Archive for June, 2014

Teacher Gifts

Posted: June 27, 2014 in Education, Humanity


*The following photo is taken from artist Dave Granlund. Though, my “Today’s Words” would be different: Coach, Lacoste, Jack & Jones*

On AM640, they had yet another segment on how horrible teachers are – this time it was regarding our acceptance of teacher gifts at the end of the semester/year. I don’t really mean to bash AM640 since I am an avid listener, but every time it’s a topic regarding education, it’s parents calling in to explain the awful things their child’s teacher has done recently.

Up until yesterday (when I first heard the segment), I had no idea that the giving and receiving of teacher gifts was such a debatable topic…and a heated one at that! My parents were those who had me give my teachers gifts when I was in elementary school and I am pretty sure that continued into high school. When I began my teaching career as a grade 7/8 teacher and I received my first teacher gift, I was very surprised. I think I can speak for every teacher when I say that gifts are NEVER expected, but ALWAYS appreciated when they are given.

The point made numerous times on the radio yesterday was that teachers shouldn’t be awarded extra for simply “doing their job.” That reminds me of a Dwight Schrute quote from The Office when he says: “Why tip someone for a job I’m capable of doing myself? I can deliver food. I can drive a taxi. I can, and do, cut my own hair. I did, however, tip my urologist because I am unable to pulverize my own kidney stones.” I suppose the big question then is: Are teachers really just “doing their job” or is it not as simple as that?

Teachers are asked to be guidance councillors, psychologists, parents (to some degree), babysitters (in another sense), and role models on top of being granted the authority over a child’s education. Of course the rebuttal to all of that is…teachers knew what they signed up for. So, with that all being said, I am not on one side or the other. I am certainly against receiving money (never have, thankfully), though I have received Tim Horton’s gift cards and the odd time a gift card to the LCBO (liquor store) – I suppose that’s receiving money, to a certain extent. Other gifts include thank you cards, bottles of wine, gift baskets, and other tokens of appreciation.

Are teachers just “doing their job”? Absolutely. Though, it is one of the most important careers out there (if I may say so in the most biased way possible). I mean, you wouldn’t tip your doctor – but again, the rebuttal from some teachers would be that they are well-compensated for their career choice. Another argument is that servers are just doing their job, but then again, the rebuttal is that they are not well-compensated for their job.

So…the age-old question: Who is tip/gift worthy?

I’ll repeat again – never expected, but always appreciated.


Private School Education

Posted: June 23, 2014 in Education


*The picture above is a private high school in Newmarket, Ontario (Canada) – Pickering College*

I grew up in Newmarket, Ontario (Canada), which harbours only one private high school by the name of Pickering College. I had always passed the large, picture-esque campus and even played soccer on their field, but never actually knew what the campus was until I was about 15. When I was 16, I had met someone who attended that school and he was “going to be a doctor” and now I think he is one…

I couldn’t fathom how parents would choose to pay for their child’s education when education in Ontario is essentially free. Has anyone ever offered you something for free and you offered to pay for it instead? Doubtful. THEN, when I heard how much tuition at his school was, I was again speechless and immediately asked myself: What do his parents do for a living?
But I asked my friend the most important question of all: What is the difference between your school and mine? (I attended a Catholic high school).

If you’re not already familiar, as a teacher in Ontario, you have the option to teach for a school board (Catholic or public) or a private school (Christian, Montessori, IB, etc…). The school boards will hire you and then you start the gruelling process of becoming a full-time teacher. Essentially, you are hired as a supply teacher, then as a “long term occasional” teacher, and then finally (if you’re lucky) as a full-time educator. The aforementioned, of course, can have you traveling from one school to another until you can find a permanent position. Private schools are different. The individual school is in charge of their own hiring process and will fill the necessary spots at their school.

I teach at a private-Christian high school.

So, what is the difference?

The notions that often accompany private schools are that “teachers care” and “the work is more challenging.” These are outdated suggestions. The fact of the matter is that most teachers care no matter where you send your child and the work is as challenging as the teachers make it.

It all comes down to motivation. The fact of the matter is that it’s June – the end of the school year and I am already in September-mode thinking of ways to improve my courses, increase my own personal knowledge, and implement new strategies and concepts for English lit. Motivation? I want to be better each year and earn my spot on my faculty. In the private system, complacency is a sure way out the door.

Yes I want to help students because they are the future and blah blah blah, but let’s be real about this: ensuring my own survival (getting a little dramatic here) benefits my students in every possible way. Every year I am better. Every year the teaching is fun because I’ve made new goals for myself. The bar, each year, is effectively raised – but not only for myself, but for my students.

The unfortunate reality, however, is that not all private schools are great, not everyone can afford a private school education, and a private school education does not guarantee success.

Like I said, you can find great teachers in and out of the school board system, but in the school board, complacency is present and I’ve seen snapshots of it.

Private Education:

Smaller class sizes? Sure.

Better resources and facilities? Probably.

Closer communication with teachers? Yep.

Teachers stepping up their game year after year for the benefit of your child? Yes.

Is that worth the tuition cost?


The Rise of ADHD

Posted: June 8, 2014 in Education

Cheshire Cat

*The picture above depicts Alice’s encounter with the Cheshire cat in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Replace Alice with any teacher and the cat with a school’s administration and you’ve got a similar conversation. I think all teachers must be a little mad for selecting a teaching career – said in jest, of course*

In 2013, the New York Times published an article entitled, “The Selling of Attention Deficit Disorder” (Alan Schwarz). The lengthy article immediately tackles the issue of over-diagnosis. In the span of 24 years, the number of cases of ADHD has soared from 600,000 to 3.5 million, which Dr. Keith Connors (ADHD Specialist) claims is a “national disaster of dangerous proportions.” The article then shifts seamlessly into a discussion regarding the profitability of the medication on young students with the promises of helping them in school. The article is quick to point out that the disorder is legitimate, but that it only affects about 5-10% of children and the medication does help.

Are the drug companies to blame or is it that we’re just more aware of the disorder now than ever before?

It’s scary to think, though, about the hold that the drug companies have on our youth, as the article explains: “Shire – a longtime market leader with several ADHD medications – recently subsidized 50,000 copies of a comic book that tries to…use superheroes to tell children: Medicines may make it easier to pay attention and control your behavior!

My friend’s child was recently diagnosed with ADHD (at the age of 10) and he told me that there was much discussion with his wife on whether or not their child truly suffered with the disorder or that, perhaps, he was simply a curious and adventurous young boy. Then let’s argue that his son has the disorder, the next worry is that the medication kills the creativity, curiosity, and sense of adventure. Is that really better? Now, in current discussions with my friend, he admits that his son is dealing with the disorder and that the right medication has had a tremendous effect on his performance at school with no risk to killing his son’s sense of wonder.

Could it still be that children are over-diagnosed? Everyone seems to have it.

Students, these days, are constantly technologically-stimulated because that’s the life they have grown up in and have become accustomed to. They are used to efficiency at the expense of accuracy/mindfulness, a TV or computer or cell phone that is always on, and a plethora of ads and trends pulling them in different directions. Then, try sitting them down in an 80-min class and you’d think that the majority of students have ADHD…This creates boredom, which creates stress, which creates an outburst of energy and then…a diagnosis.

There is certainly a rise in ADHD and anxiety. I am not entirely convinced they are all legitimate. Do we not all deal with times of anxiousness and times where we’ve lost our focus and need to expel some energy? Did we not just learn how to handle those situations and grow from them? Maybe it’s not that simple…