Opinions expressed on this blog are my own and do not represent any other organization or affiliation I may have.

Monday 30 April 2012

Popcorn - Spelling Game

Today I was reading an old spiral bound book of games. I used to teach summer camps and afterschool programs at the local recreation centre and know A LOT of games....

This is one I had played years ago and forgotten about but plan to pull-out and use again.

It is called "POPCORN" and you give each student a letter of the alphabet. If you don't have 26 students (first, lucky you!) then you could probably cut some less used letters or give a few students two letters.

It is easy to play - you say a word and they spell it!

Everyone is sitting down and when it is their letter they "POP" up and say their letter.

For example:

Teacher: The word is Friend
Student with letter f: "F" *pops up then back down
Student with letter r: "R" *pops up then back down
Student with letter i: "I" *pops up then back down
Student with letter e: "E" *pops up then back down
Student with letter n: "N" *pops up then back down
Student with letter d: "D" *pops up then back down

This is a fun spelling game that also gets students active.

Action Schools! BC Resources for TTOCs

Action Schools! BC has a lot to offer teachers and some great things for TTOCs who wish to include some Daily Physical Activity or healthy lessons into their days with different classes.

The first cool thing I discovered was that they have established really cool activity Circuits for most schools in BC here. You can click your district, find a school, and load the map of the schools playground/field area for suggested activities/circuits to do with classes.

Besides that, they offer many FREE workshops. At the BCTF New Teacher's Conference, a rep told me they could do one for TTOCs and everyone gets some super handy supplies and lessons they can take with them into the classroom!
Their website has Tons of Resources including downloadable worksheets, handouts, posters, and activities about healthy eating, excersize, and more.

I always love the resources the schools have from Action Schools! BC - but was thrilled to see all the online resources and workshops available for teachers not attached to a school. I hope to book a workshop for our TTOCs next year!

Sunday 29 April 2012

Math Battleship

This is a fun combination of the game Battleship, Rock/Paper/Scissors, and Math Problems.

1.) Put a grid on the board 1-5 on the bottom and a-z along the side. (Adjust as you wish)
2.) On a piece of paper draw the same grid and secretly place battleships on your paper.
3.) Split the class into two teams, have one from each team go to the board and play rock, scissors, paper and the winner gets to answer a math problem.
4.) If correct they get to put on X on the board and you let them know if he hit your battleship.
5.) If they answer math problem wrong, the other child gets to try to answer and then put an X on the board.

I have used this with Elementary and Middle, though it can work with any age as long as the math problem is level appropriate. Also, I have eliminated rock/paper/scissor for the younger kids if many do not know how to play.

Saturday 28 April 2012

Spelling Detectives

Here is an activity for any grade level that has spelling tests. It is called Spelling Detectives.

1.) Write the weekly spelling words in random order on the chalk board and tell the class to study the words carefully for one minute.

2.) Tell the students to put their heads down - no looking!

3.) Erase one of the words and rewrite it - this time spell it wrong.

4.) As the class has their heads down say, "Oh my, something looks wrong - all spelling detectives raise your heads and see if you can tell me what word is not spelled correctly."

5.) After 30 seconds, call on a volunteer to tell you the word and how it should be spelled. If the child answers correctly reward the class a point. If the child does not answer correctly, identify the word and give yourself 1 point.

6.) Repeat Steps.

Friday 27 April 2012

More on Bill 36

Last night I wrote about the elimination of standard school calendars and briefly mentioned some other problems with Bill 36.

Last night I had a tough time digesting this and tried to imagine what these proposals may mean for education, not only as a teacher, but as a parent and how this will impact my daughter as a student!

Today I ready Parents Take Note - Bill 36 is an attack on you! which summarizes how Bill 36 can impact parents and students if passed:

Friday, April 27, 2012

Parents take note - Bill 36 is an attack on you

Having successfully removed teachers as an "obstacle" to the BC Education Plan, yesterday George Abbott introduced enabling legislation to change the school year, day, and total instructional time provided to students.

Bill 36 removes the requirement for School Boards to follow the standard school calendar, and most importantly allows the Minister to change, through regulation, the minimum number of instructional hours in the year. It also enables more online and blended learning for all grade levels and the introduction of fees for International Baccalaureate programs.

