Feeds:
Posts
Comments

From 2000-2007, young Rory Gilmore, a character on the television show Gilmore Girls completed her education at fictional Chilton Preparatory School and the real life Ivy-league University, Yale.  Throughout her 7 years of education, Rory experienced many ups and downs towards academic and personal success.  Although her drive in the quest for knowledge had been admired by so many of the characters on the show, her character had flaws. She frequently fell apart because of the stress of the school environment, both academically and socially.  Her fallings out included being arrested for grand-theft boating, committing adultery, temporarily dropping out of Yale and the ending of a few relationships.  The series ended with Rory finally succeeding in become an employed journalist.  Although her story was fictional, there are many moments in her life that mirror that of a typical high school student with the heavy burden of preparing for life outside the school walls.

Within the seven seasons of the program, Rory experienced and developed emotions that can be mirrored in many students lives.  The whole idea of “who am I?”, “what am I going to be”, and “how can I possibly succeed” are questions that are asked of students on a continuous basis from the moment they step foot into secondary school. With so much uncertainty in the economy and well-paying jobs becoming more scarce, it is no wonder that young students are uncertain and scared.

The School Environment

Chilton Preparatory School in a fictional school in the city of Hartford, Connecticut.  Rory, a child of a single mother, is a student who displays gifted-qualities and far exceeds the expectations in her hometown’s public school.   Rory, has a fairly set plan in terms of her career aspirations.  Her idea is to attend Harvard University and become a journalist.  In a twist of Aoki’s (2005) concept of ‘curriculum-as-planned’, Rory created a plan outside of school without knowing what was inside.  Her curriculum as planned can be similar to curriculum planners in the sense that “they are imbued with the planners orientation to the world, which includes their own interests and assumptions about ways of knowing” (Aoki, 2005, 160).  Rory had a self-realized plan and was determined to see it through.  Achieving very hard marks all through her education, she felt that she would be challenged at Chilton, and that school would no longer be boring and easy.

Chilton’s ‘curriculum-as-planned’ was drastically different.  Upon arrival at Chilton, Rory is met with a cold warning from Headmaster (Principal) Charleston who warns her that Chilton is not for everyone, regardless of what they have achieved before.  The school is painted as dark, unwelcoming and cold by Rory’s mother.  During one scene in the Headmaster’s office, the decor in the room featured many leather bound books, a silver tea service and statues.   The Headmaster and the teacher in the room were wearing suits and ties, presenting a very formal educational setting.  Within the first few days at Chilton, Rory receives a D grade, is picked on by other students, and misses a test. She is told after having a breakdown in class, that perhaps she does not have what it takes to be attending a prestigious prep school, perhaps she may just be ‘average’.  The other world in the curriculum world, according to Aoki (2005), is curriculum-as-lived, what students and teachers experience.  Rory’s experience changes her expectations of school and herself.  Rory’s mother, Lorelai criticized the extreme nature of the preparatory school and the harsh learning environment, even calling the headmaster “El Duce”.  The environment at Chilton never warmed up during Rory’s three years at the school.  The stress and shock of the more intense curriculum could have also, arguably, made Rory a stronger student, something that is mentioned several times in the series.

Shape up or ship out

In the first season of Gilmore Girls, Rory is told that she has to be a particular student to stay in the Chilton program.  The education at this particular school is different from the current system in place in Ontario schools.  The current focus of education today is the notion of “No Child Left Behind”.  Teachers, in both elementary and secondary schools may not fail a student simply because he/she did not do the work.  The current Ontario assessment and evaluation policy “Growing Success” details to teachers a series of steps to ensure that all students have equal opportunity to succeed and that elements of learning skills are not to be reflected in a students numerical grade.  At the bottom of the title page of the document is the slogan “Reach every Student”.  Every student is to have a chance at achieving the curriculum objectives, even if they learn a bit differently.  The article explains “our challenge is that every student is unique and each must have opportunities to achieve success according to his or her own interests, abilities and goals” (Ontario Ministry of Education, 2010).  Analyzing this statement, one could go back to Aoki (2005) and examine the comments made about “faceless others” and “the faces of others”.  The new assessment and evaluation plan allows for flexibility in the curriculum documents, making it less about planning for students the government has never met and allows for flexibility for schools and teachers to create plans for their own students.

