Inside Look At Some Of The Major Issues In
Education, Training & Career Development Today
by Robert Kirwan, O.C.T.,
Professional Learning Coach & Director of
The Learning Clinic Education Centre
EDUCATION TODAY" is one of a series of
online publications that
are being made available through The Learning Clinic Education
Centre. Some of
the publications on the site will have been developed by
experts from a variety of education, training and career development
fields. Others have been
designed and developed by Robert Kirwan, who owns and operates The Learning
Clinic Education Centre, his private practice as a Professional
Many of the publications will be supplemented with a variety of
other forms of media. Some will include a video component. Some will include an audio
component. Most will be available in print online so that you can take time
to read the information that is most pertinent to your own
situation. The nice thing about an online publication is that you
can always share it with your family and friends who may also
benefit from the contents.
INSIDE EDUCATION TODAY
CONCERNS ABOUT ADHD
young mother who we will call Samantha (not her real name) came to my
office the other day and started the conversation with the following: “I
just spoke to my 8 year old son’s teacher. She told me that she thinks
he should be tested for ADHD because of the difficulty he is having
concentrating in class. I don’t want him to be labeled at such a young
age, but I don’t want him to fail his year either. Can you help me?”
Is Not A Death Sentence! Your Child Can Achieve Success Despite
Having This Disorder
OF THE SITUATION
I would like to share
my response to Samantha with other parents who may be facing similar
concerns with their own sons or daughters.
First of all, Samantha,
let me reassure you that you should not panic just because your child may
have ADHD or ADD. In fact, researchers in the
recently discovered that that certain parts of the brain in children with
attention deficit hyperactivity disorder develop more slowly than other
children’s brains, and that anywhere from 14 to 35% of children with
ADD/ADHD will fully overcome the symptoms by age 27.
Dr. Philip Shaw of the
National Institute of Mental Health lead a team of researchers who found
that these regions of the brain developed more slowly in children with
In what has been called
the most detailed report of its kind, Dr. Shaw’s research team used MRI
scans to measure the cortex thickness at 40,000 points in the brains of
over 200 children with ADHD and over 200 children who were developing
normally. The scans were repeated up to four times over a 15 year period.
particular, the scientists measured the thickness of the cortex, which is
the brain’s outer layer of gray matter, in different parts of the brain
at different points in time as the children grew up. The cortex thickens
as the brain develops, but after reaching its peak thickness it thins as
the brain matures.
the researchers found was that in the brains of children and adolescents
with the disorder, more than half of the cortex did not reach peak
thickness until around the age of 10 and a half, nearly three years later
than was the case in normally developing children.
lag was most pronounced in the prefrontal areas of the brain which control
many cognitive functions that are implicated in ADHD. These include areas
of the brain that are responsible for: impulse control; organizational and
attention skills; working memory, which is the ability to hold information
and manipulate it at the same time; and some higher order motor functions.
the higher-order functions and areas that coordinate those functions with
the motor areas was especially delayed in ADHD children while the only
part of the brain that matured faster in these children was the motor
cortex which might account for the restlessness and fidgety symptoms
common among children who are diagnosed with ADHD.
The most promising
discovery made by the scientists is that brain development in the ADHD
children followed the same basic sequence as in the more typical children.
While it is true that as many as two thirds of all children with ADHD will
still have a lot of symptoms as adults, researchers are hoping to study
those who do outgrow the disorder to determine what the brain did to
correct the problem. It is possible that at some point in the future they
will find a way of boosting the recovery process through some sort of
first thing you should do, Samantha, is go to your doctor and see if he
can confirm that your son has ADHD. If you feel that his restlessness is
affecting his performance at school, then your doctor may recommend some
medication to control his behaviour while in class. We want to make sure
that your son achieves the maximum level of success in school so that he
feels good about his academic accomplishments.
the behaviour is being controlled through medication at school, I would
advise that you allow the medication to wear off by the time his personal
tutor arrives in the evening. I want the tutor to help your son with areas
of his actual school work in which he is having difficulty, but moreover,
I want the tutor to develop skills in your child that will stimulate those
areas of the brain that are slow in developing. For example, your tutor
will do some activities that help your son develop the ability to focus
his attention on certain tasks for short periods of time. We will show him
how to take notes or how to do things that will prevent him from getting
distracted so easily. The tutor can talk to you about setting up some kind
of reward system so that your son begins to look forward to working at
home and with his tutor.
Our overall objective
is to allow your son to identify those areas and topics in which he is
extremely interested and then have the tutor develop the desired skills
while your son is in his “own element”.
We will actually use his hyperactivity as a strategy to develop
While the tutor is
working with your son once or twice a week to “exercise” those parts
of the brain that are developmentally delayed, the medication will help
your son “perform” well for his teachers in school, thus ensuring that
he will get good grades as he progresses through the school system.
Hopefully, your son
will be one of those children who “grow out” of ADHD and by the time
he is a teenager or young adult it will no longer be necessary for him to
remain on medication. The skills he has been working on with his
“personal learning coach” will then take over and he should be able to
pursue his education and career goals.
MATH ANXIETY IS REAL
father and his son came to see me the other day looking for a tutor. He
said, “My son is in Grade 5 and he is having a lot of trouble with math.
I was always terrible in math and hated it when I was in school, so I
guess he is just the same as me. I want him to do better than I did in
school. Can you help me?”
Anxiety Can Be A Huge Barrier To Overcome - Don't Pass On Your Fear
Of Math To Your Children
OF THE SITUATION
Shortly after the
meeting began I asked the son to work out a few examples in a book I had
in the office and took the father aside. I strongly suggested that despite
his own hatred of math, it was critical to the success of his son that he
NEVER, NEVER, again talk openly in front of his son about how hard it was
for him to learn math when he was young or how it is so hard for him to
understand concepts in math. Unfortunately, children latch on to the
hang-ups of their parents, and if their mother or father had trouble
learning math, then it is understandable and even expected that they will
have trouble as well.
Math anxiety affects up
to 50% of the population, and yet basic numeracy skills are necessary in
order to succeed in the world as we know it today. We must reduce
the math anxiety level among our young children, especially since research
results coming out of
indicate that kids, especially boys, begin to hate math at about Grade 3.
This is largely because they become fearful of math and lose their self
I pointed out to the
father that to be numerate means that you are fluent with numbers,
mathematical knowledge, problem solving and special sense. You must also
be able to balance a chequebook, calculate a tip, measure the distance and
volumes for household tasks. And yet, it is estimated that over 40% of the
population has difficulty with these everyday tasks. The goal of every
parent should be to make sure that their children are both literate and
Werner Liedtke, an
education professor specializing in math at the University of Victoria
explained, "The key part to numeracy is having a sense of
numbers; what do they tell you, what do they mean; the sense of
relationship between those numbers; knowing what data tells you and
doesn't tell you; and having a spatial sense.”
“The signs of a
society that is not very numerate are in plain view,” Liedtke continued.
"Why are there so many people that gamble? And so many people that
believe if they buy two tickets they double their chance of winning the
lottery? Why do people put so much faith in numerical tests and data?”
developing a personal tutoring program for this father’s son, I made it
clear that he would have to be prepared to follow-up with some very
important activities in between tutoring sessions. The personal tutor will
try to put some fun back into math, especially when it comes to helping
the young boy master some of the basic numerical facts of adding,
subtracting, multiplying and dividing. However, we will refrain from
“speed drills” and mere rote learning. Instead, we will spend time
showing the child how he can make sense out of the world around him with
mathematics. We will develop our own math problems using the actual
environment in the home and outside. We will create very real problems and
then go through the thinking and reasoning process needed to come up with
a suitable solution.
For example, it is easy
to come up with examples all around us to demonstrate the concepts of
fractions, geometry, percentages and other topics that are taught in
The tutor will spend
some time each session working with the boy to help him understand the
concepts that are being taught at school in order to help him achieve
higher marks and build up his confidence. We will also show him how to
study for math tests in a way that will be exciting and rewarding and that
will produce desired results.
One of the most
effective procedures I have seen for developing this important
self-confidence is to get children accustomed to estimating answers
instead of trying to come up with the exact answer immediately. As we get
older we find out that in many cases an estimate will serve our purposes
quite well. But it takes skill to become good at estimating.
In between tutoring
sessions the father and his wife will have to become more observant when
it comes to finding mathematics in their every day activities. And they
will have to take time to talk to their son about how math concepts are
being used in these activities. This can be done while grocery shopping,
driving in the family automobile, or watching sporting activities. You can
even get your son to develop measurement concepts by getting him to help
you with the cooking and baking.
The ultimate goal in
this case is to make sure that the young boy learns to love math and
approaches new concepts and problems with confidence and determination.
Math does not need to be something you fear. Instead, it can be the key
that unlocks the world around you.
READING IS THE KEY TO SUCCESS
young mother who we will call Jennifer (not her real name) came to my
office the other day and started the conversation with the following:
“My three-year old daughter will be starting Junior Kindergarten next
September. I would like to make sure that she has a good start. Can you
For "Pleasure" From An Early Age Will Ensure Your Child’s
Success In School and In Life Itself
ANALYSIS OF THE
I would like to share
my response to Jennifer with other parents who may be facing similar
concerns with their own sons or daughters.
My advice to you, Jennifer, can be summed up in one single
That’s right. Start buying as many books as you can for your
daughter, especially books that are about subjects in which she is
interested. My own granddaughter is interested in princess stories, so I
am starting to buy up every book I can find that is geared to pre-school
children on princesses and fairies. I would suggest you do the same for
it won’t come as much of a surprise to most of us in the education
field, there are now studies done that confirm the fact that North
American youth in
are spending less time reading for fun in
their free time than the previous generation.
Experts may differ on what must be done to encourage reading and to
instill more positive reading habits among young people, but they all
agree that this decline in the “love of reading” by our young people
will have a serious affect on not only their academic performance and
career prospects, but will also present challenges to them as they attempt
to take up their place in society.
Newspaper published a report released by the National Endowment for the
based organization, which indicated that
increased use of electronic media is the greatest cause of the decline in
reading for pleasure among young people.
The report also stated that the efforts of school systems to
improve functional reading skills in curriculum subject areas among young
students is not resulting in a “lifelong love of reading” and this is
leading not only to less time reading for enjoyment, but also to the loss
of reading-comprehension skills.
The study found that
less than 25% of all 17 year olds read every day for fun, and young people
between the ages of 15 and 24 read an average of ten (10) minutes or less
per day on articles and books that are not required reading for school or
work. This age group prefers to watch television, listen to music or spend
time on the internet or cell phones.
The report also found
that there is a strong correlation between reading for fun and success in
school and the workplace. The more time people spend reading for
enjoyment, the more successful they are in school and in their careers.
who read outside of school or work volunteer at twice the rate of those
who don’t, they are three times more likely to participate in the arts,
they earn higher wages, they are twice as likely to exercise, they vote at
one and a half times the level of people who don’t read,” stated Mr.