Although the media has focused on the school year, the scariest part of this legislation is the change to the minimum number of instructional hours through regulation. Here is the actual section of the Bill, which allows the Minister to:

prescribing the minimum number of hours of instruction that a board must offer to students enrolled in the schools in its school district, including prescribing that there is no minimum number of hours of instruction for prescribed classes of students, schools or educational programs;

If parents are wondering what this might look like, then look no further than the changes that have taken place in the delivery of Planning 10. In some schools in BC, every grade 10 student goes to the gymnasium once a week for a lecture (this can be in excess of 100 students). There is no or little further instructional time for these students. The remainder of the course is taught through a "blended" model with online components or simply assignments that are done on the student's own time and handed in. The instructional time goes from 240 minutes per week in a class with 30 students, to 80 minutes per week in a class with 100 or more students. Typically this can reduce the teacher hours needed by half.

<Continue Reading Here>

I worry for the students who slip through the cracks, I worry for how diverse learning needs will not be met, I worry about what this will look like and how this will change education for the worse.

I have taught Planning 10 online (though only for a month) and I had dozens of students coming in confused, behind, struggling. As part of that contract I worked 2 blocks Planning 10 in class and Planning 10 online and the difference was night and day. Planning 10 in -class involved far more engaging activities and group work and interactive options, while online was individual, self-paced work.

While I agree that there are students who may prefer one method or another and having choice is important, I fear the government's implementation of this is not to provide "choice" but to save money and that this is just the first step in a future that eliminates the actual classroom and overlooks the importance of that structure, in favour of a cheaper alternative that sounds fancy on paper but is more about making students a commodity and privatizing education than actually improving it.

Thursday 26 April 2012

Elimination of Standard School Calendar means what for education?

Sometimes I wonder what life would be like if educators ruled education. Or, even if the education Minister listened to educators, or visited classrooms for more than just a photo-opportunity.

The things that have been coming from this Liberal government surrounding the future of public education frightens me at times.

CBC reports:
The B.C. government has introduced amendments to the School Act that will eliminate the standard school calendar, the government has announced.
The move allows school boards to more freely schedule classes, opening the way for the possibility of year-round schooling.
The Ministry of Education will continue to set a minimum number of instructional hours, starting in the 2013-2014 school year, a release Thursday said.
The amendments also extend the ability to take a mix of online and traditional school courses to students in kindergarten through Grade 9. Currently, only students in grades 10 to 12 have this option, the announcement said.
“These amendments to the School Act will provide school districts with additional tools to support personalized learning,” said Education Minister George Abbott.
While I don't oppose year-round schooling, in fact I was just talking about this with someone the other day, and how the long summer breaks often leads to September refreshers and that year round schooling could address that issue, this amendment to the School Act does worry me.

Year - round schooling does not worry me, but the fact that local districts can now decide their own schedule means there could be massive changes from one district to the other and the ability to use online education from K-9 now could drastically change education, and not for the better!
What would online grade 3 class look like?

How would this impact class size and composition?

The fact is, it would be cheaper to have 50-100+ students in an online, distant ed course than to have then on site with a teacher and a room that forces safety rules of aprox 30 kids and oh ya, electricity and school supplies... distant ed course could save distrcits money and then why bother even having kids in face-to-face education anymore?

Is this the direction we are heading?


I can't imagine the social skills of students who do online courses exclusively, imagine starting in Kindergarten? What might this would look like?

I feel like some of my own friends lack social skills from over exposure to twitter, facebook, online chats, and so on.... how could this new plan change things?

So this news worries me.

Also, this bill suggests charging for the IB Program and allows ProD to be specified for a specific topic (or determined for teachers) among other things that basically sound like bad news for teachers and public education.

I do not oppose the possibility of change, but I question what this plan's intention is and where it may lead....

Read the bill here: http://www.leg.bc.ca/39th4th/1st_read/gov36-1.htm

Read Press Release here: http://www2.news.gov.bc.ca/news_releases_2009-2013/2012EDUC0044-000548.htm


'Survival' or 'Bomb Shelter' activity for High School

I post a lot for Middle School and Elementary, but this activity is best with High Schoolers and is something I have participated in and facilitated with a class.

This activity is great for team building, discussion, learning to compromis and express opinions and various other things.

