By Ryan Mallough - Tuesday, February 12, 2013 - 0 Comments
The 10 profs who did a great job this year
Jordan LeBel, who began working in kitchens when he was 12 years old, was destined to be a chef. But his parents weren’t so sure. They persuaded him to take a hospitality management course instead, putting him on a career track that would include restaurant reviewer, author, and a renowned chocolate expert who colleagues and students call Dr. Chocolate.
Now LeBel, 44, teaches Concordia’s highly popular, one-of-a-kind food marketing class, where he shares his passion with students. It’s his enthusiasm for his subject—consumer psychology and the pleasure of food—that makes him a favourite among students and one of 10 3M National Teaching Fellows for 2013.
“There is just so much to learn about it from so many different angles,” says LeBel. “I want to open people’s eyes and teach them everything they can learn about food.”
After getting his master’s degree in marketing from Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y., LeBel taught in Norway. He joined the faculty at Montreal’s Concordia University in 2000 after receiving his Ph.D. from McGill with a thesis about the relationship between pleasure and the consumption of chocolate. Continue…
By macleans.ca - Monday, January 28, 2013 at 4:00 PM - 0 Comments
The tough choices that aren’t being made
This is as good as it gets, demographically speaking. Right now, Canada is in a demographic sweet spot. Our dependency ratio is currently at an all-time low of 59 dependents (those under 19 and over 65 years old) per 100 working-age adults, who pay the bills. Our share of non-workers to workers will never be so favourable again.
Two well-established trends are behind our current situation: a decline in the percentage of young Canadians due to falling birth rates; and the fact that the bulk of the baby boom generation is still working.
The problem is that this fortuitous circumstance can’t last. Public purses will soon be hit by a rising dependency ratio spurred by a flood of boomer retirees, improvements in longevity and continued sluggishness in births. In theory, governments would adapt to this changing situation by reallocating spending. In its regular update on Ottawa’s long-term fiscal outlook, for example, the parliamentary budget office recently noted that: “Population aging will put . . . upward pressure on programs whose benefits are mostly realized by Canadians in older age groups, such as health care, elderly benefits and public pension benefits.” Such a future funding crunch, however, will be “partially offset by reduced spending on programs with benefits largely focused on younger age groups, such as education.” Continue…
By Maria Babbage - Thursday, January 3, 2013 at 3:48 PM - 0 Comments
TORONTO – Students across Ontario face more uncertainty when they head back to class…
TORONTO – Students across Ontario face more uncertainty when they head back to class next week, after the province’s cash-strapped Liberals outraged unions by forcing two-year contracts on 126,000 public school teachers and education workers.
But Education Minister Laurel Broten said she will soon repeal the same controversial anti-strike law that gave her government the power to impose the collective agreements, which cuts benefits and freezes wages of most teachers.
Union leaders whose members have staged one-day strikes and cut out extracurricular activities in protest of the law, wouldn’t say exactly what action they’d take in the weeks ahead. But they warned that it won’t be “business as usual.” Continue…
By The Canadian Press - Friday, December 21, 2012 at 10:39 AM - 0 Comments
TORONTO – Public elementary teachers offered Friday to end the rotating strikes they staged…
TORONTO – Public elementary teachers offered Friday to end the rotating strikes they staged across Ontario this month to protest Bill 115 if the Liberal government would agree not to impose new contracts on them until a new premier is selected next month.
The Elementary Teachers’ Federation “will cease all rotating strikes and take no new strike action if Ontario’s education minister does not impose collective agreements on or after Dec. 31 under Bill 115,” announced union president Sam Hammond.
“We’re extending this offer until a new premier is put in place by the Liberal party in late January.” Continue…
By The Canadian Press - Wednesday, November 28, 2012 at 8:45 PM - 0 Comments
TORONTO – Ontario’s biggest teachers’ union is warning of major disruption in elementary schools…
TORONTO – Ontario’s biggest teachers’ union is warning of major disruption in elementary schools across the province in December as teachers ramp up strike action to protest the governing Liberals’ controversial anti-strike law.