Gioia, Chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts. “Among people
who read, there is not merely a cultural transformation going on, but the
habit of reading does seem to awaken something in the individual.”
In another study of 36,000 school children from the Canada
and Great Britain, it was found that the most important
predictors of academic success of children by the junior grades are the
early reading and math skills that these children bring with them to
Junior or Senior Kindergarten.
Therefore, Jennifer, if
you can instill a love of reading in your daughter before she enters
Junior Kindergarten, there is a very good chance that she will maintain
that passion for the rest of her life. She will likely retain a positive
attitude towards school itself simply because she has a better than
average chance of being successful as a result of her love of reading.
If you decide that you would
like me to provide you with a "learning coach" for your
daughter, I will assign a
personal tutor who will meet with your daughter once a week to help her
develop interest in reading through some strategic activities that will
show her that reading for fun can open up a whole new world.
The tutor will help you
develop a regular program which will include daily reading sessions where
you read orally to your daughter to help her develop her attention and
focusing skills. You will also have an assignment which will require you
and your daughter to look for things around the home and in the community
that can be read together. Show her that reading is everywhere. You will
build up a weekly vocabulary list which can be reviewed by the tutor each
week. Your job as a parent will be to demonstrate to your daughter that
reading has a purpose and that you can have “fun” reading together.
You should also make sure that your daughter sees you reading for pleasure
yourself every day. Try to have some “quiet” time after dinner where
you read your book and your daughter plays or reads her books. As long as
she sees you reading your books she will get the message.
Spend time talking to your daughter about what you are reading so
that the two of you can share your “discoveries”. You have a
tremendous impact on your daughter, so if she sees you reading for
pleasure, she will want to be just like you.
The best thing you can
do to ensure your child has every opportunity to enter into a successful
career as a young adult is make sure that she starts off in Junior
Kindergarten with a strong foundation in reading. Her early reading skills
and her love of reading will certainly help her get to the top of the
class immediately and stay there as long as she remains in school.
|NOT THE CHILD I EXPECTED
What happens when your child does not learn as well as you
expected? Julie Maclean writes a series of articles trying to
express her feelings as a mother of a child with special needs.
FOR THE COMPLETE SERIES OF
Role of Parents In Helping Their Children With Homework
|The jury is still out on the value of homework. As a matter
of fact, the views of parents, teachers and students vary widely on this
For the most part, homework has been considered work that could not be
completed during class time. If that were the case, then any amount of
homework would generate questions and investigation. For example, if a
child has homework, then why was he/she unable to complete it during the
allotted class time? Were there distractions? If so, and if they were not
the fault of the child, then why should homework be a punishment?
On the other hand, if the child consistently has difficulty completing
work during class time, then perhaps an examination of the teaching
methods or the intellectual level of the child would be in order.
Many students and parents see homework as "busy work" that
was handed out by the teacher to keep the troublemakers in line and busy
during the day. The problem with this is that it has been my experience
that the conscientious students will spend hours completing their homework
and the students for whom this extra amount of work was given often ignore
the homework and spend their time playing outside or fighting with their
Homework in the Primary Grades
Children in the primary grades often love doing homework. They have
very little to do outside of school and they enjoy the time spent working
with mom and dad on things that are being done for school. Reading,
drawing pictures in notebooks, and completing worksheet assignments should
be made into a fun activity at this age level and can actually help create
a positive attitude towards school.
As a general rule, children should very seldom have homework that must
be completed for the following day, and if they do it should not amount to
more than 15 minutes per night.
Homework in the Junior Grades
Major homework assignments during these years are often considered as interfering
with playtime and other outside activities. It is also during these years
that boys and girls are starting to get heavily involved in clubs, groups,
and sports activities. Homework gets in the way of these fun times and
actually has a tendency to add stress in the household as mom and day
continually pressure their children to "finish the homework"
During the junior grades parents will begin to see their children
working on special long-term projects that will require research and
organization. These may be assignments that are due in a week or two and
will have to be completed a little bit at a time by the child. These
assignments are good and tend to help students develop learning skills
that are needed in future grades.
Junior students will also have homework assignments that are intended
to complete or refine work that was done during the day. Sometimes these
assignments are due the next day.
As a general rule, your Junior-aged child should not be required to
spend more than one full hour on homework. Even this is a bit excessive
for this age group.
Homework in Intermediate Grades
By the time a child reaches Grade 7 and 8, homework is usually one of
the least favourite things in his/her life. During this stage in a child's
development homework really interferes with other more important things
like talking on the phone, watching television or playing on the computer.
Homework is also divided up according to subject, so it is common for a
child to have homework in four or five different subjects on a given
evening. When all is said and done, it is not unusual for a student to
have upwards of two hours of homework a night at the Grade 7 and 8 level.
BACK TO THE TOP
Overload Is The Cause Of Burnout And Negative Attitudes Among Our
Young Students Today
|Should students be assigned homework over the weekend?
during March Break? over the Christmas Holidays?
Should tests be given on Mondays?
Should teachers be prohibited from giving out big assignments just
issues of how much and when to assign homework are getting more and more
"air time" around board rooms, staff rooms and parent meetings.
No homework on the weekend, during March
Break or even the Christmas holidays. Forget about tests on Mondays. No
big assignments four days before exams.
A toughened curriculum; the compression of
high school from five to four years; the high numbers of students holding
down part-time jobs; the pressure to enroll you children in a wide variety
of groups and organizations after school; and many more issues such as
parents who do not have much time in the evening to spend any time with
their children have all given rise to the fact that homework overload is
now one of the hottest topics of concern among parents and students.
Most boards have recommended a guideline of
about 10 minutes of homework per night per grade level. For example, a
child in Grade 3 would expect to have 30 minutes of homework while a child
in Grade 8 would have 80 minutes of homework. Nevertheless, there are many
parents who find that their children are doing hours of homework every
night while others complain that their children do not get any homework.
The problem with homework is that it
punishes families that try to give their children an all-round education
outside of school. If your child is involved in sports, cultural or
recreational activities during the week, it often means having an early
dinner before being rushed out of the house for a 7 p.m. start time. By
the time you get back home it is close to 9 p.m. and there is just enough
time to have a bath, a snack and then get into bed so that you can have
enough sleep to be fresh in the morning. There just isn't time during the
evening for a couple of hours of homework so families are being punished
for getting their children involved in extra activities.
Many children are denied the opportunity to
ride their bikes or play in the park after school because their homework
comes first. And yet we continue to hear critics point out the problems of
overweight youth and a lack of activity among young boys and girls.
Many studies have proven that there is no correlation between the amount
of homework and success in school. This means that teachers should really
wonder whether homework is actually achieving its purpose. If it is not
achieving an education goal, then what is it doing.
Unfortunately, homework is often the
residual work that is not completed during class time as teachers load the
students with seatwork just to keep them busy and occupied as a form of
classroom management. This is having a detrimental effect on the
conscientious students who will spend hours each night to complete the
assignments, while the hard to manage children often ignore the homework,
choosing to face the consequences ( if any ) the following day.
This is an issue that is going to remain
around for a long time.
BACK TO THE TOP
NOT THE CHILD I EXPECTED
What happens when your child does not learn as well as you
expected? Julie Maclean writes a series of articles trying to
express her feelings as a mother of a child with special needs.
following articles were written by Julie MacLean, a young mother
from the Greater Sudbury Area who has a son who has attended the
Children's Treatment Centre in Sudbury since the age of three. Her
articles are written to inform parents about where they can turn for
help and support, but the articles also give you a good idea of how
difficult the challenges are for someone who is in need of support
and assistance to raise a child with special needs.
Didn’t Get the Child I Wanted
years ago we bought a house. The upstairs bathroom has an
old-fashioned claw bathtub and the living room has a gas fireplace.
The bathtub was the selling feature for me and the fireplace
was it for my husband. It
felt like we looked at every house for sale in this little town
before we found this one. Our
budget was very fixed and we didn’t have a lot of choices. This
house was at the high end of our scale but we really did “just
know” when we walked inside it.
We put in an offer and the rest, as they say, is history.
We now owned the house we thought was perfect.
Funny thing is now that we’ve been living here for awhile
we’ve changed our minds about what we thought we wanted.
Two years after we moved into our home we got married.
We had the ceremony in a small nearby church and the backyard
was where we had our reception.
We had a barbecue. There
was a tonne of food, love and laughter.
It was everything I had wanted for my wedding day.
It wasn’t what I had planned when I was a little girl but
it was definitely what I wanted now that I was grown up.
Funny thing how I changed my mind about my wedding once I was
actually planning it.
little over a year after we were married we had our son.
He’s not what I wanted.
He has special needs. He’s
not permanently disabled and once he gets a little older you may not
realize he ever needed additional assistance. You
may not know that he was 20 months old and not walking or talking.
You may never know that he had to wear casts for the first 7
or 8 months of his life or that we had weekly appointments at the
orthopedic clinic. You
may not even realize that he has been diagnosed with a rare
syndrome. A syndrome
that effected his muscles when he was younger to the point where he
had difficulty turning his little head to the left or raising his
arms up because his muscles were too tight and it was uncomfortable
for him. I’ll bet that
after spending 10 minutes with my son you’ll notice one of two
things. You’ll either
notice the colour of his eyes or you’ll notice his smile.
Doctors, nurses, family members and strangers have all
commented on how happy and “engaging” my son is.
He is the happiest most easy-going kid I’ve ever met.
Don’t get me wrong, he’s a toddler and he definitely has
his moments (did I mention he’s almost 2?).
We’ve had a few misunderstandings that have led to tantrums
(he’s picked up an impressive little squeal from daycare) and he
ALWAYS lets you know if he’s not happy about what you’re doing.
Mind you, when all is said and done, I’m amazed he can be
happy at all after everything he’s been through.
I suppose when you’re his age it’s easier because he
doesn’t know that what he’s been through isn’t “normal”.
I certainly know it though.
The truth of the matter is that no matter how you slice it or
rationalize it or try to accept it, he’s not what I wanted.
I didn’t PLAN to have a child with special needs.
I didn’t envision the first few weeks after he was born
running back and forth to the hospital because, first he was in
intensive care (he wasn’t eating) and then it was off to those
orthopedic clinics to get his casts re-applied.
I didn’t PLAN on having a pediatrician, an orthopedic
surgeon, a pediatric urologist, a geneticist, a physiotherapist, an
occupational therapist and a speech therapist all as part of my
child’s life. What I
had envisioned was spending time with my family (you know, the idea
I had that my maternity leave would be like a holiday) and just
getting to know my little boy as we shared our time together.
I also planned to watch my child’s progress with the help
of one of my many step-by-step books (you know the ones I mean) but
after a couple of months I threw the books back upstairs onto a
bookshelf or gave them away. All
they did was depress me.
head always knows what the doctors and therapists are saying.
It knows that he should eventually walk and talk and do
everything “normal” kids his age are doing.
He theoretically shouldn’t need any further assistance (at
least that’s what they keep telling me).
The trouble I have is telling my heart.
