Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Everyone Matters - As seen in Nanaimo/Voyager December Edition

Everyone Matters
My family grew up in poverty.  My mother was a maverick in the days when people didn’t get a divorce and women had difficulty finding work.  She raised three girls with little in her cupboard but macaroni and hash browns.  Almost every day, she cooked the noodles until they swelled enough to feed four people and she accompanied them with hash browns, broiled so sharp that they cut the roof of our mouths. We had no lard, no butter and no ketchup, but we grew up with true feelings of gratitude for the gifts bestowed upon us by a caring community. 
At Christmas, we received hampers from the CKNW Orphans Fund and the New Westminster Fire Department. I still remember when the boxes of food arrived complete with gifts, turkey, and all the fixings. Today, some 45 years later, I cherish a memento of the first gift I ever received, given by the generosity of people like you. It is a small red book that provides me with daily inspiration and a belief that my family and others in similar situations are not invisible. It is a constant reminder that all people matter regardless of their station in life.
Teaching children about giving is easy, and trust me, recipients never forget.  I would not be the person I am today without the help we received from others.  In our city, there is at least one person in every classroom whose family relies on the food bank for their daily survival and every day the numbers increase.
It is easy to give and doesn’t require a ton of expense. I invite you, as a family, to look around your home and find gently used toys, clothes, blankets, housewares or any items that no longer serve you and share them with another. Look in your cupboard and pull out a few extra cans and take them to drop off centers or to your local church.  If you have the financial resources, use them in whatever capacity feels right. Help someone matter.

My mother, from heaven, thanks you for making the difference.   


Friday, June 8, 2012

Provincial Exam Tips from A Long time EPE Marker!

Thank you Peter McLennan for writing this great article!  I am reprinting in it's entirety to help students do better on their exams. Wonderful!!

Observations from a long-time English Provincial Exam Marker
Prepared by Peter McLennan on November 29, 2011. These are just my observations, and not a reflection of any official policies.

The Multiple-Choice sections:

Markers have little to do with the m/c sections, though we have been told that it’s common for “bad questions” to be eliminated. Questions are deemed bad when statistical analysis reveals that the question doesn’t discriminate between strong students and weak ones.

The Composition Questions:

In general, students should be reminded that the written responses are compositions, not merely answers to questions. Markers are looking for clearly articulated, perceptive understandings of the works in question. Because these are marked holistically, there is nothing that is automatically punished or rewarded (except writing the essays in verse, complete failure to address the question, or having wildly inappropriate content).

Note that on the rubrics, there is nothing particularly wrong with a paper at the scale point 4. But scale points 5 and 6 have notable strengths in content and/or expression

The Stand-Alone text:

The exam asks for a minimum of 150 words, in paragraph form. Paragraph form is assessed holistically. That is, markers are looking for logical development and support, but not necessarily for topic sentences and that sort of thing. Writing that sounds formulaic tends to suggest a 4. While length in-and-of itself obviously doesn’t indicate a good response, well-developed responses are often significantly longer than the minimum. Having said that, students sometimes “write themselves out of a 5”. That is, they had an upper-level paper, then padded it with useless fluff and ended up with a 4.

Students are told to make specific reference to the text. Markers have often commented that most students are good at incorporating quotations, so failure to do so is conspicuous. The stand-alone text often contains a shift in meaning or an irony—something with two sides. A good discussion involves consideration (and probably quotation) of more than one part of the text.

Sometimes students who are lost in the question quote huge swathes of text to avoid writing anything. A different error is committed by the student who quotes a “word” or “two” in “every” sentence.

If the passage is difficult, the multiple choice questions sometimes provide clues or some useful vocabulary for discussing the passage.

Mid-range papers are correct answers written in correct English. Upper level papers are articulate and reflect a mature, perceptive, well-developed understanding.

The Synthesis Essay:

Everything that pertains to the Stand-Alone text also pertains here.

