Finding our Voices

Folks at home,

I could not be prouder of the students for the work they have done over the last week and today as Members of Provincial Parliament.  In my role as Speaker of the House, I was not able to take pictures, and also I forgot.  But today we debated Bill 118, which proposed to change the structure of the school year so that holidays were spread out and students were in school over 12 instead of 10 months of the year.  Not only were individual speeches very well done, I was particulary impressed with the active listening during our session today, with students responding vigorously and astutely to the ideas of other MPPs.   Here are two samples from both sides.

From the Member for Rainy River (the Minister of Education):

Mr speaker.

I am the member from Rainy River, in the red party.

I think the school year should be spread over the year. It would be better for both the kids and adults. They will have more time and more relaxing time.

My first example is for older people, like teachers. Teachers have to work and work all day or night. They won’t have time to rest except for the long break that’s only once! If we spread it out they will have breaks to work they can do it on the breaks. It good because they can do report cards and more to.

Forgetting is another reason too. They will forget and think about how awesome it was on their vacation was.  Also they will forget thing like how to do long division, strategies to math and other thing, school rules and other things.  Forgetting can really be a concern because about ⅕ of the year they spend time learning the same things.

My third example is that, the kids would get really jittery and they could go crazy at the last day of school. The teacher would probably take as much work on a regular day then the last day of school!(because they are so excited for the break).  The day when they get a week off they will not be so excited.

My last example is a debate. We will try it for one year and see how it goes. The kids and parent would not have to worry if they don’t like it. We could see how it goes because in the summer the kids could get more active, also they can get all the seasons we don’t have to skip any. If you’re not getting this then you will get this. We could try and if it does not work then we will go back to normal. We could do a vote to see what the citizens think. It’s always good to try something new.   

So my opinion is you should spread out, I feel like it’s a good idea   

And, from the Member for Moonbeam, in the Official Opposition Party:

Mr. Speaker,

I am the member from the blue party and I think we should not spread school through the summer. I think this because kids need a summer break without teachers.  

When kids have too much knowledge it tends to ‘slip out’.  During school, kids are stressed about their grades and Upset because of the people. During the summer, Kids aren’t on school Electronics such as iPads and Chromebooks. During the summer kids can see family and friends that live far away,  and they can travel.

Summertime gives teachers a break from loud, noisy, and disrupting kids. (;when i was a young child I was none of these things;).  

I get why  you think this would be a good idea,  when kids get a break they will be feisty on the first day of school, Yes it would be easier. But,  if we don’t give them a summer break they will grow to hate school. Then kids wouldn’t want to go to college or university or become a teacher because they don’t want to make kids feel how they felt. There be no big jobs because nobody would want to go to school for them.  having no summer break would have a big impact on the kids futures. unless you want to be the cause of all of their life going down the drain, you will not make this law. Thank you.

Thanks for engaging in conversation about voting, sharing your views–it makes for great conversation here at school, and the students are so fired up with ideas.  Some of it can be a bit overwhelming, and I am conscious of the risk that things in their world can seem bleak.  My purpose is to help them to see that they can use their voices to influence change.

Leading us to the last big assignment of the year (weirdly, there may be big spaces between the pieces, not sure why):



























We just got this today, and there was lots of excitment.  Tomorrow I will begin meeting with each student to ensure their topic has a focus (ie. perhaps “car idling” over “global warming” or “shelters” over “homelessness”) and seems manageable.  Then we’ll talk about gathing and organizing research and how to write a letter that makes people want to help instead of just making them mad.  This is not intended primarily as a “home” project, but some elements may make their way home.  You are of course welcome to engage in the conversation, bounce ideas around.  Let me know if you have any thoughts or questions.



Student Vote, 2018 – Homework!

Hello folks at home,  

This year, the Junior classes at Centennial will join thousands of other young people across the province in participating in the Student Vote.   (Click on that link to learn more).  This project was started a number of years ago because a) it was shown that engaging people as youth led to long-term involvement in civic affairs; and b) youth participation in elections is often very low.

Our students are going to try and weigh the issues and the candidates and make an informed choice. The issues are complex, and I work very hard to keep my own opinions to myself, playing devil’s advocate as best I can.  

But you don’t have to!  As part of this process, I am asking students to initiate a conversation at home.   Obviously, you get to choose what you speak to your child about, but here are the questions I’m encouraging them to get your perspective on:

  • Do you usually vote?  Why or why not?
  • What are the issues that are important to you?
  • Are you voting in this election?  Why or why not?
  • Who are you voting for?  Are you deciding because of:
    • The local candidate?
    • The leader?
    • The party?  
    • The platform?  
    • Something else?
  • If you are undecided, why?  What are you thinking about?


  • If you are from another country:  What is your experience of elections and government in your country of origin?  How is it different, better, worse in your experience/opinion?

Finally, we will be voting on June 4th, with real ballots, voting booths, etc.  The results will be officially submitted to Elections Ontario and will be tabulated along with other results across the province.  If you are voting, I encourage you to take your child along to let them see the process in action.  


Ask your kid about the following:

Instant Parliament

Ask about our instant elections over the last two weeks, in which students have been transformed into Members of Parliament (Federal and Provincial) and been presented with bills.  Currently, there is a bill before the House about re-organizing the school year to span 12 months instead of 10.  Members of the Government will be arguing for the bill next week, Members of the Official Opposition will be, well, opposing the Bill, and MPs from the smaller parties…we’ll see how they decide to vote!  I have a feeling their decision will seal the fate of the bill as law or not.

Government Homework

As the Ontario Election launches, we will be participating fully through Student Vote.  Each student has brought home a sheet that asks them to find the names of various individuals in our different levels of government, as well as the candidates.  (Of whom I hope to have a couple visit if they can find the time).  Please have this sheet back by Friday, as complete as possible.

Gary Rasberry and Songs of Protest

Today we had a visit from Gary Rasberry, who is performing in the Open Voices concert in June.  As we began to explore the question, “How can we use our voices for change?”, Gary kindly agreed to come by and help us delve into how music has been used to express political and social statements.  He played “What if Kids Could Vote?” which he wrote a couple of years ago while working with my class and which the kids have been learning with Ms. Roebuck.  He also taught two older classics, “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?” and “Blowin’ in the Wind.”


And, in a different light…


We’ve been experimenting with meditation and mindfulness for several months now.  Having begun with “Andy” at Headspace, we’ve moved on to just having music.  As per several students’ request, here is a sample of mindful music we’ve been using to have some stillness each day: