As the current annus horribilis groans to a merciful close, a distant light flickers at the end of this gloomy tunnel. It may be months away, but with remarkably successful vaccines seemingly in hand, the pandemic’s demise is now imaginable. With that in mind, we were curious to see what educational journals are leading with this month—and for the first time in ten months, the virus has dropped below the fold, as readers of hardcopy newspapers like to say. Instead, we see headlines about teacher training, indigenous wisdom teachings and native activism in the U.S., with just one important nod to the mental damage teachers have suffered and continue to struggle against due to COVID. With that, we wish you good health, and brighter days ahead.
- Students becoming Teachers – The CEA’s EDcan network dedicates its entire current issue to teacher education. Included: A graduate reports on preservice experience; “the big-picture perspective of one of Canada’s most influential educators;” imaginings about better preparation for the next generation of teachers; innovation in teacher training for rural and remotes schools; an important nod to collaborative learning for teacher prep and as a practice “that is especially invaluable for early-career teachers;” and, finally, proposals to address “early-career teachers’ discomfort with formative assessment.”
- Leaked Alberta school curriculum in urgent need of guidance from Indigenous wisdom teachings – Writing in the Toronto-based School Magazine, and reprinted from The Conversation (https://theconversation.com/ca/education) Cree educator Dwayne Donald critiques leaked Alberta curriculum documents that suggest a “back to basics” approach. In his words, “The problem here is that simply plugging in more information about events that include Indigenous Peoples maintains an education model focused on consuming facts as the scaffolding for knowing. Research shows that helping students find meaning from the study of the past is much more complex than simple memorization and recall. The leaked curriculum documents also frame references to Indigenous topics and themes in the past — as though we as Indigenous Peoples don’t exist in the present. Incorporating course content that devalues and marginalizes the significance of Indigenous knowledges, experiences and histories is an expression of racism and white supremacy.”
- Counselling through circus – Tiffany Wightman, a school counsellor working on BC’s Gulf Islands, reports on the lasting effect of a visit six years ago by Australian circus troop Cirkus Surreal to her school on Saltspring Island. Its main purpose was to counter the growing anti-science trend. The school was so impressed, they maintained the program. She writes, “…Before COVID-19 disrupted our school year in the spring of 2020, Tsunami Circus was gearing up to do a show called “rEVOLUTION.” Students were creating performances through their own activist lenses. Our motto follows the “6 Ps of Circus”: practice, positivity, perseverance, patience, pain (the good kind) and pass it on. Collectively, these powerful words influence our culture that consciously works toward resilience, joy and belonging. Those who graduate will continue to apply these principles, not only giving them greater resilience, but also the increased confidence to work toward social change.”
- From Alcatraz to Standing Rock: The 50-Year Arc of Native Activism – In their latest, November, edition, Yes magazine ignored COVID to focus on American Heritage Month—specifically, on Native American activism. Canadian students and teachers may not be aware of the long history of indigenous activism in the United States. If so, Shoshi Parks introduces them to the 1969 Native occupation of the historic Alcatraz island prison, near San Francisco. The occupiers had had “two major goals — to agitate for Native American self-determination and sovereignty and to establish a Native American cultural center, museum and college on the island. In the 1960s, [she quotes another author], War Jack [said]: ‘…just to identify yourself as a Native person would bring immediate discrimination and racism. [Alcatraz] helped us re-establish our self-identification as Native people. People developed pride.’”
- Canadian Right to Education Framework: Creating a tool to measure progress on children’s access to a quality education – We hear it often, the cry that education is a right, not a privilege. Yet, it is apparent that for many students the right does not translate into equitable educational opportunities—and this has been underlined in bold during the COVID crisis. But what does “right to education” mean; and how does one measure equitable access? Ontario’s People for Education reports on undertaking a study to refine the definition of a right to education,” suggesting that it could include acquiring “…the skills necessary to thrive in a rapidly changing complex world,” as well as the right for every student to have access to the same quality of education. They say, “Currently, there is no Canada-wide consensus on what defines a quality education. It is here that we have the opportunity to work together, from coast to coast, to define [it].”
- Canadian Teachers Experiencing a Mental Health Crisis – Not all educational organizations ignored COVID this month. The CTF reports on the disturbing pan-Canadian survey—14,000 respondents–on teacher mental health. “The results detail unbearable levels of stress, anxiety and a struggle to cope with the demands of teaching during the pandemic. Results show that close to 70% of respondents are concerned about their own mental health and well-being.” The CTF recommends “…that all jurisdictions – provincial, territorial and federal – immediately: 1) allocate more resources to mental health services tailored for the unique workplace stressors of teachers and other frontline workers, 2) implement the same health and safety guidelines in schools that are already mandated outside of education, including the use of masks and physical distancing, and 3) consult teachers, whose experiences as frontline workers are essential in developing good policies.”
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