Most English teachers have students compare and contrast things now and then, but we would do well to teach this more directly. Essays with well-synthesized ideas have the connection between the works as their subject, and use one text as the perspective from which to view the other. I tell my students to consider one text as providing the critical lens through which to view the other.

Upper level responses are detailed and thoroughly consider the texts in relation to the question.

Students should strive for a relatively formal academic voice in these, avoiding first person and avoiding editorializing (and avoiding referring to authors by their first names!).

Again, the point isn’t to produce an answer which is merely correct, but to produce an essay that elegantly and perceptively considers the question. A merely correct answer will likely net a 4.

The Composition (formerly the Original Composition):

The most successful approach here is generally the personal essay that illustrates the truth of the topic with a personal anecdote. Note that the first element on the rubric for all of the upper level scores has to do with control of language for effect. Style is important in the composition. Because “formulaic” is listed in scale point 4, a five-paragraph essay will likely net a 4, especially if the subjects of the paragraphs seem arbitrary or contrived. This can be useful for the weaker student who would be happy to get a 4.

It’s a good idea to start with some kind of a “hook”, and to give consideration to expressive elements of language.

It’s also a good idea to be positive. Even though there’s nothing on the rubric about it, I think it’s good for the marker to be thinking “She sounds like a nice kid.” I suggest to my students that if they want to show some human fault or foible, they show it in themselves, and explain how they hope they’ve grown from the experience. Everyone likes genuine humility and honesty in others. Above all, avoid second-person prescriptions “You should. . .”

The topics most often ask students to discuss a person or an experience that caused them to change, or from which they learned something important. Another topic thread has to do with quality of life—generally the idea that simplicity is good. The challenge, I think, is for students to avoid clichés while also avoiding being too cute or clever.

There’s no short-cut around the fact that upper level papers are well-written and engaging.

The Marking Process:

A number of measures are in place to ensure that standards are applied fairly and consistently. Written responses are read by at least two markers. Sometimes a third is consulted if there’s uncertainty, and every exam paper is looked over for consistency. If the mark on one question seems out of line with the others, it’s re-read. Additionally, markers do training sets and MAPs (marker accuracy papers?) throughout the session to maintain consistent standards. Every thirtieth paper or so is photocopied and inserted into the mix as a reliability paper. I have always been impressed by the professionalism of the markers.

Again, Peter McLennan many thanks for writing this article.

In addition to the comments that he has made, I would like to add a few concepts:

1) Practice exams are beneficial, but most classroom teachers do not mark the Provincial Exams. Often students will fair very well in class but they don't do as well on the tests. The reason for this is that students create relationships with their teachers and skill development is monitored closely. Student's improvement is rewarded by their classroom teacher. The Provincials are unbiased tests marked outside of classrooms and therefore prove a much more accurate depiction of a students academic level.    

2)  The final original composition is what I like to refer to as a "life lesson". It is the final thing that educators want you to consider prior to graduating.  It is important that student's use their own life experiences to answer this question, but the should ensure that they do not go off topic by using only one example. The topic is the most important, so students should address the answer at least 3 ways.  

3) Read the directions.  The test tells students how to answer the questions.  Multi-paragraph does not mean one long paragraph! While I agree that a formed essay should not appear to be completely structured, (essays should have 5 paragraphs with an introduction, three bodies and a conclusion form as a protocol of an essay) I do feel it is a good way to stay on task. Since so many students lack the necessary skills to achieve higher marks, I don't want to mislead students into thinking that they should just write one long paragraph.  I am happy to discuss this point further.

4) The Provincial exams are an opportunity to showcase what a student has learned over twelve years of formal education.  Students who do well on the exams are able to teach the marker that they have learned something over the course of their years in school.  Be sure, at every opportunity to teach the marker what you know - you will score well if you do!

5) The average mark on the Provincial exam writing components is 3.  The second most awarded mark is 4! It is important that students maximize their marks by using good transitions, support statements, quotations and buzz words (literary devices).  

Ask for help. Your teachers, and I, want you to succeed! 
 Feel free to visit my website at www.rightchoiceed.com

How do I pass the Grade 12 English Provincial Exam?

