Legal Issues in Education

I’m finally beginning my Masters degree in Education! Instead of starting with one of the core courses, however, I decided that I would join my friend Andrea in this class instead, hoping that she could show me the ropes a little (and she has!). It is already so interesting, but all those liability issues that used to scare me when I was teaching 17 years ago are coming back — there are so many potential legal issues and instances that I’m remembering (and that make me shudder), namely:

  1. When I was a substitute teacher in AB, I was called in to be a “warm body” in a shop class. If I am remembering correctly, the teacher had an accident and did not have any lessons plans for me. He was hoping that since the students had gone over the safety and since they all knew what to do for their projects, that they could just continue with them – some of them included welding, grinding, etc. I was a little nervous about it, but I agree that I would just walk around the classroom and supervise, although I really couldn’t help with their projects other than maybe with design considerations. It was on the 2nd or 3rd day of the subbing contract, and I was speaking to a student about revising the design for his project, and another two students rushed over. One of them calmly told me that he needed to go to the office/ see the nurse, as while he was grinding some metal down, he accidentally lit his crotch on fire.  I asked his friend to go with him, and I did not hear anything further about his injuries until the next day. I spoke to the teacher over the phone the next morning and was informed that I should do some paper work and [make up some] testing from the books on his shelf, and then I could sign out a VHS machine and some videos from the library – there would be no further shop activities while I was there, and/ or until he returned.
  2. I was awarded a yr-long term contract for teaching a grade 4/5 split. Grade 5 was the year that students in Calgary AB went to an overnight camp for a week in the Kananaskis area – Camp Chief Hector.  I was very excited to do this activity with my class as I remembered doing this when I was younger, and it until they could find another substitute teacher with WHMIS certification. It was also a camp that I went to every summer and where I had created many fond memories. Initially, the Vice Principal was going to go with my class [not me], but she could not, and so at the last minute they agreed that I would go. The parents were pleased with me as their child’s teacher, and did not have a problem with me chaperoning them on this trip. The students slept in tipis with camp counsellors, and the teachers slept in a separate log cabin by the mess hall. Teachers could join any activities with their students during the day that they wished (archery, canoing, arts and crafts, navigation, swimming…). Teachers were only responsible for ensuring that their students took their medications properly, if required, and to plan an activity for their students for an hour before supper every day to allow the counsellors to meet/ plan the evening activities.  The first before-supper activity that I planned was a relay race in which the students had to put on costume clothes over their own clothes and then spin around three times, run back, and then take off the clothes so the next student in line could put them over their clothes and so on down the line…the students had a lot of fun doing this activity and while some fell down after spinning, nobody was hurt and everyone was laughing. I was called into the program coordinator’s office. They did not want me to continue with the relay race as they were afraid that someone would be hurt. (!) I was very angry and confused as the activity was on a flat field and the students seemed to have so much fun together during this activity–and in my opinion, the students would have a higher chance of hurting themselves tripping over the roots and tree branches on the paths as they ran from their tipis to the mess hall for meals or running in the dark to the campfire activities.
  3. At the same camp/ same year, I was asked by one of the other teachers, since I drove up there in my own car, if I could run out before lunch to a store to get some feminine hygiene products for her and some beef jerky for one of the other counsellors. I gladly went to pick up the items at a store a few km up the highway and came back right away — gone about 45 minutes in total. My absence was noted as another teacher was looking for me to see if I wanted to do my pre-supper activity with her group, since it was art and I was ‘artsy’. I was called into the office again later that evening, and reprimanded for leaving the site. I didn’t realize, although I understand why now, that I was not supposed to leave the site in case one of the students had an emergency. All of this information (rules and guidelines) were in a booklet that I did not actually receive as the vice principal still it–stupidly, it did not even occur to me to get the booklet from her before I left for the camp as I was familiar with the camp and remembered (from my childhood perspective) what happened at the school camps when I was there.
  4. I was teaching a 5/6 split classroom, in a higher socioeconomic community. This was the 2nd yr at this school teaching within a yr-long contract. One of my Gr. 6 students (I’ll call her “M”) was quite precocious, assertive, [appeared] confident, and came across as very ‘worldly’ to her classmates as she talked about adult topics that she saw from watching Oprah after school every day. One day the students came in from recess and they were talking about rape. The students were whispering and talking throughout the time period before lunch while they were supposed to be working quietly on their group projects. At I was walking around from group to group, I asked M what was going on, as one of the male students was getting quite upset about what she was talking about. She told me that they were talking about rape and how lots of girls in Afghanistan were beaten and raped. I tried to redirect them by telling them it was an inappropriate topic for the classroom, that they should speak to their parents about it, and that they were to be concentrating on their projects.  I felt a little guilty that I did not give them a ‘straight answer’ or allow them to work through such a frightening topic, but I am not a counsellor, so I didn’t feel that it was my place to talk about it.  I almost felt that I betrayed them by giving them such an ‘adult’ answer that seemed to patronize or condescend to them (i.e., “you’re not old enough to know about that”). That afternoon we were scheduled to continue reading and discussing “The Breadwinner” by Deborah Ellis, is an award-winning story about a girl in Afghanistan (during the reign of the Taliban) who had to dress up like a boy to help support her family while her father was in Prison. The story touched upon many controversial issues, but I was feeling confident that I knew how to address these issues as I was following some “pre-packaged” unit guidelines that were directly from the approved curriculum for Grades 5/6 language arts at the time. When we spoke about the issues after reading the chapter, M brought up again what she had heard from the Oprah show, that many girls in Afghanistan were forced to marry young, could have acid thrown on them, and were frequently raped and/ or stoned to death. I tried to quickly shut it down by telling them [again] that they should talk to their parents about some of these issues that they were hearing about. A friend of the boy who was upset at that morning put up his hand timidly and asked what rape was. I very quickly told all the students that I could not talk about that during class and that they would again need to ask their parents. Immediately after school, I let the Principal know what had transpired during class. I also phoned M’s parents and the parents of the boy who was so upset earlier to explain what had happened, but to this day, I still don’t know if what I said or did was the appropriate thing to do — I was afraid that the parents would be livid that I had allowed the students to talk about any of these topics during class, (including the Taliban and why Parvana had to wear a burqa, and whether it was good or bad – which I did not know how to speak to objectively at the time- even the unit notes for teachers were subjective) and that I’d be asked to drop the Breadwinner book/ unit altogether and I did not want to do that. And worse, I worried that the students would be confused and disturbed by what M had been telling them, and how they were integrating that information with what they were learning from the book, and I couldn’t think of anything to say to make them feel better or to understand! Further, how much did M even understand what she was saying? I did not want to “inform” her further of something she may not understand or have been able to handle!
  5. There are numerous other instances that come to mind, but I’ve got to move on…

Anyway, one of the activities for this class is a reaction paper to the following statement:

The Legal System has a direct impact on teacher instructional practice – yes or no?

I have always believed so, no question, but until I started reading for this class, I had no idea how much it actually permeates EVERYTHING! For instance, when I got into teaching, through my own experience of teachers, I suppose, I felt that my role as a teacher was very close to loco parentis to some degree, particularly at the Elementary level. I felt that I had a duty as a teacher to ensure that the curriculum was presented in a way that helped students succeed in school and in life and that, more importantly, I was there to help students find their voices, gain confidence and with any luck, facilitate their curiousity and love of learning so that they could continue to be independent and successful citizens.

Whoa! What a load of assumptions and what a recipe for liability–despite how well-meaning and naive my actions may have been at the time. My second day of practicum, one of the students’ told me [loud enough for most of the surrounding classrooms to hear] that he was going to tell his mother that I touched him (I was guiding him by the shoulder to join the reading group outside of the classroom). Many students liked me, and would give me hugs on a regular basis. And I hugged them back, and hugged them to comfort them, too. Some even found me on instant messenger (it was new then) and I had conversations with them — usually if I asked them about their homework, they’d log off or leave me alone soon enough, or I would find some excuse to log off as quickly as I could (A.W.K.W.A.R.D!). Could that have been misinterpreted? I feel like such a fool now, with the luxury of maturity and experience, but I also feel afraid to ever teach again. Could I handle the liability issues – am I too “old-school”? One of my practicum teachers told me that I was very empathetic to students and was able to really relate to them – they responded well to me because I spoke to them on their level – but it was also very difficult to maintain authority and objective distance this way, and my professionalism as a teacher could have been called to question very easily, I think.

I always feel as though my life is governed by dichotomy: the free, artistic and naive side feels that information should be shared (no copyright considerations, for instance) if it is for education, and that teaching at the elementary level is as much about instilling confidence as it is about literacy, building foundational skills, and learning to think critically (many would argue on that point that schools don’t do this enough and the mission of education in schools is only that students are supposed to learn how to follow instructions and to conform, but that’s another post…). The other side of me has grown into being over the last 15 years – the side that sees that teachers are responsible to keep students safe (something that I always just took for granted and never REALLY considered ALL the things that could go wrong), that materials come at a price, and that taxpayers are paying for a service and it is about much MUCH more than what is happening in the classroom. There’s so many considerations that I now understand as a parent, and I would like to believe that I would be a better teacher now than I was before, but I wonder what has been lost and what has been gained now that teaching has been permeated so completely by the legal system since 1867–and what has been lost and gained in my practice since I understand the legal issues and their impacts so much clearer now.

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Social Media Savvy…keeping it real.

It’s almost dark out and I’m just thinking how nice it is that we are finally getting some daylight back. I can’t stand leaving work in the dark. First of all I’m a terrible night driver – something I will NOT admit in front of my hubby because it tends to encourage him to ‘tease’ me by making some terribly disparaging comments about women drivers, and I can’t afford a divorce – and it makes me feel all sleepy and want to put on my jammies as soon as I get home.

I’ve picked up D and we are on our way to pick up K from her after-school program. I look forward to these few minutes every day to be alone with my hubby and chat about our days. Sometimes we just use the time to figure out what we’ll make for supper, and that’s good too. I never like walking into our house at the end of the day without a ‘plan’.

“Have you heard anything about this ‘Tinder’ app,” he says.

“No. What is that?” I reply.

“I don’t know. I keep seeing it all over FB and stuff. I’m downloading it now on my phone,” he continues. I can hear him going through all of the steps to ‘register’ himself and proudly he announces that he has successfully signed up and that he can start ‘tindering’ whatever that means.

About a minute passes while I am navigating through traffic on Summit and it is starting to get darker, and then he shows me a cool-looking radar/ sonar-type image radiating out from an ‘anonymous’ placeholder avatar. We both agree that it appears as though the app may be looking for something – I helpfully suggest that it is possibly looking for other Tinder users.

It just so happens that we recently saw a movie on NetFlix called “Hit and Run,” with Bradley Cooper (…who is maybe in my top 40 list of favourite actors because of Limitless, American Hustle and Silver Linings Playbook …and the Hangover movies… Incidentally, this movie is pretty funny, but if you are looking for something intellectual, this is not the movie for you). One of the characters in the movie is using a similar type of app on his phone (maybe it was even Tinder, but I wasn’t paying THAT much attention) and he finds a ‘match’ with another gay man in his area.

I gently suggest again (okay, maybe a tiny bit sardonically this time), that perhaps my darling hubby is actually ‘trolling’ for other Tinder users (unbeknownst, or purposely?) and that he may, in fact, be leading these poor strangers on. Catfish and Fatal Attraction scenarios begin to play themselves out in my head, while D continues to go through the app, and randomly, thoughtlessly, alternates between selecting a heart (for ‘like’, presumably) and an ‘x’ (for ‘pass’) on a bunch of strangers’ photos that start popping up on his screen.

We get to K’s school and when K gets in the car, Daddy excitedly tells her that he is now ‘tindering’ and that he is going to make some new friends. Clearly, he thinks this is hilarious. I thank my stars again that she is 6 and is thus, so far, spared the embarrassment of knowing that Daddy is trolling the dating sites. Lord knows she is going to have her hands full when Daddy starts ‘feeding’ her false information for her social studies assignments and about her mommy being a crack addict (yes, just for kicks – he’s already talked about these moments in gleeful anticipation – and no, I DON’T really need an intervention, unless you are talking about chocolate, coffee, or NetFlix’s original show series).

