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Teacher Newsmagazine Volume 16, Number 5, April 2004

Readers write

Need a union in Austin

I am a Vancouver teacher on a leave currently living and working in Austin, Texas, where there isn’t even a hint of a union to protect workers! I am very disappointed in that. Furthermore, the teachers believe whatever people tell them (i.e., the principals, government, etc.), and they just do it, whether they believe in it or not.

I would like to receive Teacher from the BCTF while I’m on leave; maybe I can have some influence on somebody down here.

Tamara Grottker
Austin, Texas

Great ideas in teacher tips

I was just rereading the Teacher, Jan./Feb. 2004, and decided that I really needed to let Steve Naylor know that his article, "Managing your marking load," in the "Teachers’ tips" is excellent; right on the money, so to speak, in every way. I hope that it is included in any workshop given for new teachers.

I retired in June 2002, and although I used many of his ideas while I was teaching, I saw some of Naylor’s that had me thinking Why didn’t I do that? Great ideas!

Thanks very much.

Karen Hales

Don’t forget teacher-librarians

Regarding the article in "Teachers’ tips," (Jan./Feb. 2004) "Components of an excellent reading program," the author, Steve Naylor, passes on some excellent ways classroom teachers can enhance student reading. Unfortunately, there is a glaring omission. Nowhere do I see mention of any collaboration with the teacher-librarian, surely one of the most important components of a school reading program.

The teacher-librarian has a vital role to play in all aspects of learning. Not to collaborate with the teacher-librarian in planning curriculum delivery, encouraging students to use library resources, and developing readers is to deprive the students of an important learning partner. Study after study has shown that taking advantage of teacher-librarians and libraries makes a significant contribution to student marks.

Daryl Sturdy
Retired teacher-librarian Vancouver

Extra-currular important

One thing that I have never seen written about in your newsmagazine is the unequal amount of time that various teachers put into the "extras" in their schools. If you believe that the school you are teaching in is an educational community, then you would agree that there is more to a school than what just goes on in the classroom.

There are clubs, sports, school dances, fundraisers, field trips, and so on. Those extra-curricular events make a school come alive, and in many cases they are what students remember many years down the road.

However, only a minority of teachers are involved in helping out with those activities. A tremendous number of teachers do little toward the extra-curricular events in their schools. Granted, it is not part of our job description. In fact the BCTF does not really believe that all that volunteer work should be any part of our job. But, it is important to school life. In the private school system, all teachers do a share of the extra-curricular. Why not in the public schools?

Wayne Loutet
Cowichan Valley

Clark’s priorities threaten children

The children of this province are in more jeopardy than ever with the movement of Christy Clark from the Ministry of Education to the Ministry of Children and Family Development! Not that teachers are sad to see her go after two years of attempting to dismantle what was once considered a world-class education system. But now, in addition to decimating their education, she’s been put in a position of affecting (or rather, further harming) those who are most vulnerable in our society, and in a more all-encompassing and comprehensive manner.

Clark said, "my priorities are priorities I will bring with me from education." Ask any educator in B.C. and you’ll hear this means drastic underfunding, reduced services, higher child/adult ratios, attacking the professionalism and integrity of those who work with children, and attempting to crush their unions.

If she’s going to "stick to her knitting" as she so sinisterly puts it, those of us who truly advocate for children wish she would stay home and put her efforts into a sweater, rather than continuing to unravel the decades of nurturing, hard work, and high standards that teachers, social workers, early childhood educators, and the like have put into our once quality education and social service programs of this province.

My heartfelt condolences go to all those affected by the future decisions of Clark’s ministry! And so does a plea to be vigilant in your advocacy and protection of our province’s most precious resource—our children!

Tina Anderson

Study buddy volunteers needed

Big Sisters of BC Lower Mainland is seeking volunteers with teaching or formal tutoring experience to participate in the Big Sisters Study Buddy Program for one hour a week for a minimum of three months. The study-buddy program matches little sisters, ages 7—17, with volunteer tutors who assist them with their schoolwork and help them set realistic and appropriate educational goals.

If you are an adult woman with teaching/tutoring experience or a university student working on an education degree, or a retired teacher who is willing to commit an hour a week for three months, please contact Carolyn Herger at 604-873-4525, local 304, or cherger@bigsisters.bc.ca.

Cuban teacher wants to correspond

I am an English teacher in La Habana teaching integrated English practice (reading and writing) for two years in the Pedagogical High Institute, Ruben Martinez Villena, in Havana countryside. Schools like this are frequently seen in Cuba’s country towns; students from those municipalities and from the cities attend. The students spend a week or so receiving the content (subjects) of the grade to which they belong. They have five or six 45-minute periods during the morning or afternoon, and in the other session they work, raising crops.

An example of Canada–Cuba co-operation is the group of teachers who come to our schools every summer to offer speeches, give assistance (materials, courses, etc.). I am interested in sharing any kind of professional or non-professional correspondence with teachers in B.C. My name is Orlando Agramonte Pedroso, 84 st 10321, Güira de Mellenn, La Habana, Cuba.

Fraser Institute undermines public education

Fraser Institute’s Peter Cowley’s self-made work project, based on a preselected and predetermined analysis of Grade 12 provincial exam results, is a deliberate attempt to undermine public confidence in public education.

I could predict what Cowley’s rankings would be as he ignores the socio-economic/ethnic background of the students.

A long time ago, in the early 1970s, in a project that the BCTF called Action Elementary, we tried to prove that the critical years of education are ages five to nine. One of my action schools was the elementary school in Masset, where we tried to prove the necessity of a breakfast program for Aboriginal children and the many poor Caucasian children who had never left the Queen Charlotte Islands. Unfortunately, the program died. We know where George M. Dawson Secondary School, in Masset, will be in the rankings.

I am truly sorry that Ministry of Education Grade 12 exam statistics are keeping Cowley from seeing the larger implications.

John Church

Beware: Chicken: A Class Act video

Recently I previewed Chicken A Class Act video provided free by Chicken Farmers of Canada to schools in our district.

Initially, I was relieved to learn that no hormones are given to Canadian chickens and that chickens roam "free" in barns. However, I remembered an article I’d saved from The Vancouver Sun, February 20, 2004, regarding the Avian flu outbreak, that clearly highlighted the video’s omissions.

When the video said chickens roam "free" in barns, it was referring to broiler chickens only and certainly didn’t tell us that an average of 80,000 chickens live on top of one another in each barn. Chickens bred for laying are locked in crowded cages where, with lack of room to move, their claws grow around the wire, trapping them completely. Nor did the video tell us that lights are left on 23 hours a day so the chickens lay more eggs.

It’s no wonder that under such crowded conditions and no sleep, commercial chickens suffer from blindness, kidney damage, vitamin deficiency, retarded growth, eye damage, brain damage, internal bleeding, fragile bones, malformed backbones, twisted necks, chicken cancer, cage-layer fatigue, bone and muscle weakness, and deformed beaks and joints.

The video assured us that chicken is nutritious, making no mention of the correlation between our daily intake of meat and osteoporosis, kidney stones, colon cancer, breast cancer, prostate cancer, iron deficiency, and high cholesterol.

In response to promotions of products that inflict cruelty to animals and unhealthy diets, I intend holding a "Chicken Day" so that children compare the video with the newspaper article mentioned and see why greedy farmers sent us their free video.

Mallee Stanley

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