Sometimes all you can see are the other children his age
walking and talking and communicating in ways you only wish your
child could. One of my mom’s friends commented once on how she
couldn’t remember seeing “age I learned to walk” as a blank on
a university application. I
just wish we could be at that stage now.
I don’t mean I want him out the door and off to
university…I just want him to catch up and be “normal”.
Then there’s the other side of the coin.
You go to his appointments and you see children with much
more severe issues and you can’t help but feel relief or
gratefulness that your son doesn’t have to go through that.
Apparently it is possible to feel blessed and cursed all at the same
It’s been a year and a half now and we’ve decided we’re ready
to try for another child. It’s
a little scary because there is a chance that we could have another
child with the same syndrome. Of
course we’ll be much more prepared this time around but I don’t
really think that’s the point.
I think the point is that no matter how prepared you THINK
you are, you aren’t. I’d
like to say that I’m comfortable being a mom now.
It took me a long time to get here (20 months and however
many days to be exact) but I’m gaining confidence daily that I’m
doing the right things to help my son grow and develop at his own
pace (even if it is delayed).
Life doesn’t always go as we planned.
Love it or hate it, it’s our life.
My son has a smile that can make anyone’s day brighter.
I’m not really bragging, well maybe I am, but he IS my
little boy. I didn’t
get the child I wanted but that was when I imagined having the
perfect child that all pregnant women dream about.
Would I give away the joy my son brings to my heart to have a
more “normal” child? Never.
Would I trade these passed two years if it meant my son would
be different from the little boy he is today?
Funny how sometimes you get what you wanted even when you thought
|I HAVE A CHILD
WITH SPECIAL NEEDS
have a child with special needs.
That’s a fact. I’ve
been apologizing for various things ever since he came into my life.
I’ve been apologizing like it’s my fault when I know that
it’s not. I apologize
for his behaviour sometimes, I apologize for his inability to speak
properly, I apologize for the fact that he’s not toilet trained
and I apologize for his lack of understanding of some concepts.
Guess what. I’m
Through various discussions with my medical doctor and my counselor
I have finally come to the conclusion that I can’t do it all.
Go figure. I have
to take ample amount of time off work (did I mention I’ve been
working full time during all of this as well?) and I’ve been
apologizing for it for years. This
year was shaping up to be a good one.
Then both my children got sick.
They’ve been sick on and off for the last few months now
and I’ve literally reached the end of my rope.
I can not keep up this pace anymore.
Here’s what’s happened. I
wrote a letter to my manager at work.
I basically stated that I love my job but that I can’t keep
going at this rate. I
can’t work full time and give my sons what they need.
I figured they would send me on my merry way.
Most employers would, at least that’s what I assumed.
I was surprised and touched by their response…They are
willing to give me some time to sort it out.
To figure out if I need a complete change of career or if I
can find the way to get through this and get back to where I was,
both physically and mentally, before.
Hell, I may even have a job when I sort this stuff out.
I don’t pretend to assume that all places of work would be like
this. I don’t even
recommend doing what I did unless you’re 100% sure that you are
ready to make the decision to walk out the door regardless of where
they stand. It’s
funny, my manager is always pushing me to tell her what *I* want.
I never really understood that before now.
I think she knew what I needed before I did.
To quote one of my all time favourite movies
“Scrooged”…”Sometimes you just need to hit them in the head
with a toaster to get their attention.”
Well, consider me cold cocked.
Now, let’s make one thing perfectly clear as well.
I am getting help financially.
There’s no way that my family and I could do this without
it. This is why it’s
been so hard for me to make this decision.
I know that some people do it.
They quit their job and they make it work.
I wasn’t convinced that we could but things have changed.
I have my family to thank for that.
I also need to be very clear that I’m still not thrilled with my
decision. I’ve been
told that it’s not a failure, that without taking care of myself,
how can I possibly take care of those around me.
There’s still a part of me that feels like a failure.
It feels like I’ve given up and I’m letting someone else
take the punishment for it. Yes,
I’m referring to my workplace.
It’s not my job to worry about it, but guess what, I do
care. I’ve been
working there for almost 8 years now and they’ve been very good to
me. They gave me my
career (and no, I’m not being overly dramatic).
It was them that gave me a shot at this job and there’s
been no looking back since. There’s
been some bumpy roads and some definite potholes, but they have
helped me over every one of them.
How lucky am I? When you
look at the grand scheme of things, I’m very blessed.
My family is ultra supportive and now, I can count the
company I work for in there as well.
I’m finally going to get some time to take care of myself
and to be there for my two sons.
We’ve got some big things coming up in terms of surgeries
and possible testing. I
can honestly say that I haven’t felt so open to taking them head
on in a long time.
I’m going to get through this.
Trust me, you can too.
it’s not one thing it’s another”…and other favourite
I don't think anyone truly knows the impact of that
statement until they have a child with special needs. I can assure
you that when you have a child like mine it gives a whole new
meaning to that phrase. It always seems like just when you've
conquered one hurdle another one rears it's ugly head and you're
faced with a new dilemma, or at least a new obstacle of sorts.
There have been many times when I've been ready to throw in the
towel and just forget about it all. Forget the doctors, the
therapists, the specialists and all the other people from all the
other organizations who I've come to know...but then one look at my
son and I know I can't do that...I find the will to go on and figure
out what steps to take next. Some will credit God with this
strength...some will just say I'm a “strong” person...My mother
would say it's my pigheadedness and I would probably agree with her
the most. You could probably throw the love I have for my son into
the mix and you'd come up with a good recipe for dealing with
everything we have to deal with. I guess it just really comes down
to “you do what you have to do”.
“You always find a way” is another one I love
to hear. The problem is that sometimes those “ways” aren't so
clear...or they're so full of hardship and heartache that you aren't
sure you're going in the right direction. It's those times when I'm
pretty sure someone gave me the wrong map and I'm lost beyond hope.
I guess “when the going gets tough...the tough get going”...and
so we continue to muddle our way through and eventually we see
“the light at the end of the tunnel”...
It's hard to believe but after 3 ½ years it's
almost become routine. When things seem to be going right I'm
usually waiting “for the other shoe to drop”. With my son it's
usually safe to assume that things really are “too good to be
true” because generally speaking after awhile something will
always go wrong...I don't necessarily mean something
serious...but...”if it isn't one thing, it's another”. “Am I
right, or am I right”?
The truth of the matter is it really is normal now.
I don't expect to go 6 months without having to take my son to the
doctor for “one thing or another”. I've learned to almost expect
it. I dont necessarily like it but it's expected. More and more I'm
coming to grips with the idea that this is my life now. “Take it
or leave it”, this is my life. I still wouldn't trade him for
“all the tea in China”.
I never thought this would be my life. I figured
I'd have a couple kids and go to team sports and cheer from the
sidelines. I've decided that I can't really complain or I would go
insane...”the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over
and over and expecting different results”. I can definitely say
that I don't expect different results anymore even if I am doing the
same things over and over.
My second little boy is a “text-book” baby.
Seriously, he makes strange, he is continuously up to no good (in a
good way) and he screams like a banshee when he's upset about
something. My oldest never did that. He was always entirely too easy
going. I'm constantly wondering how much of that is personality and
how much of that has to do with his “issues”. After having my
first we hoped to have a “normal” child next. “Be careful what
you wish for” is all I have to say about that. I wouldn't trade
either of them but it sure is hard getting used to a “normal”
baby who seems to be doing things entirely too quickly for Mommy to
handle. I know kids are inherently different on a good day...but
these two are “oil and water”...it still amazes me that they
came from the same parents.
Oh well, I guess “all good things come to those
who wait” and I'm assuming that at some point we might get through
all the doctors, therapists, etc. Hmmmm, just thought of
another...”you should never assume...it makes an -ass- out of -u-
and -me-”. I guess I should just accept what life throws at me and
“don't worry, be happy”...(Ok, that was a song lyric but
everyone knows it ) It's still hard sometimes but we'll figure it
We're now waiting for three separate appointments
from three new doctors/clinics. They say “two's company and
three's a crowd” but in this case I guess we'll make an exception.
I'm hoping that with these new opinions we might get some new
insights and move things in a different direction.
Well, “all good things must come to an end” and
I'm quickly running out of phrases to write into my little tirade.
It's late and I'm just thinking to much to sleep. I figured if I
could get some of this down on paper then maybe it would help. I
figured I would “kill two birds with one stone”.
Who knows...I'm just following “the yellow brick
road” and hoping it leads to Oz or home or a possible solution.
Here's hoping we don't run across any crazy flying
monkey's...but...if “it's not one thing, it's another”.
Are Redundant Questions
I come here tonight with a question (or ten).
How do you cope with the knowledge that you can't help your
child? How do you get
over that feeling that you will never be able to be whatever it is
that your child needs? I
don't mean to sound discouraging, although, that's just how it
sounds. I'm just curious
as to how other's have done it.
How have they come to that epiphany and lived to tell the
When my son was born I was given the impression that although he has
a rare syndrome there should be no long lasting effects and he
should progress slowly but surely.
Don't get me wrong, he has progressed but I'm beginning to
wonder how far that progression will go.
Will he be able to live on his own or will we have to provide
for him after we're gone. Will
he go to school and do all those things that other kids his age do.
He doesn't do them now but will he ever?
I'm afraid that he'll be that kid in class that is the last
to catch on to concepts. I'm
afraid that he'll be teased and ridiculed but at the same time I
wonder if he'll even realize it.
Is that the better way to be?
Can you really tease someone who honestly has no idea that
he's being teased? Can
you ridicule someone who doesn't understand that concept?
I may see it and hear it but will he?
I guess what I'm trying to figure out is whether or not I should
even be worrying about it. I
know all parents worry about their children.
It's natural. I
also know that you can't make someone believe what they don't
believe in. I'm talking
in circles but I think you see my dilemma.
When I first started out on this journey I was worried about the
little things. Walking,
talking, eating etc. Now
I find myself coming to a new beginning...School.
His first year he'll be in an environment that is welcoming
and understanding but he's not going to stay there.
“The goal is integration”, or so I've been told.
What a load of crap. You
can't integrate someone into a system that isn't built for them.
It's like trying to nail a square peg into a round hole.
It just doesn't work. Oh,
you might jam it in there but it's always going to be out of place.
I know society has come a long way with making it easier for
people with special needs to belong but is it really enough?
The old prejudices and stereotypes are still in existence and
you can't get rid of them, at least not completely.
Unless everyone out there is touched by someone who has
special needs can you really understand and accept those who aren't
the same as you. Whoa,
now there's a can of worms...You can't really understand or accept
those who aren't the same as you...Isn't that the pot calling the
kettle black. Everyone
is afraid of things they don't understand.
It's normal and it's expected.
If everyone understood everything else it might make for a
better understanding place but it sure would be boring.
Imagine if you understood the motives and the reasoning
behind everything someone else did.
Where would the wonder and the amazement come from?
I'm sure there are some people who will read this and think I'm naïve
and that I'm worried for no reason.
There are people out there who will read this and be
absolutely astounded that I could think my child would be treated
differently because he has “special needs”.