Parents will get 72-hour notices of strikes planned next month, which will affect operations in each public elementary school throughout the province, the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario said Wednesday.
A union spokeswoman confirmed that the strikes would include teachers not being in class but would not provide further details.
“It is unfortunate that we have been placed in the position of having to strike by Education Minister Laurel Broten, but we will provide parents with ample notice to ensure the safety of students,” ETFO president Sam Hammond said in a statement.
“By her actions, the minister has let everyone down by stripping teachers and education professionals of their democratic rights, and shutting down recent talks at the provincial level.”
But Broten and Premier Dalton McGuinty are defending the unpopular legislation, which also freezes the wages of most teachers and cuts their benefits.
McGuinty insists the legislation is needed, even though it appears to be preventing some teachers from accepting new contracts.
High school teachers in York Region rejected a tentative agreement reached with their school board, reportedly because they felt they’d be “selling out” by accepting a deal they feel was imposed by the Liberals under the new legislation.
Many of the board’s 2,800 teachers were reportedly concerned that it might also weaken a constitutional challenge of the legislation that’s been launched by four unions.
It’s possible some teachers are holding out for a new Liberal leader to repeal the law, as some of the candidates vying to replace McGuinty at the end of January have been critical of the legislation.
But McGuinty said he believes there’s a consensus among Ontario residents that his cash-strapped government has to take “effective measures” to eliminate a $14.4-billion deficit, which includes wage freezes.
“We think it’s the best approach, it’s a responsible approach and I think it’s one that’s broadly supported by Ontarians,” he said in Windsor.
While he wouldn’t comment on whether the legislation is a roadblock to new contracts, McGuinty said he remains optimistic that other teachers will accept a deal, he said.
“We’ve had one ratified, a couple that have been rejected,” McGuinty said. “We’re working as hard as we can to lay the groundwork for some negotiated settlements.”
High school teachers with the Upper Grand District School Board — which covers Guelph, Dufferin County and Wellington County — ratified an agreement reached with the school board and approved by the education minister.
But teachers in Niagara — as well as York Region — rejected theirs.
That means teachers will continue with strike actions that include skipping staff and department meetings, no parent-teacher conferences outside of school hours and not submitting student attendance records.
Meanwhile, elementary teachers and other education workers in four school boards have already started work-to-rule job action.
The ETFO — which represents 76,000 teachers and education professionals — says teachers in boards across the province will all be in a legal strike position by the Christmas break.
The Liberals have come under fire for not using their sweeping powers under the new law to stop strike action that’s quickly spreading across the province.
Broten said she’s disappointed with the new ETFO warning, but will continue to encourage teachers to reach local agreements with school boards before Dec. 31. After that, the province will be able to impose its own agreement on teachers.
“My message to parents is one that we will very much closely monitor the situation,” she said.
“It is too soon to say which of the tools will be necessary. But we do have precise tools to prevent strike action that might jeopardize, as an example, student safety — like teachers refusing supervision.”
More contracts would have been signed by now if the Liberals had never introduced the legislation, said NDP education critic Peter Tabuns.
“If the government had been willing to bargain hard, roll up their sleeves, the teachers would have been in the same frame of mind,” he said.
“Everyone knew it was a difficult time. They would have worked it through and come to something that people could have lived with.”
But McGuinty said he’s optimistic that other teachers will accept a deal.
“We’ve had one ratified, a couple that have been rejected,” he said. “We’re working as hard as we can to lay the groundwork for some negotiated settlements.”
By Cynthia Reynolds - Wednesday, October 31, 2012 at 7:30 AM - 0 Comments
Protesting oil pipelines, celebrating polygamy: is the new ‘social justice’ agenda in class pushing politics at the expense of learning?