Rory did not have this choice.  In the first meeting with the Headmaster she is told that “there is a good chance that you will fail”, already implying consequence if she does not conform to the rigid standards. If assignments were not handed in, she would receive a grade of zero.  In Ontario, zero grades are an absolutely last step and can only be given after a series of steps to assist the student in achieving the curriculum objectives.  In one episode, Rory hits a deer while racing to get to school for a test.  Because she was late, she was forbidden to take the test.  This situation in an Ontario school would not be allowed to take place.  Being late is also not considered to be a factor in determining a student’s grade.  Although with the the new “Growing Success” document, teachers are allowed to deduct late marks, you cannot fail a student because they did not complete work on time.  Procrastination is not a reason for failure.  One has to question which method is better, the hard approach to education where you are expected to fit the mould of a particular student, or be allowed to learn in your own way with a more individualized education.  Headmaster Charleston states that “the school sets impossible standards, but that is life”.  Analyzing that comment, is life really that hard? Should we have separate public schools for students who wish to undertake difficult careers?  Are students even able to make that decision at sixteen years of age?  Systematically, which produces the better student and worker in the end?

Why is the quality of education so important?

The Ontario Government has set a provincial goal with achieving an over 80% graduation rate by 2011.  Dalton McGuinty and the Liberal party have introduced many initiatives to encourage the graduation rate higher.  Programs have included more emphasis on Co-operative Education, Student Success programs, and focus/specialist high skills major programs.  The idea is to give more options to students than the typical high school program.  Essentially there should be something for everyone, giving all students the chance to succeed.  However, have our standards been lowered over time in order to make secondary school accessible to everyone?  Gidney (2002) explains that our standards have fallen, especially when looking at the 1898 high school entrance exams in Ontario.  Even some university professors today would have difficulty passing the exam, says Gidney (2002).  Gidney (2002) explains that as of the 1960’s there has been more movement towards offering a full high school education to all young people, not just a handful”.  Sure, the characters of Gilmore Girls may be interested in being researchers, lawyers and doctors, but do we need an entire graduating class devoted to those fields?

The current Ontario curriculum focuses on a series of objectives as well as establishing skills for future education and the workplace.  Newer initiatives in terms of ‘21st Century Learning’ and technology based education have a focus on preparing students for life outside high school and into more career-based employment.  A video produced by New Brunswick Department of Education showcases a variety of comments about the changes in technology and how it will affect current students careers.   In a sense the video explains that what we are teaching youth today may be irrelevant in 20 years time.  One has to wonder while watching the clip whether our educational system is sufficient at preparing today’s 21st century learners for what is to come in ten or twenty years time.  Lorna Earl (1995) explains that with economic and political uncertainty there has been more concern about the quality of education.  The Premiers Council of Ontario in 1990 stated that “unease was growing that at the end of their schooling many young people had not adequately mastered basic skills and lacked adequate preparation for the entry into work world”.  So, what is the purpose of school today?  Can we, as educators possible educate every type of student in publicly funded buildings, or are the over-achieving group suggested to go to private school to ensure endless possibilities.

Schools have become very interested in their EQAO results for both Grade nine math and the Ontario Secondary School Literacy test.  Earl (1995) describes an assessment procedure in Ontario schools prior to the curriculum overall that happened with the Harris Government.  Earl (1995) states that Ontario did not have a history of standardized assessment or testing and educational indicators was something new”.  Today, with the EQAO and OSSLT testing, students and schools are more aware of Ontario’s standardized test procedure.  Schools are required to submit School Improvement Plans in which, emphasis on improving test scores are predominant.  However, are we focusing too much on a few statistical numbers?  Ellis (2007) states that with the ‘No Child Left Behind’ program, schools in Texas, especially low preforming schools were teaching to the test and not providing a well-rounded curriculum.  Students in the United States write SAT Reasoning exams in their last year of high school.  The impact of the SAT has not only been mentioned in Gilmore Girls, but in many other shows featuring high school students.  The impact of their score affects the chances of being accepted into their choice of universities.  In a= scene in Gilmore Girls, parents at a parent/teacher conference badger the English teacher if what he is teaching the students will be on the AP (Advanced Placement) tests.  His response of enriching the curriculum and the students knowledge is dismissed by the parents asking again about the AP test.  Students take practice tests and study for hours on end for the test. Does this make good students, or good test-takers?

Who am I?

With the recent edition of the Ontario Secondary School Curriculum, students are now required to complete a half credit course in Careers Studies. The curriculum documents note that “this course teaches students how to develop and achieve personal goals for future learning, work, and community involvement” (Ontario Curriculum, 2002).  It also states that “this course prepares students for managing work and life transitions and helps students focus on their goals through the development of a career plan” (Ontario Curriculum, 2002).  Although Rory had a career choice in mind, and a pretty hefty plan, she lacked the skills necessary to cope when things did not go according to plan.  This was evident in scenes where she has outbursts and steals a yacht when a newspaper editor says that she doesn’t have what it takes to be a journalist. In two incidents Rory failed to complete large portions of exams because she was pondering what the point was.  The Career studies course is supposed to give Ontario students a chance to examine their personal career goals and a dedicated time to analyze them.  The beginning of the course is about self-discovery and figuring out who you are.  However, at 15-16 years of age, are students ready to really fully discover themselves and make decisions?

