It is tempting to list all of the things that are wrong or hard to accomplish in education today. Clearly, some of our critics like to do this for us. They view education's glass as half empty. Instead, we must build on all that is positive in our schools, eschew the finger-pointing and blame game that too often characterizes our present day society and focus on the rewards and pleasures that come from doing this most important work with today's children - tomorrow's adults.
Our recent meeting with the new Minister of Education, Karen Casey, along with her Deputy Minister, Dennis Cochrane, was one of those special occasions when positivity was the central theme between the Board and the Department of Education. We had an opportunity to relate the success which we have experienced over the years and the concerns that we have in respect to those goals that we wish to achieve. The Honourable Karen Casey listed three important goals that she wishes to accomplish in her tenure as Minister of Education. She would dearly like to be able to invite those people, who were unable to get teaching positions in the past, to come back home and enjoy the benefits of returning to Nova Scotia. She also indicated that she would be monitoring carefully the practice of inclusion within our regional boards in expectation that improvements can be made. Lastly, Ms. Casey has committed herself and the Department of Education to the task of reviewing 'Teacher Certification' in all of its aspects. Again, a very worthwhile meeting and a good start to a valuable relationship with the new Minister of Education.
The Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board, along with the Cape Breton University, had a very interesting meeting with the sitting M.L.A.'s for Cape Breton. Six of the nine M.L.A.'s were in attendance: Manning MacDonald; Keith Bain; Alfie MacLeod; Dave Wilson; Frank Corbett & Gordie Gosse. President, Dr. John Harker; Vice-President, Dr. Tony Secco; Dr. Jane Lewis and Colleen Moore-Hayes were in attendance for the Cape Breton University. Representing the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board were: Superintendent, Ed Davis; Board Chair, Darlene Morrison; Director of Human Resource Services, Beth MacIsaac and Director of Programs & Student Services, John Astephen. Three M.L.A.'s gave their regrets: Premier Rodney MacDonald, Cecil Clarke and Michael Sampson. Jim Burton, Regional Education Officer, was in attendance. The meeting was a roundtable discussion on the rationalization of an on-island B.Ed Program as well as a Master's Program to be granted to the Cape Breton University. The thirty year partnership between Cape Breton University and the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board had once again implored the M.L.A.'s to exert their influence through their different parties to have the power that brings about this long awaited goal. The action plan that was agreed on was to have a meeting scheduled with Premier Rodney MacDonald and his Minister of Education with the M.L.A.'s of Cape Breton and the representatives from Cape Breton University and the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board. Darlene Morrison, Board Chair, concluded the meeting with a plea that we all work together to get this most important project off the ground.
I have taken the last number of weeks putting together my goals and objectives for the school year, 2006-2007. I have elected to make reference to all of the items that this Board holds as its mandate for the people of our Cape Breton-Victoria communities. Along with some personal objectives, I have listed the overall objectives of our: Strategic Plan, Business Plan, Priorities of the Department of Education, Goals of the Lead & Achieve Priorities of the Nova Scotia School Boards Association and special concerns of the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board. The people of Cape Breton-Victoria are very much a voice in all of these goals through their input from: School Advisory Councils, Home & School, communities within our regional board and the staff and students of the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board.
Keeping with the continuation of my theme for parents and students, my objective tonight is to discuss the very topical subject of homework and your child.
Homework - Too Much Too Little
There are at least two views on the subject of homework. Parents are never sure that there is enough of it. Students feel that even a little is too much. Schools generally attempt a comprise on these two stands. In many schools, the amount and type of homework is left to the discretion of the individual teacher.
Parents often presume that students don't have enough time at school to complete all of their assignments. Homework helps parents keep in touch with what their children are learning in school. Yet, due to the diversity or complexity of the subjects their children may be studying, parents may sometimes feel intimidated by homework when it does arrive at home. The resolution of this quandary lies in making homework a topic for parent-teacher-administration discussion.
The purpose of homework should be to practice previously taught material, not to introduce new material. Teacher's management of time in the classroom can eliminate much homework by providing students an opportunity to do this practice and application in school, where teachers and materials are readily available. Secondly, homework allows students to become independent. Teachers with the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board have taken the time to engage students in the importance of homework. Students are encouraged to learn to organize their time, work independently and more efficiently. These study habits should remain with the student throughout high school and into post secondary institutions.
Some students need more practice in particular skills. Some assignments or projects require longer preparation, which result in homework. However, if students seem exceedingly burdened - or never have any kind of homework - parents have reason to be sceptical. If homework is used as punishment or appears consistently to be the same for every student (two things educators frown upon), parents ought to find out why.
Some teachers and parents will still confuse quality with quantity. It is possible to over practice or to be bogged down in trivial, Abusy work@ assignments. We can all recall having such assignments when we were students.
It should be remembered that school is hard work. A student who tackles two or three hours of homework every night is consistently putting in eight-hour days. Here are some ways to help your children:
- provide a place for children to read and study;
- limit the television or its sound level at least;
- be a facilitator in their learning schedule time. Say, for instance, "Do you want to study before dinner and then a suggested activity for 7:30";
- Encourage them to work for an interval, take a break, and then go back to it;
- Ask about their assignments - discussion reinforces learning;
- Schedule trips to the public library;
- Encourage their independent reading; and,
- Set an example by continuing to study and learn yourself.
Homework: It is not an 'either-or' proposition. Somewhere there is a happy medium and parents have an obligation to be partners in deciding with teachers where that point rests. One thing is for sure: Homework has not yet gone out of style.
At a time when schools are pressured to improve, homework should not be allowed to persist as a relic of the past. There must be a deliberate, thoughtful decision about the purposes of homework and school sites must ensure those purposes are fulfilled in a way that best serves the educational needs of students.
Remember, there are generally four types of homework: preparation, practice, extension and creativity:
1. Preparation: Helps students to inform themselves about the next day's lesson;
2. Practice: Provides the students with the needed review and reinforcement about materials presented in a previous lesson;
3. Extension: Guides students so they expand on concepts that were taught in class; and,
4. Creativity: Includes analysis, synthesis and evaluation. This type of homework is innovative and resourceful. Students come up with their own ideas related to a class topic and share that with the class.
Madame Chair, again I refer you and the Board to the Superintendent's Memo section attached as well as the reports from school sites on the celebrations and awards that have been experienced by their students and staff.