To those who don’t keep up with education trends, certain recent events might appear to be unrelated. In May, a Grade 3 class in Toronto took to the streets with signs and an oversized papier mâché oil pipeline to protest the laying of an actual pipeline in western Canada. Last year, in Toronto, first-graders brought home student planners marked with the international days of zero tolerance on female genital mutilation and ending violence against sex workers, a means to spark conversation on the issues. In Laval, Que., a six-year-old boy was disqualified from a teddy-bear contest because a Ziploc was found in his lunch instead of a reusable container. In Ste-Marie-de-Kent, N.B., in 2009, Grade 4 students were given 10 minutes to decide which three people from this group should be saved from an imminent planetary explosion: a black African, a Chinese person, an Aboriginal, an Acadian francophone and an anglophone.
These are just a handful of examples of the more peculiar by-products of a vision gaining ground among many education architects: an elementary school education rooted in social-justice principles. Increasingly, faculties of education in Canada and much of the Western world are preparing their student teachers to weave social justice throughout the primary school curriculum—in math and science, language arts and social studies, drama and even gym—as well as into a range of cross-curricular activities, events and projects. The idea is to encourage kids to become critical analysts of contemporary issues, empathetic defenders of human rights and gatekeepers of the beleaguered Earth.
But social justice—which encompasses diversity, sustainability, global affairs and issues of race and class—is a broad term with varying interpretations. It can manifest in wildly different ways. In the hands of one teacher, social justice might entail teaching kids to care for the Earth by having them plant trees in the schoolyard. Another might have the same children write letters to the government about the environmental effects of mining, urging it to reform how mining claims are processed—part of an actual Grade 4 lesson plan created at the University of Ottawa.
By The Canadian Press - Tuesday, September 11, 2012 at 1:28 PM - 0 Comments
TORONTO – A controversial anti-strike bill that cuts benefits and reins in wages for…
TORONTO – A controversial anti-strike bill that cuts benefits and reins in wages for thousands of Ontario teachers will soon become law.
The minority Liberals and Progressive Conservatives teamed up to pass the legislation, which has angered unions and a national civil liberties group.
They say it violates constitutional rights and have vowed to fight the bill all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada.
The governing Liberals brought back the legislature early to get the bill passed before Sept. 1, saying the province couldn’t afford the rollover of old contracts.
But since the proposed legislation is retroactive to that date, it would claw back any pay hikes or benefits once it becomes law.
The bill, which passed by a vote of 82 to 15, would force new contracts on the majority of teachers and education workers in the province to help eliminate Ontario’s $15-billion deficit.
It’s based on an agreement the province reached with English Catholic and francophone teachers, which included three unpaid days off in the second year and cutting sick days in half to 10 a year.
But the two biggest unions representing elementary and high school teachers have rejected it.
The Canadian Civil Liberties Association has also complained about the bill, saying it’s unconstitutional and undemocratic.
By macleans.ca - Friday, April 15, 2011 at 10:40 AM - 0 Comments
France helps arrest Laurent Gbagbo, while Japan’s nuclear crisis escalates to Chernobyl-levels
Vive la France!
France played a crucial role this week in the surrender and arrest of the Ivory Coast’s defeated president Laurent Gbagbo and his militiamen. With its troops on the ground, France has publicly pledged to help the troubled nation in its reconstruction. Along with its recent calls for greater NATO involvement in Libya, France has suddenly become a robust player on the international stage, flexing its muscle in the name of democracy and global stability. It’s just too bad that same spirit isn’t on display back home, where French police arrested two women under the ban on wearing face-concealing veils in public.
In the classroom
The organization that regulates Ontario’s 230,000 teachers issued a new rule this week: no more connecting with students on social media. Teachers have been warned not to “friend” their pupils on Facebook, subscribe to their Twitter accounts, or use Flickr, LinkedIn or MySpace to interact online. Give the College of Teachers an A+ on this. The student-teacher relationship belongs in a classroom, not a chat room.
