February 26, 2013
Midterm Reflective Assignment Part 2: Question #3
Canadian schools face many issues that make it difficult for students to learn. Schooling is about more than education; it addresses many social issues. Schools have many problems that are not directly linked to teaching. One of these problems is the adolescent challenges, known as “the big four”. Today, adolescents face many challenges, many of which were not problems or major concerns in the past, and “the big four” are examples of those challenges. “The big four” include “(1) substance abuse; (2) extreme forms of peer harassment, bullying, and school violence; (3) adolescent pregnancy and STD’s; and (4) truancy and school dropout” (text, pp. 92). Another barrier occurs when culture and language is taken into consideration. From this, intelligence becomes problematic, based on how it is measured and deemed important. These problems go beyond problems with teaching; however, these are issues that need to be addressed because of the difficulty they pose in educating students.
Research has shown rising numbers of students who use alcohol or drugs. Suggestions such as education throughout all school years, teaching skills to avoid peer pressure, and joining school-based programs to community-based programs are made to help educate students about the effects of drug and alcohol use. In the past, substance abuse was dealt with in different forms. Students may have been sent home for using substances, and parental contact was made. These are still in effect today; however, a major change is the development of alternative schools. These schools help students who are “at risk” by removing them from the classroom and allowing for more time with instructors, and also placed in classes which often have reduced course loads. I think that this is a good idea, as it shows students that teachers are invested in all types of students, not just students who behave appropriately. I also suggest that schools have programs such as DARE (drug abuse resistance education), and AA involved in schools with a variety of levels. The different levels will allow subject matter to be taught throughout school years, while still keeping content age appropriate.
There is rising concern with bullying in school. Many of the students who harass other students often have personal issues that need to be addressed, such as anti-socialism, low self-esteem or confidence, depression and problems in the home life. These students avoid their own problems and bother other students to gain confidence. The problem gets increasingly worse when students become violent with each other. When this occurs, whether a school yard fight or bringing weapons to school, students no longer feel safe at school or in the school environment. Students who do not feel safe in school tend to do worse in their classes, go through a drop in self-esteem, and start the cycle over again. Other students feel that the only way to feel safe again is to switch schools, which can also be disruptive to their learning. Students who bully others are sometimes lacking parental involvement. As a solution, I suggest that teachers, especially in elementary grades, strive for more involvement that is parental. This can be done through letters home, agenda notes, or inviting parents into the classroom.
The third adolescent challenge is teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections. Teens are becoming sexually active at increasingly lower ages, and as such, need to learn about sexual health and education at younger ages. These youth are encountering puberty at younger ages, and need to be informed of the changes that occur. Students need to be aware of contraceptives, proper usage, and obtainment of them. Students who do not use contraceptives are shown to become more at risk for developing a sexually transmitted infection, or becoming pregnant. These have effects on the social aspect of teen’s lives. There are negative outcomes for these students, as it is still not socially acceptable in our society to acquire an STI or have a teen pregnancy. The solution to this problem is informing students about sexual health and education at younger ages, and providing assistance to obtaining contraceptives. It is wise to have a specialized group, such as Planned Parenthood, to come into schools and do presentations on these topics.
The last of the “big four” is truancy and school dropout. A truant is someone who intentionally misses school, despite that school is mandatory. When a student misses too many classes, it can become difficult for him or her to catch up. This makes the student discouraged, and thus the student falls further behind. Students who drop out of school do not have the education requirements to get into post-secondary education, which in turn limits the career options available. Furthermore, the young person will become more likely to be stuck in a low paying job, and become more likely to break other social norms, such as substance abuse. One solution, although hard to administer, is to get the students involved in their classwork. When the student becomes engaged, he or she is less likely to miss school because the topic is of interest to him or her. Another solution is to place the student in an alternative school, where he or she can have more resources available to aid in learning.
Another problem in education has to do with culture and language. One’s culture affects how one determines what is important to learn, and what makes one intelligent. Canada is multicultural, and as such, we have a clash of ideas about intelligence. The intelligence tests reflect particular groups’ ideas of what knowledge is. What European-Canadian descendants think is important for education is not the same as that of Aboriginal, African, or Asian peoples. It becomes more complicated when a person of another culture who speaks another language moves to Canada, and more so if the person is not fluent in their first language. Students may have trouble in school because they do not understand the syntax or semantics of the English language. However, research has shown that developing the native language can help to learn ESL. One suggestion I have is that schools should be more involved in teaching culture to immigrants, as this can help to develop language. It would also help to show the types of knowledge that we consider to make a person intelligent and create an equal learning ground for immigrant students.
Canadian schools face many issues that need to be addressed to help students learn. Today, adolescents face many challenges, and there needs to be more education about the social implications of these challenges and strategies to avoid being in at-risk situations. Language and culture create barriers for immigrants to know what our ideas of intelligence and knowledge are. By addressing these issues, teachers can help to inform students of at-risk behaviours, and keep students in the classroom, and therefore eliminating social problems.