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The Team – full List

The groundwork needed to pull together an effective team is actively underway. Directors and advisers are being sought to represent the views of some or all of the following groups.

The time investment for people joining the team is mostly upfront time, the time it takes to understand how self-directed learning works and how it benefits each of the following groups.

Possible Directors and Advisors

Group Description of Representative
Students a student leader who can provide a strong voice for students to ensure their concerns are addressed as appropriately as possible.
Parents a parent who firmly believes in the democratic learning model and who is known among parents as an advocate for children.
Special Education a parent connected to the group of parents with have children with special needs.
Alternate Parents a parent connected to the group of parents who have children in recovery or retention programs.
Alternative Parents a parent connected to the group of parents with children in the OCDSB alternative programs for elementary age children.
Homeschoolers a parent who has decided to homeschool because of dissatisfaction with public education and who is well-connected in the homeschoolers community.
Teachers union representatives who ses the potential for teachers to have considerably more satisfying careers in a system built on self-direction.
School Administrators an executive member of a school board who believes public educators need to thoroughly investigate the democratic model and who have an understanding of how to maximize the benefits of two competing schools operating under the same roof.
School Board Trustees an existing or former school board trustee who understands the problems boards have in trying to affect change and how they might be overcome.
Ministry of Education a representative of the Ministry who can keep the team in line with Ministry requirements and who can have the Ministry consider relaxing some guidelines in order to research democratic learning in greater depth.
College of Teachers a current or former member of the college of teachers who is recognized as being a strong voice for the views of the Ontario College of teachers.
Faculty of Education a member of a Faculty of Education to be involved in research related to assessing the success of the pilot programs, and who would also be looking at how teacher education might change to train teachers for democratic learning environments.
Seniors A senior who knows that schools are failing to tap into the knowledge and wisdom of retired people willing and wanting to share what they know with young people.
Business Community a business leader who sees the endless opportunities with democratic learning for mutually beneficial sharing between school and workplace.
Rate Payers a noted taxpayer watchdog who sees the potential in the democratic learning model to be a considerably more cost effective way to provide public education.
Child Care Workers a career social workers focused on the problems of children and youth and how schools can better address them.
Psychologists a psychologist or psychiatrist with a strong knowledge of child development and multiple intelligences.
Human Rights Advocates a person respected in the field of children’s rights as they pertain to the demeaning of children, the shaping of their self-concepts, and the diminishing of their futures.
Social Activists a person known to be leader in the fight for social justice.
Operations Managers a person to run awareness building campaigns, to maintain membership records, to meet with potential supporters and to maintain good communications within the team and with all supporters. This is the position I am currently filling.

 

Richard Fransham – intro

This intro is provided because people who may support an initiative need to know where it is coming from and that there is nothing whimsical about it.

I was born in Montreal and graduated from high school at the end of grade 11, age 16. I worked in a bank for a year then attended a two year college program that qualified me to be a teacher. In 1966 at age 19 I began teaching physical education in two of Montreal’s tougher inner city elementary schools.

From the start things felt wrong. I blamed it on my inexperience, but after three years I had to get out and went travelling. A year later I returned to teaching with a different school board, a different assignment, and a fresh look. In no time the old look was back and as I searched for answers I stumbled upon George Leonard’s book titled Education and Ecstasy. He had put into words everything I was feeling and in my naivety I gave a copy of his book to my father, a successful teacher who had risen through the ranks to become a superintendent with a large school board. I thought it was only a matter of days before he and I would have a reform movement underway.

Not long after I visited him and found him livid. The usual easy-go, decent man had been wounded by Leonard. The book so incensed my father that he couldn’t get past page ten. I told him Leonard’s criticisms of public education seemed bang-on to me, and my father shot back, “Well what’s the alternative?”

George Leonard provided a scenario of an alternative, but I couldn’t grasp it at the time. It assumed a faith in kids that only later I appreciated, and so I could only respond to my father by saying, “I don’t know.” I hadn’t anticipated the question and I was embarrassed that I should see so many problems and have no solutions, so that moment set my course. I had to find the answer and at the same time I realized I was going to be up against very caring and dedicated people like my father. Thomas Kuhn, the person who coined the phrase “paradigm shift” said that disciples of an old paradigm may take a long time to convert to a new one and some may never convert, but it didn’t mean that they were not good people.