Cynthia Chambers (1994) discusses her resistance to being labelled.  Rory is terrified of being labelled as “not good enough” and “average”.  She has aspirations to become a journalist and is a good writer. She knows that just because she can write well, it does not instantly make her a write. Chambers (1994) notes that she seeks a way of becoming and work in a place that she becomes, along with people who are becoming.  Rory, in her last months of her studies at Yale has a personal conflict of knowing exactly what she wanted to be, but very unsure if she would have the chance to become a journalist.  She realizes that in order to become a journalist she needs to get out there and be a reporter.  She even toys with the idea of going to medical school or law school for a few minutes until she whines “ugh, I don’t want to go to law school!”.

Chambers (1994) also says “living the story of our lives is a bit like playing improvisational jazz.  We are given the score but we play the notes” (pg. 47).  We give students as much as we can in school, especially in Careers Education, to help them guide through their own journeys in life. We can give them advice, tools and share our own lived experience, but it is truly up to the student to get themselves through.  Rory had many gifts given to her, along with a supportive mother and grandparents.  However in the end, it was truly up to her to connect the pieces and become who she wanted to be.

Conclusion

If anything, we know that society and the educational system within it will change.  Rory, a fictional character on a television show ended up doing very well with her education.  The series ended with her starting her first paid journalism job.  For many viewers of Gilmore Girls, they wonder whether Rory remained successful later on in life.  There are many tough schools in North America and a very touch economy to break in to.  One can just hope that the educational opportunity they are given makes them who they want to be in the end.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

References

 

Aoki, T. T. (2005). Curriculum in a New Key: The Collected Works of Ted T. Aoki. Edited by William F. Pinar and Rita L. Irwin.  Chapter 6: Teaching as In-dwelling Between Two Curriculum Worlds (1986/1991). Pg 159-166.

 

Aoki, T. T. (2005). Curriculum in a New Key: The Collected Works of Ted T. Aoki. Edited by William F. Pinar and Rita L. Irwin.  Chapter 9: Legitimating Live Curriculum: Toward a Curricular Landscape of Multiplicity (1993). Pg 199-218.

 

Chambers, C. (1994).  Looking for Home: Work in Progress.  Frontiers: A Journal of Women Studies, 15 (2), pp. 23-50

 

Earl, L. M. (1995). Assessment and Accountability in Education in Ontario. Canadian Journal of Education, 20 (1), pp. 45-55.

 

Ellis, C. (2007).  No Child Left Behind: A Critical Analysis. Curriculum and Teaching Dialogue, 9 (1-2), pp. 221-233

 

Gidney, R.d. (2002).  From Hope to Harris: The reshaping of Ontario’s schools.  University of Toronto Press, Toronto.

 

Ontario Ministry of Education (2006), Guidance and Career Education: Grades 9 and 10.

 

Ontario Ministry of Education (2010), Growing Success: Assessment, evalation and reporting in Ontario Schools.  First Edition

 

Premier’s Council of Ontario. (1990). People and skills in the new global economy. Toronto: Queen’ Printer.

 

Video: 21st Century Education in New Brunswick, Canada. URL: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EjJg9NfTXos Retrieved on July, 18, 2011

When a teacher is told that he/she will be teaching a new course next year, the first step in planning is to consult curriculum documents and previous course outlines to see what is to be taught in the course.  However, the education that a student in that teachers class will not be planned and implemented solely on what is in the document.  The curriculum documents outline what objectives a student must meet in order to succeed in the course.  How one decides to implement that guide by teaching is not found on any page.  Ted Aoki describes the relation and complication between curriculum-as-planned and curriculum-as-lived in his lecture “Legitimating Lived Curriculum: Toward a Curricular Landscape of Multiplicity”.

