Tag Archives: high school

Sick days and supply teachers: the inconvenient truth

Source: The New Yorker (www.condenaststore.com)

There’s been a lot in the press lately about teachers and sick days. I’m opinionated on this topic, but today I want to write about (high-school) students and supply teachers from the point of view of a parent (and student).

I had a 40 minute drive to a music lesson with my son who is just finishing up Grade 12. We have a pretty honest relationship about school issues, and he tells me when he’s skipping a class and why. I ignore the automated calls from the TDSB as I typically know when he has skipped and support him.

Here’s the thing: based on his report, students only actually learn anything 1 time out of 10 when there is a supply teacher, and that is typically when the supply teacher is for a math class and has math credentials (and the teacher has left a lesson plan.) Much more typically, the supply is tasked with the job of keeping order in the classroom for the 76 minute class (in my son’s non-semestered, eight-classes-every-two-days school). That’s 76 minutes the students sit around doing homework, playing on their smartphones, chatting with their friends, watching a movie (typically not related to curriculum) or having a nap. So not only are teachers being paid for this sick day, but supply teachers are being paid for babysitting teenagers and there is not actually any learning going on. As a taxpayer, this incenses me. As a parent, I say “C’mon home.”

This gets even more annoying at the end of the year:

Right now, they’re in “summatives.” This is a period of roughly a month when major projects are due, final performances are done, and exams are written. All of my son’s summatives are finished except for his math exam which is the week after next. So, what is the incentive to go to ANY classes (other than math) during this last week of school? His math teacher has announced that in-class reviews are done, and so at this point the onus is on the students to prepare for the exam. This week is basically a write-off as far as learning is concerned, with locker clean-out Monday, and a moratorium from Tuesday to Friday, so Michael has booked private music lessons, is going to a masterclass, and practising. Napping. Preparing for his math exam. And playing videogames. At home.

And I continue to ignore the automated calls from the school board telling me he wasn’t in class.

Anyone else have similar experiences?

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Stanley H. Clark: 1933-2011

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I found out about Stan’s death via Facebook while we were in England.  He was a high school music teacher extraordinaire.  While I didn’t take music classes at Glebe, I played percussion in the Senior Concert Band and piano in the Stage Band. The Stage Band recorded an LP, played paying gigs, including in a flotilla on the Rideau Canal, travelled to Cuba, and was an all-round fabulous place to play great music, hang with friends, and get through those teen years. 

I have reconnected with many high school friends through social networking, and there is a special bond with those who were in the Stage Band. Stan’s family have put up a Facebook page where many of his former students have shared their memories. As announced on that page:

Stanley H. Clark
1933-2011
Mus. Bac., M.Mus, ARCT, Conductor – Royal Regiment of Canada (Capt. ret.)
Teacher – North Toronto, Parkdale and Glebe Collegiates
Conductor – National Capital Concert Band

After a lifetime of glorious music and marvelous adventure, Stanley H. Clark – teacher, composer, maestro, father, friend – has shuffled off this mortal coil.

Stan’s legacy lives on in the lives of children, grandchildren, countless students and fellow musicians who were inspired under his baton.

No regrets, no condolences. This was a life well lived. Please share your stories and memories at www.crgamble.com. In memory of Stan, support of music and arts in our schools would be appreciated. We suggest musicounts.ca or youngawards.ca or an investment of your time.

A celebration and final blow in Stan’s honour will be held at Christ Church Cathedral, Ottawa, from 12:00 to 4:00, Saturday April 30th. If you’d like to play, bring a music stand; downbeat at 2 p.m.

I would love to be there.

As a side note:  Our son Michael plays in the stage band (among others) at Lawrence Park CI here in Toronto and with the Jazz.fm Youth Big Band. Whenever I go to a concert or gig of his, I get extremely nostalgic for my own high school days. He has an excellent school music teacher who is also a brass player, and someone who knows how to swing.  It makes me immeasurably happy to see his pleasure in playing jazz, and love that he loves the same music I did at that age (and continue to love.) He is looking to music as a career and I know how inspiring great teachers are.