I have seen, done and heard of various adaptations, but the premise is the same... Small groups have a list of people and due to some catastrophe (terrorism, bio-hazard, world war etc) only some of those people can live (in the bomb shelter, survival cave, etc)

Groups need to reach a consensus on who is saved. They have a set amount of time to reach a consensus or no one will survive.

Here are the basics:

Materials: None, maybe paper and writing utensils and/or hand out / display describing the people.

Aims: Role-playing, group decision-making, group interaction, reaching consensus.

  1. Divide i class into small groups (smaller the group, easier to reach decisions often)
  2. Each group member adopts a specific role, usually an occupation (for example: a doctor, an athlete, a teacher, movie-star, mother, housewife, etc; these can be written out and picked from a hat). *Sometimes I omit assigning roles and just let them have a list of people they are dealing with.
  3. Tell groups they are in an air-raid shelter after an atom bomb has fallen, big enough and with enough air and food for only six people, therefore they must get rid of several members. *Again the catastrophe, # of people and so on vary
  4. Each group member must argue why he should be allowed to survive. A group decision must be reached for who goes and stays: no suicides or murder allowed. *If not assigning roles, they can discuss all options
  5. Set a time limit for the decision.
  6. Later discuss how the group interacted making the decision, whether each person played an active or passive role, how satisfied each was with his role, etc.

Variations: Instead of an air-raid shelter, have a life raft or desert island or space ship. Add incidents, accidents, rituals, funerals, ceremonies.

*There are so many variations, adjust for your group.

I love doing this activity because it is fun, it can be interesting to see how groups work through the problems and differences in opinions, you can assign roles or not which may change perspectives, discussion afterwards allows students to reflect on their decision making skills. Why did they make that decision, did they change their mind throughout process, how, why?

As a TTOC, this can be a great activity should you ever be in with no lesson plan or a lot of time come up. You can adjust to whatever time limit you wish, but be sure to make the # of people and survivors reasonable to discuss fully within the time limit you set.


Here is a prezi variation:

Here are some variations:






Why this fight is important

I wanted to share this post as I found it to be very interesting and well written....

First published on BCTF Portal March 11, 2012
Bruce McCloy - Teacher in New Westminster

Here is why I see this current fight as very important. This is not about class size, class composition, a wage increase or extra help for special needs students. While these are all very important they are dwarfed by a greater threat; the changing of our current educational system to one that caters less to equity and developing a good person to one that is squarely focused on market based principles and catering to an ever greedy corporate elite. Teachers and government are on a crash course, fighting over, as Wendy Poole outlines http://www.ucalgary.ca/iejll/vol11/poole, the vision and purpose of K-12 public education and the meaning of professionalism.

