Anticipating Full-Day Kindergarten

By Karen Bernath

There has been a lot of discussion and debate about the concept of full-day Kindergarten since the government first started discussing the concept. Change can be very stressful and changing the Kindergarten students’ day to full time is a huge pedagogical shift from the way the Kindergarten program has been delivered over the course of my 21 years as a teacher in British Columbia. Many questions have been raised by teachers, parents and politicians alike—do four- and five-year-olds have the stamina for a full day at school? Will there be nap time? Will Kindergarten become a mini-Grade 1? Are we, as a society, placing too much emphasis on academic achievement? The government has made it clear that full-day Kindergarten IS happening—partial implementation for September 2010 and full implementation across the province for September 2011. There comes a time in the debate when we need to focus on moving forward as Reinhold Niebuhr said “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

The public debate and discussion around full-day Kindergarten has caused me, as a Kindergarten teacher, to examine my practice and reflect upon what I truly believe about the Kindergarten program. Many early primary teachers in my local have moved away from teaching Kindergarten in the last five years because of the workload issues associated with teaching Kindergarten in today’s world of high-stakes testing and accountability. I disagree with the screening of Kindergarten students before they have a chance to become familiar with the routines that will help guide them toward security in their learning environ ment. Being a Kindergarten teacher means doing double screeners in my district—one set for your morning class and one set for your afternoon class. Teaching K means double the report cards and double the parent teacher interviews—maybe one class of students for the full day wouldn’t be such a bad thing? The government has stated that the Kindergarten curriculum will not be doubled with the addi tional instructional time. Perhaps there will be an opportunity to move back to a true “play-based” program where children are allowed to learn in an experiential way. I have dusted off my Primary Program binder and started reminding myself of the way that I learned to teach primary back in the “Year 2000” with themes and centres and field trips and cooking. I have heard that the Provincial Primary Teachers’ Association is working on workshops to revive the Primary Program. Suddenly as a Kindergarten teacher, I’m excited about the possibilities—thinking maybe this change will be okay for our Kindergarten students. It is my professional responsibility to ensure that the proposed changes bring about positive benefits for the profession and the learning environ ment of my students, always striving for a program that is playbased, experiential, and values the developmental needs of the students in my classroom. One of my favourite quotes by Mary Englebreit comes to mind: “If you have knowledge, let others light their candles by it.”

As a Kindergarten teacher who has had the opportunity to teach full-day, every-day Kindergarten to a group of ESL, students with special needs, and First Nations students in the past, I will be helping my colleagues acquire the knowledge that they are seeking to ensure that this change is in the best interest of our Kindergarten students. Watch for workshops sponsored by the Primary Teachers’ Association and the BCTF in your local. I have decided that rather than stress about the change, I’m going to embrace it and use the additional time to make my Kindergarten program a good place for four- and five-year-old children to learn. In the words of Alan Cohen, “It takes a lot of courage to release the familiar and seemingly secure, to embrace the new. But there is no real security in what is no longer meaningful. There is more security in the adventurous and exciting, for in movement there is life, and in change there is power.”

Karen Bernath teaches at Bankhead

Elementary School, Kelowna, and is

a member of BCTF Professional

Issues Advisory Committee.

Public education at the brink

By Robin Barrow

The following is an excerpt from a presentation given at the Public Education Conference, November 13–14, 2009.

What the public school system is primarily there for is to educate people. Education is good in itself, because it is better to be educated than un- or, worse, mis-educated. Better to be Socrates dissatisfied than a pig satisfied. The mind being the chief characteristic that distinguishes the human from other animals, to be well educated, to have well-developed understanding, is to be more fully human—to achieve a degree of specifically human excellence. It is to be empowered. It can also very plausibly be argued that educated people, by and large, make more of themselves and contribute more to society than the less well-educated. It should also be pointed out that social justice demands a public system for educating people, because, while of course one can educate oneself, by and large people don’t—in particular people already disadvantaged in various ways, don’t.

While I am as displeased as anyone with recent news relating to the economy, I do not think we should claim that a shortfall in our funding means that we cannot succeed.

What, then, does threaten the provision of a proper education?