By the mid 1980’s the alternative I was searching for had crystallized. In the interim, I taught and quit a couple of more times. I was for a time a science teacher advisor and wrote some curriculum the left to publish a magazine called Child Focus in 1979, The International Year of the Child. The goal with the magazine was to create a permanent publication that would rally parents in some nebulous way to bring about change in education. It ended with me fulfilling the prophecy of a chartered accountant who said to me at the outset that it sounded like an expensive way to get an education. I went on to teach for a year at the American School of Paris then came to Ottawa where I began to teach high school computer courses. Declining enrolments put me on a redundancy list after two years, but my newly acquired computer skills led to a position with the University of Ottawa teaching in its Faculty of Education. I spent the next three years in that role during which time I acquired a master’s degree in computer applications in education from The Ontario Institute for Studies in Education.

It was while I was at the University that a colleague suggested I read Thomas Kuhn’s book The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. It introduced me to the idea that a new technology can bring about a paradigm shift like the telescope helped to bring about the Copernican Revolution. I clung to that idea seeing the computer as the technology that would transform education and I tempered my continuing restlessness with efforts to further understand and develop the potential of the machine to transform education.

From the University I went to teach computer courses in one of the Ottawa Catholic School Board secondary schools. It was a move made with the hope of implementing the new vision I had for education and after a couple of years with the board, a colleague and I put forward a proposal to run a self-directed learning program. Initially we had in mind a program along the lines of the Sudbury Valley School where students would learn whatever they wanted to learn and we would be facilitators. That proposal became the CHIP program upon which the pilot programs advocated here are based. It was so watered-down from our initial proposal that I thought we were being set up to fail, but my colleague saw more opportunity than I did and we went ahead with it. I now view all the constraints and conditions placed on the program as one of those fortunate, accidental stumbling that provide critical pieces to a puzzle. Despite the limits placed on the students, the absence of timetabling and the small cross-age factor allowed them to flourish. From this it became clear that the way to steer the big, cumbersome institution of public education was through a series of many turns starting with the elimination of timetabling.

Changes in the school administration and a lack of knowing how to operate competing schools under the same roof resulted in the program being cancelled after two years. I fought it to the point of being reprimanded then withdrew to the computer lab where I was increasingly able to let students be more self-directed. I toyed with leaving teaching and started a computer business on the side which led to me taking a leave to help a client company implement ISO 9000 standards, but like people keep getting drawn back to their homelands, I kept being drawn back to teaching. After a year I returned thinking I would quietly spend the rest of my career in the computer lab, but that didn’t happen. Events transpired in such a way that I decided to press as hard as I could to resurrect CHIP and if I couldn’t do it, then I would attempt to bring about change from the outside. My pushing got me suspended indefinitely and after exploring all rays of hope I resigned from the Board.

I spent the next year and half trying to rally the parents to demand better from public educators. I became an executive member of the Ottawa Carleton Assembly of School Councils and co-chair of its Secondary School Committee, which is the main parents’ voice in the Ottawa Carleton District School Board (OCDSB), and I advocated for change wherever it seemed appropriate, but I got nowhere. I was a lone voices screaming in the wilderness. During this time I opposed as anti-community a new vision for secondary schools that the public board was promoting and I thought it would never hire me should I decide to again return to teaching, but it did hire me once I gave up working on the outside. Some of the secondary school principals had also opposed the new vision and I asked my new department head hoping to learn that I had a like-minded principal, “Did I get hired because I opposed the new vision?” “No,” he said. “You were the only one who applied.” People with computer skills were not entering teaching at the time. It was the shortage of computer teachers that allowed me to be critical of my superiors and yet still be employable. The computer kept me out of the poor house and I kept trying to develop its power to help transform education.

I taught at Cairine Wilson Secondary School for the next ten years. The power of the computer to support independent learning kept developing and I became a teacher of self-directed learning skills where computer skills and knowledge were just by-products. I also tried to get a program like CHIP running at Cairine, but despite interest from the school administration and some teachers, support from above was lacking.

For more than twenty years I have tried to write a book that could make a difference and I tried even harder when I retired. Ultimately I never wrote anything that would help the cause more than it might hurt it and that hadn’t already been better said by someone else, but writing was a great exercise. It challenged me to really clarify my thinking and my ability to look at things from different angles. I dealt with every argument against self-directed learning and it only strengthened my view that public education has to adopt it as its modus operandi.

After scrapping my latest long tedious book and I was wondering how next to advocate for self-directed learning, I became a volunteer for Ecology Ottawa and saw how it operates. It collaborates well with other environmental groups and avoids polarizing people by saying, “Go out and find our friends, and don’t worry about the others.” It doesn’t try to take on the world, just a city as it encourages the city council to be a leader in green policies and builds environmental awareness in the community. I decided to apply the model to education by starting an organization that would encourage educational leaders to pursue self-directed learning policies and to build within the community the support they would need to drive them. That is where things now stand.

 

College of teachers

ETOF

OSSTF

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