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. I wish you well,

Monday, June 2, 2008

English Provincial Exams - They are a changin!

Ladies and Gentleman,

Welcome to the age of technology as it applies to the Grades 10-12 English Provincial Exams!

At one time, students could rely on the fact that their hands would get terribly sore while writing the final tests of their year. Undoubtedly our happy pupils would fret, mostly because they would run out of the time prescribed - before they were able to complete their tasks. The inability to complete the tests usually had less to do with content or confusion, and more to do with 'Mano Dexterity Deficit Syndrome'. This highly infectious condition has grown in popularity since the advent of computers. Today, the largest proportion of high school students notice symptoms of the condition increasing towards the end of January or during the middle of June. This malady often coincides with final exams, but it also manifests itself in students who have an abundance of unfinished assignments or projects yet to be handed in to their beloved instructors.

Parents need not worry, as the condition applies only to students who are currently enrolled in programs in which essays or paragraph writing is required in order to pass a course. Fortunately for the students it does disappear intermittently; particularly while students are seated in front of their favorite computer games. These medicinal games may include the likes of: Age of Empire, World of WarCraft, Heavenly Sword or Call of Duty. This is not an exhausted list by any means, and there are plenty of these miracle cures available.

For many years, I have heard students tell me that they thought the Provincial Exams should be done exclusively by computer. Well my friends, their dreams are quickly becoming a reality. In fact, as early as the April 2008 sitting of the English 12 Provincial Exam, some students in Chilliwack took their first exams via the computer.

And the results are mixed.

Since most educators have not experienced many computer based exams as of yet, it will be interesting to see how tests delivered in this manner will affect the overall performance of our kids.

As an educator, I have found that some students loved it - while others unfortunately found it very confusing.

One student remarked that it was "difficult to toggle between screens". He felt that if he moved around amongst the pages, he would lose the work he had already done. Since time is of the essence on the exam, whether paper based or via technology, his fear was entirely reasonable. The most difficult thing to regulate as a student is time. Students remarked that because the format felt unfamiliar to them, and because they had no practice in their perspective classes at high school, that it was even more arduous than the tests were in their former state. People often say "be careful of what you ask for..........". It seems that this is true with this situation as well. The learning curve applies to all students at all grade levels. It takes time to perfect any skill, and although writing perfection is not mandatory to pass grade 12, it is relevant enough that when a student needs to show an outside entity that they can perform the tasks necessary for graduation that they can do so, without the outside complications of "toggling" difficulties. It is difficult enough to concentrate on the multitude of test required to pass with marks sufficient enough to secure a standing in a university, without the learning curve of our untested, barely tried and possibly detrimental test modual tested on our kids.

My concern is this:

Currently the statistics regarding overall performance of the students who take the English 12 Provincial Exam are low. Overall, the figures range from the lower 50's to the middle 70's across the board. I have attached a link to the Fraser Institutes portfolio of school achievement as a reference. Regardless of the mixed messages associated with the report, one thing is still clear. Our kids are struggling with an English grade that represents 40% of their final marks. As every parent knows, this figure translates and/or represents the future for some of these kids. It is true that students are offered the oportunity to retake the test. However, most of kids will never retake it. They are happy to have completed it once! Nevertheless, it is not convenient for a secondary sitting for most. If our kids today take the computerized version, deal with the awkwardness of it, and lose marks as a direct result of the test flaws, can we assume that students can get another proverbial kick at the can? Will these results be altered if the majority of these kids succumb to the learning curve and lose precious marks because they were not expecting to do it in the format presented to them?

For a complete list of the district and individual school report cards visit:

I want your kids to succeed. I want your kids to understand what it is that is in front of them. In many ways, the advantages of the computer are indisputable. But in many others, they offer question. Many of these kids have been practicing the exam with a piece of paper and a black felt pen. Some students have had plenty of practice in class, while others have had little to none. Many of these kids will not pass this test - simply because of the unfamiliarity of its delivery.

I urge you to talk to your kids, and let them see what they are up against. This June, many schools will offer the English Provincials by computer. Before your kids are subject to this new way of grading their skills, have a peek at the Ministry of Educations home page, and have them surf it. Take a look, and prepare them. Their best defence is knowing what they are up against.