  1. The confusion of education with training, or a preoccupation with preparing people directly for jobs rather than developing their minds.
  2. A lazy acceptance of the fashionable view that everything is a matter of opinion such that we cannot think in terms of right and wrong, correct and incorrect, sense and nonsense.
  3. A climate of political correctness that inhibits serious debate about such matters as inclusion or multiculturalism.
  4. An incoherent rhetoric of rights that has led to a degree of vulnerability for any teacher who wants to speak her or his mind, exercise discipline or, more broadly, make demands on, and “correct,” students.
  5. A misguided belief in a science of teaching and a consequent attempt to train teachers in various generic skills and practices: thus, for example, all teachers are supposed to follow the same “best practice,” to generate lesson plans in the same way, and to write report cards according to formula.
  6. A tendency to feel that it is inherently desirable to utilize the most up-to-date technology all the time, whereas in point of fact technology may very often get in the way of true education.

But surely the most obvious problem for today’s teachers is simply that more and more tasks are imposed upon them, most of which have nothing to do with education. It is the fact that teachers have more and more bureaucratic tasks to fulfill, that they are expected to take on all the social problems society faces, and that their freedom is constantly curtailed inhibits their ability to focus on education.

Robin Barrow is a professor, SFU Faculty of Education

It’s For The Kids

It’s for the kids

By Joanna Krop

“Teaching is becoming expensive for teachers when there’s no budget” read my Facebook friend’s wall post. He was buying an adaptor cable to show YouTube clips from his I-pod on a TV. I thought that’s great—it’s cheaper than DVDs and you have it for your own use too. But then someone posted that they were contemplating buying a video projector because the school couldn’t afford one.

Since I like to have money to do things, such as pay my bills, I flung myself into this debate. I posted: “I’d never spend so much for school unless I was being directly compensated. It’s time districts/ ministries started valuing the work we do rather than assume we are going to make up for the inadequacies of a system that undervalues its teachers not to mention students.”

People online didn’t like that.

To paraphrase the next five posts: We shouldn’t need to pay out-of-pocket but we do it because it’s good for the kids. If you don’t get what you think is needed, students suffer because you can’t do the best possible job. Unfortunately, it’s part of the job, but teachers who spend on their classroom take pride in having quality materials for students.

I doubt you’d find a doctor bringing in her own personal supply of gauze, disinfectant, and syringes for a shift in the emergency ward, in addition to the defibrillator she bought yesterday because the hospital didn’t have enough. How is it any less ridiculous when teachers do it?

It’s for the kids. I’ve said it before. I’m sure you have too. We’re not heartless—we’re teachers! But before we wax sentimental about why we went into teaching, let’s ask a critical question. When we say—it’s for the kids—which kids are we talking about?

Is it the kids of the teacher who has the economic and social positioning to be able to essentially donate money for the students? What about the kids of the teacher who can’t? Are we saying that such a teacher doesn’t take pride in having quality materials for their students? That the students should settle for an inadequately funded classroom? Even if teachers can afford it—should they?

While we are fortunate to have autonomy in our classrooms they are not “our” classrooms. The classroom and teacher are embedded within a larger system tied to social, political, and economic realities. That system has a mandate—to educate the future of the province. It is not like donating your time or money to a non-profit that does good works with kids. The ministry is not a charity. When we take it upon ourselves to make up for the inadequacies of the system, we enable it to get away with not fulfilling its mandate.

Back in the Facebook debate I posted again: “I’m all for what’s good for the kids so long as it’s not to the detriment of the teacher. Principled political action through your union, your vote, or letters to your MLA is, to me, preferable to taking this on with your wallet.”

The refrain, “It’s for the kids,” needs to expand beyond the limited scope of the 30 kids in our class to the thousands of kids in our districts and the collection of districts across the province. The responsibility of funding education rests with the province, not with the teacher. If anything should be “for the kids,” it’s a strong, well-funded education. They deserve it.