I found a wonderful and helpful online guide written by: R.Beaton. B. Britney & V. Columbara 2008, that clearly explains some great tips for the English 12, Provincial Exams.  It illustrates my exact training methods and sentiments towards the key elements of the exam.  I invite you to have a read and prepare for the exam using these techniques. For more information, give me a call as I would be happy to expand on these ideas and assist students in reaching their goals.

English 12 Provincial Preparation

Remember that the Provincial Exam is worth 40% of you entire school grade. At this point, you should know what your class mark is. Take a few moments to figure what you “need” to get on your provincial in order to achieve your goal, whether your goal is to simply pass the course or get an A.

School Mark x 60% =

This is what you have entering into the exam. Your mark on the exam x 40% will be added to this for your final grade.

The English Provincial is divided into four sections. Each section is assigned a mark value and a suggested time period for completion. Although the time allotted for the entire provincial is 2 hours (120 minutes), everyone actually gets 3 hours (180 minutes) USE YOUR TIME WISELY!

Provincial Breakdown: (marks are approximate as they change every year)

Section Value Suggested Time Real Suggested Time

Stand Alone Text 20 marks 25 minutes 35 minutes

Synthesis Text 1 10 marks 10 minutes 10 minutes
Synthesis Text 2 33 marks 45 minutes 50-60 minutes

Original Comp 24 marks 40 minutes 50-60 minutes

Total 87 marks 120 minutes 165 minutes

Part A: Stand Alone Text

This section requires you to read a poem, answer 7 or 8 multiple choices questions and write a literary paragraph. The time suggested is 25 minutes. You should aim to complete this section in under 40 minutes.

Remember to read the question first, before reading the poem.

Pay attention to the title of the poem as it will often give you insight into the poem’s meaning, speaker, tone, etc.
As you read the poem, make notes or highlight to help you answer the question.
Read the poem more than once.
This is a literary paragraph. DO NOT USE “I”, DO NOT USE “YOU”. Write in third person.
Be sure to use quotes to support your answer. INTEGRATE YOUR QUOTES WELL.

You need to have a clear topic sentence. This sentence should contain the author’s name and the poem’s title.

Make sure your paragraph is as error free as possible. It’s the little errors that add up to a lower mark.

If you are having difficulty, sometimes simply restating the question can be a topic sentence (although not a great one).

Example Question: Discuss the jump in “Prelude to Jumping in the River” as a metaphor for making important decisions. Use paragraph form and support your response with specific references to the text. (2010 release)
Possible topic sentence: “In “Prelude to Jumping in the River”, the jump is a metaphor for making important decisions.”
* Remember to be more creative than this.

Part B: Synthesis Text 1

In the comprehension section, you are expected to read a non-fiction passage or a poem and answer the multiple choice questions based on the content of the passage. You are showing that you understand what you read. Read the questions carefully and answer to the best of your ability. Never leave an answer blank. If you have to, guess. Try not to spend more than the ten minutes suggested for this section.

This section should be easy marks. Don’t give them away by not reading the questions properly or making silly mistakes.

Part C: Interpretation of Prose (Short Story)/Synthesis Text 2

In this section you are required to read a short story, answer 8-14 multiple choice questions and write a synthesis essay that looks at the prose piece and either the non-fiction piece or the poem from Part B. Stories are usually about 2 pages in length. This section is worth 33 points – more than 1/3 of your entire provincial mark! The time suggested for the prose section is 45 minutes – use at least that much, if not more (remember the extra hour everyone gets).

The multiple choice questions you will be required to answer are both on the passage specifically as well as questions that deal with the synthesizing of both texts.

The multiple choice questions are one point each. Never leave a question unanswered – if necessary, use the process of elimination.

Multiple choice may ask you about terms, techniques, understanding the story, or vocabulary. KNOW YOUR TERMS.

For the essay, you are given a choice of two questions, but you only need to answer one.

Remember to read the essay questions first, before reading the story.

