Monthly Archives: December 2008

Rein in the Reindeer

As Christmas and other seasonal holidays approach, I think it is time we reflected on the messages we send to the sensitive minds of our students in our schools’ Holiday Concerts. Many schools are appropriately avoiding any reference to the Christ in Christmas and even avoiding the word Christmas so everyone can feel included. Wisely, they choose songs about snowmen and Santa Claus. Santa Claus is a bit on the edge of promulgating Christian as historically he has his roots in St. Nicholas. However, no one studies history that far back any more. The red and white incarnation of St. Nick we know as Santa Claus was created by a certain soft drink company as part of its advertising campaign. Since soft drinks and advertising are not religious, references to Santa Claus are acceptable so long as the product is not mentioned. So we won’t mention Coke.
We are concerned with some songs, particularly Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer. Normally, Rudolph might be acceptable as it originated in a poem written for department store advertising and is therefore not connected with religion at all, but I am afraid it is not connected with morality, either.
If you recall, the introduction starts with the names of the other reindeers. Some are innocent enough, even rather sweet, such as Dancer and Dasher, but Vixen is not an appropriate name for a character in a song for children; it’s true that the reindeer are badly behaved bullies but that’s no reason to use such language. Next thing you know, Santa will be referring to her as Tartette or Girlie. I am not even going to discuss the implications of a name like Prancer.
The song goes from bad to worse when it points out Rudolph’s affliction! Would we sing a song about Travis, the pimple-faced boy? Or Fred, the pocket-protected geek? Or Matilda, the enormous fattie? It’s not nice to sing about other people’s visible defects. They can’t help the humongous mole on their cheeks or their single eyebrow or large ears or knobbly knees so it is dreadfully unfair to point them out.
Not only does the song point out Rudolph’s affliction (and in passing, what an unfortunate name, with all of its associations), but it then goes on to tell us that the other reindeer made fun of him for it. They didn’t just make fun of him, they discriminated against him; they wouldn’t let him play with them! I imagine that particular bit of nastiness was instigated by the aptly named Vixen. This is the kind of thing that should have been quickly handled by Santa or personnel or the Human Rights Commission!
But does Santa intervene and make these four-footed barbarians see the error of their ways? No! He ignores it. The only notice he takes of Rudolph is when the weather gets bad and he needs a fog light. This is appalling. Surely Santa would have planned for such eventualities, or his Health and Safety Committee would have drawn it to his attention. He could hardly have done so many years of flying without encountering adverse weather conditions. If he had flown without having lights, it speaks to his carelessness not only for the mental health of his reindeers, but their safety and the safety of aircraft the world over.
It is clear that Rudolph has no training for the role of fog light; it is a big surprise to everyone when he is asked to lead. Another error in safety! Now this is where the children learn a truly disgusting lesson. The moment Rudolph is promoted, the other reindeers become sycophantic fawners, complimenting the very reindeer they had derided and inviting him to their games and parties. What kind of a lesson is that?
This song teaches our children that it is perfectly fine to pick on outsiders and exclude them. It is also acceptable to fawn on bosses, heroes and celebrities no matter how much we disliked them before their elevation. In other words, bullying and hypocrisy is part of the Christmas spirit. Ho Ho Ho.
Mrs. M. Whitehouse
© Sheila Diane Scaiff and Teachers Outside the Box, 2008. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Sheila Diane Scaiff and Teachers Outside the Box with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Have You Ever Wondered Why Your Child’s Elementary Teacher Looks So Tired?


The secondary teachers have accepted the contract offered by the Ontario Public School Boards ’ Association; if the English public school teachers were to accept the contract offered to them, here is what the difference would be in working conditions:





Time spent teaching

¾ of the day

7/8 of the day

1/8 of the day


115 hours & 19 minutes per year

Maximum number of different subjects a teacher can be required to teach under normal circumstances.




Time spent on supervision

60 minutes a week

80 minutes a week

20 minutes a week


760 minutes a year


12 hours & 40 minutes

Time required for mandatory access to students outside of teaching time or supervision time (above)


100 minutes a week

3,800 minutes a year


63 hours & 20 minutes a year

Paid time for preparation

260 minutes a week

200 minutes a week

60 minutes a week


38 hours per year


            In other words, elementary teachers (junior kindergarten to grade eight) could be expected to teach four more subjects than their secondary counterparts and would be expected to work almost five and a half weeks longer with over a week less in paid time for preparation.  All of these teachers have two degrees and some have more.  Most of them spend their own time and money upgrading their skills.  Is there a single board where elementary teachers are paid more than secondary teachers?  There are boards where they are paid less: up to $4,000 a year less.