Joanna Krop, Queensborough Middle School, New Westminster. Joanna also has a blog on wellness for teachers:

The three basics of being a successful, self-employed tutor

The three basics of being a successful self-employed tutor: Business, Academics & Personal life

You are a brilliant tutor and have a well-established list of long-term students who refer their friends to you constantly. You spend the time to prepare for each of your students and go the extra mile to be original, creative, and even more entertaining so your students learn effectively while enjoying their lessons with you. Your collection of testimonials is growing and now you almost do not even need to advertise… students call you only because they heard of you from someone else. You have turned into a tutoring celebrity keeping a busy schedule and at the same time desperately trying to sneak in a moment for a massage, run in the park, or even a quiet day of reading at home with your phone off.

Now that you have established your business, you will have the opportunity to step back and look at it as exactly… a business.You are your company. The sooner you realize this fact, the easier it will be for you to maintain it and further develop it. A very good start would be to write down everything that you have achieved so far and then list all the goals you foresee that you will achieve in the future. This simple exercise will give you direction – what are you aiming at? More clients? Sub-contracting other tutors? Increasing your price? Improving the quality of your service? Now that you have all answers (please remember that this is only a beginning point for you and your goals and perspective may change with circumstances or as time goes by) you can draw the map, which will get you there. Your map is your portfolio – business, academic, and personal.

Your business portfolio is going to provide the financials and business development information. Create a system of filing every piece of paper that will be relevant to your business. Example of documents you will need:

Revenue spreadsheets: expense and profit
Include both current (where you are) and future (where you want to be in a certain period of time). Record all discounts, sample lessons, promotions, etc. Include everything that brings or spends money from your bank account. The easiest way to keep track of all profit and expenses is by creating invoices/receipts for your clients. Number and date them and file them accordingly – by student name, by topic, or by date. Meanwhile, keep all receipts from your purchases and expenses for accurate calculation of your costs. Remember that as a business owner (even if you don’t have a registered company or business name you must keep these records; in Canada you don’t need to register a company if your revenue is under $30 000/year – consult with an accountant!) you must provide all income sources and write off eligible expenses when you file your income tax. Your business revenue is your personal revenue if you are a sole-proprietor or have a home-based business.

Marketing: Ad campaigns and referrals
Record all your advertising sources and keep track of how students hear about you. This will show you which sources are worth expanding and which you need to stay away from. For example, if you have been paying $100/month for a newspaper ad but no students actually found you through it, you will not need that expense and it is a dead-end source. If you spent 2 days and $200 to print and distribute flyers and 80% of your students come to you with this very flyer in hand, then maybe you should relocate the $100 from the newspaper ad into printing out more flyers and even pay someone to distribute them for you.

Keeping track of all referrals is extremely important. Who sent whom to you? Are you going to give some sort of reward for the person who referred 3 new students to you? Record all relationships of your students who refer other people to you. Maybe you have included a “buddy discount” in your ad campaign and now people are taking advantage of it. Make sure you know whom these people are. Give them incentive to keep sending you students and reward them for “working” for you.

Your academic “map” scripts who you are as a tutor and educator. This is your academic portfolio where you store your teaching materials, research, articles, professional development pieces, ready-to-use materials, demonstration materials, sample lessons plans, etc. This virtual academic bank starts with your educational philosophy and goals, and finishes… never. This is the ongoing work of a professional educator who collects, revisits, reflects and develops every artifact in it. Your academic portfolio will not only demonstrate your methodology and resources, but it will also help you organize your work as an educator. Remember to include your testimonials in this portfolio. There is nothing better than being able to open a page and show your potential clients what past students have said about you or what gifts they’ve given you. Choose the best format to represent your academic portfolio – paper-based, electronic (webpage, blog, etc.) or combined.

Your academic map will also include your students’ files. Keep track of what you teach. Knowing how your students progress and what you have already taught them is precious. It is very important that you include lesson plans you have already used – did they work? Why or why not? Every student has different interests and personality and you will benefit from keeping a diary of your interactions. Believe me, when you have so many students and so many lessons, you will start to forget or mix up students. This is a normal course of the tutoring process and you are not a robot or computer to memorize every little detail. That is why it is worth recording it instead.