* It is very easy to score a 4 in this section but often hard to score a higher mark. Stay focused, prove your clear arguments and use strong, appropriate quotes to prove your thesis. Vivid, proper vocabulary will also help as well complex sentence structures that vary through the paragraphs.

As you read, use a highlighter or your pen to underline and make notes to help you answer the question. Write all over the booklet if you wish!

This is a literary essay. DO NOT USE ‘I’ OR ‘YOU’. Write in third person. This is a SYNTHESIS question – make sure you incorporate BOTH pieces of literature and answer the question.

Your essay needs to be at least 3 paragraphs long – if it less than that, you will lose one point from your mark. And will likely not score higher than a 3 because you haven’t developed your ideas.

Make sure your first paragraph is as error free as possible. This is where the marker gets their first impression of your writing ability. Don’t give them a reason to question your skill level.

Be sure to use quotes to support your answer. INTEGRATE YOUR QUOTES WELL.
*Quotes are like Barbies™ – they can’t stand up by themselves!

You need to have a clear thesis sentence. This sentence should contain the author’s names and the story’s titles and connect to synthesis. But it should not be the only sentence in your introduction.

Be sure to answer the question!

Synthesis questions may ask about the following: character*, theme*, tone, mood, irony, imagery, compare & contrast, and a variety of literary devices – metaphor, extended metaphor, symbolism*, allusion, etc. Be sure you know your terms.
* = very popular topics.

Essays are double marked on the 6 point scale, the marks are combined, multiplied by 2 and you receive a grade out of 24.

Do not refer to the author by first name only. Be clear on whether the author is male or female so that you use the correct pronoun. These little things if correct, tell the marker you know what’s going on. If you use the wrong pronoun or some other small error, it’s a little warning to the marker you may not understand what you read.

Avoid clichés, rhetorical questions or review like comments. Stay neutral and don’t preach or “teach” the markers about the story.
Eg; In the short story, “Andy Warhol”, the author, Jesse Smith does an amazing job of creating a vivid theme of overcoming hardship.


Part D: Original Composition

This section is worth 24 marks and requires you write an original composition. The suggested time is 40 minutes – use at least that and likely more.

The instructions for this section are as follows:
“Using standard English, write a coherent, unified, multi-paragraph composition of approximately 300 words on the topic below. In your composition, you may apply any effective and appropriate method of development which includes any combination of exposition, persuasion, description and narration.”

Your composition needs to be multi paragraph or you will lose marks.

You are given a topic to write about, but how you choose to approach the topic is up to you. Typically, narrative essays do better than expository simply because they tend to be more creative. However, many expository and persuasive essays have received 6’s. Write the way you write best.

Some past topics:

Keeping an open mind allows for growth. (Jan 2000)
The pursuit of freedom involves change. (April 2000)
It is important to have a realistic view of life. (April 2001)
People can create their own reality. (Jan 2002)
People can be influenced by their environments.(June 02)
Certain experiences can mark the beginnings of maturity. (Jan 03)
Our journey into the future begins in the past. (April 03)
Our views of the past change as we mature. (Jan 04)

Use some time to pre-plan. You need to be clear in what you are writing about. Remember to save some time to proof read and edit. You will only have time and room to write one copy – make sure it’s a good one.

* Handwriting can often be a factor in your mark. Be sure to be as neat and legible as possible. Don’t give anyone reason to lower your mark!

Make sure your first paragraph is error free and as engaging as possible. This is what will create the readers’ first impression of your work.

Have a title. It’s refreshing and a nice extra piece of pizzazz the readers enjoy.

Zeros are only given if the essay if completely off topic or if the language/content is inappropriate.

Remember your audience. Watch your language for slang, boring, common vocabulary and inappropriate content.

It MUST be your work! Re-writing common movie plots or novel story lines will not only insult the marker, but can result in a zero.

Some Helpful Tips….

The weekend before your exam:

1. Practice exams on-line. http://www.bced.gov.bc.ca/exams.search
  • Use the answer keys, and not just the selected response section; examine how the prose and poetry sections could be answered.
  • Practice narrowing the essay topics and write outline

2. Study your Literary Terms
  • Poetry and short story terms show up on the exam; know them!

The night before the exam:
  • Go to bed prepared: have everything you need for the exam ready to go.
  • Set you alarm (check AM/PM, volume etc); make sure you have a back up wake up option (parents, siblings, friends)
  • GO TO BED EARLY! (This really can’t be stressed enough)

The morning of the exam:
  • Be at school by 8am (your exam starts at 8:30) or if it’s an afternoon exam, be at school by 12:00 (your exam starts at 12:30)
  • Bring everything you need to be successful: 2-3 new pens, 2-3 sharpened pencils, an eraser, white out, good luck charms (medallions, rabbits’ feet, a lock of hair from a virtuous unicorn, a small vial containing the blood of an infidel – whatever works for you).
  • Give yourself as much time to get to school as possible. You don’t want to be rushed.
  • EAT Breakfast! It is the most important meal of the day, especially on exam days! And if you have an afternoon exam, EAT LUNCH!
  • Make sure you’re at the exam location at least 15 minutes early
  • Go to the bathroom BEFORE the exam. Wash your hands
  • Leave everything you don’t need in your locker: cell phone, backpack, Ipod.

The Exam:
  • RELAX! Deep breaths… calm blue ocean, calm blue ocean.
  • Read all the instructions carefully!
  • Read the writing topics before you write
  • For each section, read the questions before you read the text, especially the written-response questions
  • Plan all of your writing in an OUTLINE in the space provided.
  • Take your time and pace yourself. Write slowly, carefully, and neatly.
  • Make sure every sentence is complete; vary your sentences; use the best words.
  • No clichés, no salty language, nothing stupid. Think about your audience
  • Proofread everything! If you have time, go over it again! Proofread!

    This article has been copied directly from the writer. Right Choice Educational Programs and Tutoring services would like to thank the author  R.Beaton. B. Britney & V. Columbara 2008 for such a helpful piece.  

    Cathy Holmes,
    Right Choice Educational Programs & Tutoring Services

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Summertime Essentials for Families

I can hear the voices of your children now. The sweet sound of bees whirring about whilst your children play endlessly in the balmy heat. They are in their visions of heaven. No teachers, no homework, no responsibilities, with the exception of their family chores. They are perfectly behaved and eager to please mommy and daddy. They are content to play on the swings all day long or in front of their beloved video games. Teenagers are out with their friends, going to the water slides and getting into all sorts of innocent mischief. They are never tired, always enchanted.

Well, maybe in the story books. In real life, children are bored easily. I recall when my son was small and all he wanted to do was lay about and yell, "mahhh" for drink service. Don't misunderstand me, he did enjoy to play, but after a while, that two months was almost too much for him. I recall his huffs and puffs of distress as he tried to figure out what to do on those warm long days. He needed entertainment.

Consider these options to help your kids beat the summer babuska blahs.

1) Take your child to Chapters Book Store - allow your children to run rampant in their book department! Let them show you their favorite stories and ask them to read the books to you. Indulge them in their favorite magazines, short stories, novels and pop up books. Get creative with them and let their imaginations run wild. Read a choice or two in the store, and then purchase a selection for outdoor reading.

2) Have a reading picnic at the park. Bring a blanket, a choice of snacks and refreshments and the book that you have chosen to read outside. This story is special for you and your child as you will create a wonderful memory while lying down under your favorite tree. It is a magical experience. At the park that my son and I frequented, there was a giant tree to sit under, a big lake that he could fish for trout in and a large water park. There was much fun to be had and on top of it, it was within walking distance of our home. Choose your place to share, even if it is in your own back yard.

3) Purchase a selection of English enhancement workbooks. There are many wonderful practice books available today for all grades, and all educational levels that can help improve Language Arts over the summer months. Again, make it fun by choosing books that include games and puzzles. Kids love anything where there is an opportunity to play and word games such as Boggle, Scrabble, Word Search, and Mad Libs are great sources of family fun and entertainment.

