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Education Changes and the Family

Petitions have already begun to pop up in protest of the proposed changes to the Ontario education system.  These changes are significant and will save money – primarily through reduced teacher costs.  But education is not solely about money.  Thus it is important to consider the wider impacts of any changes to the education system.  Here are my thoughts based in my experience as a secondary school teacher (note: I left the profession nearly 20 years ago) and hubby’s ongoing experience as grade 8 teacher.

Increase in class sizes

  • During my time teaching, I had classes with up to 36 students.  In some cases, these were computer classes where (when all computers were working) we had 30 computers.  This meant that 1/3 of the students were sharing computers every class.
  • Non-academic classes were generally smaller.  In several cases, I had 30 students in what was called general level math.  One third of those students (10) were identified as having learning disabilities and needing extra help.  Thus, over a 75 minute period, I was responsible for teaching a lesson and then spending one on one time with students who struggled to understand the lesson.  If I taught only 15 minutes (and everything started and ended on time and there were no distractions), that would give me 2 minutes for each student.  How much math can you explain to a teenager in 2 minutes? 
  • And then there are distractions – the more teenagers there are in a room, the harder it is to keep track of what everyone is doing.  There’s a ban on cell phone use?  How are teachers going to police that while checking homework, helping those who struggle, teaching a lesson, dealing with mental health issues (yes, teachers have seen suicide notes from students), addressing bullying, responding to concerns about life (I can guarantee there were multiple classes throughout the province who discussed the terrorist attacks at the Mosques in New Zealand these last couple of days) and more?

Mandatory e-courses

  • Who is going to provide these?  What accreditation will be required?  How will they be evaluated (both in terms of the quality of the course and student evaluation)? 
  • What will happen to students who have one less class to attend during school time?  Who will supervise students during their e-course time?
  • What efforts will be made to ensure that students have access to the resources necessary to do e-courses?  Can we really assume that all students have computers and sufficient Internet access?  What if they don’t?
  • What assistance will be provided for those students who don’t do well in independent learning?  What about those who struggle with the content?  How will students receive the one on one attention that is often essential for course completion?

Tuition for low-income families

  • Post-secondary students are gathering today to protest the cuts to OSAP that will make college and university education unaffordable for students across the province.
  • While the overall cut to the cost of tuition seems like a good thing – it primarily benefits those who could already afford to pursue post-secondary education AND forces the institutions to figure out how to pay for that cut.

Back to families

In the end, it comes back to families.  If classes are too big to allow teachers to regularly provide students with the one on one help they need, that will be downloaded to families.  Students taking e-courses will likely do so at home – meaning that families will need to provide the resources and support necessary for their completion.  When students can’t pay for post-secondary education, the consequences play out for the family.

Every student is, first and foremost, a member of a family who provides the foundation for their journey through the education system.  Cost-saving measures must be balanced out somehow.  Recognising that every family’s situation is different – every parent’s ability to help their child with homework, pay for technology and support post-secondary education is different – is it realistic, fair or even helpful to download so much onto the family?

What do you think?  Are you concerned about the proposed education changes?  What concerns you?  Why?  We would love to hear from you.

Thrive! A living manual for families uses the tools of social media and food and fellowship to facilitate conversation about the blessings and challenges of being family today.  Check out http://stpaulstrinity.org/?page_id=2100 for more information or visit our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/ThriveFamiliesManual/

Exam Survival Kits

Exam Survival Kits

Sometimes the simplest of things can be vital tools for calming our anxiety.  For participants in our Jan. 20th Thrive! Dinner, exam survival kits contained helpful tools for dealing with stress:

Werther’s hard candies

These caramel candies can actually help to calm the butterflies in an anxious stomach.  Trying to eat the candy slowly, can also help change our focus enabling us to slow down and breathe.

Hersey’s Kisses

In the midst of stress, we need to be reminded of the love and care of others.  Chocolate can be a delicious way to relax and know that we are not alone.

