Good students, a gift from parents to teachers

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I experienced a feel-good moment this past week. While I was grocery shopping the mother of one of my former students came up to me and thanked me for doing my job. The girl is now a young woman. She did an outstanding job throughout her education, and is now doing very well in her field.  She is living a productive and happy life.

Prior to my full retirement this year I had taught at every level – from elementary school through university.  Some students stood out because of their intelligence, talent, and work ethic. This girl exhibited those traits, and she also possessed a wonderful personality… as well as physical beauty.  

 Sadly, this girl did deal with some bullying. Intelligent, attractive girls often become targets for bullying.  I made sure the bullies were dealt with in one incidence I became aware of, and I pointed out to her that the bullies were jealous and were attempting to do something called “leveling.” I encouraged her to continue to be herself because she had what it takes to “write her own ticket in life.”

The recent reports of Canada’s standing in the 2012 Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) rank this nation’s students quite high. Only nine countries and economies performed better than Canada in math, four in reading and only seven in science. All of the provinces took part, but the territories declined participation. This ranking is respectable, but the math scores dropped by 14 points since the 2009 testing.  The Atlantic Provinces did not fare as well as Quebec, Alberta, Ontario, and British Columbia.  There was a significant decline in Manitoba, possibly due to their “new math” curriculum…one that is similar to ours. This curriculum emphasizes estimating, and use of “strategies” in basic calculations. Manitoba students were not being taught to do vertical addition, carry or borrow numbers. They relied on calculators rather than memorizing the multiplication tables.  The processes used were so puzzling that parents were unable to help their children with homework.

Educating students in Mathematics is cumulative.  Basic skills and information must be learned, and those skills are the building blocks for the more complicated processes that follow. The old-fashioned stuff has been found to serve as a strong base for all that follows in math. Manitoba is now moving back to basics in their math program.

At the time I worked with the girl mentioned in this article one area of study was math…and she was a teacher’s dream. Her strong sense of responsibility and work ethic was a result of the excellent parenting on the part of her mother. I appreciated that mother wanting to give me credit…but most of the credit belongs to her.  She did her job…in spades.


Shirley Hallee's column appears bi-weekly in the Amherst News.

Organizations: Amherst News

Geographic location: Manitoba, Canada, Atlantic Provinces Quebec Alberta Ontario British Columbia

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