4) Join day camps. Most communities have a variety of single day, or weekly day camps that are inexpensive and offered at local schools or community centers. Science camps and Geography Hunts are great fun for children of all ages. When you receive your child's report card, look for information bulletins or check Craig's List, or Kijiji for listings outside of the community centers.

5) Hire a tutor. Help your child or teenager prepare for the following year by hiring a personal tutor for the summer months. Private tutoring is more affordable than ever with tuition starting as little as $20 for online classes and between $25-45 for in home one on one sessions. Ask for referrals from your friends or look online for professional tutors in your area. Consider getting a group of neighbors together for a group dynamic. There are some fantastic tutors available during the summer months. It can be the perfect opportunity for your family to gain advancement in their educational goals and to have fun at the same time.

6) When you see your child or teenager doing independent study, admire what they are doing from a distance. Yes, it is true. Ignore them. Let them continue what they are doing, without feeling like they are being watched. Even praise can discourage some children from continuing with this positive behavior, as they often become self conscious and don't wish to appear like they are abnormal. They believe that their friends are not studying, but playing. Careful not to ruin their image! Respectfully, if you have a child that loves to study and does so all of the time, by all means, remind them of what a wonderful thing they are doing. The older the children get, the more important this advise. Simply smile and carry on with your day.

7) Think of yourself as Home School Parents. Offer opportunities for your children to learn new things by introducing them to different experiences. Teach them skills, any kind of skill will do including sewing, word work, auto repair, whatever you have time to teach. Another idea is to discuss or visit different places, take the kids to museums, churches, parks, historical buildings or any where that a young person can experience something outside of their regular activities. It is so much fun for the entire family.

8) Find interesting Youtube videos of sailing, shark hunting, Australia, outer space, bugs, concerts, sporting events, explore various occupations, and do virtual tours of caves, land masses, and whatever else you may find unusual. Invite your kids to watch along with you and to write about what they would do if they were visiting such places. Let imaginations run wild!

9) As a project for older youth, have your child do a historical dive into your home, or family tree, and have them practice researching information. It is a great opportunity to learn about the area you live in and it can be great to find out who resided in your home. Another idea, is to research a soldier from your town and learn about his or her family. The bridges of community are built on shared experiences. A great task and sometimes one that creates big surprises.

10) Relax and have a blast with your kids. Time goes so quickly that we forget that our kids only stay kids for a little while. Be present with them as much as possible. Watch them learn and be part of the experience. You will be glad you did.

Enjoy your summer and have fun. I invite you to visit www.rightchoiceed.com for a variety of English support materials suitable for students of all ages. I welcome your comments, suggestions or any questions you may have.

Cathy Holmes
Right Choice Educational Programs
& Tutoring Services

Monday, June 13, 2011

Making the Most of Change

Change is inevitable. It is a wonderful thing when we accept it. Change is not always an easy transition but it can bring out the best in people. When we look at change as an opportunity to learn, we can find the best in ourselves.

Learning a new language or skill is difficult. Recently, I have been trying to learn how to expand my computer literacy. There is so much to learn.

Everyone wants to upgrade an aspect of their lives. Here are some key elements that will help you to make the journey a little bit easier.

1) Surrender. Understand that learning anything new is a process and it takes time to do well regardless of the task.

2) Create mini goals. What would you specifically like to accomplish just today? Yes, you would like to be an expert at your new skill, but expertise is a time driven relationship. Today, simply focus on the mini task and watch as the skills become cumulative.

3) Immerse yourself in the process. Become a little bit obsessive compulsive but don't get too carried away. A healthy dose of compulsion can assist you to acquire the knowledge you need to succeed. If it becomes too much, step back and evaluate your reasons for learning the task in the first place and be sure to be accountable for the choices in your endeavors.

4) Prepare to change course. Sometimes you find that what you are learning leads you into a new direction. Be open to the changes and the growth opportunity!

5) Have faith. We become what we most focus on and when our energy is focused, the results we want to achieve are within grasp. Faith in your ability is the most important thing. You can learn this task or language. You can.

6) Ask for help. People are always willing to give you a hand if you ask them. Think about the people in your life and reach out to them for assistance. When someone knows that you want to learn and that you are open to help they are willing to provide their expertise and input. Be gracious and allow them to help you see things another way.

7) Take risks. You can't know if you don't try. Jump into a task with both feet. Don't look back and second guess yourself. Keep your goals forward. You will never succeed unless you put yourself on the line and try. Worst case scenario is not trying at all! The old saying "nothing ventured, nothing gained" holds true! It is better to give yourself a chance to see what you can do, than to give up before you have given any time to the plan.

8) Smile. Wow you are amazing. If you are searching to be a better person by learning a new language, task, or trying something for the first time, you are stronger than most of the people on the planet. Many people won't try to do anything new. Allow yourself the wonder of the adventure. Your smile will make even the toughest task effortless.

9) Share. Teach what you know to someone and you will be amazed at the influence that you create in others. Everyone has a story, a talent and an ability that is valuable to another. It is a great honor to share experiences with others and you never know who you will influence.

10) Try, try again. Be persistent! Keep trying even when you think that you can't go any further, try again. You will be surprised when you give things another try! Give it a go!

Change creates the opportunity for self reflection and routes us into new ways of seeing the world.

Need a hand with learning something new? I invite you to give me a call or drop me a line. I am happy to help. www.rightchoiceed.com

Cathy Holmes
Right Choice Educational Programs

Monday, September 20, 2010

Moving to Nanaimo

For over 2o years I have worked with students all over the lower mainland. One morning, I woke up to life changes, and I decided it was time to move to Vancouver Island and begin a new chapter in my life. The need to slow down a little from the hectic pace of everyday life appeals to me. I am excited to begin my new journey in Nanaimo, British Columbia.

I intend to work with students who live all over the island, but my focus will be international students who live near Island University and Malaspina International High School. I am also opening a new educational facility in the new year and I look forward to the many challenges that it will bring.

I understand the needs of international students because like them, I am in a strange new territory. What was familiar to me in the past is no longer my present. I lived on Vancouver Island years ago and the people are as warm today as they have always been. The weather is impeccable and the warmth from good friends is inspiring. When students arrive in any new town, they don't know where to begin and it is easy to get lost when you don't know the territory. The good news is that if you live anywhere in British Columbia you will find someone to welcome you and to help you find your way. International students from every country of the world live all over the island and communities and group associations are within easy reach. It may be a little intimidating at first but within a very short period of time students make a home of this wonderful place.

If you, like me, are new to the area one of the best ways to get comfortable is to take a tour of the city to get your bearings straight. Grab a local bus or a local train to get a feel for the lay of the land. There are numerous buses to take and most are circle routes, meaning that they end up back where ever you started. Join a "Meetup" group or create one online with a specific goal in mind. If you enjoy a particular hobby or you want to learn one, the meet up community is a fantastic way to create a social venue. I have met some really terrific people as a result of these kinds of groups.

Together we will get through the initial shock of living in a strange new place. But if you need a hand with your communication skills, I invite you to get in touch with me at my new number 250 797 9378 or visit my website at www.rightchoiceed.com.

Hope you are well,

See ya soon!

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Grade 12 - A Year of Changes for Both Parents and Teens