D mentions again that he can’t wait to make some new friends and chat with them, so that he can ask his new friends how long they have been ‘tindering’. He is now part of the Tinder club and he is super cool and ‘with it’. (Evidently, the fact that I have just used the words ‘super cool’ and ‘with it’ makes me, like, the anti-cool [person], I think).

Nothing else is said about Tinder for the rest of the night except the occasional lament from D that Tinder hasn’t found any ‘matches’ yet. We joke that it would be funny if our elderly neighbour popped up as a match, or a relative, or something. We joke that it would be funny, too if my picture popped up as a match, like that pina colada song. I start to find this whole thing funny, and it’s such a D thing to do! I can’t wait to ask people at work about it, and ask them what they know of this app, and hey, isn’t this a hoot? My hubby has signed up! Silly man!

The next morning, D is very excited. Tinder has found him 3 new friends (matches – both women and men)!! I’m pretty sure that D knows that this is a ‘hookup’ app and that he is just pulling my leg, but after I roll my eyes a few times because I’m pretty sure he likes it when I do that, I send him a Tinder wikipedia link anyway, just to be sure.

Shortly afterwards, he texts me to let me know that he has deleted the app entirely from his phone.

I start to feel a little bad for giving him a hard time about it and tell him that he didn’t have to delete it because of me.
Which is kind of ironic, really, since I’m his WIFE and Tinder is a hookup app…

Turns out one of his new friends, whose profile says that he was looking for a ‘Top Dude’, began to ask when he was off of work. D was getting a bit freaked out.

I told him that he’ll always be ‘top shelf’ in my eyes. 😉

I guess we are too married to be super cool and ‘with it’ when it comes to certain technology. Still though, that sonar thingy looked pretty cool.

Anyone know of any other cool apps that use that radar/sonar searchy thingy, and that would be appropriate for us way-uncool demographics? We’d like to look cool without having to actually deliver, you see…too much work, for one…

For those who have heard of Tinder but do not know what it is, check out these possibly interesting or at least slightly amusing articles:

https://www.reddit.com/r/Tinder/

http://www.mtv.com/news/2049228/tinder-love-story-strictly-sexual/

You’ve now been warned.

Also…this gal is hilarious. She is my blog hero, I think:

thebloggess.com/

Every story starts with one word…

..or one image…or maybe even a sound, which may lead to an image or a word…

Forgive me reader(s?), but I have sinned. It has been YEARS since my last entry.  I’m not sure which is worse…suffering from a lack of big ideas, or suffering from the deeply held belief that I have nothing original (or interesting, or worthwhile) to say. And for that matter, I’m not sure which of those two creative impediments are holding me back the most.  Painting is easier to some degree than writing, because it is imperative for me to express myself that way at least a few times a year. Call it a visual purge or technicolour self-love, but there it is for all the world to see. I have to admit, writing and telling my story fulfills a biological need for me just as much as the next girl, and using words is just as imperative to my psyche as painting is, but it is much less work and takes less commitment in order to delete (or burn) a paragraph or two (or ten pages, as it were) than whitewashing another canvas. Plus I’m sort of shy. (Quit snickering, dear hubby – it’s true!) Using a visual medium means that I don’t have to commit to any one meaning, and the viewer can impose a much more intelligent meaning on the work than what may have been originally intended. (Me: What do YOU think that painting of a chicken represents? ;-))

Yes, dear reader, there have been many false starts, jumbled attempts to make sense of the world, musings and depressingly meaningless (?) little observations. But finally….wait for it….

this heroine is finding her voice (or a soapbox to stand on?) and she is ready to try again. As part of an 8-week series called The You Show (http://youshow.trubox.ca/2014/12/15/you-show-episode-0/), I’ve just participated/ witnessed a wonderful presentation by Alan Levine (I keep thinking Adam Levine – any relation?) about Storymaking. And guess what? As part of the work in this initiative, they want to see the attempts! They want to hear the meta-talk, not so much the finished product! I can do that! I’m supposed to make mistakes! They may even help me be more succinct and effective in what and how I communicate as a result! (a tall order)

For better or for worse, I have now semi-committed to posting sorry little epitaphs to past life events and possibly self-absorbed (most definitely self-indulgent) broodings about my life and passions for all the world to see. Now doesn’t that make you want to follow my story?

You’re welcome.