Monday, 28 July 2014

The Many Facets of Homework

“Who dares to teach must never cease to learn”-John Cotton Dana
Homework is usually a bad word for most students. Homework, otherwise known as practicing is an important element in a student’s overall success. Over the years the issue of homework has been controversial and contentious. Opinions concerning homework are split among educators, parents and even students. Educators have diverse opinions about the need for homework. Parents too also have strong views about how often, how much and what types of homework their children should have. Students believe the practice of homework should end with immediate effect.
There are three factors to consider regarding the setting of homework in order for students to benefit as much as possible.
Factors such as Maintaining Equity and Time are important to maximize the benefits of homework.  It is very important that when assigning homework educators must ensure that all students have equal opportunities for success as this speaks to the core of fairness. Students whose parents or guardians are available and able to assist with homework clearly have an advantage over those whose parents are unable to help with homework due sometimes to the educational limitations of the parents.
As soon as a student begins formal education much demand is place on the life of that student.
Sometimes the demand on one’s time maybe outside the realm of the classroom, such as, caring for younger siblings, or having a part time job especially in this harsh economic climate. Then there is also involvement in extracurricular activities which many students find appealing.
Educators must be mindful of students’ time and therefore consequences for not doing homework should be sensible and fair. For example, if a particular student has a good track record for always submitting homework on time, however, if for some reason the student misses a deadline to hand in his/her homework, it would be useful in such a situation to apply some amount of leniency. In such circumstances the teacher could probably allow such a student to hand in their homework at a later date. The teacher could then deduct points depending on the nature of the homework.
Teachers at all times must be cognizant of the message/s that they send to their students in terms of how they treat all issues in the classroom. Sometimes we tend to forget that the hidden curriculum is far more powerful than the subject area curriculum guideline.
Assigning with Purpose
The purpose of the homework is also crucial. Homework should never be assigned solely so that students have homework. Homework can be designed to practice a current skill, such as learning multiplication, identifying plants, recognizing continents, or understanding an author's purpose. The skill must also be something a student can do independently (Kitsantas, Cheema, & Ware, 2011). If the student cannot complete the assignment without support, equity again becomes an issue (Ronning, 2011).
Another purpose for homework is to build responsibility. In this instance, students are solely responsible for completing and returning homework. Completing assignments, keeping track of materials, and managing one's time are all important life skills (Ramdass & Zimmerman, 2011). Again, with this as the purpose, the homework must be something students can complete independently and in a reasonable amount of time.
Creative Grading-
Once we address the primary concerns of assigning purposeful, equitable, and reasonable homework, we should next consider the age-old question—to grade or not to grade? Grading homework may mean that it is no longer equitable because students with support at home are likely to score better. Grading homework also requires a considerable amount of teacher time. Not grading, however, may make it more challenging to ensure that students actually complete the homework.
It may be advantageous to get creative about grading. If one purpose, or the purpose, of homework is to build responsibility, give students their homework for the week on Monday and have it due on Friday. If certain days are busier than others, with after-school sports, a part-time job, or other responsibilities, students will have the opportunity to plan ahead and complete the work at another time (Bembenutty, 2011).
Tools for the Task
Accessibility to and affordability of the technology are integral components regarding whether or not a student will be able to do his/her homework.
The classroom for the most part is no longer confined to chalk and talk. In many instances classrooms are equipped with interactive white boards which allows for a more meaningful and engaging discourse between the teacher and his/her students.
However, the divide is more than a perception it’s the reality for many students and their families not only in Jamaica but in many societies across the world.
In more affluent families each child owns his/her laptop or tablet. This undoubtedly gives the children of the upper class a distinct advantage in accessing the material necessary to conduct research and complete homework over the children of the working class. It is the responsibility of governments everywhere to put policies in place to bridge the digital divide in order that every child has an equal opportunity in accessing an education. This is most critical especially since Jamaica’s internet penetration rate is just 54.7% of the population. Internet penetration is the percentage of a population using the internet.
As against this background the government of Jamaica should be commended for implementing the $1.4 billion Tablets in Schools pilot project which will commence at the start of the 2014/2015 academic year in September.  The one year pilot project will be carried out in thirty eight (38) educational institutions across the island which will involve 24,000 students and 1,200 teachers in the public education system.
The government should go a step further for the upcoming school year by placing teacher assistants in those schools which clearly require additional support. Yes teachers have been trained regarding the use of the Tablets in the targeted schools. However, there is going to be the need for additional support staff if it is that we hope to maximize fully the benefits of infusing technology in the teaching and learning process.    
As educators let us ensure that any given homework or assignment is equitable and purpose driven for the benefit of all students. We should be reminded that traditional homework is not the only one way to measure what has been taught. Let us thrive to think outside of the box for 2014/2015 academic year.  

Wayne Campbell is an educator and social commentator with an interest in development policies as they affect culture and or gender issues.