Government is focused on a neo-liberal view of education, “conceptualiz[ing] education as a commodity to be bought by customers (students and parents) and sold by suppliers (schools and others). From a market perspective, schools are training grounds for future workers and consumers, as well a multi-billion dollar industry offering opportunities for profit. Efficiency, accountability for student outcomes (usually measured by standardized test scores and other measures like graduation rates), choice for parents (e.g., charter schools, vouchers, within-district school choice), privatization (e.g., public funding for private schools, user-pay fees, contracting with private firms to operate public schools, private-public partnerships for school construction, school-business partnerships), and attacks on teachers unions are hallmarks of neo-liberalism in education”. (see attached paper if you would like to read more). This fight is about breaking the union in order to bring in a system that caters to only a few, and leaves the many others simply to be good workers. If we truly cared about students, and creating a better society, we would be modelling our system after Finland, rather than chasing the USA, UK and Australia downwards. The end result of this current action by the BC government is to cut costs, break the union and make a statement to the voters that the current ruling Liberals deserve their vote in May 2013. It has nothing to do with students. For the differences in focus of the Finland system in comparison with the USA, UK and Australian systems review the attached paper, Neo-Liberalism in British Columbia Education and Teachers’ Union Resistance and the video found at http://www.abc.net.au/lateline/content/2012/s3441913.htm
Current OECD rankings have Canada slipping slightly behind Australia in reading (#8 compared to #7), still behind Finland at #4 but well ahead of the USA at #11 and the UK at #18. Rankings in Math and Science have Canada far ahead of the USA, Australia and UK systems that the government are focused on reaching down to and still behind the ranking of Finland, a country that teachers are working to catch. Finland is ranked #2 in math, Canada #8, with Australia at #15, the UK at #21 and the USA being far behind at #32. There are similar findings in Science with Finland at #2, Canada at #6, Australia at #12, the UK at #21 and the USA at #30. The quality of our education does not matter to the current Liberal government; containing costs, and creating preferable market conditions do.
Some sobering thoughts when contemplating this possible scenario.
  • While increasing funding for schools from a 2002-2003 total of $3.782 billion to a projected 2012-2013 total of $4.725 billion (making true governments claim that per-student funding has increased) the actual costs to districts have far outstripped this increase. Most telling is the decrease in priority of education as a part of the provincial budget falling from 26% in 2002 – 2003 to a 15% in 2011 – 2012. In 2002 – 2003 the total allocation envelope for education was $3.7 billion. This accounted for 26% of the total provincial budget. In 2012 – 2013 the projected total allocation envelope for education is $4.7 billion accounting for 15% of the total provincial budget. If the 2002 – 2003 % of total provincial budget allocation held true today the total allocation of funds to education from the provincial budget for 2012 – 2013 would be $8.1 billion providing for a further allocation of $3.1 billion on top of the $4.7 billion currently being provided. The amount due to school districts for next year over and above what is being given is almost equal to the total amount provided to school districts in the 2002 – 2003 year. It is not a situation of lack of funds, rather a change in priority for the government
  • Board funds have long been frozen, all but 6 districts are currently in Funding Protection (meaning that they are working in a bankrupt state). Board funds have been frozen for a further 3 years, leaving them with an accumulated $100 million shortfall this year alone. The “easy cuts” to budgets have long been done leaving an impossible situation. The overwhelming major cost to districts is teacher salaries, something that districts have been unable to change due to strict rules in the collective agreements. Until now. Changes in post and fill rules, class composition and numbers, evaluations and discipline procedures will make it easier for boards to lower their salary costs by making life difficult for more expensive teachers to the point they will quit, removing more expensive teachers and filling their positions with cheaper less experienced teachers or with even cheaper non teachers. The boards will sell the public on these changes b y offering perks that will have most forget the importance of teacher quality.
  • The current government advertising focused on teacher salary and benefits (the BCTF is demanding a 15 per cent wage hike and other benefits that would cost $2 billion and raise taxes for BC families...) is allowing the government to keep attention away from the main changes they wish to see through the BC Education Plan. This education plan provides the government with the route to the neo-liberal result that they wish to see, a result that will have us emulating the OECD rankings of the USA, UK and Australia in a very short time, leaving far behind the rankings we currently have and our hopes for reaching those of Finland. This is because the government is not focused on providing an equitable education system. Or even focused on educating at a high level. Rather, it is focused on creating a system that follows their neo-liberal beliefs. The BC Education Plan is a guise (as is the current troubles on the labour front) to instituting these ideals:
    • While requests for feedback to the BC Education Plan is currently seen as a priority for government, the plan is all but written awaiting an appropriate time to roll out. Current feedback will never be considered but provides the perception that it has been
    • BC Education Plan calls for personalized learning that will amount to students staying at home to work on their computers learning from an on-line master teacher. Cheaper non-teachers will be available for students to submit assignments and pick up others, while tutoring (on-line and in person) will be available if necessary. This change over has already begun. The government is admitting that 700 special needs teachers that have been lost to the system have been replaced with 2100 new teaching assistants ... but no more teachers. The $165 million Learning Improvement Fund will hire more teacher assistants ... but no more teachers.
    • Contract changes are necessary to enable this change to occur in our current system – changing hours of work, working conditions (class sizes can reach the hundreds) and making it easier to deal with teachers that disagree with the direction
    • Money will be saved on school buildings as only a few will be needed as regional meeting places – while the others can be sold as they are no longer required to service children
    • Standardized assessment will become easier as the teaching from the on-line Master teachers will be the same.
    • Large corporations will find a ready market for technology. A quick look at those involved in developing the new BC Education Program indicate past and present members of the guiding committee including 20 members who belong to the corporate business community or with strong ties to this community and zero involved in public education in BC.
    • Creating a system dependent on technology will provide a ready market for both hardware and software manufacturers as well as internet providers. On line needs will increase, allowing a market for sellers of data plans
    • Control of teacher Professional Development and new evaluation and “one-strike you are out” dismissal procedures will allow government to control what teachers learn and what they will teach in the classroom. Government and corporate propaganda will be required to be taught, even if ethically unsettling, or a teacher will face dismissal.
    • Control of curriculum and standardization of what is taught will allow government to lessen the time many students stay in school, providing an opportunity for students to leave at the end of grade 10 (where 3 of our government exit exams currently are placed). Students will be able to leave early for the workforce providing cheap (and undereducated) labour to be available during the week – something that is currently not readily available for most companies. Seeing that these workers were encouraged to leave school at grade 10 they will later find that they do not have the required education to change occupations, therefore making them more likely to stay in lower paying jobs within the company that they currently work for.
    • With the education of children left in the hands of busy parents, and at home often with little guidance (especially in the secondary school years) it is more likely that they lag behind and have less motivation to finish beyond grade 10. As well, earning money at an early age could be a great benefit to the family income as well as provide a greater source of disposable income at an earlier age – resulting in more purchasing power at a younger age.
    • Only those being educated in private schools (still in a traditional mode of providing education) or those with incredible self-discipline will have the skills to enter university – predominately leaving the rich to claim the higher level jobs and the less rich or less motivated to take up a new lower class working class.
    • With a larger number of workers available and a dismantling of trade union power, the minimum wage can once again be lowered, rights eroded allowing for more flexibility and higher profits for business owners. As well, the numbers of the consumer class will increase, also allowing for further profits for corporations.
While we are busy fighting the current contract negotiations, which in themselves are important, the Liberal government has a far greater goal. We find ourselves so busy with fighting the little things I fear we may miss the bigger picture and feel the pain of the onslaught (BC Education Plan) far before we see it coming and far later than we can do much about it. I am reminded of a simple yet effective strategy we use to use in PE class when playing the game British Bulldog (in one of its many configurations). If one was lucky enough to get two balls they often incorporated the following strategy – throw one ball high in the air. As members of the other team watch the ball float slowly towards them the original thrower would throw the second ball hard , directly at the opponent, hitting them and getting them out.

