Marc Hodgkinson's Blog can be found at The Fifty-Twenty Blog
Last spring, the Ontario Government released the details of the updated Health and Physical Education Curriculum. However, it was quickly branded the “New Sex Ed” curriculum by both detractors and defenders. Controversy and commentary began immediately, and I was soon hearing and reading everything from legitimate, well-considered critique to absurd criticism and outlandish generalities.
Within the month I was fielding questions from parents, friends and intrigued strangers at social gatherings. It was a political hot-potato and teachers were often thrust into the spotlight as instant authorities. The big questions (other than the occasional “Is it true that…?” inquiries) seemed to be “Did I agree with it?” and “How was I going to implement it?”
At that time, I was safe. I was far too busy with the current school year and the existing health curriculum - so I didn’t have to comment. My grade 4 students were dealing with the dangers of smoking - creating skits about “saying no” and manufacturing warning labels with Google Draw - safe from the storm of controversy in our little harbour of ignorance.
I did, however, remind any inquisitor that the classroom teacher remained an important human factor standing between the specific expectations of the curriculum and the delivery of that information to the student. He or she is the filter who will make a sincere, prudent and professional effort to meet the expectations of as many people as possible. It was a good sentence and it afforded me many thoughtful nods of approval. At the least, it was long enough for me have time to change the topic - “So, how about those Jays?”
After reading it for the first time...I remarked that it didn't seem markedly different from the curriculum I remembered when I last taught Grade 5 & 6. Looking back at the 1998 document - I was correct.
Regardless, I typed the following in my lesson plan notes to use as my anchor moving forward...
“So, how do I professionally approach this curriculum in a way that respects the importance of these concepts?
How do I ensure that students are prepared for the changes they will undergo while also respecting their innocence?
Concurrently, how do I respect the multiple values of each family and culture in my school community?”
I know I echo the sentiment of many educators when I say - We agree - we don't relish the idea of teaching the "prickly-topics". We would far prefer that the family navigate the edges, angles and corners of human growth and sexuality. In fact, we would rather focus on many of the more conventional topics and leave much of the health curriculum to parents - including dental hygiene, healthy eating & internet safety. It would certainly free up a lot more time for things like coding, writing, and problem solving.
However, the prickly topics are unavoidable because we should all be in the business of making informed thinkers. We all want to be difference makers and provide our young charges with the important information they need to protect them from as many avoidable pitfalls as possible. The question seems to remain - Who needs the information and when do they need it? Additionally, if my students are not able to make healthy choices with their bodies, diet, dental hygiene or internet interactions - things like coding, writing and problem solving become a minor concern.
At this time, I need to take a necessary pause and turn my attention to something else - perhaps the recently adapted Social Studies curriculum. A fall election is looming and I need to be prepared to maximize that learning experience. Hopefully, someone much smarter than I will provide me with the ideal approach to this slippery slope. Volunteers?
NOTE: This is a repost of a blog, originally published through Blogger on August 5, 2015
I am finally going to “post” a blog today. I'm emphasizing the word “post” because I have written, tinkered-with, debated and deleted many over the past five years. This will be the first one I have officially released into the wild.
This reticence was not due to apprehension about the content, but a self-imposed hesitation about the platform and presentation. Much like choosing Friday night entertainment on Netflix - the delay was a product of the "Tyranny of Choice. What do I choose? What should it look like? What will be a great title? Is this good enough?
My routine, for many years, has been the same. I start, or rediscover, an account on a platform (WordPress, Blogger, etc) and then begin to build the perfect blog environment. I select titles and templates and carefully craft a catchy URL address. I dutifully search YouTube videos to provide me with step-by-step tutorials. Simply put, I exhaust my enthusiasm in the minutia.
Invariably, I would get as far as composing a large, unedited chunk of my first post when distraction would set in...life, circumstance, uncertainty, a hockey game on TV. I would convince myself that I needed time to reflect and I would leave the post unfinished.
Prior to my return, I would learn of a new platform (Edublogs, SquareSpace) - I have stale accounts on them all - and I would begin the process anew. Today, I have decided that this must end.
Here is what I have learned about getting an education blog started. (And this will be short and simple because of #3)
With that said - here goes nothing.
NOTE: Originally posted on Blogger on August 5, 2015
In my first post "The Tyranny of Choice" I talked about my struggle to find the perfect title, or URL, for my education blog. I have tinkered with many - only to create a long and unnecessary delay in my efforts.
I guess I spent much of my thought on my audience. After all, it is an important lesson I teach to my students when they write. Should I be writing a blog that has a title that will attract other educators? colleagues? parents? students? How can I welcome anyone on this personal and professional journey?
How clever should my title be? I once named a Fantasy Baseball team the "Hurley Buehrles" - my punny-play on the last name of a Toronto Blue Jays’ pitcher. I was chuffed by my wittiness until it became increasingly clear that the team I had selected did not deserve a clever moniker. I realized again, it's not the name, it’s the content that matters.
This summer, as I embarked, again, on my quest to create an active blog, my struggles began anew. However, this time, the mental gymnastics were short and an ideal name revealed itself to me quite quickly. I'd love to say that, like Chris Cornell's "Audioslave", it came to me in a “shaman-like vision”, but that would be embellishing the mundane. I thought of it while walking to school one morning.
This summer, I turned 50 and 2005 also marks my 20th year as an educator. (I am counting my year of Teacher’s College). The 50/20 Blog was born. To use a golf analogy, I am (without a doubt) on the “back 9” of this beautiful and challenging course - and I want to finish strong. This blog can serve to mark this occasion and also act as a scorecard for my journey.
Like most veteran educators, I would not dare suggest I scored below par on the first nine. I think I shot well... I certainly learned from my mistakes and managed to pull myself out of a number of hazards. By its very nature, this is a profession that propels us forward and makes us adapt and change to the landscape. You can’t reflect on mistakes and missteps. You can’t fret over missed opportunities and there are no mulligans. You simply must move forward. As Stephen Stills once wrote…
“Don’t let the past remind you of what you are not now.”
So, I move forward to the next tee, eager to begin another year. I am now overwhelmed with the task of finding the best way to get everything in motion with my new class - Edmodo, The Global Read Aloud, Dot Day, Tween Tribune, Class Dojo, Thrively, Edmettle, Kidblogs, NoRedInk, Hank Zipzer and more. There is a Federal election in October and that is a teaching opportunity that can't be missed. There will be successes and casualties on the way. I have changed grades and I am embarking on a curriculum I haven’t looked at in some time. I also have to navigate a new Ontario Health curriculum that attracts both proponents & detractors - but - a lot more people like me, who are not sure how to feel about it yet. I think I'll write about that next.
Regardless, the 50/20 begins. I welcome anyone to join me on this leg of the journey.