BY KATHY MCDONALD
In my humble opinion, pun intended, these two character traits (humility and kindness) are the most important coupling of traits. I say this as I believe that they should be the foundation of a well-balanced, educated and successful human being. When administrator, teachers and students adopt these traits we will undoubtedly have a situation where our learning institutions function effectively and optimally. A humble and kind administrator will be a co-learner with their staff and students. A humble and kind teacher will never propose that they have all the answers but will impart their knowledge with the ultimate goal of bringing out the best in each student. Such teachers will value the uniqueness of each student and work to inspire success, hope and confidence in all. A humble and kind student will be courteous and respectful to all. They will strive towards academic excellence with integrity and diligence. At the beginning of the school year these traits are essential for parents as they deal with massive bus delays, reorganizations of the school’s timetable and classes as well as disappointing news about the EQAO math results. A humble and kind parent will be just that; while requesting answers and solutions to any problems encountered during the school year.
As a Trustee, I heard from my constituents as they were totally frustrated with the significant bus delays they experienced when dropping off or picking up their children to and from school. The cause of these delays is still being debated but they do not diminish the fact that parents were terribly inconvenienced and often late for work or were genuinely worried about the whereabouts and the location of their child or children. Yes, bus drivers are complaining about the fact that they make less than some employees working in the fast food industry and they complain about the lack of discipline and respect the students have when riding the bus. However, this does not justify any forms of abuse that is meted out to them when they arrive late. Invariably it is an innocent bus driver that is covering a run and trying to be part of the solution that ends up on the receiving end of an angry rant. We should always remember that even in times of frustration and anger to be humble and kind. At the PDSB due to last minute changes made by students and parents we had over 10,000 changes to the system within the first weeks in September. That’s a whole lot of reshuffling, last minute route changes as well as changes in bus sizes and numbers.
Reorganization day has happened by now for just about all students in Ontario. Invariably parents get extremely upset when their child is placed in a split class. The split class gets stamped with an undeserved negative connotation. My mother is an educator that has served in several capacities from being a high school science teacher, an elementary and secondary school principal and a professor of teaching. She has explained to me that all classes are technically split classes. In any given classroom we have a myriad of abilities and competencies in any given subject area. A well trained teacher will have the capacity to manage her classroom in a way that she will successfully meet the needs of all his or her students.
A man on a galloping horse would clearly see all the headlines about the sad state of affairs of Math in Ontario. Niagara This Week declares “Ontario Student math skills continue to decline”. “EQAO results are not pretty for Grade 6 students in Peel” says Jason Spencer of the Mississauga News. In fact, the results are not pretty for all Ontario students. All stakeholders (The Ministry of Education, School Boards, Teachers Colleges, administration, teachers, parents and students) need to work together to tackle this mammoth problem. Whether you believe that we have thrown out the baby with the bath water or you are still a proponent for the “New Math”, social justice math or collaborative inquiry or a blend of some or all; whether you believe in a semester or all year long math instruction timetable. There is work to be done. At the PDSB we have developed a comprehensive three-year strategy called Engaged Math. The PDSB staff have also developed a series of resources that are available to parents to assist them in supporting their children excel in math. The strategy is “built on three foundational drivers: instructional focus, instructional strategies and assessment practices. While the strategy plans out certain actions, it is by no means a magic bullet to answering the questions and challenges surrounding numeracy and student achievement. Mathematics success for all our students will require a strong partnership between home and school. That’s why we’re committed to providing you with the parent resources you need to help us boost math achievement in Peel. In addition to board-provided resources, you can always speak with your child’s teacher(s) about ways you can help at home.”
2016 began with the usual bumps and bruises and a few “big cocoas”. However when all stakeholders work together with a vision of letting all students be the best that they can be; the future for Ontario students looks great. I would encourage parents to have conversations with their child’s/children’s teachers around numeracy and chart out a path that will help your child master mathematical concepts. My math teacher Miss Harris at Immaculate Conception High School always told us “Ten problems a day keeps failure away”. I encourage all my readers and their children to adopt this adage as we journey towards improved numeracy. So remember as we work diligently to resolve any of the challenges we face this academic year above all remember to be humble and kind. After reading this column please listen to Tim McGraw’s version of Lori McKenna’s beautiful lyrics that she wrote for her children. I hope this song becomes part of your listening pleasure. So Walk Good, Belle Marché.