Aoki begins his discussion on lived curriculum by telling a story that explains how Science students in a University course are displeased with the outcome of their course because it was boring, not about the real world and over-emphasized skills.  Aoki’s ‘story’ was his introduction into his comments on “curriculum as planned” and “curriculum as lived”.  Curriculum-as-planned is best described as the work of curriculum planners, usually written outside the classroom. Curriculum-as-planned is forming statements of what students and teachers should do in the classroom, recommended resources as well as information regarding evaluation (Aoki, 2005).  However, as all practicing teachers know, the curriculum does not detail what will actually happen in the classroom.  How we interpret the curriculum-as-planned can vary, our experiences may be different every time, and every student and teacher may interpret the curriculum in a different way.  Aoki (2005) describes the other curriculum as a multiplicity of lived curriculum that a teacher and his/her pupils experience.  There can be many lived curriculums that can vary and be different in every classroom.  It is difficult for a teacher to plan a course without knowing the dynamics of the classroom.  A course can easily change if one has a large number of students with learning disabilities or if many of the students displayed gifted qualities.  With their own previous experiences in mind, the teacher reader who acknowledges Aoki’s discussion can relate to their own lived experiences of bringing the curriculum to life, bringing to light the concept of lived curriculum.

To bring curriculum-as-planned and curriculum-as-lived into another complex form is the idea of multiplicity.  Aoki (2005) states that curriculum and instrumentalism is very predominant in the fabric of curriculum work.  The curriculum-as-planned and curriculum-as-lived is essentially the curriculum and implementation of said curriculum.  Aoki (2005) writes about a teachers place in the midst of multiplicity of curriculum, between both the lived and the planned.  Essentially as teachers when designing our courses we should try to encompass both methods; what is given in the form of a written document as well as plan to implement that material so that it is experienced by both the teacher and students, rather than just stated in front of the classroom.  We, as teachers, Aoki (2005) writes of the “significance of allowing space for stories, anecdotes, and narratives that embody the lived dimension of curriculum life”.  As the students who complained about their science course, the teacher in the multiplicity of curriculum should be bringing the curriculum to life and engage the classroom.

Curriculum is commonly developed by writers in an office environment away from the classroom.  These curriculum planners plan for faceless people, Aoki (2005) writes, without acknowledging their uniqueness.  In the lived curriculum, students are the “faces of others”.  Aoki (2005) describes the difference between “self/other”, summarizing with a question of “Is this pedagogic leading a pedagogic wisdom that comes to thoughtful teachers who, in the midst of the practice of teaching, listen with care to the voice of the silent other” (p. 213).  A thought about the teachers responsibility to the student rather than simply leading because the teacher knows best is a pondering note to any teacher.

What one can take from Aoki’s thoughts on curriculum-as-planned and curriculum-as-lived is careful consideration of how one plans to do a job that essentially has no manual: teaching.

 

There are many milestones in a person’s life.  One of these milestone’s experienced in Canadian youth in the transition from elementary school to Grade 9.  The move between school systems involves a great deal of change.  For most, these changes include moving to a school with more floors, having four different teachers and classrooms, being assigned a locker and having a cafeteria where you can buy french fries for lunch.  For this writer, a song that I listened to many times prior to entering grade nine was “Grade Nine” by the Barenaked Ladies, a popular Canadian band from Toronto.

“Grade Nine” was written for the Gordon album which was released in 1992. The song is sung by the entire band and seems to detail their experience with grade nine.  It appears that the Barenaked Ladies experience was of not knowing how to fit in (“I’m trying my best not to look like a minor niner”), trying out for sports teams (“went out for the football team”), and having a good time (“went to the high school dance”).   The lyrics are as followed:

I found my locker and I found my classes

Lost my lunch and I broke my glasses,

That guy is huge! That girl is wailin’!

First day of school and I’m already failing.

This is me in grade nine, baby, this is me in grade nine

This is me in grade nine, baby, this is me in grade nine

I’ve got a blue-and-red Adidas bag and a humongous binder,

I’m trying my best not to look like a minor niner.

I went out for the football team to prove that I’m a man;

I guess I shouldn’t tell them that I like Duran Duran.

This is me in grade nine, baby, this is me in grade nine

This is me in grade nine, baby, this is me in grade nine

Well, half my friends are crazy and the others are depressed

and none of them can help me study for my math test.

I got into the classroom and my knowledge was gone;

I guess I should’ve studied instead of watching Wrath Of Khan.

This is me in grade nine, baby, this is me in grade nine

This is me in grade nine, baby, this is me in grade nine

They called me chicken legs, they called me four-eyes

they called me fatso, they called me buckwheat,

they called me Eddie

This is me in grade nine, baby, this is me in grade nine

This is me in grade nine, baby, this is me in grade nine

I’ve got a red leather tie and pair of rugger pants,

I put them on and I went to the high school dance.

Dad said I had to be home by eleven -

aw, man, I’m gonna miss Stairway to Heaven.

