It's been a while since I was responsible for teaching Biology 30 and preparing students for the diploma exam they faced at the end of the course. Those were the days when teaching was easier.
Students who didn't complete work got a zero. They didn't get a do-over, an omit so the mark isn't part of the grade calculation, or have forever to come up with the assignment. There were no pre-tests. The test was it and it counted. Parents didn't storm into the classroom to accuse the teacher of unfair evaluation of their child and there wasn't pressure (at least not a lot) from administration to change a student's mark.
There was pressure to have your classroom evaluation match the student's diploma exam result and to have your class average at or above the provincial average. As one provincial education minister famously said, "We want every student in Alberta achieving above the provincial average."
Today the pressure is much higher. Students must be engaged. That is true but engagement does not mean one merry amusement after another. Some concepts are hard work. There is one way to accomplish them with proficiency and that is to practise. Not always enjoyable. Students are to evaluate their own learning. Pishshsh... they always did. But formalizing this takes more time from the teacher and from the course content that students need to master. Remember- no zeros. Deadlines? so stressful. Exams? Unfair- only a snapshot of what that student knows. Perhaps, but if the snapshot is unfocused and poorly composed, it means that the student hasn't learned the material.
The education issue the media is exploring now looks at "teacher inflated marks." There are "massive gaps between grade 12 students' grades assigned by teachers and their results on provincial exams." http://edmontonjournal.com/news/local-news/are-teachers-inflating-grades-critics-say-yes-school-boards-say-no
In 2016, 96% of Math 30-1 students were given passing marks by their teachers. Only 71% actually passed the diploma exam, a 25% gap. In Chemistry 30, the gap was 15%. The discrepancy isn't all on the teacher. Students are passed along to the grade 12 level, sometimes not earning the right to advance to the next course. Projects rather than exams can count for a good portion of a grade. If the project is well-designed, if the student actually did the work (in a group situation, how does the teacher know?), it can be a great way to learn. Still the issue is the gap between school-awarded and diploma exam marks. Perhaps oranges and apples are being compared.
In the "real" world, employees face exams all the time. Often advancement in the workplace depends on taking courses and yes, passing tests. There aren't extenuating circumstances, a do-over, or a make-up assignment. You try the exam again and often pay for the privilege. Students aren't served by marks that exaggerate their ability.
A bump, a cut, a spontaneous bleed? Life-threatening? Surely not but if you carry the mutated gene for blood clotting, those events could be. The blood clots through a series of chemical reactions that require proteins at each step. If one of these clotting factors is in low supply or missing, the bleed continues. It could be through an open wound or it could be internal into a joint or organ. When the pressure builds up tissues are damaged and if the bleed continues may prove fatal. Until recently, the treatment has been to periodically replace the clotting factors through transfusions of the missing clotting factor.
Manufacture of the clotting factors is under genetic control and hemophilia is most likely to affect males because the mutation is carried on the X-chromosome. It is recessive and since females would need two copies of the defective gene, few of them are affected. They can be carriers, however, and pass the disease to sons through the X chromosome.
There are two main types of hemophilia, A and B. A is more common and B, known as Christmas disease, affects fewer people. It is hemophilia B that has been treated with gene therapy. In this form, clotting factor IX is in low concentration and the gene for its manufacture doesn't work properly. Researchers in Philadelphia cooperating with Canadian doctors have infused a harmless virus with a "good" copy of the defective gene into the livers of 9 patients. The results have been more than encouraging. At this point, some of the subjects have been free of symptoms (any bleeds) for up to a year. The introduced gene is busy making factor IX and their blood is clotting.
This could be a cure, freeing victims of hemophila from treatments that increase their exposure to blood-borne infections like HIV and hepatitis. Patients can take part in everyday activities without the fear that an inadvertent bump will set of an internal bleed. Spontaneous bleeds won't occur.
The woman in the picture is Queen Victoria. It is believed that a spontaneous mutation in her DNA introduced hemophilia to the European Royal Families. She had nine children, of whom two females were carriers and one male was hemophiliac. In 2009, genetic research was able to identify the disease as Hemophilia B.
