Saturday, February 09, 2008

Everyone is Responsible...Part 2

A couple days ago I wrote about the education system and the responsibilities we all have in making it work effectively. There are many stakeholders in education (government, DEA's, administrators and teachers, parents and students) and all have a unique role to play.

Often times, instead of working together, conflict results, with each stakeholder blaming someone else, rather than taking responsibility for what they themselves have control over. This isn't intended to be a rant though some may take it as such. Everyone is responsible to some extent for the mess that education in Nunavut is sometimes accused of becoming. Its been my experience that someone is always looking for someone else to blame. My purpose here is not to offend anyone, though I suspect I will not be successful in the case of every reader who reads this. I just wish we could move past the "blame game" and move forward. Perhaps once we realize that everyone plays an important role and holds responsibility we can get off the merry-go-round and actually make progress. So who is to blame here?

The Government is to in Nunavut is very expensive; 9 years into the new territory that is Nunavut and there is still no education act; there are few resources for the classroom (yes I always hear about new modules coming out but to me these are like government tax hear a great deal about them but don't really seem to see them); my community hasn't had a permanent full-time, social worker the entire time I've been here making it difficult for community members (let alone students) get professional help that they may need; the GN fills classrooms with teachers that are unqualified for their position (apparently having a warm body fill a position is more important than ensuring the individual in question actually holds the qualifications necessary to perform their role properly); there is a painful lack of housing - this ensures that the majority of teachers accepting positions in communities with no private market are 1) older couples finishing off their career or 2) younger teachers with no families. In both cases you have people for whom sharing accomodation isn't a big issue. In the case of the former, they are here for a short time anyway and in the latter case, sharing housing is like an extension of university days. Attracting teachers with families or enticing teachers to stay for more than a year or two......this doesn't seem to be happening. Sharing accomodation may be convenient in the short term but does the government think it will attract teachers for lets say 10-20 years if they will be forced to share housing for that entire time? The government is so decentralized that the right hand indeed has no idea what the right hand is doing. I could go into more detail but that is fodder for another post. Plus, I don't want to get too far off topic here. Suffice it to say though that Education isn't the only department affected by this. Yes, government is to blame.

DEA's (District Education Authorities) are to blame........DEA's must be more visible in our schools. I've taught in schools where the only time I ever saw DEA members was when there was some big problem that needed to be addressed (when a student become violently out of control for example); they also need to get priorities straight. I've attended the odd meeting where more time was spent on mindless details than on important issues like say making sure vacant positions for the upcoming school year were being filled. Making up rules and expectations for student is welcomed by teachers, but if you are going to do this then please help the school enforce them. Don't make rules, leave it to administrators to enforce and then complain to the school when your own rules are enforced. Yes, DEA's are to blame.

Parents are to blame......Parents have a vital role to play in the education system and certainly there are parents out there doing a commendable job. I have nothing but respect for anyone trying to raise a child in this rather crazy, self-centred world we live in. Unfortunately, there are parents out there who seem to have no rules at home. you know where your child is?.......right now? If a child has no rules at home then please don't expect a teacher to deal all the fall-out of a free-for-all at home. Make sure kids go to bed at a reasonable hour. A great number of people in Nunavut are smokers. The cost of one package of cigarettes is around $15 give or take. This is more than enogh money to provide a good breakfast for a child and get them off to a good start rather than to expect the school to feed your child through its breakfast program. Also, get involved in your child's education. Do you read to your child? assist them with your homework? Come into the school and meet with your child's teachers. It is much easier for a parent to make an appointment at the school to see one teacher than to expect a teacher to make 20-odd phone calls every night to parents. Please don't blame the school for all the ills of "the system". It just isn't helpful. Yes, parents are to blame.

Teachers (and administrators) are to blows my mind the number of teachers I've bumped into who are clueless about the history and socio-cultural background of the community they choose to move to. Make an effort to understand your community. Get a team, join a social club, learn a bit of the language, go to a community feast or dance, head out on the land.....anything. Just don't sit in your house weekends and mark off the days on your calendar until your next set of holidays or bitch about how everything costs so much more than in southern Canada. Please get involved...the community will meet you half-way. I've been around long enough to see this. Please don't come here simply to pay off a debt or to pad your retirement. Yes, salaries in the north are higher than elsewhere but please don't advertise that "I only have to teach here a couple more years and then my student loan will be gone." It's annoying and boring to hear. Kindly, keep that kind of thing to yourself. Think of the students first rather than your monthly bank statement. Yes, teachers are to blame.

Students are to blame. It is your education; take ownership of it. One thing I've heard in the past is the accusation that "You can't teach!" Actually this is very true. I can't teach. I can't teach if a student is not prepared to learn. Teaching implies learning. No one is going to wave a magic wand over your head. You cannot learn by osmosis. I love when students let me know if they will miss a few days of school or stop by to ask how they are doing in a class. It makes my day, seriously. It is much easier to help someone when you know that that person cares and is trying. Understand that teachers have a life outside of the school...yes I know some of my students would be shocked to discover that I do have a life outside of the classroom. But in all seriousness, please respect that. Don't throw rocks at my door or egg my windows (or grafitti the school for that matter). It's not going to make you learn any better or faster and besides fixing any damage you might cause will just eat up money that would be much better spent on say classroom resources. Finally, if school is "boring", do something to make it unboring. Yes, students are to blame.

Everyone has a role to play. When we stop playing our role and start blaming others for things they can't control or to cover failure on our own part than it serves no useful purpose. In the end, who is to blame? The answer is: we all are. Now that I've tarred everyone, hopefully the "blame game" can come to an end and we can all move forward....together. The future of our children and our territory depends on this.


Anonymous said...

I agree with you 100%. Everyone needs to do their part. But how? It seems like we all depend on someone (like government) to do evrything for us. How do we change a culture from dependence to independence?

And how do we implement the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement? It won't solve everything but it is a big part of Nunavut.

And I would be curious to know what you think about bilingual education. What kind of model would you like to see?

Hope you are having a great weekend. How's the new music?

- In Iqaluit

Sparks said...

Great post.

My wife and I had been here for quite a few years before we had kids. By the time they were school-age, it was obvious that our only option was to teach them at home. It worked well for them and us and avoided any kind of conflict with the education system.

We were lucky to have been in a position to home-school.

There are plenty of young adults from the south living in Nunavut, but white kids are a rare species. As you say, middle-aged couples with children generally don't come to Nunavut (except a few to Iqaluit). I think word has got out that Nunavut is not a place for kids to grow up - more because of the social problems than the education system.

I really think that it is those social problems that are dragging education down. We need to fix that before there is any hope at all for education.

Way Way Up said...

Social problems do play a big role in education (or lack thereof) up here. I'm afraid there are no easy solutions. Part of me know this yet there are still many times when the inertia can become quite frustrating.