That’s right! Your personal life also needs organizing. As you are your company, you need to make time for work and you need to make time for rest, vacation, coffee time, breaks, etc. Make sure you always have a calendar handy so you can record appointments, dinners, etc. There is nothing more embarrassing than calling a student to cancel a lesson because you forgot you had a hair appointment at the same time. A calendar is an excellent time-management tool which is a lifesaver when it comes to scheduling.

Nothing Official – reality cheque

Nothing official—reality cheque

By Tony Wilson

Reprinted from Bartalk Magazine

Maybe we’re not quite as valuable as we think we are

My daughter is entering Grade 12 this year, which means she has only a few hoops left to jump through before she graduates, and then discovers that life will force her to jump through hundreds more on her way to what she will inevitably “do for a living.” I’m told it won’t be law, which she describes as “Job Z.” Oh well.

The amazing thing is that the three-year-old girl who I used to take to “parent participation pre-school” in the 1990s (instead of sitting at my desk recording billable hours on some forgettable file), is now a self-assured and confident young woman who drives a car, scuba dives with me in Mexico, speaks fluent French, skis like a pro, and is looking at university calendars as I write this. She pens stories in her spare time and has no difficulty sitting in her room for hours immersed in a new book. A friend from Victoria e-mailed me last month and said, “Emma’s in Grade 12? How did that happen?”

Since we’ve had our two kids, my wife and I have always left the house and returned from our respective law offices at sensible hours, in large part, to have dinner together as a family, and to not let the practice of law consume us like it can (and does) consume others. It’s a trade-off in terms of compensation, but we think it’s a good one. They’re only kids once, and then they’re not. Blink, and you may miss it.

But between 8:00 a.m. and 3.30 p.m. we have more or less surrendered our kids to their teachers since they were in Grade 1, (and if you count Kindergarten, even longer). So the daytime upbringing of our most important “treasure” has been entrusted to other people between the months of September to June, Monday to Friday, for almost 12 years now (summers, holidays, and Pro-D days excepted). That may well amount to 15,000 billable hours per child, if teachers billed by the hour (being professionals of course, they don’t). At my hourly rate, that’s $6 million each. And that doesn’t include the after hours marking time, sports coaching time, lesson prep time, one-on-one time, and the countless hours that their teachers put in over and above simply showing up for class. So to an enormous extent, the people who are responsible for shaping what direction our kids’ learning will take, (and arguably, who they will inevitably become as adults) are their teachers.

Although I am olive green with envy over their impressive pension plan, why is it that society pays me (and you) buckets more money to draft contracts, close business transactions, or defend insurance companies than those who are responsible for educating the most important people in our lives? Sure, it’s great for me to charge $400 per hour for what I do, but why is drafting a franchise agreement for yet another new chain of pizza restaurants worth more than teaching my kids French or Biology or how to successfully jump through the hoops that life will put in front of them? Regrettably, it’s the same society that thinks CEOs, hedge-fund managers, and professional hockey players are worth gazillions of dollars a year, but teachers shouldn’t be paid more than $70,000 because they get summers off and can go home at 4:00 p.m.

It’s all too easy to be seduced by our own sense of self-importance, just because we’re paid a lot of money, or we know how the levers of power work, or because others put a value on the legal profession that, dare I say, is sometimes out of proportion with other vocations and callings. In many ways, teachers are more valuable than lawyers, because unlike us, they don’t talk about changing the world. They do it day by day—child by child.

Some of my closest friends in the world chose to become teachers rather than lawyers. And it makes me very happy that my daughter wants to become one too.

Tony Wilson is a Vancouver franchise and intellectual property lawyer practicing with Boughton Law Corporation and is an adjunct professor at SFU. He has written for the Globe and Mail, Macleans Magazine, and Lawyers Weekly, and is a regular columnist with Canadian Lawyer and Bartalk Magazine, where this article first appeared. He is currently writing a book on ìOn-Line Reputation Management.î

Reaching The Problem Child

Reaching the problem child

By Robert Stelmach

What is the problem? That’s often the first question. What can I do to fix it? That’s often the second. There are many others I can ask: questions about grades, life at home, even choice of friends. Each of these most likely will lead to other problems, more things to fix, and certainly more questions and still more problems. Which makes me think, can I fix things for someone else? Can I truly understand what a problem child is going through, so as to make the right choices for that child? Or am I fighting a loosing battle?