Hemophilia B hasn't been cured. The gene therapy needs to last for the patient's lifetime. There are other unknowns and the study included only 9 subjects. It does provide hope for the thousands of hemophiliacs who have had to lead sheltered lives. Even bumping a knee could lead to a serious bleed into the joint. Researchers are hopeful and patients wish that the treatment is a success and works for all with hemophilia B.
This shows a knee joint of a hemophiliac who is experiencing a bleed.
The recent shooting of Muslim men at prayer is horrifying and evil on more than one level. I am the granddaughter of a Ukrainian immigrant to eastern Alberta in the early 1900's. These resilient people (as all immigrants are) came to Canada seeking a better life and more importantly, chances for their children. My grandfather chose Canada because he wanted to be in a country under the British monarch. He came not speaking English and lost track of family who were sent to different parts of the country. My grandfather worked hard, farming with teams of horses and he died long before I was born. My grandmother never learned English and the strangeness of the new country wore her down.
My father, the son of this immigrant, fought in WW11. He was through North Africa, Italy and into Belgium. His hard work when he came home made it possible for me to attend university. He valued education and although he had to quit school in grade 9, he made sure I (and my brother) had every opportunity.
My mother was an English warbride so I she was an immigrant, too. The son of an immigrant married a woman from England and brought her to the hard life as a farm wife near the farm where he was born. She made the adjustment to the difficulties and although she missed 'jolly old England', she made Canada her home. Together my mother and father raised two children and made a life that gave us every chance.
I would like to think that I took advantage of those chances and the appreciation for education has been carried on to my children who both have 2 degrees and now work as teachers. They are thoughtful, contributing members of society who don't harbour prejudices against new comers.
My father couldn't speak English when he went to school and was backed into a corner and ridiculed. By the time he was older, his English was unaccented. Quite an accomplishment. Ukrainian immigrants and their kids were called bohunks at the time- pretty derogatory. Not far from where I sit writing this, a family of Ukrainian immigrants were burned out of their farm three times. Then they left the district.
My mother was, of course, the Limey from Blighty, and she didn't have the skills a farm wife needed. At least not at first. When she came to Canada, the house featured no power, no running water and no furnace of any kind. Those were the days of cold and long winters. There was deep snow and they were trapped in the house for periods of time. Travel might be by horse and rack over the fields. Somehow she managed.
My father was so determined that we should fit into this land, that he didn't teach us the Ukrainian language. We didn't have Ukrainian food, or practice any of the customs. I am poorer for this omission. My mother taught us the British customs that we know and many of her expressions have crept into our daily language. An enrichment of what is mainstream Canadiana.
This is why I am determined that if I can help in some small way to change attitudes, to make what our members of parliament proclaimed on our behalf, to welcome newcomers to our country, I will. Scientists know there is ONE human race. Genetics prove it and the differences in religion, custom and culture should not make a difference to us.
Every year I swear I'll be a good Canadian. I'll embrace winter and enjoy the challenges and sharp beauty of the season. I'll curl up with books, I'll write the great Canadian novel, and I'll create something crafty. What else are these long winter evenings for?
Reality. The deep dark of winter comes early and stays late. After a while, it bothers you. I don't suffer from SAD (seasonally affective disease) but I feel way better when sunny Alberta, is sunny. The snow sparkles, the air is clear and the sky pale blue. There are stretches, though, when the clouds hug the ground, fog creeps in, or the wind howls. It's hard to embrace winter, then. I try to get out for walks and fresh air. It helps but still...
Then this year there was yesterday's Trump inauguration. Truly frightening and destructive. He appears to be such an unfeeling blowhard. His lips say one thing and at great volume with questionable grammatical construction and low vocabulary. He is a billionaire, privileged since birth yet he claims to speak for the workers and the middle class. His first actions have been to sign executive orders to dismantle accomplishments of the Obama regime, things like the Affordable Care Act aka Obamacare. I will not rant on except to say that this transition of power is unsettling.
January is closing in so there are a couple of months before the lengthening days are evident. Perhaps it's time to reconsider my recent mopey ways and go back and read my intent to make winter great again- sorry. I do have interests and there are plenty of things that can occupy my time. Maybe I should go clean but I think I'll write another blog.
My Dad died Boxing Day 1976. He was 56 years old and except for the massive heart attack in pretty good health. He met his granddaughter; she was a year and half old when he died. His grandson didn't meet him but was born a couple of years later.