This is me in grade nine, baby, this is me in grade nine

This is me in grade nine, baby, this is me in grade nine

 

The song touches on many stereotyped ideas of a person’s experience in grade nine.  Almost everyone can relate to having trouble finding the location of your class, being called names (I was called Chicken legs on numerous occasions), and certainty feeling a bit awkward.  Ask anyone how they felt on their first day of high school and you will likely will have many responses that relate to anxiety, pressures and generally scared feelings.  Pull out a high school yearbook and tell someone that you are going to look at their grade nine photo and could lose your arm or an eye.  Themes in “Grade Nine” that will be discussed in this paper are:  the education system and grade nine, bullying and school as community.

“This is me in grade nine baby”

 

My experience as a grade nine student was typical; I felt a mixed bag of emotions involving being happy to move to another school, anxiety over bus schedules and room locations, and nervous about making new friends.  In the typical city/suburban  environment, not every student attends the same elementary and secondary schools (my friends were split into three schools) and therefore you may not know anyone. As a grade nine student you are not only the new kids in school, but you also have a completely new forum to learn and interact.

The Ontario education system is very much like other school system’s in North America.  The current system that is common is elementary school from kindergarten to grade eight, followed by four years of high school.  Grades seven and eight tend to be bridge years with many students attending middle or junior high schools.  However the big jump in a students education is to grade nine.  As stated previously there are many changes in terms of the educational institution and environment.  Another change is the curriculum.  Previously students were taught various subjects by (most likely) one teacher in one classroom.  In high school students could have up to four teachers, four different classrooms with four different groups of students.  For the majority, each class period only dealt with one subject.  This type of environment can make it very difficult to make new friends and to form a sense of community.  This type of system can be a shock to a minor niner, who is used to a smaller school and classroom.  It is too easy to find yourself alone.

“First day of school and I’m already failing”

The secondary school system in Ontario has developed and changed over the last sixty years.  What allowed one to earn an Ontario Secondary School Diploma and what the purpose of earning one is different than what it was fifty years ago.  Gidney (2002) explains in From Hope to Harris: the reshaping of Ontario’s schools that secondary school has developed from a place where students needed to pass a provincial examination to attend to a system where almost no one (including today’s professors) could pass the same test (p. 282).  The Ontario government currently wants more Ontario students to graduate from high school, which is both admirable, yet challenging.  Gidney (2002) writes “the challenge has been to find the means of offering a worthwhile education to not just a handful, but all young people” (p. 283).    Everyone is entitled to a free education and have programs available to them.  Secondary school is for everyone.  There are multitudes of programs and classes to choose from in order to engage every type of mind.  But then why do so many students feel lost (“First day of school and I’m already failing”)?

The pressures of being a young adult are quite immense.  Not only is there the expectation to do well in school, but also to do well enough to be accepted into a good post-secondary institution, think about and plan for a career, learn a variety of new technological skills and be popular all at the same time.  A high school diploma is simply not enough to be successful in adult life.  Many careers require much more: extra curriculars, work/volunteer experience and being in the right network.  Not only has the competition for post-secondary programs and good careers increased, but so has the requirements for earning a high school diploma.   In From Hope to Harris (2002), the Ontario secondary system is examined and it details how the requirements have been altered over time.  In today’s curriculum, not only does one have to pass thirty courses, but complete community service hours and pass a literacy test.  University entrance requirements have increased along with the cost.  There is much on the shoulders of today’s teens.  One must ponder, are the extra requirements for an OSSD creating a better graduate?  Are we demanding too much, too soon?

 

“They called me chicken legs, …four-eyes,…fatso,…buckwheat,….Eddie”

 

Teaching is no longer just instructing academic curriculum.  Along with school-sanctioned clubs and activities there is also school culture and interaction.  Although many forms of school culture can be warm and inviting, a different type of interaction also occurs regularly in schools: bullying and school violence.  In “Grade Nine” the band sings of the various names they were called in school.  This could be in reference for common nicknames given to grade nine students from upper grade students in a display of harmless fun (like Grade Nine Orientation Day), however it could also be from memories of bullying.  Bullying in the 21st century encompasses many forms including bullying in person, on the internet and using cellular phones.  The Ontario Government passed Bill 81: the Safe Schools Act in 2000 in order to make schools a safe place for teachers and students.  Another duty of a teacher in Ontario is to be on the look out for bullying and report it when it is seen.  Gidney (2002) explains how behavioral problems have been multiplying for years and how governments can hardly be responsible for the change in society (p. 281) and the effect it has on schools.  However, the government can act on societal change, and in terms of bullying, it has tried to with the Safe Schools Act.