We see a similar strategy with the government – lob up the whole confrontation of contract negotiations, and, while teachers are busy looking at these, hit them hard with the educational changes you as a government actually want to implement. While current contract negotiations are very important and need to be dealt with quickly by teachers throughout the province, we need to be talking about and informing the public of the far greater threat that looms and is poised to hit in the very near future. It is one that will find us sadly leaving any possibility of reaching the equitable system found in Finland (and along with it the high OECD rankings), leaving any possibility of maintaining our current standing in the world (as stated in the OECD rankings), and fervently chasing the lower scores of the USA, UK and Australia. All in the name of creating a new culture of uneducated workers and consumers for a quickly growing corporate elite.

Sunday 22 April 2012

Preferential Call-Out

Coquitlam is among many districts in BC that uses preferential call-out. While it is an ongoing debate as to if this method of call-out for teachers-on-call is fair or not, I can see both sides of the arguement.

I feel that new TTOCs who had their practicum int he district may have an advantage with preferential call-out (or requests) because their school associate and teacher's in the school they were at may call them in. Additionally, TOCs in the district a while may have an advantage because their name is well known and they get requested often. On the flip side, however, if a TOC is not known they may not work as often, making it unfair that a classroom teacher decides when a TOC works.

Surrey TOC Glynis Cawdell summarized both sides well when she wrote:
The debate continues in Surrey and across the province. To request, or not to request? I’ve spoken to many TOCs and contract teachers on this issue and yet I still struggle to know what’s right.

The truth is, there are some good things about preferential call out. When you’re one of the 800 plus TOCs in Surrey, and you can be dispatched to any of our 120 school sites (at 5:30 AM no less) it’s no wonder TOCs love to get requested. Being called back to the a school allows you to make connections and feel like a member of the staff. The students already know your expectations so less time is spent on behaviour issues. For special needs students, who require more consistency, this is especially true. As job requests often come in days or even weeks in advance TOCs know where they’re going ahead of time and can communicate with the classroom teacher beforehand. You feel prepared. You feel confident.