To those people I say go ahead and live in your world of
sunshine and daisies...I know the reality is that my son will be
treated differently. He
already is and he hasn't even started school yet...What's going to
happen to him when his “special needs” are shoved in his face on
a daily basis? Maybe not
by 100% of his class, maybe not even by 3% of his class.
It only takes that 1% to make life horrible.
I should know, I was teased all through school.
Generally speaking in these situations where one leads others
will follow. It's a
shitty truth but it's still a truth.
That being said I'm led back to my wonder about whether or not you
can really bother someone who doesn't understand that you're
bothering them. I've
often wondered in the last little while if it's better to be
mid-range functioning or not. Is
it better to be totally oblivious to what's going on around you or
is it worse. If you're
the last one in class to catch onto something and you KNOW it, how
does that affect you? Wouldn't
it be better to have no idea at all?
I honestly believe it's the latter.
The problem I'm still having is that * I * know the difference.
How do I let it just roll of my back if it's clearly not a
problem for my son? How
do you just sit idly by while your son is being “attacked” and
not do something about it? I
guess this is something that all parents go through...that fine line
between fighting your children's battles and letting them learn to
defend themselves. Is it
really compounded by his special needs or does that give him a
defense that other kids don't have?
Ignorance is bliss, or so they say...Can a parent be truly
ignorant of what their child is going through?
I'd really like to believe they can or that they can at least
accept that their child isn't bother by it and let it go at that...
What is our role as a parent? We
teach them everything we can about life and the world around them
and hope that we've given them the tools to go out and conquer that
world for themselves. That's
all most parents want for their children.
They want to give them whatever they think is best and then
let the children decide what to take and what to leave in order for
them to make it on their own. I
guess I'm struggling with the same battle that parents have been
struggling with for centuries. Why
does it feel like I'm the first?
My brain is churning with “what if's” and “maybe's”.
I know that it's completely out of my control but how do you
not worry about it...how do you let yourself believe that you have
done and are doing the very best you can?
Is there a point in time when you can step back and just KNOW
that “this is it”...THIS is what I hoped for all this time?
I have to believe, as a parent, that there is a time like I've
described. If you lose
that hope then you've lost out on your child's potential.
We are a prisoner of our own making.
When it comes right down to it, we can't lose out on
something we believe is ours for the taking...as long as we believe
it was ours in the first place.
I might have it all backwards. I'm
willing to concede that I may not have a clue what I'm talking
about...I'm just scared because I don't know what's going to happen
and I worry for my son. See?
It's that whole thing about being scared because I don't
understand something. It's
also scary because I honestly don't know what the future holds.
None of us do but if we let ourselves become entangled in
that web of unknown's then we've already lost.
We need to go forward with that glimmer of hope.
That one moment when our child does something small that he
never did before. For
some it's as tiny as a head nod and for others its as momentous as,
well, a head nod. Those
of you who read this and have a special needs child or work with
special needs children you'll understand.
For those of you who don't, just trust me on this one...the
moment doesn't have to be a graduate degree or a wedding...Hell, I'm
excited because my son has started kicking his legs in his swimming
class...well, he tries at least.
I suppose when I started writing this I was sort of negative and
full of apprehension. I'm
still a little apprehensive but it feels different now.
I'm more afraid for myself, not my son.
That may sound negative but it's really not.
I can find ways to cope with my own worries, I can even see a
shrink if I really need one...I guess I'll just have to believe that
so long as he is happy and (relatively) healthy then I don't have
anything else to fret about. All
answers will reveal themselves in time and so long as I can live
with that knowledge and stand by that belief then I don't have
anything to worry about...Yeah, sure.
Anyone know a good shrink?
Label vs. Diagnosis (is
there a difference?)
Diagnosis is defined as “the
process of determining by examination the nature and circumstances
of a diseased condition and the decision reached from such an
straight forward, right? Label,
on the other hand, is defined as “a word or phrase indicating that what follows belongs in a particular
category or classification”.
Hmmm, do we see a similarity in those definitions?
I’m thinking that labeling and diagnosing a patient is sort
of the same thing…
If you’re labeled “trendy” and then show up one day wearing
black pants, white socks and black shoes (this is a fashion faux pas
in my opinion by the way) do you lose your status?
Are you no longer “in the know” when it comes to fashion
choices or were you simply in the middle of laundry and had no more
black socks to wear? People
who are labeled tend to have more pressure on them to act or behave
a certain way or they have expectations put on them to “be” that
label. Think about
it…When a child is considered “gifted” do parents, teachers
and other students not look at them differently?
If a child has “special needs” is it not the same thing?
Whenever I tell someone that my son doesn’t talk they all
of a sudden give me that “awww, you poor Mom” look.
I take it in stride and it has long since stopped bothering
me, but it’s still a change in how they
look at my son. He is
now, wait for it, LABELED.
I was obsessed with the idea that my son was going to be labeled,
excuse me, diagnosed as “autistic”.
He has some tendencies so we had him tested.
I was under the assumption that, should he receive that
diagnosis, he would be forever pigeon holed into one place never to
return. How narrow
minded is that? Don’t
get me wrong. I do
realize that there are plenty of services out there that are not
available UNLESS you have a specific diagnosis (whatever that might
be) but I (emphasis on the I) was obsessed with what would happen to
him if he had autism. Well,
good news! My son is not
autistic. Hmmmmmm, now
what? Well, we’ve
learned that my son is not normal (news flash) in that he does not
have enough characteristics of any one thing to give him a diagnosis
of it. Ok, now we’re
getting somewhere, right? Wrong.
As much as I hate them, I’ve decided that having a label
for a child with special needs may not be such a bad thing.
What I mean is that now we have no idea what to do for him.
He has a piece of this and a piece of that but he’s not a
whole of anything? I’m
not saying he’s not whole, just that no one is really sure where
he belongs. What group
should he be with? He is
best suited to a “special” class?
Could he make it with his peers in a “regular” classroom
setting? Should I just
throw in the towel and stop trying to figure it all out?
Ok, throwing in the towel isn’t really my style, but I’m
just trying to make a point. If
he had some sort of label or diagnosis that people understood and/or
studied then maybe we could change what we’re doing with him and
he would respond better. For
all I know there is a technique out there that would work really
well for him but, unfortunately, without knowing what he’s got
we’re sort of flying blind. He’s
doing well, and he’s made some HUGE leaps forward in the last few
months but without really knowing what’s going on with him it’s
hard to know if what we’re doing is really the best for him.
Now doesn’t THAT just open up a huge can of worms.
As a mom, we’re stressed enough about all the day to day
stuff. What’s for
dinner, do we need bread, and is that runny nose going to turn into
a full blown, days off work, cold?
When you add a child with special needs to the mix, stress
levels can rise exponentially. NOW,
add to that having a child that has special needs, but no one can
actually tell you what’s wrong with him.
We were told that our son has “the people who scratch their
heads” scratching their heads.
Apparently this means that my boy is one of those unique
cases out there that no one can actually put a label to.
Isn’t that “special”?
Now where did I put that proverbial towel…I’d really like
to throw it somewhere!
My son currently attends two SK classes.
One is an “intensive support classroom” (I’ve made sure
that no one calls it the autism class anymore – again, my own
obsession with labeling) and he also attends the English CTC SK
class. I truly believe
that he is in the best place(s).
When I found out the level of support that the “regular”
school system offers I was astounded.
I couldn’t believe that it just dropped like that!
I have a son that doesn’t speak and you want him to receive
10 weeks of speech therapy in the entire school year?!?
I think not! No
wonder there are so many people out there fighting the school
system. Granted, special
needs kids make up a small population of the whole group, but come
on! These kids benefit
from having these therapies! Should
they not be entitled to having as much as they need?
Sorry, I went into a little bit of a rant there, but I’m
terrified of what might happen should my son now “lose” his
label. What if the extra
help he’s getting now continues to progress and he starts talking
and learning more? If
he’s put into a regular classroom there’s no guarantee that
he’ll keep up and we all know that teachers are in a tough spot
when it comes to giving students what they need.
Then what will happen to him?
Will he just be labeled as “slow” or “hard to teach”
and lose everything we’ve gained?
I know…it’s the pot calling the kettle black…I can’t
have it both ways and THAT is what makes me nervous.
It’s a crazy double edged sword.
Do I want him labeled? At
this point, definitely. Am
I worried about what it’s going to mean for him and his future?
Of course I am. I
can only hope that whatever labels, sorry, diagnosis
we receive in the future will work for us and not against us.
I’m less obsessed with labels then I was before.
I have learned that they aren’t always a bad thing.
I am still cautious of them though.
I think, as a parent, we all should be.
BACK TO THE TOP
|The Role of Parents As
Facilitators In The Education of Their Children
It is becoming increasingly difficult for parents to understand the
challenges their children are facing as they make their way through the
formal school system today. Everyone knows how important it is going to be
for a person to have some form of post-secondary training in order to
enter into meaningful careers in the future, but the fact is that half of
all students who begin Junior Kindergarten will only go as far as Grade 12
or drop out of school even before obtaining a secondary diploma. Children
from stable families with highly educated parents are just as much at risk
as anyone else of being included in this group of young people who will
terminate their education at or before the end of high school.
Parents with a high
level of education themselves who wish for their children to follow in
their footsteps find it especially difficult to cope with children who do
not share their passion for learning. Unfortunately, in their desire
to instill a love of learning within their children, parents sometimes
create additional pressure and anxiety that produces quite the opposite of
their desired goal and they actually turn their children off learning
J.D. Rockefeller once
said "The Road to happiness lies in two simple principles: find
what it is that interests you and that you can do well, and when you find
it put your whole soul into it - every bit of energy and ambition and
natural ability you have." The main responsibility of all parents
today is to be facilitators, helping their children discover their own
"road to happiness", and often the road taken by their children
is much different from that which they took themselves.
THE NEED FOR A PROFESSIONAL ADVISOR
the obvious responsibilities of parents with respect to providing adequate
food, clothing and shelter for their children, as well as for creating a
home environment which is conducive to learning, there is much more that
must be done if children are indeed going to be able to maximize their
true potential as far as their formal education training is concerned. The
first step in the road to success may well be the acceptance by parents
that they cannot fulfil their obligations alone.
you have health concerns for yourself or your family, you turn to your
family doctor for advice.
you have questions about investments or insurance, you turn to your
financial advisor for assistance in making the right choices.
you have legal difficulties, you turn to your lawyer to represent you
and help you through the legal process to solve your problems.
order to maintain proper dental health, you visit your dentist
regularly for checkups and treatment.
could continue this list indefinitely, bringing into consideration
accountants, chiropractors, massage therapists, optometrists, real estate
Anyone who is a parent
of a child in elementary, secondary or post-secondary school will tell you
that from the time a child begins Junior Kindergarten to the time the
child graduates and begins a career, everything, and I mean everything
that goes on around a home or that involves the entire family is affected
by education. Vacations are planned around school schedules. Homework has
a direct impact on what goes on around the home in the evenings.
