Amid the ongoing challenges of viruses and vaccines, we turn to online journals to review their priorities for the third year under COVID. A grab-bag results, from the importance of teaching students how to think—yes, that is a learned skill—to financial literacy for disabled persons, to a reminder about teacher vaccinations and how students feel about getting back into classrooms. Prescriptively, R&F says, “Be safe. Be a responsible citizen. Get vaxxed.”

  • Fake Food and Fake NewsDid you know that in their marketing photos and videos, food advertisers use lip gloss on candies and fruits, spray-tan on meat, and that shaving cream is used instead of whipped cream and motor oil stands in for maple syrup—all to make the images more appealing? In this fascinating article in this month’s Canadian Teacher Magazine, Ottawa teacher Maria Campbell reports that she uses examples such as these to teach critical thinking when using the Internet. “Advertisers know these visual cues make us salivate. The fake photos work. We react. Companies sell more products….fake food is one thing. Fake news is another.” She cautions, “Images and data found online can be just as artificial and misleading as foam pancakes with oil syrup or spray-tanned turkey dinners. Today’s students are digital citizens. We must equip them to be critical consumers of both products and information because where fake food constructs an ideal, fake news promotes the unreal.”
  • Learning How to Think: Why philosophy belongs in elementary schoolsIt warms the cockles of an old philosopher’s heart to come across articles such as this timely piece by Amy Leask published on the current issue of EdCan. In these dark days, when opposing views say black is white and up is down, it is reassuring to learn that elementary school children are learning how to organize their thoughts in rational, coherent ways. She offers several hands-on examples of activities and exercises to engage elementary students—all of which could be used in later grades, in our opinion. By introducing young students to philosophy, she says, “the most important part is to make a safe space for learners to explain the ‘why’ behind their answers. Go beyond rote learning, and insist that learners avoid descending into ‘any idea is fine’ ‘just because,’ or any other logical fallacy. It’s a bit of work to get kids to learn how to think, instead of what to think, but it’s worth it. The skills and attitudes they learn in doing philosophy will help them be more independent, innovative, open-minded, and generally more successful in reaching the outcomes of all subject areas at school.”
  • Social JusticeTeachmag’s Social Justice category offers a range of issues related to students’ differences. For example, although resources for teaching financial literacy abound, little is available for students with physical disabilities. Author Lisa Lamb, writing in the first person of her own challenges, argues for a curriculum that addresses their special needs. For example, she notes that living with a disability can be expensive: “To make a home wheelchair-accessible can cost anywhere from $40,000 to $100,000; vehicle modifications range from around $10,000 to $90,000.” She says, “Many [persons with disabilities] are capable of work and want to work, but negative attitudes and the perceptions of employers are major obstacles to obtaining a job, earning an income, and living independently…. I feel that teachers, through a Critical Disability pedagogy, can help to better prepare their students with physical disabilities to face these issues, and other unique financial challenges, as they enter adulthood. It certainly would’ve helped me.”
  • Why vaccinating educators makes sense – for students, families and the economyIn case anyone needed yet one more argument in favour of vaccinations, writing for the Canadian Teachers Federation, past president Shelly L. Morse presents a cogent piece that resonates even more today—in the midst of the fourth wave–as it did in March, when this article was first published. “Teachers have an extremely high number of exposures every single day. The average classroom was not designed to ensure 20 let alone 35 children can keep 2 metres apart at all times. The result is that we have too many people in classrooms, too close together, for too long often with poor ventilation and, in some cases, without mandatory masks. And, while paramount, safety isn’t the only factor to consider here – a return to normalcy in education means that Canadian workers with children can get back to work at full capacity and, ultimately, help power Canada’s post-pandemic economic recovery.”
  • What Students Think About Their Third Year of Pandemic SchoolingFinally, writing in the October, 2021 issue of the American publication EducationWeek, Larry Ferlazzo shares feedback from students entering their third year under COVID. From Kate Eggert, a grade ten high school student: “…other than the COVID scares, the routine I used to be so sick of I now appreciate to a whole new level. Whenever I get too tired of school, I can now put it into the perspective of how fortunate I am to have a building to go to and people to see in person, not just through a computer screen. I now have the opportunity to work on a school play and join three clubs that I never had last year. I can interact with my teachers and talk to them when I’m confused. I get to leave my house every morning, not always knowing what will happen that day. I know it may not seem like it, but going to school is a mini-adventure I get to experience every day, one I never truly treasured until it was taken away from me.”

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