That’s not to say requesting is without its dark side. Should teachers really be acting as the employer and choosing who gets work and who doesn’t? Is it ethical to evaluate a TOC you have never seen teach? If a teacher legitimately felt a TOC did an inadequate job they have an obligation to contact that teacher and give them feedback. Unfortunately what happens more often is that the teacher just chooses not to request that TOC back, even telling colleagues to do the same. Sometimes teacher’s request TOCs just because they chatted in the staff room at lunch and the TOC was outgoing and friendly. Is this fair?

Glynis highlights some of the main arguements on both sides and while the BCTF is working towards seniority call-out across the province, I know that there are Coquitlam teachers-on-call and teachers-on-contract who support preferential call-out and some that do not.

That being said, Coquitlam implemented a new feature in their call-out system last year which has a "consistency clause" as I call it, though the SBO calls it "call-back with a cancel"

This is how it works....

If a teacher is away within 3 days of a previous absence, the call out system (CADS) will call back the TOC that was previously in the classroom (with in those 3 days). This will over ride a request (so if classroom Teacher is away on Thursday and TOC A comes in, but then classroomTeacher is away Monday and requests TOC B, because TOC A was in within 3 days, TOC A gets the call first, before the requested TOC B gets the call.

Further to that, if TOC A already has accepted a call on that Monday, they will get a "call back with a cancel" option which essentially lets them choose their job for that day...if they want to return to that class they were in Thursday and give up current call out, or turn down the return to the Thursday Classroom and keep the already accepted call out.

This feature essentially eliminates preferential call-out to an extent because it is the first stage of call-out before requests.

Now, the other "change" I think would make things more fair, is to give teachers only ONE or TWO requests. Currently there are multiple requests, so if your first TOC request declines or is not available, it tries #2, #3 and so on.

If there were only one or two spots, then classroom teachers would keep their option to request, but teachers who are not requested would have more of a chance of getting a call since it is more likely that two requested TOCs may be unavailable than say five requested TOCs.

I have seen the benefits of requests, as I often get request call-outs and enjoy being back in the same classes and schools, but I also know that from a union stance, it is not fair to have teachers "hiring" other teachers.

I do think there is a happy medium, but it will take time to explore those options and find one that works best for all.

Until then, the debate continues and I continue to hear both sides and remain unsure of what is the best way....

Saturday 21 April 2012

High Five Reading Out Loud

I don't remember where I read or heard this idea recently, but last week I tried it out. I was at a Middle School covering various classes for the Grade 8 articulation (When Grade 7 classroom teachers meet with High School Counsellors to discuss students heading to Grade 8 next year)

Anyways, in one of the classes we were reading a Science text book out loud and since I did not know the students names, reading levels and no one was volunteering to read, I decided to try this trick.

I chose one student to read the first paragraph. When they were done they had to high five a classmate who would read the next paragraph and so on and so forth.

What I liked about this was that students were more likely to follow along because they didn't know if they would be chosen (or if it was their friend reading, they knew they might be chosen)

It was nice because I was only there for 30 minutes and didn't know the students well, so this was a fun and different way to choose readers. Most the class had a turn (no repeats allowed) and it got them out of their desk to go high five someone to read next.

LRB Ruling & BCTF Action Plan

I was at the Metro-East-Fraser-Valley Zone plenary when the LRB Ruling came through. It was interesting to be in a room of teachers when this news came through and we quickly put the ruling on the screen and read through it.


It confuses me how the LRB ruled in November 2011 that report cards were not "essential" when BCPSEA tried to penalize teachers 15% of their wage for not completeing formal report cards, yet they now require teachers to immediately 'submit marks and prepare student reports'

I do feel that the communication throughout the school year between parents and teachers should provide enough feedback until final marks at the end of the year. I also feel that parents who do not feel they have enough information should request information from their child's teacher.

I feel like this leaves teachers' with only extra curriculars to withhold to try and get fair negotiation... or a fair mediator... or a fair ANYTHING! When will students education become a priority?

It is extremely frustrating to know that my teacher colleagues now have aprox. one week to prepare report cards for all their students. How thorough can these reports be given that time line and the circustances under which they are ordered to write them?