Decisions must always take into consideration the needs and
responsibilities of children who are attending school.
And yet, even though
education has a tremendous impact on all areas of your life, when you have
a concern about your child's education, who do you turn to for advice?
When it comes to virtually every other area of one's life there is a
trusted person you can turn to who you know will be there to provide you
with guidance and advice when you need it the most. And quite often that
person has included you on his/her "client list" so that you are
always given immediate attention when it is needed. You do not go to a
different dentist whenever you have problems with your teeth. You go to a
family dentist who knows your history.
THE ROLE OF YOUR FAMILY EDUCATION AGENT
society has now reached the "Tipping Point" with respect to
education. The whole education, career and personal development process
has become so complex that it is no longer possible for parents to simply
sit back and "accept" what is happening to their children. There
is a new form of practitioner emerging in society today called an
"Independent Education Agent" who will soon be added to the list
of professionals to whom parents can turn in fulfilling their role as
"facilitators" in the education of their children. I believe
that, in the not-so-distant future, all parents will be seeking to be
added to the "client list" of a private sector "Education
Agent". Parents will feel comfortable knowing that they have their
own personal "Independent Education Agent", just as they will
knowing that they have their own family doctor, dentist, lawyer, etc.
Education Agent" will be a person to whom you can turn when you need
personal tutoring help from time to time for your children; when you need
advice on recommendations being made by school administrators; when you
have potential legal issues involving the school board; when you need
representation in school matters; when you need advice on subject
selection in secondary school programs; when you need to develop a career
strategy for your child; and when you need information about any and all
education, career and personal development matters concerning any and all
members of your family. Your "Family Education Agent" will work
cooperatively with your child's teachers, but at least you will be more
aware of your own rights and options and will be in a better position to
fulfil your responsibilities to your children.
Lifelong Learning is
something that is going to take on more meaning in the next couple of
decades. Career life-cycles are shortening and it will be common practice
for children who are currently in elementary, secondary and post-secondary
schools to change careers up to a dozen times during the course of their
life. Each of these changes may require additional education and training.
It is going to be important to be able to turn to someone you can trust
for advice in making the right choices. Even baby boomers are looking
forward to their 60's as a time for renewal, not retirement, and they too
will be turning to education for training to enter "twilight
careers" that will take them into their late 70's. "Independent
Education Agents" are going to be a necessity in the future.
BACK TO THE TOP
|Open House Season For Local
Schools Is An Important Time For Parents and Students
students and parents will have a busy couple of months as local school
boards hold open houses at all of their secondary schools. The open houses
are designed to provide parents and students with a chance to look over
the facilities and discuss the various program options that are available.
In addition, Junior Kindergarten registrations will be taking place
during the next couple of months, so many schools will be offering open
houses for new parents.
It is also a time when secondary school graduates will be
considering their choices of post-secondary schools as they come closer
and closer to the end of the school year.
Grants to school boards are determined by enrolment. The greater
the enrolment, the larger the grant. Therefore, it is becoming
increasingly important for local schools to be concerned about their
community image and be continually thinking about recruitment for upcoming
years. In addition to the importance of increasing their total grant
allocation, the more students enrolled at a school, the easier it is to
offer a wider variety of programs that meet the needs of the students.
A great deal of money is spent on advertising by school boards to
promote their institutions and let the public know about open houses. It
is highly recommended that parents and students take advantage of these
open houses in order to become familiar with the options available to
I have always encouraged students and parents to take advantage of
every opportunity to visit schools during the open house “season”.
Even if you are already attending your school of choice, and even if you
are satisfied, it is never a waste of time to go to one of the open houses
and see what is available. Many of us have gone into an open house that
has been arranged for the general public by real estate companies, just
out of curiousity to see what the home looked like, never intending to
buy. There is nothing wrong with doing the same thing with our education
One thing I have encouraged with secondary school graduates is to
take a private, personal tour, without any tour guides, of post-secondary
institutions they are considering. Everyone dresses up their building
during formal open houses, so it is difficult to imagine what things are
like during a normal day. When you decide to take a “drop-in” tour,
make sure you go to the school when classes are in session and it is busy.
Spend some time at the student center and just observe. Walk around the
hallways, down in the basement, in between buildings, and around residence
areas. Check out the library and physical education facilities. And,
don’t forget to talk to students who are at the school.
Unfortunately, too many secondary school students select their
post-secondary institutions based on what they see on the internet web
sites, in colourful brochures, or during “university and college days”
organized by school boards. For parents who may be covering some or all of
the costs of post-secondary education for their children, it is well worth
a day or two off work to travel to an institution for one of these drop-in
tours before you have to sign the final application form. It may prevent
your child from being one of the thousands of students who find themselves
saying, “This is not what I expected when I applied to the school.”
If you have any doubt, whether you are looking for the right school
for your 4 year old, your 14 year old or your 17 year old, make
arrangements to drop in for a private, personal tour of the school during
a regular school day to see how the school operates on a day-to-day basis.
Talk to the administrators and guidance counselors and ask them to “sell
you on their program”. Education is not something that you should ever
BACK TO THE TOP
Have A Right To Feel Safe While They Are At School
articles appeared in the Toronto Star recently that caught my attention.
They may seem totally unrelated at first glance, but upon closer
examination, it is clear that they reflect a reality which school
administrators simply cannot ignore.
The first article
was a report about how
police have been increasing the number of officers patrolling the downtown
entertainment district on weekends. The main objective was to increase
their presence as a deterrent to individuals who might otherwise be
tempted to get out of control. The officers hoped to be able to ward off
trouble while it was brewing before it escalated into something more
The second article was
about the professional hall monitors who patrol the hallways in many of
secondary schools. There are almost 160 hall monitors employed throughout
the Toronto District School Board. They earn about $30,000 per year and
are considered a critical element in the drive for safer schools.
When lawyer Julian
Falconer released his report earlier this year which was an examination of
school safety following the shooting death of Jordan Manners at C.W.
Jefferys Collegiate, he recommended that high schools should have more
hall monitors on duty. He also stated that there should be more teachers
on supervision duty, especially in between classes when “hallway
wanders” tend to cause problems for everyone. These “hallway
wanders” are often students who skip class and are just looking for
The connection between
the two articles mentioned above is that when Jordan Manners was shot the
first thing the Toronto Board did was hire two extra hall monitors at the
They, like the downtown
police, hoped that their presence would act as a deterrent and prevent
trouble from happening in the first place.
Most teachers will
readily admit that they are not equipped or trained to deal with the
serious behaviours of kids today. One teacher from
was quoted as saying, "There are kids whose behaviour is so bad that
20 years ago they'd be told to leave school. They don't want to be there,
they're not respectful, they're aggressive and quite prepared to be
violent if they need to be - and yet the school system is trying to keep
them in school and trying not to disaffect them by punishing them for
everything. So consequently, there's a bit of a mixed message."
The guidelines from the
Ministry of Education and the school boards are quite clear about what the
duties of a teacher with respect to reporting incidents involving
students. Nevertheless, there is so much pressure in schools today to
uphold a positive public image and to focus on student success that some
teachers may be hesitant about bringing forward negative reports to
The key to the success
of hallway monitors in
and anywhere else where the policy has been implemented, is to hire the
right people for the job. That and consistency. The hallway monitor being
interviewed for the article I read had been in his position for 15 years
and knew the students very well. He knew where to look for trouble, but
more importantly he knew when and how to respond. He sounded as if he had
what it takes to make sound, intuitive judgments about when to act and
when not to act.
This is not much
different from being a police officer in the downtown district on a
Saturday night. There are some incidents which require you to take formal
action that often leads to arrests and charges being laid, while there are
other incidents that can be diffused simply by “being there” and
giving the person a “second chance” to make a better decision.
In my 28 years as a
classroom teacher I spent my share of time on supervision duty both inside
and outside. I learned early in my career that at times it was best to
just give a child “the look of displeasure” and allow the situation to
resolve itself. At other times I had to resort to more serious action that
involved the office and parents. Knowing which course of action to take
requires the use of your natural intuition and an understanding of the
children for whom you are responsible.
We must understand and
be aware that the “culture of fear” which is prevalent in our society
today is exhibiting itself in the schools. For example, many adults who
consider themselves to be good citizens think nothing about turning their
backs when out and about on the streets of the city on what they know are
incidents that should be reported to police. They do this not because they
are “bad people”, but simply because they do not want to become
involved in long, drawn out investigations that will merely make them
“targets for reprisal” once the courts hand out “meaningless”
punishment to the criminals. Parents do not want to place themselves or
their children at risk of danger so they find it is must easier to simply
pretend not to notice what is going on and let someone else take care of
reporting the incident. And so it is that many people who witness others
carrying weapons, committing acts of sexual assault and violence,
vandalizing or stealing public and private property, and a whole list of
other misdemeanours are too intimidated to report what they have seen.
They are just happy that they have not been the ones where were victimized
this time around. This “culture of fear” has been created by a
“society of bullies” and bullying comes in a wide variety of forms and
And so it is with
teachers who must deal with so many students in their classrooms who come
from such a wide variety of backgrounds. The pressures these students are
facing in their life spill over into the classrooms and into hallways,
resulting in “flare-ups” that must be dealt with appropriately. Yet,
this strong, societal urge comes into play for most people, including
fellow students, teachers, administration and parents. Something tells
them to turn and walk away rather than get involved in something that may
in fact have a profound negative impact upon them and their families. The
reality is that students can easily get back at teachers and
administrators who make life difficult for them. They can make life
horrible in retaliation and can inflict serious, long-lasting consequences
on anyone who reports them to the authorities. The consequences to a
person who “reports a crime” are often far more serious than the
penalty imposed on the person who “commits the crime”. It doesn’t
matter how you feel about this situation. It is a reality with which we
must all live.
You can provide
teachers college students and professional teachers with all of the
information necessary for them to know and understand their duties and
responsibilities. However, when all is said and done, the fear of making
false accusations, of alienating students and parents; of facing the wrath
of parents whose children have been accused of wrongdoing, and the fear of
retaliation against your home and your family members is going to play a
huge part in whether a teacher actually reports an incident of abuse or
violence or other inappropriate action he/she has witnessed. In most
cases, it makes far more sense to simply ignore the situation, finish your
job and go home; hoping that tomorrow will be a better day.
And so, it would seem
that the best of all situations might be to hire hallway monitors to
provide the supervision needed to prevent flare-ups and keep some
semblance of control in the school. This would allow teachers to deal with
what goes on in the classroom and focus on delivering effective lessons
instead of spending time following up on behavioural issues that occur in
As parents we all tell
our children from the time they can understand, that police officers are
good. That police officers are there to protect us and help us when we
need their assistance. Police officers are not bad people. They are there
to make sure that everyone follows the law and to allow us all to go about
our daily business without fear.
So it is with hallway
monitors. They are not there to harm people who respect the rules,
policies and expectations of the school. They are not there to intimidate
the people who respect the rights of others. They are there to make sure
that everyone can go about their business without fear. Their presence
alone may be all that is needed to maintain effective control. But when
called upon to deal with more serious matters, they are trained and
prepared to take appropriate action.