I found my locker and I found my classes

Lost my lunch and I broke my glasses

 

 

Within many examples of high school environments in the creative arts, school community is often portrayed.  While watching a school scene in a TV show or movie, rarely does the audience watch a teacher teach a lesson,  rather social involvement and the school/class community is shown.  “Curriculum as live(d)” is described by Aoki (2005) as the “curriculum experienced by students and teachers as they live through school life” (p. 322).  Another definition given by Aoki (2005) is “Curriculum as planned” which is “the conventionalized notion of curriculum, understood as mandated school subjects”.  Teachers use curriculum documents to formulate lesson and unit plans, but the way they deliver the information is completely up to them.  They can make lessons more engaging and interactive, as well as plan lessons around the group’s strengths.  Differentiated instruction is currently buzzing through the education world as teachers are encouraged to create assessment and evaluation pieces that would encourage students to perform better.  Grade nine is a crucial year as it is the introductory year for secondary school as well as the start of ladder towards career success.  Many teachers start off the year explaining to students that homework now exists, you have to develop excellent time management skills and the sole person really responsible for your education is you.  For the grade nine student, the transition is a lot to take in and quite a bit to learn.  So what can students do?

 

Schools have recognized that entering into grade nine is a large transitional step in young person’s life.  Schools have regularly welcomed the new students with barbeques, grade nine days and assemblies.  Not only are these activities supposed to say ‘Welcome’, but also serve a purpose in allowing students to set foot in the school before the ‘big day’, give out schedules and also provide tours so one does not become lost by the time they step off the bus.  One side-effect of the welcoming process is initiation.  There has been a long tradition that grade nines are initiated into the new school by the upper year students.  My uncle the week before I entered high school kept telling me that someone was going to give me a swirly.  Generally the upper year students host  “Grade Nine Day”, which can include fun “initiation” games like dunking faces into flour, food eating contests, and playing games of low organization like ‘Chuck the Chicken’.  Sometimes the initiations can take a negative turn and grade nine students become a target for bullying.  As mentioned previously this needs to be avoided. So what can schools do?

A program that has been developed to allow upper year students to welcome/mentor the new students is called the Link crew (http://www.boomerangproject.com/link). The Link crew is comprised of students who receive school leadership credits to mentor the incoming class.  Link crew teachers are specially trained to lead the group of students and assist with planning for the activities.  Not only are activities planned for the start of the year, but also for other events throughout the semester.  Rather than ‘initiating’ students, they are welcomed, high-five’d and met with a positive attitude.  According to the Link crew website, the crew is about: student leadership, orientation, transition, changing culture and sustainability.  Aoki (2005) writes “life in the classroom is not so much in the child, in the teacher, in the subject; life is lived in the spaces between and among” (p.282).  The creators of this program believe that a more positive experience will create student success.  Meaning that if the students are interested in the school, they will be interested in the With LINK crew and the Student Success Team already in place in Ontario schools, grade nines have many people to reach out to if they find themselves in trouble. In the school where I currently teach, it is the schools hope that through the Link program and our strong sense of community that we improve student success in terms of marks, and EQAO scores.   It also is hoped that some of the general awkward moments of a grade nine’s life can be avoided with a bigger and stronger school community.  Perhaps the Hall-Dennis report Living and Learning, was on to something when they stated that interest and active involvement is crucial to success (Gidney, 2005, p.74).  As Gidney (2005) explains the teacher role as a “guide, advisor and a facilitator” (p.74).  With the Link program, not only do grade nine teachers fill these roles, but the older students do as well.  Teaching staff and upper year students create a welcoming environment for new students.  School is not just a brick and mortar building where learning about Math and English but where students can grow and prosper into well-informed adults.

In conclusion, schools are a centre of learning and community building for young adults.  As with any plan, it will not always work and there will always be students who feel like an awkward minor niner.  The curriculum as planned is to allow for the majority of grade nine students feel welcomed into the new school and be happy which will lead to success.  Some students may not buy into the program, but many will and perhaps they can help bring that student to the other side.  Otherwise they could always remember their experiences and write a song about it later.

 

References:

Pinar, W.F., Irwin, R.L (2005).  Curriculum in a new key: The collected works of Ted. T. Aoki.  Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group, New York.

 

Gidney, R.D. (1999). From Hope to Harris: The reshaping of Ontario’s schools.  University of Toronto Press, Toronto.

The Boomerang Group: Link Crew.  Link Crew Website: http://www.boomerangproject.com/link.

Accessed: February 28th, 2011

 

 

So I started teaching the new Law class. I am really enjoying the class and the change of pace from a ‘open-level’ course to a University level one. I am going to challenge them a bit. For homework (yes, I can assign homework in this class and it might actually get done), I asked them to read an article from an academic journal (they didn’t know what that was). My plan for this class is that it cannot be a simple “I teach this and two weeks later you regurgitate the information in a test”. University is not like that beyond first year classes (and only for testing, labs/assignments are not knowledge-based, but critically thinking based). I know I will get a little bit of resistance at first, but really I don’t care as they will probably thank me next year (as I thanked my own English teachers for pushing us in our Grade 13/OAC classes).