Sour Candies

Did you know that an anxiety attack can be calmed by something sour?  Sour candies and even the taste of lemon, can provide a distraction triggering your brain to deal with the sourness in your mouth and letting go of whatever might have trigged the anxiety attack.  A similar effect happens with holding an ice cube.

Life Savers

Because who doesn’t need a bit of life-saving sometimes?

Chewing gum

The act of chewing requires our brains to focus differently, helping to slow us down a bit.  This makes chewing gum a helpful tool for those stressful exams.

Colouring pages

When people become overwhelmed with so much to do, any tool that refocuses our thoughts and actions and slows us down can be meaningful.  There are many adult colouring books now available that can be helpful during those times when we are feeling particularly overwhelmed.

Eraser

A playful eraser was included as a reminder that our mistakes can, to some extent, be erased.

Balloon

To help practice deep breathing and let your worries fly away when you let the balloon full of air go.  It can also be a healthy distraction to play keep it off the ground.

Words of encouragement

We all need to be reminded that, despite the chaos around us, like does go on.  Words of encouragement help us to better appreciate the possibilities, acknowledge the gifts we have and help us to accept that challenges happen but this is not the end.

Our package included scrolls with words of encouragement, scrolls with a Bible verse: “Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Phil 4:6-7), a bookmark/bow reminding participants to “trust their gifts” because “you’ve got this”, and a special, hand painted rock with words of encouragement.

The Bags

All of this was contained in a special bag made of bubble wrap and colourful duct tape.  Who doesn’t enjoy popping bubble wrap?  It is a great stress relief!

What else?

What would you include in a stress survival kit?  What have you found helpful for those difficult moments?  We would love to hear from you.

Click here for more information about the activities we did as we gathered for food, fellowship and fun to help us de-stress.

Thrive! A living manual for families uses the tools of social media and food and fellowship to facilitate conversation about the blessings and challenges of being family today.  Check out http://stpaulstrinity.org/?page_id=2100 for more information or visit our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/ThriveFamiliesManual/

 

Earth Day

Climate change: what is normal is shifting?

Thunder in February, ice storm in April, flooding, snow, fires, hurricanes, droughts and more.  Things that were once considered rare occurrences are becoming so frequent that people are beginning to wonder if this is the new normal.  The impacts of these events are devastating for some as they struggle with power outages, flooding and more.

What is it?

Climate change is a shift in global or regional climate patterns.  Scientists have acknowledged that the pattern of change connects with human use of fossil fuels.  As a result, governments, corporations and individuals have been challenged to explore ways to reduce our impact on the environment.  These plans are often available online to help individuals and families explore what is being done.  Check out these links to find out what is happening in Canada, Ontario, Windsor and Essex township.

Why should families be worried?

Scientists have documented a notable and alarming shift in the average temperatures in the world since the beginning of the industrial age.  This increase is growing exponentially.  Based on the atypical weather patterns already experienced and the understanding of the delicate balance of nature, scientists are increasingly worried about the implications if our current consumption patterns continue unchanged.  Rising sea levels, increased intensity of storms, droughts decimating farming regions, loss of land, and more are predicted if the average temperature continues to rise.  As a result, the world our children know would be far more tumultuous than we have right now.

What can families do?

There is a Navajo saying: “We do not inherit the Earth from our ancestors – we borrow it from our children.”  There is lots of information available today about the ways in which our choices negatively impact the earth and opportunities to reduce our environmental footprint.  Activities in the home could include:

Grants for many of these projects are available through the various governments in an effort to encourage folks to change our habits.

Earth Day activities are one of the ways to educate ourselves on our options so that our choices will not make the world harder for our children.  Windsor-Essex hosts an annual event at Malden Park to raise awareness, answer questions and connect individuals to alternatives.  At times our efforts may feel like a drop in a bucket but remember even a drop makes ripples.  Talk as a family and decide what you want to do together to make this world better for the children who will inherit this earth.

Thrive! A living manual for families uses the tools of social media and food and fellowship to facilitate conversation about the blessings and challenges of being family today.  Check out http://stpaulstrinity.org/?page_id=2100 for more information or visit our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/ThriveFamiliesManual/