We all know that
violence can erupt anywhere at anytime in any town in any school. There is
no school or any other place in society where people gather for that
matter that is immune to this “disease of humanity”. We can’t
predict when violence will occur, but at least maintaining a
“presence” of supervision will give cause for some people to consider
the consequences of their choices. That is all we can hope for and so
perhaps it is time to bring hallway monitors to all high schools in the
Until next time, this
is Inside Education…..
BACK TO THE TOP
“Society of Bullies” Is Creating A “Culture of Fear” In Our
January 10, 2008
the School Community
Safety Advisory Panel report has upset educators all across the country.
The report suggests there may have been hundreds of incidents of violence
within the Toronto District School Board that have gone unreported by
teachers and students.
Most teachers will readily admit that they are not equipped or
trained to deal with the serious behaviours of kids today. One teacher
from Toronto was quoted as saying, "There are kids whose behaviour is
so bad that 20 years ago they'd be told to leave school - they don't want
to be there, they're not respectful, they're aggressive and quite prepared
to be violent if they need to be - and yet the school system is trying to
keep them in school and trying not to disaffect them by punishing them for
everything. So consequently, there's a bit of a mixed message."
The guidelines from the Ministry of Education and the school boards
are quite clear about what the duties of a teacher with respect to
reporting incidents involving students. Nevertheless, there is so much
pressure in schools today to uphold a positive public image and to focus
on student success that some teachers are hesitant to bring forward
reports to administration.
There is also a “culture of fear” that is prevalent in our
society today that is exhibiting itself in the schools. For example, many
people who consider themselves to be good citizens think nothing about
turning their backs on what they consider incidents that should be
reported to police simply because they do not want to become involved in
long, drawn out investigations that will merely make them “targets for
reprisal” once the courts hand out “meaningless” punishment to the
criminals. Parents do not want to place themselves or their children at
risk so they simply pretend not to notice what is going on and let someone
else take care of reporting the incident. And so it is that many people
who witness others carrying weapons, committing acts of sexual assault and
violence, vandalizing or stealing public and private property, and a whole
list of other misdemeanours are too intimidated to report what they have
seen. They are just happy that they have not been the ones where were
victimized this time around. This “culture of fear” has been created
by a “society of bullies” that come in all forms.
And so it is with teachers who must deal with so many students in
their classrooms who come from such a variety of backgrounds. The
pressures these students are facing in their life spill over into the
classroom and into hallways, resulting in “flare-ups” that must be
dealt with severely. Yet, everyone, including fellow students, teachers,
administration and parents, would rather turn and walk away than get
involved in something that may in fact have a negative impact on them and
their families. The fact of the matter is that students can easily get
back at teachers and administrators who make life difficult for them. They
can make life horrible in retaliation and can inflict serious,
long-lasting consequences on anyone who reports them to the authorities.
The penalty for “reporting a crime” is often far more serious than the
penalty for “committing the crime”.
You can provide teachers college students and professional teachers
with all of the information necessary for them to know their duties and
responsibilities. However, when all is said and done, the fear of making
false accusations, of alienating students and parents; of facing the wrath
of parents whose children have been accused of wrongdoing, and the fear of
retaliation against your home and your family members is going to play a
huge part in whether a teacher actually reports an incident of abuse or
violence or other inappropriate action he/she has witnessed. In most
cases, it makes far more sense to simply ignore the situation, finish your
job and go home; hoping that tomorrow will be a better day.
BACK TO THE TOP
Education Is Something That Every Young Person Needs To Succeed In
|I think we can all agree that a
skilled trade, a college diploma or a university degree can open doors
that are closed to many people who choose to stop their formal education
at high school.
Because of this, there is growing pressure
being place on schools and government to remove financial and other
barriers to disadvantaged youth who want to pursue post-secondary
a new study offers another compelling reason to promote higher education
among groups now under-represented at colleges and universities, including
students from low-income families, those whose parents do not have
post-secondary qualifications and aboriginals.
The Canada Millennium Scholarship Foundation
produced a report titled Why Access Matters. In the report it is
stated that more and more jobs require advanced credentials.
However, as older workers retire and the population of young adults
shrinks, the pool of skilled workers will not keep up with demand unless
more students stay in school longer.
Yet post-secondary participation rates among
young people from middle- and high-income families are already
"fairly high." That means
must boost enrolment among other
socio-economic groups in order to stay competitive.
It is not surprising to find that young
people from low-income families are less likely than their higher-income
peers to pursue post-secondary education. The numbers are especially
discouraging among youth whose parents did not continue their education
past high school. Aboriginals are also under-represented in post-secondary
In order to increase the participation rate
of the under-represented groups, it is recommended that we take time to
make sure that all young people understand the benefits of continuing
their education and that they know their options with respect to returning
to school if they do drop out.
For students who do go on to post-secondary
institutions, we must better prepare them for the academic demands that
they will be facing. At the present time the drop-out rate during the
first and second years of post-secondary study is unacceptable. Students
must be given every chance to succeed.
Finally, money and the burden of huge debts
should not deter under-represented youth from continuing their studies. As
tuition for many programs rises, schools and governments should ensure
grants and loans are more readily available so all qualified students can
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|Your Learning Style Has A Lot To Do
With Your Success In School And In Life Itself
|One of the biggest challenges facing students today is that
their personal learning style may not be in sync with the teaching styles
being employed in educational institutions in which they are enrolled.
Further aggravating the situation is that the learning style of parents
may not be the same as the learning style of their children, thus causing
DETERMINING YOUR LEARNING STYLE
One of the simplest ways of determining your likely learning style is
to ask yourself what comes to mind when you hear the word "dog".
If you see a picture of a dog in your mind's eye or if you see the
letters of the word, you are probably a "visual learner".
If you hear the bark of a dog, you are probably an auditory learner.
If you feel the fur of a dog, you are probably a kinesthetic learner.
PROCESSING OF INFORMATION
Our learning style is the way we respond to environmental, social,
emotional and physical stimuli to understand and process new information
that is presented to us. We all use each of the three learning styles from
time to time, but each of us tends to have one style that is more
When it comes to helping your children, it is important that you not
only have a clear understanding of your own dominant learning style, but
that you also know the prevalent learning style of your child.
To oversimplify the matter, visual learners learn by watching. When
presented with new ideas they recall images they have from the past and
try to relate these previous images to the new concepts. They actually
form a picture in their head about the ways things look. It is estimated
that about 40% of students fall into this category.
For example, in order for a visual learner to develop new vocabulary,
he would have to both hear the word and see the work in written form at
the same time. When you read stories to a child who is a visual learner,
you should allow the child to follow the story as you read it out loud so
that he/she sees the words that you are reading. This way he/she will have
a better chance of remembering the new vocabulary.
Auditory learners tend to spell words phonetically but they have
trouble reading because they do not visualize well. These students learn
by listening and they remember facts when they are presented in some
entertaining form. Auditory learners like being "read to" but do
not like to follow along. They also learn a lot from watching television.
Auditory learners love using email because they can get away with spelling
phonetically. They are also very developed in terms of oral presentation
skills, but have trouble writing and reading.
Kinesthetic learners are what we call "hands-on learners".
They like to learn through manipulation and are very successful in the
arts, mechanics and the trades. It is estimated that up to 50% of all
students fall into this category and have trouble learning in a
traditional school setting.
IMPLICATIONS FOR STUDENTS & PARENTS
Studies have shown that almost 80% of instructional delivery in
secondary and post-secondary settings is auditory in nature, however only
10% of all students are auditory learners.
This means that in order for a child to find success in school it is
often necessary to show him/her how to strengthen his auditory skills or
how to review the original information in a different manner at home in
order to understand. It means that you may benefit from the services of a
personal tutor who is more able to incorporate a more suitable teaching
style in order to reinforce concepts taught in class.
Parents must also be in tune with the possibility that their children
learn best in an environment that is different from the traditional
setting. For example, while a parent may require a quiet learning space, a
child may learn best in a more chaotic environment. If your child is
having trouble learning then experiment with different environmental
settings and teaching styles. It may produce wonderful results.
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|Girls Are More Likely To Attend
University Than Boys According To Stats Can
|Young men are far less likely to
attend university than young women, and a new study attributes the gap to
differences in academic performance and study habits at the age of 15, as
well as parental expectations.
says about a quarter (26 per cent) of
19-year-old men had attended university in 2003 while almost two in five
(39 per cent) 19-year-old women had done so.
The study found that more than
three-quarters (77 per cent) of the gap was related to differences in the
characteristics of young men and women that were available in the study.
Weaker academic performance among men
accounted for almost half (45 per cent) of the gap – specifically, young
men had lower overall school marks at age 15, and had poorer performance
on a standardized reading test.
Another 11 per cent of the gap was related
to the fact that boys spend less time on their homework than girls and
about 9 per cent was associated with the lower educational expectations
placed upon boys by their parents.
Other student characteristics played
moderate roles, accounting for a further 12 per cent of the gap
The study found that men and women have
different characteristics at age 15.
For example, only about a third (32 per
cent) of young men reported overall marks of 80 per cent or higher while
almost half (46 per cent) of young girls fell in the same category.
Young men also fared more poorly on a
standardized reading test: only 20 per cent scored in the top quarter on
the test, while 30 per cent of young women did so.
Young men and women are also quite different
in terms of the amount of time they spend on homework: only 30 per cent of
boys spent at least four hours a week on homework, compared with 41 per
cent of girls.
The study also found that young men had
lower expectations placed upon them: as many as 60 per cent had parents
who expected them to complete a university degree, well behind the 70 per
cent of young women in the same situation.
Factors such as motivation and preferences
were not taken into account in the study since they are difficult to
BACK TO THE TOP
When Writing Becomes An Issue In
|The following letter was written to me by a mother of
a child who was in Grade 2.
Afternoon Robert. I saw your ad in the telephone book, and
then looked into your website. Your program looks
interesting. I was informed by my son's teacher today, that
his grades are slipping in the writing aspect of his report card.
