BY: KATHY MCDONALD
Parents, the most important gift you can give your child is that of your time. I am painfully aware that time is a very precious commodity for most families and every day can be a juggling act as we struggle with competing priorities. However, as the Christmas and holiday seasons approach consider the gift of time.
Coupled with the festivities are many information nights. At these information nights, school boards across the province are imparting valuable knowledge about the academic options as well as the resources that are available to help your child become the best that they can be.
There are information sessions on French Immersion. Did you know that French Immersion may be a viable program even if your kids have an Individual Education Plan (IEP) or other special educational needs? There is a myth that children with special educational support needs or children that require an IEP cannot be successful in a French Immersion program. It is important that you attend these information sessions to explore the possibilities that exist for your child. We live in an ever-changing, multicultural and global world. Who knows what extra doors could open for your child if they can master another language. Did you know that at some schools they also offer other languages such as Spanish, Mandarin, and Cantonese?
As your child transitions from kindergarten to grade one, grade five into middle school or from middle school to high school there are a lot of options that are available to them. The first transition into grade one at the Peel District School Board (PDSB) affords students the opportunity to enter the French Immersion program. I would just like to reiterate that this program is open to all students. Parents, if your child attends a school at another school board I would strongly suggest you contact your child’s school, consult the website or call the central board office to gather all relevant information pertaining to the programs offered at your child’s school.
At the PDSB as the child transitions into the middle school years, there are a few more program choices that are available for students to participate in. For example, there is a SciTech program as well as International Baccalaureate Middle Years Program IB or the chance to participate in a gifted program. Again, I would like to emphasize that knowledge is power. Parents do not wait to be invited to enroll in such programs. Do your own research and apply. I have schools in my wards that offer such programs and Black students, as well as the students with Caribbean ancestry, are grossly under-represented. As we at the board level look to examine our application and selection process I would like to encourage more Black students as well as students of Caribbean ancestry to apply to these programs. There have been years that not one Black student has graduated from the SciTech program. Now, unless you believe that Black students cannot excel in science and/or technology; we have a problem that needs to be addressed. Now, remember that you cannot see Black and Caribbean students in programs if they are not applying.
At the risk of sounding preachy, parents, you have a responsibility to do your due diligence and all members of the community, we have a duty to help our brothers and sisters navigate the educational system. It truly takes a village. If you look at any group that is excelling, bet your bottom dollar they are utilizing their “village power”. I strongly encourage the village to share information with family members, church sisters, and brothers, neighbors and work colleagues. We all should have a vested interest in seeing that each child lives up to their full potential and gets an opportunity to take full advantage of all educational opportunities that are available to them.
Students transitioning into high school are in the process of selecting courses. Parents pay attention!!! This is typically where the bulk of kids from the Black and Caribbean students get streamed (placed into pathways below a student’s capabilities). The guidance counselor does not have the final say as to the pathway that your child takes. The guidance counselor can only offer his or her guidance. That’s it, their guidance. You as a parent can respectfully disagree with their recommendations. Just ask Dr. Everton Gooden’s parents. This remarkable man is currently the Chief of Staff and Chair of the Medical Advisory Committee at North York General Hospital. I shudder to think where he would be if his parents did not advocate for him and simply followed the advice of his guidance counselor. Don’t get me wrong I am not here to disparage all guidance counselors. I am simply saying parents do your due diligence.
As I travel around to various churches and groups speaking to audiences about the plethora of educational opportunities that are available at the PDSB I am often blown away by the number of parents who simply say “I never knew about this”. While I will be the first to admit that the board probably needs to do more outreach to the community; I cannot over-emphasize the importance of parents taking an active part in their child’s educational journey. So, parents, in fact, the whole village, journey with we as we endeavor to make each kid be the best that they can be. Walk Good, Belle Marché.