Dad wasn't much for a lot of chit-chat but when we were kids he did stuff for us. We didn't have a lot of money but we also never felt deprived. No one had money, really, but kids especially had a grand time.
Jay Leno and I have this in common. We both once owned and drove 1928 Oaklands. Mine is pictured above and it's the car I learned to drive in. Four on the floor gear shift and the brake and clutch had welded extenstions I could reach them. Dad bought the car from a bachelor neighbour's selling out auction and its engine was siezed. He was a pretty mechanical man so he spent the winter bringing the engine back to life. The Oakland smelled a little of musty mice but it didn't matter when compared with the freedom of the, not road, runway. Dad had a two-seater Luscombe airplane and he had made a airstrip out of part of one field. My brother and I were allowed to cross the road and drive up and down the runway ourselves. I was 11, my brother was 8.
Our mongrel dog, Skippy, was allowed to come along and her excitement matched ours. She'd hang her head out the window and when my brother popped the clutch, she'd bark. Good times.
So...although Dad died at Christmas, each year when I remember him, it's something like the Oakland. He did a lot for us and was quiet about it. I miss my Dad.
I watched Trump campaign "events" with disbelief; misogyny, hate messages, plain craziness and felt smug about Canadian politics. O, there were politicians calling each other out, missteps in parliament and political cartoonists lampooning our representatives but there was some degree of civility to it.
I am not against protests. If a person feels strongly about any issue, it is their democratic right to make their opinion known, with the ultimate right to vote a government or politician out of office. It is not a right to name call and shake signs that bear messages of hate. All this happened on the steps of the Alberta legistlature. The red signs held up by some members of the crowd are professionally printed and were provided by Rebel Media, Ezra Levant's "newsite." He, of course, also has his right to organize and to make his views known. I fear that he was taking advantage of people who aren't well-informed but are reacting to the carbon tax with their guts. No one likes new taxes, recession or unemployment. This rally was not offering solutions and turned uglier yet when the crowd began chanting, "Lock her up. Lock her up."
As Rona Ambrose, official leader of the federal opposition pointed out, "It's not even original." Trump supporters originated the chant to show their disdain for Hillary Clinton. Brian Jean, Wildrose and official opposition leader, and Conservative leadership hopeful Chris Alexander addressed the rally. Jean claims he left before the chanting began. Alexander says he tried to change it to "vote her out." He looks way too delighted in the video to be trying anything seriously.
Polititians everywhere are now decrying the chanting, the homophobic signs and the whole atmosphere of the rally. They are distancing themselves from it while trying to say that the participants are displaying their dissatisfaction with the Notley government. That is their right but there are better ways. Peaceful demonstrations, even heated debate and making your opinion known as I am.
I can't help but suspect that the NDP government was targeted by The Rebel partly because their reporter was banned this year from a government news conference. Then there is the blatant misogyny the female members of the legislative assembly have faced. Legitmate concerns about a carbon tax? It is your right but please, protest it in a legitmate way. This only focused the country on how badly we in Alberta can act.
The Fifth Estate recently aired a program featuring the murder of Tim Bosma and the evil way in which he was killed.
May 6th, 2013, Tim Bosma took two men, Dellen Millard and Mark Smich, on a test drive to sell his Ram 3500 truck. Bosma was never seen again.
Soon after, Millard and Smich killed him and thought they had disposed of the body. They placed it in the industrial animal incinerator pictured and cremated it. Bone fragments and some ash were all that remained when police found The Eliminator on one of Millard's rural properties.
Millard and Smich were charged with first degree murderand on June 17, 2016 were convicted.
Dellen Millard had more chances in life than most. He was flying helicoptors and aircraft solo at the age of 14. Millard went to university although he eventually dropped out. When his father died, he inherited the family Aviation business.
Wayne Millard, seventy-one, was allegedly killed by gunshot by his son, Dellen. The death was staged to look like suicide but it has been determined it was not. Millard faces a first degree murder charge in the shooting death of his father.
It doesn't end there. He faces trial for the murder of 23 year-old Laura Babcock of Toronto. Her body has never been found.
