A day to remember

I just wanted to share about the fantastic day I had yesterday. It was Alternative Curriculum Day and each of the years were spending there day doing something different than they normally would. My year sevens were working on Be The Best You Can Be. This included who or what inspired them. I suggested showing them these videos, take a peak! They are absolutely brilliant!

I just absolutely love the girl’s enthusiasm for life. I think it’s perfect for anyone who needs a little pick me up. It really reminds me of The Help. The woman tells the little girl everyday “You is kind, you is smart, you is important”. It’s about believing in yourself and knowing you are unique. I asked the students to reflect silently about what you can tell yourself everyday to remind yourself of how special you are. Their challenge: Tell yourself positive things for one week and let us the results.

I asked the students, what is one thing you would do to make the world a better place? If you don’t think you can make the world a better place, why not? Their challenge: Smile at least ten people today when you are walking by. This can be a classmate, a teacher, a student in the halls, a stranger. What happens when you smile at them? Was it awkward at the beginning? Did it stay awkward? I challenge all of you to this:) Let’s make the world a better place!

How inspiring!

That was only a portion of my fantastic day. The best part was that I was only going to use it for my own 25 students but other teachers wanted to use it as well. Which means I had the opportunity to share what inspires me or my lesson with hundreds of students!

My next part that made my day so awesome was the fact I had the opportunity to teach Year 9 students about Health. You know me and my passion for Health Education. I used the idea of holistic health and encouraged them to think about how they can improve their own health, not just eating healthy and being physically active but how they could improve their emotional, mental and spiritual health.

Now for the cherry on top of my already superb day, I received a very thoughtful gift from a girls group I work with. It was a very cute union jack note book filled with messages from the girls and staff. One of the girls left me a beautiful message saying “Janelle, you are a really lovely woman and I am lucky to have met you! I am going to miss you”. They use my first name because we want the students to feel safe, secure and know that our group discussions are confidential.  I have the best students I think:)

I am absolutely blessed!

-J

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Sex and relationships education, who is accountable?

Once again, the battle about Sex Ed! Once again another of my rants! Sex Ed falls under the category of PSHE Personal Social and Health Education. The topics range from road safety to bullying to drugs to sex (sorry no rock and roll) and to career choices, etc. This subject is covered 3 times in a 15 day schedule. Therefore 3 hours every 3 weeks of school. Is that enough for students? My answer is no. Obviously because I’m a health teacher and I believe good health is the foundation to all learning. Now, the worst part about all of that is that of course it is OK if other events get scheduled into that time, or hey, let’s just show a video during that time. How disappointing is that for me you ask? SO disappointing! I was even asked at one point if health education taught aromatherapy. Really? Is it that big of a joke? Please share your thoughts! Anyways, getting back on topic here. PSHE is not a course which is evaluated. There is no  GCSE exam for this course, which of course makes me wonder how are students being assessed when it comes to health education. There is a “progress report”, that is a wonderful start but then that leads into my next issue. How can we ensure these progress reports are correct then. Some teachers really struggle teaching Health eg Sex ed and rightfully so. I would struggle teaching Math I’m sure! Who is accountable for their learning then? Is it the teachers, the school, or the council? How well is this being taught? My main concern in general with Health Ed is that students aren’t receiving this education. What I plan to do next is look at stats and see what really is needed. In my opinion, stats in a sense really show where the schools are failing. But of course students make their own decisions but it is crucial that they have received a sufficient amount of education to be able to make educated decisions.

Can’t wait to hear your feedback!

-J

Is Religious Education a touchy subject?

I began thinking that Religious Education (RE) was a touchy subject, not touchy in the way of emotionally draining for students but touchy in the way of the possibility of offending students. I could not be happier observing some RE lessons in this school. I attended a Catholic high school and therefore I recieved knowledge about the Catholic religion. Sure that would have been just fine if I practiced the Catholic faith but I don’t. I remember coming home from school and my mother often asking me if I was included in the assembly or whatever it was that day. I never was excluded by any means but I guess you couldn’t say I was included either. It is not that I’m against the Catholic faith in any way but as a child growing up and learning about themselves it gets a bit hard deciding what I am doing for me and what I am doing because I have been told. Anyways, back to RE here. 60% is focused on the Christian Education because that is state legislation, and the other 40% is world religions. I expected the staff to teach Christianity in a way that was personal and teach the other religions in a factual knowledge based way. I was extremely wrong, the woman I am working with is absolutely fantastic. She is so objective and teaches everything flawlessly. She is so knowledgeable about any religion and it makes me feel at ease knowing that the students feel comfortable and included in her classes.  Now, I am thinking about my Health major, what has this taught me about teaching the spiritual aspect of Health? I believe it has taught me that religion is simply a set of beliefs and values. Of course it is much more than that but in the context of education it should ensure students are tolerant and accepting of all religions. It is quite impressive how comfortable they are with religion and teaching it effectively. What I really appreciate is how engaged students are and how they are already ready to ask questions and inquire about quite complex topics. I am really excited when I am back in Canada to spend more time learning about Aboriginal spirituality and traditions, especially learning about them with elders and how to use it in a appropriate way in my own classroom.