Graduation hasn't changed. For as long as I can remember, tests have had to be taken. But fortunately, these days there are better ways to combat change.

Have a look at the test samples currently available. There are no costs asssociated with this webpage and anyone can access most of the information. A majority of our kids already know about this page but as a parent, you may find it really useful.

I am the Right Choice Educational Programs and Tutoring Services. I am independant of all affiliations. I invite you to visit my web page. See if there is something of interest there for you or your kids.

I am a teacher, yes. But first, I am a parent. My son turned 16 in October of last year, and he will be taking many Provincial Exams in a variety of disciplines as he closes in on his final days of high school. My concern for him is primary. I am sure that we share the same concerns for our kids education. We may not be able to keep up with the changes we experience with our kids, but you can make the right choice today.

Be well and take care,


Sunday, June 1, 2008

Right Choice - New to the Web

"Being in Cathy’s classes has certainly benefited me. Learning everything from grammar, to ways to write a good essay, to even learning invaluable life lessons. I like how her classes with me aren’t just laborious worksheets where you fill in the blanks, mindlessly. She knows how to get you involved into the topic, usually by asking a thought-provoking question. She’s also very respectful towards different opinions, as she understands that with various people, comes an endless possibility of perception. I wholeheartedly enjoyed my time with Cathy, and value it deeply. She and I always manage to have a fun time during class, regardless of the lesson we have. I feel blessed to have had the chance to be taught by her, as both a student and a citizen in the world of life."
Alan Lee

"Cathy is a very patient teacher. She helped my daughters to improve their English in a short period. I find that besides being an English tutor, she also teaches about life experiences. Her teaching style is never dull because she uses various ways to educate my daughters. I am very glad that I have found an excellent tutor for my daughters and now we are good friends. She does not mind using her time out of class to teach me how to pronounce words correctly. I appreciate what she has done for my daughters and I thank her from the bottom of my heart."
Anissa Chan

"Cathy's English lessons are very entertaining while I am actually learning language from her. I can learn faster than at school because I ENJOY it !!! I couldn't have made it this far without her help. She is my savior and she is my everything. Thank you Cathy and I LOVE YOU FOREVER and EVER Amen =)"
Calvin Shim

"Who is Cathy? She is one of the most brilliant teachers out there and she knows how to teach! Her knowledge of teaching surpasses any other great teachers. She has helped me with what was for me the ticket to university. Studying the LPI with her was the best thing I
have ever done. I learned such essential writing skills which were required for my university, and I am very thankful for it. She is the best at what she does and whoever is reading this right now should not hesitate to take classes with her."
Love Jeff K.

"When I met her first time I was kind of afraid to speak in English
because I didn't have confidence about what I was saying and what I was doing. In every class she told an example of a story in her life that would help me to relax. She is learning Spanish and she explained that she had the same problems and fears as I did learning English. Actually, I came here almost year and a half ago,but I was too shy to use my English skills, but since I met my teacher, (who is always smiling and jovial) I guarantee you that I am not afraid speak in English anymore. Thanks Cathy!"
Stephen Shim

"Cathy is a wonderful tutor-teacher. She has made me become a better person because not only does she teach me English, she also teaches me a lot about life. No matter what problems I have, she tries her best to help me and arranges time to see me. Her patience is incredible because she will explain lessons numerous times until I fully understand the material. She has unlimited knowledge because what ever I ask her, she knows something about it. In my eyes, she has become more a friend to me than a teacher. I am comfortable around her because I can tell her anything. I have learned a lot from her and I love her so much. Muah"
Larice Chan

"I think Cathy is a wonderful teacher. Each time I ask her something she answers and if she doesn't know it, she will go out and search it for me. She is like a walking encyclopedia. She knows more than English, she knows how to be a nice person and listen well. Cathy is a person who will listen to your problems and provide some insight to help you find an answer. She isn't one of those teachers who comes for money. She actually tells her experiences. She is a great teacher and deserves 5 out of 5 stars!"
Andy Lee

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