NLTA Vice-President Elect (2017-2019)

Vice-President Elect (2017-2019) of the Newfoundland & Labrador Teachers Association (NLTA)

Wednesday, 25 May 2016

The View from the 'Cheap Seats'...Inclusive Education?

As spectators at a sporting event, we have the opportunity to enter any stadium or sports facility and purchase the seat of our choice. Premium seats may be courtside, ice-level, or positioned nicely down the third base line. But on the other hand, we also have the cheap seats, or the 'nose bleeds' if you will. Fans will often choose this option if $$$ is tight, if it is a sought after event, or they simply want a low-key day or evening out; knowing full well that they will be somewhat removed from the action.

As educators, we are called upon daily to provide instruction, intervention, supports, and enrichment to students of all capabilities and exceptionalities. By virtue of their exceptionality, these students have a right to specialized service (as promised by the Government of Newfoundland & Labrador).

My biggest worry and concern within our current education system is that our students with special needs are being forced into the 'cheap seats' and they, nor their families, have any choice in the matter.

With larger class sizes, multi-graded classrooms, and limited availability of Instructional Resource Teachers & Student Assistants, students with special needs are being offered a watered-down service that at best, allows for occasional check-ins, requires a reliance upon the independence of the student, and over-extends teachers in meeting the needs of all their students.

There must be proper resourcing of the Inclusive Education Model with intensive supports for our students with special needs. This requires the increased availability of one-on-one or small group sessions and flexible service delivery (not being strangled by limited scheduling options), in addition to the co-teaching and differentiated instruction models. This approach will undoubtedly result in heightened progress for these students and their families, teachers will be able to efficiently focus their efforts, and all students in the school will reap the benefits.

INVESTMENT IN INCLUSIVE EDUCATION CANNOT BE A BARGAINING CHIP, NOR SHOULD STUDENTS BE FORCED INTO THE 'CHEAP SEATS'...

Sunday, 22 May 2016

Student Absenteeism & the Present Problem: Who's Accountable?

Within each and every school in Newfoundland & Labrador lurks an increasingly larger and more vulnerable demographic of our student population: the absentee student.

I am not referring to the child or adolescent that is absent occasionally for valid reasons but the student and family that becomes entangled within in a web of school refusal, family crisis, apathy, or an inability to see the value of full attendance. In certain cases, students miss entire academic years with the result being social promotion (i.e. pushing the student on to the next grade in spite of outcomes completed). Adding to this dilemma is the fact that these students have diagnosed (and undiagnosed) exceptionalities (e.g. ADHD, anxiety, low cognitive ability, etc.) further magnifying the vulnerability of these students.

These students and their families are charting a course for significant personal difficulty and struggle with no clear response plan on the part of our social service agencies. 

Schools and teachers look for opportunities and take exhaustive steps to draw these students back into regular attendance through multiple meetings and communications with caregivers, alternate arrangements for evaluation, and attempts to include Child, Youth, & Family Services (CYFS) & medical personnel in developing response plans.

When response efforts are unsuccessful at the school level, the safety net unravels.  CYFS personnel are limited by directives that truancy does NOT fall within their mandate.

So, the saga continues for these students whereby many skip their junior high years to enter high school with Grade 5 or 6 being the last grade successfully completed.

As an educator, I see this story repeat itself year after year. It is time that this crisis be addressed and responses be driven by all players (in addition to school-based personnel). School attendance is vital to a child's growth and development and therefore needs to be part of the CYFS mandate. There is great promise in these students and families however an empty seat brings no promise at all.

Wednesday, 11 May 2016

Teacher 'Integrity' & the fight at hand...

As teachers, we are faced with significant challenges (e.g. large class sizes, limited resources, student mental health, supporting a multitude of student exceptionalities, etc...). It never ceases to amaze me however, how educators continue to demonstrate professionalism and integrity within their daily practice. The success and best interests of the student remain on the forefront in spite of the short-comings of the system; unfortunately, many times to our own physical and emotional detriment.

As a facilitator of the 'The Virtues Project', I have adopted the virtue of 'Integrity' as my daily mantra within my personal and professional lives.  It is my ethical and moral compass by which I strive to problem-solve, make decisions, and communicate with others. It grounds me as I face the challenges of the day, looking to make a 'true' impact. It has also served me well during times of struggle, when uncertainty and pessimism can creep in.

As an Association, the NLTA has a proud history of professionalism and integrity. It is especially during these economic times of apprehension and unpredictability that integrity will keep us on task, with clear purpose and vision, "standing up for what we believe is right".

I would appreciate your support as we continue our fight...
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"To put the world right...we must first cultivate our personal life; we must first set our hearts right."
                                                                                                                                - Confucius

Saturday, 7 May 2016

#NL_Rising Rally - May 7th, 2016

So proud to be a part of this movement today...the feeling of solidarity amongst our public service brothers and sisters was quite uplifting during these times of worry and insecurity.

This budget has given us every reason to be skeptical and pessimistic however the 'power of our people' and the 'power of public opinion', I believe, will have great impact.

We overcome great odds each day when enter our schools and classrooms. The individual & family challenges that our students bring, our personal situations, and societal pressures, stack the cards for us however, our schools, teachers, and our children show great strength and resilience.

As teachers, we know what we need to maximize supports for our children, We now need to hold strong, as never before, to reclaim our professional rights and be heard! Let your MHAs and government know where you stand...we have too much to lose!

(Photo Credit: Gerard Walsh - Buddy & Teacher Colleague)




Tuesday, 3 May 2016

CANDIDATE FOR NLTA VICE-PRESIDENT 2017-2019

Newfoundland and Labrador Teachers' Association's Profile Photo

I am proud to announce my nomination for Vice President of the Newfoundland & Labrador Teachers' Association for the term 2017-2019. A sincere thank you to the teachers that signed my nomination as well as to those who have already offered their support. Please stay tuned to this site as my campaign gets underway and we approach the election in December. All the best for the remainder of the 2015-16 school year!