-J

Success criteria revealed

I have never been to a school that focuses so much on student voice. It is absolutely fantastic. The conversation is always about student engagement and involvement. Something that seems to be brought up often is success criteria. In my assessment and evaluation class we discussed this several times but I didn’t think it would be a realistic and  tangible way of doing things. I have been proved wrong. In class I envisioned it as the teacher standing at the front and physically typing success criteria onto the computer as the students told her. So far I can see that it really is more of a conversation discussing student goals and what the students really need to get out of this assignment. Talk about making education relevant, outstanding! I am already feeling more comfortable in this area and it can only get better!

-J

People are resources too!

I had a very insightful conversation with a Pastoral Support staff here at the school. We discussed mostly some challenges along with their role at the school. Their role is working with vulnerable students and a lot of multi angency work. As a whole, the challenges would be quite similiar and the biggest would be funding. One challenge I assumed they would have is time, but they said time really isn’t a challenge at this point. The school has an amazing amount of support. There are 2 people that do multi agency work, while 3 others also work with students. Which means that’s a total of 5 staff not including staff for students with special needs. The school is quite large like almost 1200 students but they seem not to be spread as thin as they would be in Canada. One of their big focuses at the school is on restorative justice to ensure all situations are resolved correctly. Even though they may not be spread too thin here at the school, other agencies they work with (eg police, healthcare, council, SW) are quite busy which makes communication difficult at times. It would be absolutely amazing if schools in SK could have that high of a staff/student ratio especially in communities or schools that have a large number of at risk or vulnerable students. Regardless, it’s the quality and not quantity of staff that will make the biggest difference in the well being of students.

-J

Availability of health programs for students *UPDATED*..my wish.

I am very pleased that I have been asked to be involved with one of the health programs offered here. The program focuses on healthy eating along with physical activity. The idea is to get youth engaged with making healthy lifestyle choices. This can be seen in so many ways. This program will focus on how youth can choose healthy choices for any meal of the day, teaching them about the Eat Well Plate and making sure they understand how to read labels on food. When it comes to physical activity, we want to discuss what are the barriers that come along with this and how can they be active, inside or outside of school. There will be a girls  group and a boys group. Both with students in Year 8. I will update after the completion of the program.

-J

****UPDATE****

After the full completion of the program I think it went quite well. Not only was it very organized but the students absolutely loved it. One challenge was behaviour. Since the students were outside of lessons they believed it was OK to act horribly. I believe that was easily fixed somedays but other days I think some students should have been asked to leave the program since they were being incredibly distracting to others. Of course speaking about eating healthy and being physically active can be an emotional topic for some students, some days were harder then others. I found it quite difficult to listen to a young girl express such feelings of sadness. She said things such as “Why can’t I look like the other girls?” “Why am I so fat?” “I eat well, what am I doing wrong?”. I think our society really is failing our youth if they have such horrible thoughts about themselves. Why is it our media needs to show thin, tall, blondes? Why is it these children are so hurt  at such a young age? Our education system (or any education system) should be teaching youth they are fantastic the way they are. Of course there are a few exceptions such as youth that are unhealthy and really need to make a change. But as a whole, students need to know they are valued and they are beautiful. That is what I wish all teachers could say to their students with genuine interest in their wellbeing.

Here are two fantastic links that were used during the program:

Eatwell Plate

Food a Fact of Life

-J

Ready to get started!

During my first week here at a Secondary school in the UK I am finding it quite difficult to understand a lot of their jargon. Who am I kidding? I am finding it quite difficult to understand most of their jargon! Thankfully I am living with another teacher from the school who is able to answer all my ‘stupid’ questions. I say stupid because it is the type of questions people don’t immediately think will be asked such as what does PPA, SEN, PLP, Jenson stand for because the terms are so regular for them. When I decided to come here I imagined the language at school easy to understand. I assumed our jargon would be a lot more similiar than it really was. Thinking back I really have no idea why I thought that. The first few inset days simply spoke about Ofsted reports and events that occured over the summer. In my EIPC class we discussed jargon and using easy to understand words or at least words that haven’t been shortened and that became quite relevant for me during this experience. I didn’t expect myself to be in a situation where I am in a somewhat similiar environemnt with others speaking this educational language I didn’t understand. Not only that but it’s all the little things that are daunting. It’s hard to get comfortable in a new school when you are constantly thinking “is this ok to do in this context?”, “will I be offending anyone?” A simply example of that would be coughing during a presentation, is it socially acceptable here to just stand up and find myself a glass of water? As a whole, the school seems quite big and easy to get lost. I assume this will change overtime.

Thanks for being a part of my journey and I will continue to update.

-J