Friday, 25 July 2014

Nursing- A Career Option For Males

Nursing like all other professions of a nurturing nature continues to be female dominated. According to the US Census Bureau, less than ten (10%) per cent of American registered nurses (RNs) are men. Since its inception fifteen years ago, the Nurse of the Year Award has served to highlight the sterling contribution of nurses to the general well being of the Jamaican society. Lasco, the sponsors of the Nurse of the Year award should be commended for their vision as they continue to lead in being good corporate citizens.
Interestingly, it appears as if our male nurses have stayed away from this competition since no male has ever been awarded this most coveted honour. I am sure we have male nurses in the public health care system. I am also sure our male nurses are as hard working as their female colleagues. It seems a bit strange that in fifteen years of competition not even one male nurse have proven himself worthy to qualify for such an award. Maybe in years to come we will see a male as nurse of the year.  
Nursing is a very challenging profession. There is no praise too great for the unflinching and dedicated service our nurses provide to the society and to humanity. A good nurse is one who is able to soothe the concerns of the patient and cushion their pain even without medication. Let us continue to acknowledge the great work and worth of our nurses.

Wayne Campbell

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Psalm 18:32-36

It is God who arms me with strength
    and keeps my way secure.
33 He makes my feet like the feet of a deer;
    he causes me to stand on the heights.
34 He trains my hands for battle;
    my arms can bend a bow of bronze.
35 You make your saving help my shield,
    and your right hand sustains me;
    your help has made me great.
36 You provide a broad path for my feet,
    so that my ankles do not give way.

Monday, 21 July 2014

Fix School Boards to Improve our Education System

A society is as great as the public education system which caters to the children of that society. The Jamaican education system over the years has gone through a process of transformation. However, for the most part our policy makers have failed the nation’s children as this transformation has been hijacked by interest groups to the detriment of sustainable development.
We continue to give our politicians unbridled power to do just about anything without any level of accountability and transparency. The meddling of our politicians over successive governments into the education system is now being felt by all in a negative way. One area of the education system which has been overlooked is that of the composition of school boards.  In too many instances our school boards are full of political appointees many of whom have no interest in education.  This process of political interference inevitable contributes to the failing status that many of our schools now find themselves in.
We entrust school boards to provide effective and fair leadership, as well as, to adjudicate in matters concerning stakeholders in the education system.  All schools are community schools regardless of location. Therefore, it is imperative that all school boards should have members from their respective communities.  
Additionally, past students of the particular school should automatically be selected to serve on such boards. School boards should be nonpartisan. A school board can have a strong influence on the spirit that characterizes a community’s impression of its school system.  The Education Act should be revised to ensure that all school boards meet with their teachers and other stakeholders at the start of each school term. In too many instances teachers have no clue as to who are the members of their school boards since they have never seen them. This practice is most unacceptable. Our education system deserve better.
Furthermore the state needs to invest more in training school board members. The time has come for us a nation to put in place the necessary policy procedures to ensure that we embrace and follow a more progressive agenda instead of trying the same things repeatedly which clearly have not nor will work for Jamaica’s public education system.
Our schools are our most prized institutions and as such we must ensure that we select the most capable and competent individuals to serve on our school boards.

Wayne Campbell

Sunday, 6 July 2014

The Lord Is My Shepherd-Psalm 23

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. 2 He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. 3 He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake. 4 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. 5 Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. 6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.

Friday, 4 July 2014

Increase Resources Needed to Fight Child Abuse

According to the Office of the Children’s Registry (OCR) between January to September 2013 there were 8,527 reports of child abuse. As a society there is a tendency for us to become sidetracked with minor issues instead of focusing on the major issues. The latest saga which has captivated the nation’s attention involves the human rights group Jamaicans for Justice. Jamaicans for Justice is accused of introducing a sexuality course in six private children’s home without the approval of the Child Development Agency. The course was titled “Realizing Sexual and Reproductive Health Responsibly” and the content was considered inappropriate for the children in state care.   
However, the main issue we need to focus on is the fact our children rights based institutions are desperately lacking in support from the government. A good example of this is the Office of the Children’s Advocate which continues to be understaffed and underfunded. As a result this organization is unable to respond in a timely manner to all the complaints that are ever increasing as more cases of child abuse cases emerge. More and more Jamaican are now coming forward with information as we fight against breaking the culture of silence.  
At a recent press conference, Child’s Advocate, Mrs. Gordon Harrison informed the nation that her office only had 4 investigators to serve the entire 14 parishes. This is most unacceptable and untenable.  Strangely enough this disturbing news has gone under the radar in the public’s domain. There has been no public outrage and we have continued with business as per usual. How can we feel comfortable knowing that only four investigators are employed to such an important entity such as the Office of the Children Advocate?
Additionally, it is very clear that we need to move urgently to decentralize the operations of the Office of the Children’s Advocate. We need to divide the country into regions and have regional offices in order to better coordinate and monitor the operations of this most important institution. Of course all these plans will require more funding from the State.
The reality is we don’t have the best interest of our children at heart. We have created institutions to look after the interests of the nation’s children while at the same time we have not given the adequate financial and human support which is necessary for them to do an effective and complete job. There is also an urgent need to employ more lawyers at the Office of the Children’s Advocate. Any society which uses its collective energies on peripheral matters instead of address the main issue is truly a society in trouble.
Yes, we are all aware of the financial constraints we face as a country, however, if we truly care and love our children as we profess we do then we would find ways and means to put in place adequate resources in order to safe guard the rights and well being of all our children.

Wayne Campbell

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

From The Blogger,s Desk

Good governance becomes jeopardized when the justice system in society is considered as ineffective and the citizenry becomes disillusioned.-Wayne Campbell

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Quote for the Day

In order for a society to have Sustainable Development that society must first ensure that all gender barriers are dismantled and that the collective energies of both sexes are utilized-Wayne Campbell