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The Never Ending Educational Debate
Ontario vs. New York State - Nobody Should Be Bragging
Just a few things to share with regard to the educational institutions in both Ontario and New York State…
I occasionally hear people on either side of the border comment negatively on the other, but their information is somewhat faulty. As both a parent and a teacher who has had extensive experience in both systems, I wanted to set a few things straight. And by the way, for the record, neither system should be bragging, much less pointing the finger…
Let us start with the highlights of the New York State system. The recent Race to the Top initiatives have created mass paranoia in the form of shockwaves and no one is more negatively impacted than our students. We are in such a race to prove that we can climb to the academic ‘top’ and effectively compete with the likes of other more accomplished educational institutions of the world, that we are losing sight of the most important point: the health and well-being of the whole child. We are cutting out daily recess at an alarming rate! It is no longer mandatory, but up to the discretion of the classroom teacher! In many districts, physical education classes at the elementary age are only offered once or twice a week! So, even though we all know physiologically, emotionally and socially, elementary aged school children NEED physical exercise to maintain a healthy body, mind and soul, we are willing to sacrifice this, in order to RACE to that top – ironically, when children are void of meaningful physical exercise, they will not climb your academic ladder at any great speed or agility L We have become an institution desperate to prove ourselves and have fallen back to the penal system of keeping our children stuck behind their desks for 40 minute blocks, scolding them for turning to the left or the right or daring to stand up to grab a tissue. They are mute soldiers in the hallways and this is what we reward… I’m terribly sad about this state of affairs and applaud teachers who never succumb to the ‘powers that be’ initiatives, but keep the focus on the whole child and remember why they teach in the first place.
Some positives about the NYS educational institutions that our friends north of the border may not realize – we offer hot and cold meals in school cafeterias in every single elementary, middle and high school throughout the state. The meals have become a LOT more health conscious, have significantly reduced the salt and sugar intake and provide fruits and/or veggies with every meal. Free and reduced prices are available for those who are in need. From PreK-12th grade, we have specialized teachers for art, music, physical education and technology. We have a library media specialist and a registered NURSE in every school! In many elementary, middle and high schools, we not only have a pool, but swim class in addition to physical education. Teaching quality? There are amazing teachers whom I am so very proud and honored to know and … ummm… not-so-much, and I’ll leave it at that. So, when I hear folks north of the border say that all of the NYS educational money goes to war and politics, they may want to rethink that opinion. Although there are a lot of shortcomings south of the border, there is also a lot of positives. Now let’s turn to our northern neighbors…
Cafeterias in elementary schools, serving hot and cold meals daily? Free and reduced breakfasts and lunches for those in need? I think not! Elementary schools eat their bagged lunches at their desks, in their classrooms! Specialized teachers for art, music, physical education, technology? Heck no! At the elementary level, the general classroom teacher is expected to be the specialist in all these subjects! We are also expected to be experts in the medical field – if a child announces he/she feels sick, it is up to the teacher’s discretion to determine if his or her complaint is justified or not and make the decision to send him or her to the office to phone home. No, they cannot go to the school nurse. We haven’t had school nurses in our system for a very, very long time. Oh and by the way, there are no telephones in the elementary classrooms. I failed to mention that in NYS, every single classroom is furnished with telephones so the teacher and student has access to staff throughout the school and to people in the outside world. In Ontario, we must go to the main office or other areas within the school for such a privilege. And again, the quality of teaching? There are those whom I would be so proud to call my respected colleagues in the field and other whom…….ummmhhh…. not-so-much. We do offer very similar subjects and parallel New York State's ideals in many ways. I truly haven't seen any significant difference with regard to educational philosophies and trends.
There is so much more I could say pro and con on both sides of the border but the bottom line is this: Please do not criticize either system, giving the impression that yours is in anyway superior. They are both lacking considerably and in my opinion, neither system has anything to truly brag about. Instead, spend your time lobbying your respective governments to cut out the nonsensical initiatives and focus on what really matters – the WHOLE child – body, mind and soul.
And that is why I choose to homeschool!
Peace to ALL!