By Rachel Mendleson - Wednesday, July 8, 2009 at 7:30 AM - 53 Comments
Most principals would rather hide or transfer incompetent teachers than try to oust them
What it took for one Ontario principal to rid her school of an incompetent teacher is a process she’s not fond of revisiting. It began in September 2007, when she inherited a teacher whose performance was already under review. Despite a file thick with evidence of inadequacy, the principal helped draft an “improvement plan”—a requirement in the provincial Education Act—and dipped into school funds to pay for substitutes while the struggling teacher attended workshops. But, says the junior school principal, it soon emerged that there was “a serious, basic problem of not understanding”—which continued even after the teacher knew she was under review. Students shuffled through reading levels without proof of assessment. Parents complained about spelling test words that weren’t sent home. And the teacher submitted grades for computer class when, in fact, her “inability to use technology” meant the monitors “were rarely turned on,” says the principal. Still, it took months of paperwork and meetings with union representatives before she was able to inch even one step closer to dismissal. “It was very upsetting,” she says. “I wouldn’t choose to do it again unless I absolutely had to.”
Inadequate teaching has been shown to contribute to dropout rates, low test scores and a dislike for school. So severe are the implications, says Brendan Menuey, an assistant principal in Virginia, that poor teaching is tantamount to “educational malpractice.” Yet in Canada, teacher incompetence prompts so few administrators to pursue termination that the Ontario principal insisted that not even the name of her school board be published, because it would almost certainly identify her. According to Barrie Bennett, a professor at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, the dismissal process is so onerous, the risk of reprisal from teachers’ unions so great, that “most principals find it’s not worth the effort.” Instead, they approve transfers, or hide struggling teachers where their deficiencies can go unnoticed. The result however, is this: a system that keeps incompetent teachers in the classroom. Continue…
By Rachel Mendleson - Monday, February 9, 2009 at 10:52 AM - 14 Comments
Critics say it’ll turn focus to standardized testing and scare teachers away from ‘tough’ schools
Back in the fall of 2007, Barack Obama was vocal in his support of merit-pay for teachers. “If you excel at helping your students achieve success, your success will be valued and rewarded as well,” he told a crowd of teachers in Philadelphia. In doing so, Obama reignited the debate, one that has been bandied about for decades, over whether student performance should affect a teacher’s compensation. A discussion, some say, that will soon make its way to Canada. “Parents have often said that some sort of teacher compensation for excellence would be a desirable thing,” says Elizabeth Bredberg, president of the Kelowna-based Society of the Advancement of Excellence in Education. Nearly 40 per cent of teachers surveyed by SAEE said the performance of their students should be a key factor in determining their pay. And yet, according to SAEE, there’s no proof that pay-for-performance programs make schools a better place.
Beyond the Grid: A Canadian Look at the Terrain of Teacher Compensation, evaluates the efficacy of six U.S. pay-for-performance programs, including a Denver school board initiative that Obama referenced on the campaign trail. The programs add bonuses or enhancements to the traditional model, which aligns pay with experience and qualifications. “There really is no robust linkage between incentive programs and student improvement,” she says. The study also raises concerns about the programs themselves. The trouble, says Bredberg, is that there is no hard-and-fast model for measuring teacher performance or student achievement. And no matter what mechanism a school district settles on, implementing it relies on frequent evaluation, often through standardized testing: “We may find ourselves really overburdened with the task of assessment, and really just teach to assessment,” she says.
Teachers unions, not surprisingly, are against offering monetary rewards for teacher performance. The fear, says Frank Bruseker, president of the Alberta Teachers Association, is that compensation for student achievement will keep teachers away from more difficult schools, and remove the incentive for working with struggling students. “As soon as you put something in place that can be manipulated, people will attempt to manipulate the system,” he says.
Despite support for merit-pay programs among many parents, Bredberg says opposition from Canadian teachers means government would be ill advised to push the issue. Unlike in the U.S., where belonging to a teachers’ federations is optional—in fact, some jurisdictions don’t even have any—in Canada, mandatory membership and a history of cohesiveness mean that teachers’ unions wield tremendous power. Bredberg recommends focusing on “less controversial and potentially more productive” alternatives. While the majority of teachers polled by SAEE were against having their performance assessed for compensation, Bredberg says they did express a desire for increased evaluation—be it from their peers or a mentor—for professional development. “Historically, teachers have been rather soloists,” she says. “But I think that’s changing.”