Perhaps, there is another way. What if I start, not by thinking of the child as a problem, but as a person, let’s say a brand new friend? His name might be Jordan. So, what do I know about Jordan? This new beginning suggests a whole new series of questions. Where does he live? What does he really like to do? If he could have one wish, what would that wish be? And what can I do to encourage him to follow his dream?

Now, if my friend Jordan is particularly difficult to deal with, perhaps I could think about what colour, plant, or animal he reminds me of, something that helps to smooth out his rough edges. When growing exotic plants or dealing with wild animals, one needs to be patient—take one step at a time. I could picture him as a young colt, a bit frisky, moody, and sometimes even cantankerous. But he is young, strong, and shows promise. It’s worth the effort.

Then again, what if Jordan turns obnoxious, gets under my skin, or really pushes my buttons. Friction is inevitable, even with the best of students. However, when friction does occur, I could concentrate on a mantra, a word picture that puts difficult moments into perspective. I could think of Jordan as K2, a mountain in the Himalayas that has killed more climbers than any other.

I could think as follows: K2 is nothing more than a mountain, while Jordan is nothing more than a child. “K2 K2.” The mountain has no intent to kill. “K2 K2.” One minute, the sun is shining. A moment later, a sudden storm literally chokes the mountain with snow, making survival almost impossible. “K2 K2.” Is this not true of Jordan as well—how he changes in an instant from amiable to outrageous, leaving me feeling the dagger of his words or eyes? “K2 K2.”

What I need to realize and think about is that the dagger is not meant for me, but is pointed at the reflection of what really bothers him, something that has absolutely nothing to do with me. Like the storm, his anger is only an act of nature. And it is up to me to protect myself from that storm. And so I say, “K2 K2.” It is through my own strength of will that I will survive and walk away from this battle of wills unscathed.

Helping a child like Jordan is not easy. There will always be setbacks. There will even be failures. It is also true that helping troubled kids is not for everyone. But, the rewards are as great as those for climbing K2 and surviving, or turning a wild horse into a winner. Though in cases like Jordan, the rewards are usually silent and within, the gift is greatly worth giving. I know from experience. I was once like Jordan.

And who am I in this process, the teacher or the Kid Whisperer? I prefer to think of myself as the latter. Teaching can wait until I have won Jordan’s trust.

Robert Stelmach, (aka MaxTell), troubadour, author, and musician.

Teaching in South Korea – A Day in the Life

Teaching in South Korea-A Day in the Life

By Paul Gaasenbeek

It was eight in morning on a beautiful Monday morning and I was wide awake-thanks to the woman upstairs who usually starts vacuuming around this time. I love being up this early, though, as not having to work for another seven hours provides me with a few hours to do whatever I want. Of course, I only slept for four hours last night so today I will be dead tired at work but that is life here-or so it seems.

Being up, I decided to go for a walk along the road (there is no sidewalk to walk on) near my school appointed apartment. The apartment is not bad I guess but it is small. It is one room with the bathroom having nothing more than a sink, a toilet and a shower head hanging 2 metres off of the floor. Showering here is weird in that the whole bathroom gets drenched due to there being no shower curtain or door. You literally are showering on the floor. The water just goes all over. I were back home and teaching, I surely would have a bigger place. For some reason people here think living in a thirteen `pyong’ (Korean measurement-1.8 square metres) apartment is suitable for a university graduate/teacher. They seem more like something you would live in while you were a poor student but what can you do?

I should point out that if you land a job at the one international school they have here in Busan (a port city on the south east coast…just off of the East Sea-not the Sea of Japan. Say that here and oh boy, watch out), you do get set up in a nice place (three rooms and a bathroom with a tub and shower). Any other job you land, whether it be at a university, a public school or a private institution which is where most people start out, you are provided with a one room apartment or an “office tel” as they are called. The room comes fully loaded with a small bed, a chair and a television taking up all of the space. That is about it. Some of the places here are nothing more than four walls with a sink. It is almost like living in poverty. You do get paid, generally speaking, 2.2 million WON or so, which works out to about $2000 Canadian; so while your place may not the greatest, one can live comfortably if you are not trying to save money. If saving money is your game, with the way things are here now, it is difficult. I will talk about his some other time.