As September quickly approaches, it is important to get your teenagers ready for their final year at high school. But getting them ready isn't simply about purchasing school supplies or setting up study schedules. It is about creating a mindset for success, preparing for university, living in the moment and dealing with a highly emotional growth period.
From an educational point of view, this year, getting into university may be easier than ever. Many colleges, including Douglas College, Kwantlen College and many others in the Province of British Columbia, will actually become credited universities this year. It is an exciting time for education. Students are no longer slaves to the concept of university, and have some fantastic options to get the degrees they are looking for. Community colleges in the lower mainland are particularly fantastic and offer incredible programs at a fraction of the cost of SFU or UBC. BCIT has been touted one of the best trade schools in the country and with good reason. The flexibiity of alternative schools, and the credibility of these institutions, can tailor career specific programs to suit almost any need. Students can earn any number of scholarships or incentive programs to help make their education both cost effective and suitable to their specific career goals.
Parents, you are not alone. Just so you know, within the first few days of school your sons and daughters will be given a package which will outline the many tasks that they will need to do over the year. This package includes scholarship information, photo dates, pre-grad programs and deadlines for university or college applications. A list of scholarships they can apply to will also be included. This is not an exhaustive list and it is to your advantage to research scholarships that are available through your employment, clubs and association memberships or even, the Internet. There are many scholarships available through financial institutions, insurance companies such as London Life, the IOF etc., social groups like Kinsmen, Lions Clubs, and the Shriner's Club, to name a few. Other offerings could include church affiliations, theatre clubs or memorial scholarships. Information about any of the Provincial scholarships or your son or daughter's standing are easily obtained by contacting your school principal or counsellor. There are an abundance of sources and with a little research, your post grad education could be paid for, at least in part.
Each school has their own package; however, they are fundamentally the same. I encourage parents to get involved with their teenagers plans and to review the packages carefully. I recommend placing important dates on a family calender in your home, and touching base with your teenagers regularly to ensure that these deadlines are being met. I would also recommend a trip to the counsellors office to ensure that your son or daughter has completed all of the necessary academic requirements for graduation long before the time comes. It has been my experience (more than once), that a student who has failed an important exam and has not retaken it, (or - thought the mark would disappear), has found themselves having to retake an entire course and not graduated due to neglect of a preventable situation.
Grade 12 students are under considerable pressure during their final year. Provincial exams are worth 40% of their letter grades in most academic classes. English, Math, History, Biology, Chemistry, Physics, are all highly challenging programs and many of the students are taking between four and six of these courses in order to get into the post secondary institutions of their choice. Many of the students that I have worked with over the years, are sleep deprived because they are burning the candle at both ends. I encourage parents to give their teenagers a little slack, and offer them opportunities to alleviate much of their stress wherever possible. This year is a tough one - both for them and for us as parents.
The relationships these young people have built during the years leading up to this important time will also come to an end. At no other time in our lives do we say goodbye to so many important people. Years of immature love, dreams, crushes, laughter, bullying, giggles and tears, will be replaced with grown up ambitions. I remember my final year as a blur, and frankly, I see very few of the people who helped to form the character I would become. For most of us, high school is a mixture of pleasure and utter madness. After witnessing 50 or more grad ceremonies over the years, the pleasure and pain haven't changed since I graduated from high school in 1981. Promises are made to be friends forever, valedictorian speeches are made, pictures are taken and grad hats are thrown...............
Parents will be growing in new directions as well. Many will have empty nests by this time next year. This is an emotional time, as their children are no longer children - instead young men and women. As parents, we want to hold on to our kids as closely as we can. But this is also the time for us to begin the "letting go" process for ourselves. Don't get me wrong, we will always be our kid's mommy's and daddy's, but as they develop, so too shall we. Some of us will adjust easily. Others may face incredible withdrawal and a deep sense of loss mixed with enormous pride at shared successes. Go easy on your spirit, as this is a time of rejoicing and celebrating. I assure you - we will get in the groove.
This year, my son Dakota will graduate from high school. I am mixed with excitement and trepidation. Did I do it right? Did I raise him well? Is he capable of going on his own next year? Can I handle the changes easily, or will I become a teenager myself and be somewhat defiant that my sweet child will not need me the way he does today. And although, I suspect he will continue asking for money, or the car, and for some years to come be fairly close by, I recognize that right along with you folks, I will be tearing up because for the first time - this graduation will be my sons, and the traditional graduation roses I give to my students - will be for him. I am tearing up now at the thought.
Questions? Comments? I invite you to have a look at my website for support materials, test prep samples, or services that may make your transition a little easier. www.rightchoiceed.com. I wish you well,