            These are only some of these inequities that elementary teachers want addressed.  They are patient; they recognise that money is a problem and do not ask that money be thrown at the problem, just rejigged.  They do not ask that their colleagues get less.  They only ask for equity.  This is a human rights issue.  What’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.

                                                S. D. Scaiff



Is French Immersion a Money Maker for School Boards?


                 Exploring the financial costs of French Immersion proved to be an eye opening task. There are two main factors involved.  First is the funding the province provides for the different amount of minutes per day which each pupil spends studying French or studying in French.  The second is the cost of transportation for students in French Immersion or its little sister, Extended French. Extended French is a program offering one or more subjects in French.  

The grants provided by the Ontario government are the same regardless of the board.  I will keep to the elementary grants; the secondary grants differ only as secondary students and their needs differ, the one exception being that secondary students get a larger base grant (larger by 25%)*.  There is a basic per pupil grant of $4,045.80. The school receives a grant, too, for the cost of principals and office staff.  On top of the base grant come grants for special needs; French is included as a special need.

The amount of the French grant increases depending on the number of minutes per day a pupil spends studying French or studying in French.  The allocation for an average of:            20 – 59 minutes (Core, Grades 4 to 8) is $270.82

60 – 149 minutes (Extended, Grades 4 to 8) is $308.55

150 minutes or more (Immersion, Grades 1 to 8) is $345.18

75 minutes or more (Immersion, JK and K) is $345.18

Bear in mind that these allocations are on top of the per pupil grant.  No other subject, to my knowledge, receives an extra allocation. My information above on grants is from Technical Paper 2008–09, Revised October 2008, Ontario Ministry of Education. My best guess is that part of the reason behind the grants is the cost of materials in French.

This is where it gets very interesting.  The Peel Board on its web site states:

                 The budget to schools for teachers, instructional supplies

                  and equipment for French immersion is exactly the same

                   as for the regular school program.

(Get the Facts: Cost of French Immersion )




The same site went on to explain that the board receives roughly $1,789,000/year for the elementary French Immersion students.  Since the cost of bussing those 5,160 students is $1,400,000, the implication is that the board comes out ahead.   And if their only cost for French Immersion is transportation, which comes out to $271 a head, the Peel Board is providing FI at the same cost as the funding for Core French.   Please note that the funding is all going on transportation.

            All my research at the Ministry of Education site could not tell me whether school boards are allowed to use savings from one envelope of grants such as French to top up another envelope of grants such as transportation or vice versa.  However, I did find that information in the minutes of the French as a Second Language Advisory Committee Minutes, Feb. 5, 2008 for the Toronto District School Board.

                 As the staff member explained to the committee members, the boards are under no obligation to use their FSL grants from the ministry for French language teaching.  At the TDSB much of it is “used for preparation time delivered by Core French”.  I wonder whether it is used in other boards to cover the cost of bussing French Immersion students.  Only the PDSB distinguished the cost of transportation for its FI students. The grants at the PDSB and TDSB must be modest amounts compared to the Ottawa Carleton District School Board.  PTSD has 5% of their elementary students enrolled in FI, TDSB has 2.5% in FI and OCDSB has 38% enrolled in FI.  It is a lot of students and a lot of money.

                It is not clear that all French grant money is transferred to other envelopes, however, of the three boards I looked at, only the Peel Board distinguished the French Immersion grants from the regular French grants and only the Toronto Board pointed out that French grants did not have to be spent on the teaching of French.  There may be more information on all three of these boards’ web sites, but it was not easy to find.

            This brings me to a few question: Are school boards pushed to dipping into the French envelope by the tightening of the purse strings or has it been ever thus?  Is French Immersion a money maker for school boards? 

            Would parents rethink placing a child in French Immersion if they though that the cost of transportation would be the same as the extra money available to enhance the French program?   How would parents feel if they knew that the extra funds were largely being diverted?  Bear in mind that teachers’ salaries are already covered by another, separate grant.

      If one assumes that most or all of the grant money for French Immersion, Extended French and Core French is being redirected regularly how much better could each of these programs be if the money was actually spent on the programs?  How much less translating and photocopying would the teachers have to do?  How much more audio-visual equipment would be available to all French teachers?  Would there be any Core French teachers left teaching their program from a cart and preparing at a desk in the staff room?  Would boards be able to afford French monitors from Quebec to assist in enlivening the Core French classes?

            I keep thinking I must be missing something.  I would love to hear from people who know more than I do on the subject!

S. D. Scaiff

For more information on French Immersion and transportation, see the Canadian Parents For French (Ontario chapter)’s Study of Transportation to French Immersion and Extended French Programs in Ontario School Boards, written by Fran Sutton in 2001

© Sheila Diane Scaiff and Teachers Outside the Box, 2008. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Sheila Diane Scaiff and Teachers Outside the Box with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.