My first apartment here in Busan was unbelievable. It was in the basement of an old building twenty minutes away from the school. The walls were so moldy that my shoes and clothes constantly had fungus on then. I had to move the clothes rod, my bed and television away form the walls in order to stay mold free. I was living in a literally in a space tow metres by tow metres. I finally took a once nice pair of shoes into the school and thrust them up onto the teachers table. The Korean teachers were so freaked out they demanded I take them away at once. I refused saying that if I had to live with this, so did they. I was moved into a new place two weeks later.

My new place was brand new at the time. Two weeks in, the whole apartment building from the third floor down was flooded due to the company who built the apartment using inadequate screws. Things here are done on the cheap-including what they do for foreign teachers. Although Korea has recently been designated to be a `developed’ country, I still like what a friend of mine once said and that was, “Korea was a third world county painted well” as it seems that way sometimes.

So, moving along (no pun intended), I was walking along the road when this little Hyundai came barreling down on me. I looked over and saw that the light was green for me but that did not stop the driver, who was also on the phone, from flying right through the light. No joke, Korea is number two in the world for car accidents and sadly, it is the number one way children die here. People here drive like maniacs-which is kind of good as I now drive a car and find myself feeling for the first time like I am assimilating well into the Korean culture.

Anyway, after my walk, I headed home to enjoy some quiet time, or so I had hoped. It is never quiet here. Most women do not work so they are always home and constantly making noise. It really is something else. The people here are very compulsive but I won’t get into the psychology of the Korean people today. The “those who live in glass houses” metaphor applies to me all too well here.

After breakfast, which consisted of a two dollar grapefruit (produce costs are through the roof here) and not much else, I lie back down on my cot like bed and rest up for work. I also try to put my hangover to bed. Sadly, most people here drink every night as there is not much else to do. I would say most people put on five to ten kilograms in their first year here. This is due to the drinking and the food. Koreans are generally slim but their food takes a special stomach and collection of taste buds to adapt to so most do not eat well here. There are fast food outlets everywhere as well Korean restaurants that are inhabited frequently by us foreigners due to them being cheap. And while I know I said most foreigners do not take well to the Korean diet, these Korean `fast food’ restaurants due serve up fried pork and foods that are not like the traditional Korean places so we tend to put on weight here. But to be honest, the weight gain is more to due with the nightly drinking that occurs here. Korea definitely can be seen as a playground if you want it to look as much-or an extension of university life. Let’s move on.

So it is not time to get up and head off to work. I grab a shower while cleaning the bathroom at the same time and head off to Quiznos and Starbucks for my lunch and coffee. I grab, I go, as I am late-yet again. Great reading or what? I sometimes hit the gym before work but I did not feel like bathing with naked Koreans today who like to watch you while cleaning the back of another man. This is okay here. I am far removed from typical Canadian customs in the change rooms but I think this one is not normal for us. I could be wrong, however, so I will not judge as I have seen many things here that would `wow’ people. One event that comes to mind was seeing a boy peeing into a cup being held by his mother while standing on the table in a TGIF restaurant. I called the manager over and he just kind of laughed. Back to work!

I enter work and say my usual hellos with the one Korean woman who can actually speak English saying hello in return and the others just sort of nodding in my direction. Teaching here is nothing like you could ever imagine. In fact, it is worthy of an article all on its own so let’s take a break here. I will leave you with a bit of advice, though, and that is, if you want to teach abroad, go to Japan! That was a joke. I have been here for seven years so like anywhere one has decided to live, it is what you make of what you have that makes or breaks you. Life here is good for me. I came not expecting anything other than to stay for a bit and travel while hopefully saving a little money. What I have experienced, however, is something totally different. Anyway, until next time teachers do your homework!

Note: I somehow bumped into Paul  while surfing some Ed. sites…he struck me as a great find and I asked him if he would like to post some articles…fortunately he agreed…I hope our members enjoy the read…it looks like this may be an interesting serial…DavidM