Monthly Archives: April 2017

Mental Health Education and Way of Life Education

Last week, I (Clive) talked about the connection between general way of life education and career education. I believe there is a similar link with mental health education, which Ontario teachers today are strongly encouraged to engage in. A recent Toronto Star article on mental health education noted that around twenty percent of Ontario school students have mental health problems. It then went on to claim that the life learning these students need would also greatly benefit the other eighty percent of students!

From the teachers’ point of view, this insight has significant implications. It means that instead of constantly singling out students with mental health needs – thus adding to teachers’ workload and also running the danger of labeling students, reducing their self-esteem, and undermining class community – teachers can implement way of life education in the normal course of teaching and classroom life and so help all their students.

Increasing the feasibility of mental health teaching in this way is sorely needed, given the growing demands on teachers, the continuing cut-backs in special education funding, and the increasing integration of “special needs” students into mainstream classes. As Kate Phillippo says in her excellent 2015 book Advisory in Urban High Schools, there is today considerable “under-the-table expansion of teachers’ responsibilities,” especially “to provide social-emotional support” to students (p. 148).

While there is a limit to how much assistance regular classroom teachers can give to students with mental health challenges, supporting all students in developing a sound approach to life can help everyone, including those with special needs. For example, students who lack motivation for school work need a better general sense of where academic achievement fits into their life, now and in the future; and students dealing with bullying would benefit from greater general understanding of when and how to stand up to other people. Along these lines, Phillippo (2015) envisages classroom teachers taking on a broad “advisory” role that includes fostering “life skills development” (p. 154) and working to promote “student wellness” in general (p. 164).

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Holland Bloorview: Another School that Shows what is Possible

Holland Bloorview is a remarkable place.

Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital is Canada’s largest children’s rehabilitation hospital focused on improving the lives of kids with disabilities. 

Holland Bloorview is a global leader in applied research, teaching and learning, and client and family centred care. 

Our vision is to create a world of possibility for kids with disability.

We pioneer treatments, technologies, therapies and real-world programs that give children with disabilities the tools to participate fully in life. We see children with cerebral palsy, acquired brain injury, muscular dystrophy, amputation, epilepsy, spina bifida, arthritis, cleft-lip and palate, autism and other developmental disabilities. A small number of our clients have complex chronic diseases that require round-the-clock medical care. 

Holland Bloorview is a world-class teaching hospital fully affiliated with the University of Toronto. We are home to the Bloorview Research Institute and the Teaching and Learning Institute which are both located onsite, allowing us to integrate cutting-edge research and teaching with frontline care to improve children’s quality of life. 

Our state-of-the-art building has been recognized by the International Academy for Design and Health as an inspirational building which speaks to a child’s right to participate in our society.

To find out more:

http://www.hollandbloorview.ca

What’s more is there is an Integrated Kindergarten program at Holland Bloorview. This kindergarten program integrates typically developing children with children with disabilities.  Here is a link to their website that includes a short video about the program:

http://hollandbloorview.ca/programsandservices/ProgramsServicesAZ/Integratededucationandtherapy

Holland Bloorview has close connections with the Laboratory School at the University of Toronto (the school I wrote about in my last blog post) and to our faculty as well. Our student teachers in the Child Study and Education Program have had the privilege of learning to become teachers through practice teaching at in the Integrated Kindergarten and have found the experience to be remarkable.

The program may be at risk of closing. I came across this link and encourage anyone interested in supporting the continuation of the program to take a look and participate.

https://www.change.org/p/keep-the-bloorview-integrated-kindergarten-program-open

Changing How We See the World

For as long as we can remember the map of our world looked like this:

map1
Source:

http://geology.com/world/world-map.shtml

This is the map represented by the Mercator projection created hundreds of years ago. In recent years, however, the Mercator projection has been considered to be misleading. For example, Greenland and the continent of Africa appear to be roughly the same size when it actuality Africa is over 10 times the size of Greenland. As a result, the Gall-Peters projection has been considered a more reliable representation of the world. You may notice it is quite different than what we are used to:

map2
Source: 

https://www.theguardian.com/education/2017/mar/19/boston-public-schools-world-map-mercator-peters-projection

The Boston school district recently introduced this new map as the standard and needless to say students were pretty shocked. Joanna Walters (2017) from the Guardian reported on the new map rollout noting some of the most obvious differences:

The USA was small. Europe too had suddenly shrunk. Africa and South America appeared narrower but also much larger than usual. And what had happened to Alaska?

Walters believes the new map standard will lead to a paradigm shift and a step towards decolonizing the curriculum. She explains:

The result goes a long way to rewriting the historical and sociopolitical message of the Mercator map, which exaggerates the size of imperialist powers.

“This is the start of a three-year effort to decolonize the curriculum in our public schools,” said Colin Rose, assistant superintendent of opportunity and achievement gaps for Boston public schools.

I believe it would be a powerful exercise to have students compare the two maps and analyze the differences.  Integration of a new and more reliable map standard is truly important step in working towards a socially just curriculum.

 

 

 

Stressed Spelled Backwards is Desserts

Hearing the word April at OISE is as unnerving as hearing the word Voldemort at Hogwarts. Let’s cut to the chase…everyone is currently a little less patient and a little more stressed. Graduate students are working hard to finish their final papers and projects while faculty members are equally busy marking everything to meet strict deadlines. Factor in the 100 other responsibilities folks have to simultaneously manage and before you know it, everyone is reaching their boiling point. So why am I stating the obvious? It is because I whole-heartedly believe that self-care is SO much more important than a beautifully formatted APA references list.