I am having a hard time getting him to write down his answers, and
elaborate on his ideas. Would your program help with this
aspect of his education. Can you please contact me. What
kinds of tools or tricks of the trades can you use to assist with
Thank you for contacting me, Carol.
son is going through a transition period that is quite common with
most Grade 2 and 3 children. He is still "learning to
read". However, before long he is going to have to use his
reading skills "to learn". This transition of going from
"learning to read" to "reading to learn" is
extremely difficult. In fact, to put things into perspective, I
would suggest that the challenges your son is experiencing right now
are equivalent to a secondary school graduate beginning a
university program, or an adult changing from one career to a
completely different career. It's hard enough "learning the
language", let alone learning to transcribe that language on
children breeze through this transition period and are able to meet
the standards that have been established by the school system and by
their parents at home. Others may run into some "bumps"
along the way. Your son likely has a great command of oral
communication and can "talk up a storm". He may also be an
excellent problem-solver in "real life situations"
such as how to take a toy apart to fix the wheel, or how to get a
ball out of a ditch full of water, or how to attach a cardboard to
the frame of his bike so the spokes make noise.
taking a "word" out of his head and writing it on paper
just doesn't make a lot of sense to any boy in Grade 2 (or any girl
for that matter). Putting the words into the form of a sentence to elaborate
on his ideas doesn't make much sense either when it would be so much
faster just to let him "tell you" what he means. Why
should he be wasting his time in seemingly meaningless activities
when he could be spending his time doing so many other things?
adults, we know how important it is to be able to communicate in
writing, especially since we often do not have a chance to
communicate with our intended audience orally. Nevertheless, as
adults we must also admit that if we are given the choice of picking
up the phone and calling a person or writing that person a letter,
most of us will pick up the phone because it is instantaneous and
gets us immediate feedback. We just don't have time to be writing
everything down all the time. So imagine how your son feels. He is a
boy that is constantly running in high gear with his mind racing a
thousand miles an hour, and now he has to come to a "dead
stop" and "write" his ideas down on paper for no
other reason than "the teacher told me to do it" or
"my mother wants me to practice".
first step or "trick" is to find a way to make your son
"want to write" and see the purpose behind the writing.
Secondly, you have to find a way of "slowing down" your
son's mind so that his hand can keep up with his brain. That is the
hardest job, for when you are learning how to write, you simply
cannot keep up with your thoughts. You can't write as fast as you
think. Moreover, you are thinking with the language that you
speak. Your son likely uses vocabulary that sometimes surprises you
with its level of maturity and sophistication. Imagine how hard it
must be for him to transcribe those "adult words" into
something that he can print and spell correctly. He therefore must
learn to "dumb down" his thinking and come up with less
sophisticated vocabulary so that he can write more quickly and
correctly in order to finish this seemingly meaningless task.
that being said, what your son needs is someone who can come in and
work with him once a week to help him learn how to read at a level
that will be appropriate for the grade level in which he finds
himself now. The more he reads, the more his writing will improve. I
have also suggested to some of my instructors that they take a
favourite illustrated book and have the student give an oral
sentence describing something on each page. The tutor then writes
down exactly what the child has said and then has the child
"read" it back to her. The child learns to recognize
written words that he has actually used and that are part of his
oral vocabulary. He is reading his own thoughts. He is seeing those
thoughts and words on paper and they make sense.
is then asked to practice reading back his own sentences for a week
with his mother. When the tutor returns the following week, she asks
the child to give another sentence for the same page, but this
time the tutor only writes down the words that are new and are not
already contained in the sentence from the week before. The child is
then asked to "write" a new sentence for the page,
combining the new words with the previous words to express his
idea. Then the child practices reading back both of the sentences
with his mother for a week. By repeating this process over the
course of several weeks, the child learns that writing is nothing
more than combining words that he already uses to express an idea.
He learns that there are many small "connecting" words
that are the same and that are used over and over again. He only has
to concentrate on the new words. He will also see that his four or
five sentences actually tell a story about each page and can see how
he has developed this story himself with his own vocabulary.
Gradually, he will be asked to do the same thing with
"thoughts" that he is creating instead of from pictures in
in his own ability to write is so important at this stage of his
development. A tutor who he loves to work with can do wonders for
his self-esteem and give him a sense of purpose for his writing.
feel free to give me a call if you would like me to find a
"learning coach" for your son. I think it will help him a
hope this helps a bit.
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Helping Your Children Deal With
School Work Stress
|The following article addresses the issue of the
stress level of young children which is drastically increasing
because of the challenges they are facing at school. Often parents
do not understand how their children could possibly be under stress.
Adults can talk about the stress of work, raising a family and
taking care of financial responsibilities. Yet, to a child, the
stress he/she is feeling because of school work may affect him/her
just as much, if not moreso, because children have not yet developed
coping mechanisms to get them through stressful situations.
Heidi Stevens, in an article she wrote for the Chicago Tribune on
March 2, 2010, has come up with five pretty decent suggestions for
parents who are looking for ways they can help their children.
What she has to say makes a lot of sense.
work and stress: 5 ways to help a child
(Appearing in the Chicago Tribune, March 02, 2010, written
by Heidi Stevens)
If you’re still plagued by
nightmares, you know school work anxiety is no small matter. So how
do you help your kids cope before stress tanks their confidence and
their grades? Here are five steps to help strike the right balance
and keep school work from overwhelming your child.
1. Talk to the teachers. “Establish a dialogue
on homework policies from the beginning, including how involved
you’re expected to be,” suggests Susan Kane, editor-in-chief of Parenting:
2. Make sure you understand his or her definition of
“Typically the purpose is to practice what is already known, with
the theory that time on task helps them learn,” says Frances Stott,
professor of child development at the Erikson Institute. “Find out
if the material is being taught in class. And if it’s something
the child is having trouble with, ask if the teacher can provide
extra support during class.”
If you sense your child is overloaded, request another meeting. “Ask
how long she expects her assignments to take,” Kane says.
“Compare that to the 10-minutes-per-grade-level guideline (how
long homework should take) and how long it actually takes your
“Avoid being accusatory, but
rather enlist the teacher as an ally. Together, develop a
Find the optimal homework time. After school works great for some kids,
not so great for others. “Some children are really alert and can
do homework in the morning,” Stott says. “For some children
you’re asking for trouble dragging them out of bed to do homework.
For some children it can be helpful to have some active playtime
after school. A lot depends on your child’s temperament.”
3. Make a schedule. Once you’ve established peak performance time,
put it in writing. “On Sunday night, make a schedule for the
week,” Kane says. “Put big things like homework assignments and
after-school activities on a calendar, so when a task is completed
your child can cross it off.”
4. Seek outside help. Calling on a third party can be a huge help. Most
public libraries offer on-site homework help. Many websites offer
online tutoring. Then there are good old-fashioned tutors.
“Tutoring comes in many forms these days: expensive learning
centres, private tutors, homework helpers,” Kane says. “Which
one, if any, to pick depends on your child’s temperament, learning
style and needs, not to mention what you can afford.”
5. Stay positive. “You don’t want to add to the stress,” Stott
says. “You want to add to the coping.”
“If you’re overly critical of
your child’s work, she’ll get discouraged,” Kane says.
“Remember that she’s just a kid and is learning to handle an
increasingly large workload with each grade level. Focus on the
effort or creativity she puts in, rather than on errors or how much
time she spends on a project.”
BACK TO THE TOP
of Education Leaves Decision About When To Register For School In
The Hands Of Parents
|Ever since Junior Kindergarten became popular in
Ontario, parents have lamented the fact that children are often
enrolled in school at the age of 3, months before they turn four. In
reality, there is absolutely no need for a child, born after the
first school day in September, to enrol before the age of four.
The Ministry of Education is quite clear on this from the
Education Act which states:
21. (1) Unless
excused under this section,
(a) every person who attains the
age of six years on or before the first school day in September in any
year shall attend an elementary or secondary school on every school day
from the first school day in September in that year until the person
attains the age of 18 years; and
(b) every person who attains the
age of six years after the first school day in September in any year shall
attend an elementary or secondary school on every school day from the
first school day in September in the next succeeding year until the last
school day in June in the year in which the person attains the age of 18
years. 2006, c. 28, s. 5 (1).
What this means is that in Ontario, a child
"must" be enrolled in a public or private school recognized by
the Ministry of Education as per the requirements above. The leaving age
is pretty clear. The person must remain in school until the age of 18, or
until he/she completes the Grade 12 diploma requirements. Therefore the
only way a child can leave the Ontario Education system prior to the age
of 18 is if he/she completes his/her Grade 12 diploma.
The Ministry of Education has, however, left
the decision in the hands of the parents as to when the child may be
registered if that child's birthday falls between the first school
day in September and the end of December. Junior and Senior
Kindergarten are both optional years. Parents do not have to enroll
their children in school until Grade One.
This means that if your child is not going to
turn four until some time after the first school day in September,
you can delay enrolling in school until the following September.
Very few parents exercise this right, choosing to send their child
to school at the first opportunity. However, this decision should
not be made lightly. Studies have shown that there is a distinct
advantage to being one of the oldest children in a class as opposed
to being one of the youngest. A parent who sends their December baby
to school in the September prior to the child's 4th birthday is
actually placing the child in a situation where for the rest of his
life he will always be up to a year younger than the other children
in the room. Delaying entry until the following year means that the
child will always be one of the oldest.
When it comes to
self-confidence, physical activity, and leadership, older is often
more advantageous while in school.
BACK TO THE TOP
Something That Affects Bullies as Much as Victims
|The following article appeared in Teacher Magazine
and was written by Beth J. Harpaz. It contains some important
information about bullying and depression. It seems as if bullies
are just as much affected by depression as their victims.
NEW YORK (AP) — The word "bully"
may conjure up images of a 9-year-old punk shaking down a 7-year-old for
lunch money. But teenagers experience bullying, too, and research shows it
can be a red flag for depression and suicidal behavior.
That is true whether teens are doing the
bullying or are its victims.
"If you are vulnerable and being bullied,
it can be the straw that breaks the camel's back," said Madelyn S.
Gold, a professor of psychiatry and public health at
and the New York State Psychiatric Institute who has studied bullying.
That does not mean bullying causes suicide, but
it is an associated factor. Six teenagers were charged recently in South
in the case of Phoebe Prince, an Irish student who killed herself after
she complained of being tormented by kids in her high school.
In another case, a teenager named Alexis
Pilkington killed herself in March in
and nasty comments about her were posted online even after her death. But
Alexis' father told a local newspaper, Newsday, that the harassment
"was not the major or even a minor factor" in the suicide.
Haas, director of suicide prevention
projects at the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, cautioned
against thinking in terms of "cause and effect" when it comes to
bullying and suicide. "The key risk factor for suicide in youth is
unrecognized, untreated mental disorders, particularly depression,"
A study of 2,342 high school students published
in 2007 in the Journal of the
of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry showed "a clear association"
among bullying, depression, suicidal thoughts and suicide attempts,
according to Gould, one of the authors.
Among students who said they were frequently
bullied in school, nearly 30 percent reported depression, and 11 percent
reported serious thoughts of suicide and suicide attempts.
Among those who frequently bullied others in
school, almost 19 percent reported experiencing depression and about 8
percent reported suicidal thoughts or attempts.
In contrast, among teenagers who said they were
never bullied, only 7 percent reported depression, and 3 percent reported
suicidal thoughts or suicide attempts.
Overall, the study found about
9 percent of
high school students said they were frequently bullied, and 13 percent
said they frequently bullied others. These rates were consistent with
other studies, the researchers said.
Teens are often secretive about their social
lives, but bullying is "something we need to ask our kids
about," Gould said.
Remind them that insulting or humiliating
someone on Facebook, by text or e-mail can be just as devastating as
physical confrontations or pranks.