As a Teacher-teaching-on-call I do not prepare report cards, however, I have had temporary contracts in the past in which I had to prepare report cards and I know that this timeline is completely unreasonable, especially given the volume of students and classes many teachers have. Furthermore, given the current political climate and stresses facing teachers, this added demand and amount of time to complete is fairly ridiculous.

But, we move forward...

I wonder what will happen next. The BCTF voted 73% in favour of the proposed Action Plan and so we move forward with that now, however, I don't know what to expect when the 'cooling off' period ends, nor do I know what to expect from this 'mock mediation' with Mr. Jago, who helped write Bill 22. Lastly, I do not know what to expect in September and I feel like public education is once again needing support and teachers are once again (or still?) fighting for students learning conditions.

When will public education become a priority in BC? Why is it a balanced budget always falls on the backs of public education and our students?

I am frustrated - again.... at where we are at and worried about where we may end up!

Sunday 15 April 2012

Bully Movie Review

Today I saw 'Bully' the movie, previously called 'The Bully Project' directed by Lee Hirsch

There had been controversy over the rating (originally rated R) but I am glad they made it PG (in Canada, PG13 in USA I believe) by only removing a couple swear words.

I want to share this movie! I want children to see this movie. I want educators to see this movie. I want parents to see this movie WITH their children... and to talk about it...
Bullying needs to stop! It is killing our children, physically and emotionally.

There are some things to be aware of about this movie. There is talk of suicide. Both 'f' words are used a few times. There is some physical violence, though nothing with blood or graphic. It is very emotional. You will cry.
With that knowledge, I still want to share it with kids! The message is worth it!

This documentary introduces and follows the lives of a handful of families and their experiences with bullying. From the parents who's son commit suicide, to a young girl who was pushed too far and reacted and is now in juvenile detention, the stories are very real and very moving.

What I liked about this movie was the honesty. Parents and kids speaking about the reality of bullying.

I would have liked to have seen the "girls" side of things, but thought the stories shared covered a broad spectrum of circumstances...

A young boy who is socially awkward and desensitized to the severe bullying he endures, the lesbian teen who's parents pull her out of school after repeated harassment, the parents of a teen who commit suicide, the best friend of an 11 year old, yes 11 year old, who killed himself, the young girl who brought a gun on the bus after being bullied and gets put in juvenile determination.

What was hardest for me about this movie was the administration and politics of it. Assistant Principals who do nothing, superintendents who talk the talk but don't act to stop a problem... or worse.. deny there is a problem! I was so angry listening to these people, especially when heartbroken parents came to them for help.

I cried, I laughed, I smiled, I got angry.... the movie was real. I want you to see it!

The end brings many of them together. It sends the message that children need to reach out to that lonely kid who is at risk of being picked on.

So go see this movie.....

Thursday 12 April 2012

Exit Slips

A nice way to end a class is to use exit slips. It is a way to touch base with each student as they leave the class. Often I will stand at the door to "collect" the exit slip. I always let students know ahead of time what the exit slip is and how it works.

"Before you leave today I will be collecting an exit slip. As you leave I will be at the door and you will .... / the exit slip today is....."

Generally 'exit slips' are written format and answer a question or use a writing prompt. Students are given time to fill them out and hand them in as they leave. However, I have modified this to use in different ways as a TTOC. When using the exit slips traditionally, I leave them for the classroom teacher to read through if they choose.

Here are some suggestions for 'exit slips' as a TTOC in various classrooms:

For High School:
  • A piece of paper that lists the most important thing discussed today or 3 words to describe a topic discussed in class.
  • Their in-class assignment
For Middle School:
  • Same as Highschool
  • High 5 and tell you the most important thing discussed today or favourite part of the day/class.
  • Show you three pieces of garbage or recycling they picked up from the floor
For Elementary School:
  • Same as Middle School
  • Often instead of a high 5 I do a 'pound it' or 'fist bump' or 'elbow tap' or head nod. I just decided to change it up with the young kids because of all the germs on their hands.
  • If you end the day at your desks or in circle time you can use exit slips from there as a method to chose who is dismissed or lines up to leave or gets their stuff from the cloak room also.