Though we are busy wrapping up the academic year, self-care should never be put on the back-burner. Even if you do not think you have the time, self-care does not have to be a time-consuming event. Here’s a list of small actions that can have a big impact:

Get proper rest and sleep. Eat well. Think positively. Sing in the shower. Be honest with yourself. Colour. Have a spontaneous dance party. Do yoga. Eat yogurt. Keep track of your “stress quotient”. Don’t try to be perfect. Don’t place blame. Recognize and acknowledge your stress level. Be yourself. Run. Walk. Sit. Lay down. Stay. Don’t stay. Choreograph an interpretive dance. Cook. Get dressed up. Take a deep breath. Make a to-do list. Practice living in the present. Be with friends. Be alone. Be. Learn to accept what you can’t change. Write someone a letter. Do something nice for someone. Admit to yourself how you feel. Think about unicorns. Make a nice dinner. Play your favorite sport. Take a nice long shower. Hug it out. Scream into a pillow, or at a picture. Get off campus. Vent. Be optimistic. Be realistic. Smile. Find something that makes you happy, and do it.

NeedsLast

 

Believe me, I know it’s easier said than done and everyone copes with their stress in different ways. But if there’s one thing I want you to keep in mind while you indent, paraphrase, cite, & proofread, it’s this: You are allowed to be both a masterpiece and a work in progress, simultaneously.

Une École des Emotions/The Possible School

We are fortunate at the University of Toronto to have the Dr. Eric Jackman Laboratory School (Jackman ICS) as part of our community. “The Lab School” is a small elementary school that has just over 200 students from nursery to sixth grade. I (Yiola) have had the privilege of working with and learning from the teachers, students and administrators at the school. Together we teach pre-service teachers in our Master of Arts in Child Study teacher education program and student-teachers practice teach in the classrooms,  I have conducted longitudinal, observational research at the school and have been so deeply inspired by the daily teaching of young children. The children — oh the children — are truly the evidence of what is possible when a school community focuses on the child.
Recently a documentary film has come out that gives a small glimpse into the life of the school.  Jackman ICS was featured in a documentary film by Daisy Gand, a Masters student from France who visited Jackman ICS last year and is titled, “Une École des Emotions”/“The Possible School”. The link to the film is here and it is a must see:
Principal Richard Messina states:
At the Jackman Laboratory School, the student, parents, and teachers all benefit from the secure learning philosophy and pedagogical approaches that inspires deep understanding, creativity, curiosity, and confidence to flourish.  Our environment honors diversity and values an interconnected community, in which all members feel known, respected, and supported as active, engaged participants. 
 Children currently in our Early Years classes will graduate in the 3rd decade of the 21st Century, an era that will demand creativity and ingenuity, responsibility and compassion.  Their ability to thrive depends largely on the experiences they have at school.  
The latter part of Richard’s statement reflects the sentiments of Clive’s blog that was posted just yesterday… children need to experience “real life” at school in order to feel a sense of purpose. The laboratory school does this in so many ways: through its pedagogy, philosophy, curriculum, and approach.
What happens at the Jackman ICS can happen in any school and classroom;  yet, public schools often struggle with an inquiry-based pedagogy that places the child at the centre of the learning.  All students should have opportunity to learn at a “possible school”.  In light of this the Lab School is working hard to broaden student admission and retention policies that support all forms of diversity in equity and accessibility.
To make this happen the school has a fund that offers tuition support that accounts for  economic diversity.  Please see the link below if you would like to learn more about the fundraising efforts and support the work of the Laboratory school.
 This is JICS’s biennial fundraiser for tuition support.  Please purchase your tickets here:  https://www.eventbrite.ca/e/jackman-ics-diana-rankin-tuition-fundraiser-gala-tickets-32296391376?aff=es2 or donate to the JICS Diana Rankin Muncaster Family Tuition Support Fund at https://donate.utoronto.ca/give/show/40

Career Education and Way of Life Development

I (Clive) have often proposed in our blogs that schooling should be more “relevant.” In addition to teaching subject content, we should help students develop their general approach to life (which will vary significantly from one student to another). This can be done as we teach subjects – so long as we are selective in what we spend time on and how we teach it – but also through the class community, the teacher-student relationship, and individual and whole-class projects and chats from time to time.

I have recently read a wonderful book Designing Your Life (Knopf, 2016) by Stanford professors Bill Burnett and Dave Evans, in which the authors say that way of life development should go hand in hand career education. Already in school (they do not say how early) young people should be constantly exploring a range of possibilities for learning and doing, trying to figure out what things they enjoy, find fulfilling, and are good at. Then as they begin to consider more concretely what career(s) to take up, they will have a solid sense of what would fit with their way of life.

A key emphasis in the book is that it is not just a matter of choosing IT, law, engineering, etc. but what kind of IT, law, engineering, etc. Work in each field can take many different forms, and it is as much a matter of creating or designing a line of work as choosing one, and continuing to develop it further over time. For this people need a lot of information about the real world, a sense of a preferred and possible way of life, and experience in being proactive rather than passive in life situations. This can begin in earnest in school – I would argue, even in primary school.