The details revealed by The Fifth Estate are horrifying and mistakes were made in all of the investigations. That Millard went about, unsuspected, for so long is terrifying. His motives aren't revealed, although I read somewhere, Bosma's murder was for the thrill of it. Millard and Smich (evil in his own right), should face life in prison. Period.
The episode: The Murder of Tim Bosma: The Devil Had a Name can be watched on-line at
Dark Ambition: The Shocking Crime of Dellen Millard and Mark Smich by Ann Brocklehurst investigates the murders in depth.
Each year when Remembrance Day rolls around, I think not only of all the veterans, but my Dad and Mum. Dad was with the Royal Canadian Artillery. He spoke very little about his six years overseas although he fought in the North African campaign and was through Holland, Italy and Belguim.
My Mum lived through the Battle of Britain as a young woman. She worked in an isolation hospital and lived with her sister in Great London. They had a table reinforced to shelter under when the bombs fell. She remembered the sound of the doodle-bugs (an early pulsejet-powered cruise missile),the blackouts and the squadrons of Spitfires fighters headed for Europe.
For many years my mother attended Warbride Reunions. I was able to attend with her a few times. What most impressed me at one of them was the spirit of this group of elderly women singing wartime favourites. Their thin, wavering voices were echo from the past, over all the years between. The hair rose on the back of my neck.
Later when my Mum had died, I wrote this poem, in an attempt to capture the moment. It is a poor effort but it is what came from that moving experience.
Time’s gauze wavers, lifts
Spitfires spurt flame
Fearless fighters plummet
Bent backs straighten
Wispy, white hair thickens, darkens
Bombers drone in formation
Pierce the blackout
The past is present
All Clear sounds
People erupt from shelters
To defy war
Air snaps with energy
Fades as the gauze falls
Thin, true voices rise
Ghostly clear over the years
“It’s a long way to Tipperary
It’s a long way to go…”
We will remember the veterans, the victims and all those so affected by war.
This is the only picture of Chanie Wenjack, the Ojibwe boy who died in October 50 years ago. When he was nine, Charlie as the teacher's named him, was torn from his family and home and sent to Cecilia Jeffreys Industrial Indian School. He endured losing the right to speak his language and practice his culture. He was abused sexually, physically and mentally.
October 16, 1966 was an unseasonably warm day in Northern Ontario when Chanie and two brothers escaped into the bush. There was a secret path that students had used to try and get back home. Chanie and his friends were not dressed for the sudden bitter change in weather. The two brothers found their trapper Uncle and were able to stay with him. Chanie was sent on by himself with the advice to stick to the railway tracks and get food from railway workers when he saw them. Somewhere along those tracks alone, cold and scared Chanie died from exposure and starvation. His body was found October 22nd. 600 km had been an impossible distance but he hadn't given up. He was covered with bruises from falling as he struggled to get home.
Last night CBC presented Secret Path, Gord Downie and Jeff Lemire's re-telling of Chanie's tragic story. Downie sings 10 songs composed to accompany the animation of Jeff Lemire, a award-winning graphic novelist. The images are stark and the music haunting. Secret Path is likely Gord Downie's final project. He is suffering from incurable brain cancer.
Works like this (acclaimed novelist Joseph Boyden has released a novella, Wenjack) are making Chanie Wenjack the face of residential school abuse and horror. Some estimates place the number of children who died at the schools or trying to escape them at 30,000. No one knows for sure.
Chanie Wejack's death led to the first public inquiry into the death of an aboriginal child in a residential school and the jury found “The Indian education system causes tremendous emotional and adjustment problems.” They also recommended that “a study be made of the present Indian education and philosophy," Kudos to that jury but it seems nothing much happened. The results of the inquiry must have been shelved because it took another thirty years (1996) before the last residential school closed.
The repercussions from the abuse of the children who survived are inter-generational. If the story of Chanie Wenjack finally creates awareness of this travesty visited on the First Nations people, he didn't die in vain. Awareness is the first step to making changes.
I debated writing anything about Chanie Wenjack. I am an ordinary, privileged white woman and until last night, I didn't know who he was. Then I thought, if even one person reads my little blog and thinks about the crimes committed on innocent First Nation children, I should do it.
RIP - Chanie Wenjack - born 19 January 1954; died 23 October 1966.
I've been writing on and off for years and this is where my more serious pieces will be.