Here are some templates and examples of ways to use exit slips:




Tuesday 10 April 2012

Rock Cycle Project (Middle School)

Last Year I was teaching in a temporary contract last year for grade 6/7 and a colleague of mine shared so many great ideas for Science. This one was for the Rock Cycle and she had dice made up that had different things that could happen to a rock to change it's form. There were also stations set up such as "the river" and "inside a volcano" and so on.

The first thing we did after the unit on ROck Cycles was set up the stations and students could start wherever they wanted. They would roll the dice and do as it instructed. For example "the volcano erupts and you become particles in the air" or from the clouds "rainfall takes you to land" or "you wash down the river"

Students would go to the next stationa nd record their journey as a rock.

Then they got to create a comic to show the journey and the changes they undertook as a rock. They had a lsit of vocabulary to use to accurately describe their journey and were able to talk about the type of rock they started as and the changes the went through.

Here are a couple examples:

They really enjoyed this project because of the interaction during the stations and the creativity they could use for the comics. I loved this project because it clearly showed who really understood the unit and could explain it and who wasn't quite there.

This could easily be adapted for other levels.

Thursday 5 April 2012


I really want to see BULLY. The trailer alone leaves me in tears. It is a documentary on bullying and coming to Vancouver April 13.

Tuesday 3 April 2012

What Bill 22 does to Class Size & Composition

Staff Room Confidential broke down the numbers and the possible risks:

The formula for additional compensation basically calculates a "cost per student" by taking the average teacher salary and dividing by thirty. So, if the average teacher salary is $60,000, then the cost per student is $2000. Thus, a teacher who has 32 students enrolled in a class all year full time would be paid an additional $2000 per student, which in this example would be $4000. The formula also only pays nine of the ten months of the school year (so the actual amount paid would be $1800), and does not take into account additional costs such as benefits and overhead costs.

What does this mean?

It means that for any given grade or subject area, it is cheaper for a District to overload classes than to hire additional teachers. If an extra 29 students can be spread around into oversize classes, that will be $2000 less than the salary of an additional teacher. Not until a whole additional class of 30 is reached does it become economically equivalent to hire another teacher. Anything less, and the cheaper option is to overload.

Consider, for example, a school with 105 Grade 6 students. The cost of having three classes of 35 would be $210,000 (based on the $60,000 average salary). The cost of having four classes - three of 26 and one of 27 - would be $240,000.

Not only is Bill 22 likely to lead to increased class size, up to as much as in the 50's potentially, but it will also lead to fewer teachers. Consider the example above where the school creates 3 classes of 35 instead of the 4 smaller classes. This also means for the existing 4 teachers, now only 3 are needed. If you spread this across the District, a worst case scenario would see up to 25% of teachers lose their jobs. Now this is not likely to happen immediately, but remember that in the first year after Bill 28 came into effect, approximately 2500 teachers province wide lost their jobs - close to 10% of the contract teachers currently employed. Given that the budget for school Districts next year does not include an increase to even cover inflation, it is reasonable to expect at least 3-5% job losses, if not more.

This frustrates me, not only because my daughter is in Grade 3 and has over crowded classes to look forward to, but because as a "new teacher" (wrapping up my 6th year as a TTOC now) I fear even longer waits to get my own classroom.

My daughter required extra help last year with her reading. This year she didn't get that help because there was only enough room for 3 students from her class and she wasn't "the most needy"

What will happen when her class size increases? What if you child needs extra help... how will they get it when they have to "compete" for attention?

I hate Bill 22. I don't get how anyone can see any value in this Bill?

I have heard some say "well there is some money coming back into public education" but that "money" is not even CLOSE to what has been taken away....

It is so upsetting that THIS is the future for my children and for my colleagues and for my career!

Monday 2 April 2012

6am Phone Calls...

I thought this was cute. Though we are called 'Teachers-Teaching-on-call' here, the idea is the same...

Our system in Coquitlam calls starting at 5PM Sunday - Thursday evening and starting at 5:30am Monday - Friday. We also now hace advance call-outs so during those times it isn't just calls for the next day/same day but up to 10 days. This is nice for planning ahead, though has some problems if you accept a future call out as it may mean you can't get an earlier call that extends for longer periods / until further notice.

Every district has slightly different rules and methods of call outs, but those early morning calls are probably my least favourite thing... though they do mean work and for a TTOC, work is always a good thing!