 

Case in point, I gave my Co-op students a Health and Safety package to work one. One of the sheets asked the students to identify a WHMIS symbol, name a hazard of that symbol and where one could find this symbol on a product (i.e. Flammable/Combustible = fire = gasoline). Because the answers were not in the information pack I gave them, a few of them couldn’t figure out the answers, or basically use their heads and think. The ability to think critically and look up information that you don’t know is a skill that is lacking in many students, both work-bound and university-bound.

 

My Principal gave the teaching staff a list of ’21st Century skills’ that we should focus on when designing our courses.  The skills are:

 

* Collaboration

* Creativity and innovation

* Communication

* Character development

* Critical thinking

* Computing technology

*  Cross-cultural understanding

 

We were asked to give our input on which skills we should focus on/are more important.  Critical thinking came up as number one.  I believe that it is a skills that should be taught, but also that it takes time to teach.  It isn’t something you can just throw into a lesson once or twice so you can say “woohoo, I taught Critical thinking”.  It should be a skill that you focus on everyday, or at least once a week.  Even though it may be frustrating at first if students do not take it up right away, it will pay off in the end for both you and the student.

Reader Response

The following is a reader response for my Curriculum Theory course.

As a former student of the Ontario Secondary School system during the “Harris Era,” I have become a teacher fascinated by educational change.  During my secondary school education, we had a strike (which to my grade nine peers was great fun), multiple ‘work to rule’ restrictions, a few report cards without any comments, and the eventual demise of OAC/Grade 13 which brought along its friends: EQAO and community service.

I graduated the year before the implementation of the double cohort.  Many of us ran out of school at graduation laughing at our younger peers, thinking that we had avoided the big changes to obtaining a secondary school diploma. Figuring that I was done secondary school forever, I gave little thought to what was happening within our schools.  Oblivious to previous educational reforms, the chaos I experienced in the late 1990’s was not the first reform to shake the core of education in Ontario. Five years later, while attending a “Foundations of Education” course at the University of Western Ontario, we discussed how the school system in Ontario has developed and changed. It was intriguing, to examine the progression of education, especially with my background in Geography.  There are similarities between education and urban housing in relation to societal change. Who knew that society had that much influence.

While reading From Hope to Harris: The reshaping of Ontario’s schools, I developed a deeper sense of curriculum and policy change in Ontario. Within the discussion, one can see the bits and pieces of the educational puzzle of our current system discussed in several large reports written in the 1950’s to mid-1980’s. In the Hope report, there was a recommendation for mandatory schooling for ten years, and for Kindergarten to be offered in every school board (Gidney, 2000, p. 23).  The Robart plan suggested that universal education be available for every single student up to Grade 12, breaking the system down into streams (Gidney, 2000, p. 48).  However, the Living and Learning document was a completely different approach to education.  This report stated that education was about self-realization and recommended that schools have a more community feel (Gidney, 2000, p. 72).  Progressing into a system that was familiar to me, Ontario Schools: Intermediate and Senior (OSIS), put forward the “30 credits to graduate” program which is still in place (but within four years).    One common bit really stood out: every report recommended the abolishment of Grade 13.  Although with the creation of OAC’s, OSIS retained Grade 13, the removal of the fifth year was still discussed (Gidney, 2000, p.101).  It is stunning that it took nearly fifty years for the last Grade 13 class to graduate.  Along with amazement of the long death of Grade 13, I developed several other questions.  Has the debating back and forth between political parties, school boards and teachers about what constitutes an education made a difference? What have we accomplished?  Is our educational system better than what it was in 1950?

