeling bullied and as thought they don’t belong. Additionally, the students sought to solve other problems within the school by acknowledging the problem, brainstorming ways to solve it, and putting a plan into action, all of which was student-driven.

Student Voice4

I feel very strongly about the viewed expressed in Hardie’s article. It is one thing for students to learn a standardized curriculum, but if students are simply meant to absorb information and go on with their life, then there is a problem with the system. Students of all ages have very real opinions, especially when it comes to issues regarding their time at school, as do they have very real solutions that could be implemented. By putting the problem and the solution into the hands of the students, they are provided with an opportunity to learn social justice, equality and equity, empathy, time management, and initiative, among other skills that are not explicitly taught in the curriculum.

At my elementary school, St. Matthew in Waterloo, we had a “house” system in place. Our mascot was the wildcat, so we had four “cat team” which every student in the school was sorted under. Throughout the year, students would be able to earn points for their teams by being recognized by teachers for being good students, winning intramural sports, submitting great assignments, etc. This created a sense of belonging, team unity, and a desire to do well, not only for one’s self, but for the entirety of the team.

January 5

Teen Pregnancy

The relationship between teenage pregnancy and education goes in both directions. Teenagers who become pregnant are more likely to drop out of school and teenagers who drop out of school are more likely to become pregnant. Also, children of teen mothers are less likely to graduate from high school than children whose parents were older at the time of childbearing.

– Missionaries of the Sacred Heart

We often talk about poverty, race, and learning disabilities as key factors that prevent students from excelling in school. But another trend in education is the amount of teenaged pregnancies and their effects on success in school. During my time in high school, there were a few girls that I knew of that had given birth or had an abortion, yet the stats displayed below really intensified this topic for me:

Pregnancy2
Abortions and childbirths are occurring in astronomical numbers, and these stats are only from Canada! But just how serious of an effect does pregnancy have on the academic success of a study?

  • Only 38% of teen mothers who have a child before the age of 18 graduate from high school, compared to approximately 75% of women who delay child bearing until 20-21.
  • Parenthood is a leading cause of dropping out of school among girls. 30% of teen girls cited pregnancy or parenthood as a reason for dropping out of high school.
  • Woman who are 20-21 when they give birth are over 4 times as likely to have a college degree by the time they are 30 as woman who have a child before the age of 18 (9% compared to <2%).
  • 2/3 of children of teen mothers graduate high school, compared to 81% of the children of parents who were older at the time of childbearing.
  • Children of teen mothers are 50% more likely to repeat a grade as children of older parents.
  • Teenagers who drop out of school are more likely to get pregnant than their peers who stay in school.

Catholic schools teach abstinence; public schools teach contraception. Which is more effective? Is abortion a better alternative for teen students than childbirth? And what are the effects, if any, on the father? I will definitely look into these questions and more during further research on this topic.

November 3

Indian Residential Schools’ Impact on Canadian Education

I’ll admit, History was not one of my favourite subjects growing up. The way it was taught felt like stories rather than realities. The focus was on devastating harms committed over 50 years ago in countries that seemed to be on the other side of the world. The approach was “this is what happened and this is why we should never do it again”. But what about the devastating harms that occurred right in our own backyards? Why aren’t those topics at the forefront of our history classes? As Canadian’s, should there be a larger focus on being taught information that has a personal connection to each and every one of us, which may even lead us to work towards uniting everyone in our country?

We Were Children
The video We Were Children shares the harsh realities of residential schools in Canada:

“Beginning in the late 1850’s, over 150,000 Aboriginal children were legally forced to attend Indian residential schools in Canada. The schools were part of a wider program of assimilation designed to integrate the Aboriginal population into “Canadian society.” At their peak in the 1950’s, there were 80 Indian Residential schools across the country. Today there are over 80,000 Indian Residential school survivors. The last Indian Residential school closed in 1996” (We Were Children, 2012).

Decolonizing EducationThere was so much pain suffered by First Nations, Inuit, and Metis (FNIM) peoples in our country, and yet teachers and the government gloss over or skip altogether the realities of our country’s past. This paints a picture of continual denial, neglecting to incorporate these lessons into our so-called perfect Eurocentric education approach. As Battiste outlines in her book Decolonizing Education:

“Eurocentric education policies and attempts at assimilation have contributed to major global losses in Indigenous languages and knowledge, and to persistent poverty among Indigenous peoples” (page 25).

The difficult part for the teacher is deciding how to address the issue and the pain of what happened, without turning it into just another history lesson routed in this Eurocentric framework. How do we address this important part of our country’s heritage without placing all FNIM students on a pedestal? What is the best way to present this topic so that students can become aware, learn from the mistakes of the people before us, and use this knowledge to make the world a safer, more inclusive place?

I believe that as more and more people accept the reality of what happened to FNIM people and as education policy adopts a restorative approach to fully including these students in our education, we can begin to heal as a population. The importance of this topic is not to simply teach students, but to make them think and feel. Ayers states:

Ayers
As Prime Minister Harper admitted in the public apology to First Nations individuals, the residential school system, unfortunately, was very effective in its goal of destroying the Indian in the child. It’s time to celebrate First Nations history, culture, language, ceremony, and worldviews. By incorporating this knowledge consistently throughout the Canadian curriculum, we will not only ensure increased academic success for indigenous students’, but we will also education all students to love their neighbour and cherish our differences.

October 22

A Passion for Learning

We take so much for granted in our lives. Shelter, healthcare, free speech… the list goes on. And yet, there are still people who cannot see how fortunate they truly are. Education is something that many people take for granted, especially those who have never known otherwise.

Passion
The documentary “Everybody’s Children” shares the story of two refugees who fled to Canada and are attempting to integrate into our society. While there proves to be a lack of support in place for refugees, the two individuals, Joyce and Sallieu, never lose faith. Imagine the struggles they are going through: their lives previously were not positive, they move to a foreign place, and there is a lack of guidance when they arrive. And yet, they are thankful for everything in their lives.

Two things struck me about this documentary. Joyce demonstrates a strong sense of faith, thanking God for everything he has provided her in her new country. Her ability to hold on to her faith despite everything that happened in her life is a strong testament that God is good to those who have an unwavering faith in Him. The second thing that struck me was Sallieu’s passion for his education. He never once took his education for granted. He consistently tried to be the best student that he could be, striving for the top mark in every class. This got me reflecting…

There is a true lack of passion for learning in many of our schools. Students believe that they are sent there against their will and that it is just a waste of time. Think of all the better things they could be doing: playing video games, sleeping in, watching TV… and yet, they have to come to school for 8 hours a day.

This lack of passion is a problem. No wonder teachers have to implement so much classroom management: we are forcing children to be students that don’t want to be. Take, for example, the back of one of the tests I created for my grade 7 class:

Hate School
Does this child currently have a passion for learning? No. Is he capable of developing a passion for learning? Most definitely.

Teacher’s have to work that much harder to cater to their students, proving to them that education can be enjoyable. We must work to make education the best part of our students’ day. But more than anything, we must instill in our students a sense of gratitude for the opportunity to learn so that they never forget how fortunate they truly are.

Passion2