"In the 21st century electronic age, you
can be one step removed from what you're doing," Alec L. Miller, an
adolescent psychologist at the Children's Hospital at Montefiore/Albert
Einstein College of Medicine in
"You're not actually saying something to someone's face. You're just
writing an e-mail. That makes it a lot easier to bully and harass. We've
had bullying for centuries, but this is a new phenomenon."
In addition, Miller believes that trash-talk on
television, such as the critiques on "American Idol" and
in-your-face insults on reality shows, has desensitized Americans to the
harm words can inflict. "There's a level of mean-spiritedness"
that has come to be accepted, he said.
Explain to young people that bullying, whether
physical or verbal, "is serious, that it's not in fun, that some
people take this very seriously and they can think of hurting
themselves," Gould said.
Encourage kids to take action if they witness
bullying. A simple comment like "Cut it out" or "Leave him
alone" could help change the dynamic when someone is being picked on.
"Everyone needs to take responsibility for
what's happening in the school," Miller said.
Yet teens may fear becoming the bully's next
target if they speak out. So be sure to encourage them to tell parents,
teachers or guidance counselors; if you are the one they come to, let
school officials and other parents know what is going on.
What if your teen is the one being harassed?
If he or she does not seem deeply distressed by
it, offer some simple coping strategies. Bullies thrive on getting a
reaction from their victims, so ignoring them can be a powerful antidote,
Gould advised. "Defend yourself, not by getting into a fight, but by
showing that you have resilience," she said. "Find other
friends, join other groups, find another social network that is not going
to do that to you."
How do you know whether a teen's reaction to
bullying is normal or not?
Teens often are moody, but "depression is
a much more sustained kind of thing" that can last weeks, Haas said.
For worried parents, an easy first step is to call the child's
pediatrician, either for a checkup or a referral to a mental health
Despite the popular conception that the social
world of every high school in
is run by "mean girls," Gould's research found that rates of
bullying behavior, both for victims and perpetrators, were about twice as
high among boys as among girls.
Other gender differences: Physical bullying is
more prevalent among boys and "relational" bullying — teasing,
verbal harassment and social manipulation — is more common among girls.
But while girls involved in bullying were far more likely to report
depression, suicidal thoughts or suicide attempts than boys, boys both
involved in bullying in some way or not involved are four times as likely
as girls to die by suicide, Gould said.
Haas added that teens struggling with their
sexual identity may be especially vulnerable to bullies.
Gould said a new study awaiting publication
followed adults who reported being bullied in high school to see if it had
any lasting impact.
The good news: Most adults who were bullied in
high school "were not suicidal, not depressed and not at risk for
suicide," she said.
"There is life after high school,"
Haas said, "but that can take many years for all of us to
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Finds That Television Hinders a Child's Math Achievement Level
|The following article contains some interesting facts
about the correlation between the number of hours spent watching
television and a child's academic and physical development in the
early years up to the age of ten. There has been a raging battle
going on about the negative impact of video games and social
networking and how the time spent on the computer could be better
spent elsewhere. Proponents of allowing children to use modern
technology as much as they possibly desire have long stated that the
practice of watching television is much worse than playing on the
computer. While this study only considered the time spend watching
television, it would be curious to look at the results of a similar
study involving the use of computers.
Watching TV hinders kids’ math achievement,
(From The Toronto Star, May 3, 2010 edition: Written by Kristin
Rushowy, Education Reporter)
TV doesn’t just turn kids into couch potatoes — it also makes them
poorer math students, less interested in school and more likely to be
bullied, says a long-term study on the toll of the tube on children.
“We see negative effects across the board,” said lead author Linda
Pagani of the Sainte-Justine hospital research centre, Université de
“Television exposure is a very passive activity both intellectually and
physically, and what we see eight years later (at age 10) is that these
kids are suffering from the effects of having developed passive habits.
They have higher BMI (body mass), less preference for physical activity,
they engage in physical activity less and in the classroom their teachers
rate them as less persevering, less task-oriented and less autonomous.”
The study, which followed 1,134
children, looked at
their viewing habits at 29 and 53 months, and then their academic and
physical development by age 10.
For every hour above the average for television viewing in the early
years — which in the study was modest, at slightly more than one hour a
day — there was a 6 per cent drop in math success, 7 per cent in
classroom engagement as well as a 10 per cent increase in being victimized
The preschool period is a critical time for brain development, as well as
a time for learning social skills and building healthy habits for life,
Early math skills are “intertwined with attention and early on if
there’s a weak link in that chain of events, it can undermine the
long-term” outcomes, she added.
Pagani attributes victimization to the “social isolation effect of
watching television” or spending time at the computer — time that
isn’t spent interacting with other kids.
“They’re on PlayStation instead of playing with other people,” she
Interestingly, the study found no effect on reading by age 10, although
Pagani thinks by that age kids have moved on from learning to read to
“reading to learn.”
“Common sense would have it that television exposure replaces time that
could be spent engaging in other developmentally enriching activities and
tasks which foster cognitive, behavioral and motor development,” she
If parents are going to allow their children to watch TV, she said they
should heed the advice of the
of Pediatrics and ban
it for children less than 2 years, and limit it to less than two hours a
day after age that.
“Beyond age 2, all the way to the end of your life, you shouldn’t
have more than two hours of media a day,” Pagani recommended.
The study, funded by the Social Science and Humanities Research Council
of Canada, is published in the May issue of Archives
of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine.
The children in the study were part of the Quebec Longitudinal Study of
Child Development Main Exposure and data was collected from both parents
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Beautiful Message For Young Teachers
is an article written by Gail Tillery who teaches
at North Forsyth High School in Cumming GA, where she was teacher of
the year for 2009-10. Among her many roles are British literature
lead teacher, literary coordinator, and mentoring coordinator. She
earned National Board Certification in 2002. Tillery is also the
author of a Teaching Secrets article for new high school teachers,
Take Charge of Your Classroom. The messages contained in this
article are appropriate for teachers of all ages.
Secrets: Hang on to the Magic
was a Monday last spring in the middle of testing season. At the
lunch time “venting” session, people were whining and
complaining about the testing schedule, which was indeed an
indescribable disaster. I totally understood why people were so
angry and frustrated, and I didn't blame them for getting their
frustrations out among friends. However, as we were leaving, one of
the young teachers in the room said something that really resonated
with me: “Twenty-six years and four days.”
took us a moment to get what she was saying. What did that random
time period have to do with anything? Then it hit me: She was
pointing out how long it would be until she could retire. The other
teachers and I kind of giggled nervously. But it got me thinking.
What kind of a profession are we in where people count down the days
and years to retirement? How could such an amazing young teacher
become so disheartened in her fourth year of teaching?
I thought more about these questions, I understood the reason for
her despair. She would absolutely tell you that her unhappiness has
nothing to do with the kids, and everything to do with the forces
outside of her control. They’re the same things that drive every
teacher crazy. Politicians. Testing. Merit pay. Budget cuts and
teacher furloughs. Parents who don't care. Parents who care too much
and hover. People in charge of our work who are clueless and don't
know what they're doing. All the extraneous forces that combine to
suck the life out of even the most positive teachers in the
I thought about this wonderful young woman who is like the daughter
I never had. As I thought about future novice teachers who will face
the same issues, I asked myself, “How can I be part of the
solution? How can I help young teachers see that, despite the
current insanity around our work, this job is still the most magical
one there is? I offer the following to the novice teachers out there
who are about to embark on their careers.
one: Acceptance. One of
the best prayers ever is the Serenity Prayer, which teaches us to
accept the things we cannot change. The way education is set up in
this country, teachers do not control their own work. Until
legislators get out of the middle of it all, we will continue to
struggle with top-down decisions that aren't good for kids. We can
rant and whine and cry about it all we want, but we still have to
get on with the business of teaching the kids who come to us every
day. (Although I firmly believe that if enough legislators had to be
in a building for even one day, standardized tests would end
tomorrow.) Thus, we must take a deep breath, remind ourselves to
control the things we can control, and go from there.
two: Holiness. No, I
don't really mean this in the religious sense. What I mean is, what
we do with kids is holy and sacred because it changes lives. We
provide lifelines to kids who have no one. We turn kids on to
knowledge. We listen to their dramas, let them cry themselves out,
help them work through their problems....I could go on and on about
what millions of teachers do for millions of kids every day. The
excellent teachers in the world are not in the classroom to deliver
knowledge and skills alone; they are also there to provide life
lessons to children whose futures will be brighter because a teacher
cared for them.
was watching M*A*S*H the other day (my favorite show, ever, forever)
and thinking of all the lives that were saved by units like these in
the last few wars. I was also thinking, “What must it feel like to
know you saved a life?” And then I realized I've done the same
thing many times in my classroom. Not literally, of course, but just
as importantly. When I help a kid learn a new skill, when I help him
or her try one more time instead of giving up and quitting school or
making life-altering negative decisions, I am saving lives, too.
three: Don't take it personally.
This lesson is especially important for high school teachers. When
we pour our time, energy, and hearts into planning lessons for
students, and then they grouse and complain and aren't engaged, we
get our feelings hurt. Let go of that. The students' lack of
interest and snarky attitudes are not about you as a person. The
flip side of this, of course, is to spend the time and energy to
create the most engaging lessons possible, but we have to understand
that we can't reach every kid every day.
four: Understand that there are people out there who are content to
be mediocre. When I first
came to a public school after 12 years of teaching in a private
school, I jumped in with both feet and got involved in as many
leadership positions as I could. While many of my new colleagues
were supportive, others were a little judgmental and critical. I
went to a trusted administrator about it, and she told me, “If you
step out in front, there will always be people who try to shoot you
down.” Step out anyway.
five: Stay away from the Dark Side.
You will learn quickly who the positive people are. Gravitate to
them in your department and in your building. Stay away from the
people who hate their job and are counting down the days until
school ends. They will pull you down with them if you let them.
six (a corollary to lesson five): Don't let the turkeys get you
down. College in the 80's
was all about how many buttons you could display on your clothing or
your bag. One button I still have in my classroom is a picture of an
elephant who is lying on his stomach with his legs spread
everywhere. He is covered in turkeys. Enough said.
seven: Be in balance.
Remember that your job is not your life. Your life is your life.
When you leave the building, leave everything in it: the kids you
can't reach, the kids who are hurting, the Eeyorish colleagues, the
insane demands, all the negative stuff. Do not burden your spirit
with it. After all, it will all still be there when you come back.
Work out, be quiet, worship, sleep, read, laugh. You'll be suicidal
by Thanksgiving if you don't.
eight: Own your power. I
have written in other places about how to take charge of your
classroom. This version of owning your power is about realizing that
every day of your life, you have the power to make a child's life
better or worse. You will interact with hundreds, if not thousands,
of children through your career, and you will not remember them all.
But they will remember you and how you made them feel—whether it
was good or bad. Choose your words carefully, take deep breaths, and
understand the impact you can have on a child.
is an art and a science. It is hard every day and challenging every
day. But every day something akin to miracles happen in teachers'
rooms. Use these lessons to make your room miraculous.
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