I am currently in my fourth year of teaching. During this time, I have experienced at least one major change in policy, late mark deductions and zero-grades.   When I started my teacher’s education we were told that as teachers we were not to deduct late marks and assign ‘zero’ as a mark. Instead we were asked do a series of steps to ensure that students succeed in completing their assignments.  This completely shocked the beginning teachers in 2007 who were used to late mark deductions of 10% or more in University.  The policy did not last long. This past summer we were given a new Assessment and Evaluation policy where (as the last resort) teachers could once again deduct marks for tardy assignments.  Some teachers I work with argue for late marks. While others, argue against it.  What are the possibilities and limitations of each system for assessing the quality of student work?  Some students genuinely need more time to complete assigned work (as evident in almost every IEP for students with a learning disability). For example while writing this paper, I needed more time to complete this discussion.  So therefore, should I not be sympathetic to student’s needs? However, the continuous struggle of ensuring that fifty-six students in my courses hand in their work can be a very draining and frustrating pedagogical task.  But is deducting late marks the answer? The Living and Learning document, reminds us, that education for some “was about ‘self-realization’ and not about fitting individuals for predetermined economic or social roles” (Gidney, 2000, p. 72). This specific statement causes me to question my current role as an educator and how I encourage students to learn.  So does it really matter if Bobby takes an extra night to finish his work?  Most of my colleagues say no, we just do not want to be taken advantage of. Respect has historically been and continues to be a key issue for teachers.  In the past year I have been sworn at, had my handouts/lessons dumped on the floor, and been lied to (however, to be fair, I have had my share of experiencing the great accomplishments of many students).  The words “professional judgment” are written on many of our policies for a good reason:  situations and students change.

As I read through From Hope to Harris and continue to learn more about curriculum theory, I am starting to question how I would like to live the curriculum in my classroom.  So far my influence has come from my educational experiences both as a student and a teacher-in-training. Another question comes to mind: why do we have shifts in the educational system?  Why do we plan and change curriculum if things will change in the future?

Education has always been a reflection of society’s values and changes.  The influence of the late 1960’s had brought forth a particular report suggesting that schools should change.  Students were discontent with the educational system and wanted change.  Gidney (2000) describes the major development of Ontario Curriculum and the suggested way that schools should operate in detailing Living and LearningLiving and Learning, as explained by Gidney (2000) was created within a committee chaired by E.M. Hall and Lloyd A. Dennis, and was produced in a more ‘coffee-table’ book style with plenty of pictures (p.72). The report, Gidney (2000) suggests, challenged the way schools traditionally taught. No more spelling drills, teacher as guide not authoritative leader, report cards turned into learning profiles and ‘ungrading’ (Gidney, 2000, p. 74).  Ontarians were open and enthusiastic about the proposed changes as there was growing agreement that schools needed to be changed and something needed to be done.  The report led to changes in HS1, the manual (or curriculum) that described the Ontario secondary school system.  Not all groups were enthusiastic, explains Gidney (2000), especially secondary teachers “who thought its approach was suited perhaps to the elementary schools” (p. 75).  Eventually, it switched with the introduction of Bette Stephenson as Education Minister. “She buried,” Gidney (2000) tells us, “the permissive era in the province’s high schools” (p. 102). Despite the changes being brought forth, there was still no complete consensus.  Gidney  (2002) asks us to consider the following question: “Was the public hopelessly disenchanted with the schools?” (p. 102). Can we ask this same question today?

It seems that with every new introduction of  larger educational reforms, there are critics.  From time to time, I myself have criticised new policies that have been put in place.  But do I and my fellow teachers know the perfect way to teach?  Are deductions for being late the only way to encourage students to do their work?  The simple answer is no. In discussions with my current collegues we recognize that students learn and preform at different paces.  At another school, an administrator asked why do we have time limits for exams, and whether or not we should allow the entire student body extended time.  If students are truely trying their best why should we penalize them for taking extra time to complete a task.

Education is not a static entity.  In turn, educational policies will continue to evolve as society in itself as it is contiously evolving.  The best we can do, as teachers, is use the most effective resources we can to reach every single student. As I finish this discussion, please ponder the following questions:  1) Within the readings, you will notice how many changes in curriculum were established.  Many changes involve restructuring of courses, new textbooks and new assessment and evaluation policies.  As an educator, do you feel that the multiple changes effect the quality of education?   2)   Even though some of the changes detailed in From Hope to Harris were made for budgetary reasons, some changes were to enhance education for every student.  Are the changes improving the Ontario school curriculum, meaning, are we producing better students?  Which changes do you feel have benefited students the most?  What does a ‘better student’ even mean?

Resources:

Gidney, R. D. (2000).  From Hope to Harris: The reshaping of Ontario’s schools.  Toronto: University of Toronto Press.

Introduction

I am a secondary school teacher in Ottawa, Ontario as well as a graduate student.  My position with my school board in a temporary one, I basically cover maternity leaves and leaves of absence while waiting, (for what seems forever) for a permanent contract position.  Being a teacher without a home, I frequently change subjects.  I have bounced between the following departments in the past four years: Social Sciences, Guidance, Special Education and Physical Education.  Currently I have taught seven different courses, and about to teach two more new courses.  This is the nature of a long term occasional teacher.

 

This blog is meant to help practice my writing as writing for secondary school students is completely different than graduate level writing.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.