Credit for after school activities a bust

On Tuesday, June 19th, the government of Nova Scotia launched another attack against the public education system by announcing that they were going  to be granting high school credits for students involved with  out of school organizations such as 4H and Cadets.

Now before I write another word, I want to be perfectly clear. I support such organizations wholeheartedly. I was a cadet. Proud member of 824 Silver Dart squadron, St. Peters which was supported without reservation by the Royal Canadian Legion Branch 47. The men and women who made that experience possible for me were above reproach. But as sure as I am about the honor and integrity and good intentions of those institutions, I am sure about something else.

They were not run by teachers.

When I was a cadet, I learned about being a cadet from other cadets. Kids, who were put in their position of authority over me by the decision of a couple of local men who worked at the pulp mill. Honourable men, yes. Men to whom I owe a debt of gratitude, yes. Role models, inspirations, deserving of respect,  yes.

But not teachers.

I moved through the ranks of my home squadron, and went to Truro where I learned to fly gliders. I studied weather, radio, principles of flight, all from instructors who had received their qualifications to teach me about such things by the simple fact that they had passed the course before I had. They were older. They knew the content.

But they were not teachers.

Eventually, I became an instructor, training students how to fly.  After I put in enough time, I  became an instructor of instructors, chosen because someone above me felt I had “the right stuff”. The ability to show other instructors how to show kids how to fly airplanes. While I was an instructor, I was enrolled in University, studying Shakespeare and religion and art and drama and science and life and love and the pursuit of happiness.

But I was still not a teacher.

At the end of my fourth year, I was accepted into the B.Ed. Program at Dal, and, at the end of that program, five years of University in total, I was told that now, now I could be a teacher.

So, you know what? The decision to grant credits to kids for taking 4-H or being in Cadets stings a bit.

Not because I don’t think that the programs are exceptional. Not because I don’t value the hundreds of volunteers that make the programs possible. And not because I believe that students in those programs don’t learn, or do, or accomplish amazing things. But because these institutions are not run by teachers. Amazing, gifted and exceptional people, yes.

But not teachers.

The government of this province set a standard for teachers a long time ago. They said to people like me “If you want to be a teacher, this is what you have to do. It doesn’t matter what you have done before. If you want to educate children in this province,  here are your hoops “.  And I jumped. In good faith. But now they  announce, during a time of cuts to education,  that volunteers can grant a credit equal to mine?


If this government truly wants to give kids the chance to get credits for non-academic activities, let teachers grant a credit for drama club. Let teachers grant a credit for track. Let teachers grant credits for all the amazing extracurricular events they volunteer to lead. If they believe that these outside institutions teach valuable life skills, let teachers mark integrity, and leadership, and industry in the classroom. Fund dance. Fund yoga. Fund the drama club.

But don’t tell teachers you want them to be more accountable for academic standards in one breath and then hand the granting of credits over to volunteers in another.

I believe in these organizations. They can do great things. But I am not a cadet Commanding Officer. I am not a 4H leader. I am a professional teacher. It is not my hobbie, it is not something I volunteer for. As respectful as I am of those people who give their heart and soul to volunteering for the kids of this province, teaching is my vocation.

And it is a vocation that has been dishonoured yet again.



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2 responses to “Credit for after school activities a bust

  1. S.

    I agree with the position you’ve taken on this recent government announcement … it simply reinforces the misconception that anyone can teach. If that’s the case, then why do we demand years of formal education from teachers? This simply devalues what they do … teaching is an art, discipline and legitimate profession that often doesn’t get recognized as such. This announcement from the government simply shows that don’t recognize the depth of the job teachers are trained to do in serving their students. Thank you for taking the time to say what is on the minds of many people.

  2. Sandy

    Some interesting thoughts. I am a teacher and I was a CIC officer (a member of the CF Reserves branch that is responsible for the cadet program). In the latter role, with the background of the former, I worked on a committee that prepared presentations for, and lobbied the government of the day to make this “outside credit” possible. That work happened a number of years ago and the process had been going on for at least 10 years then. Shortly after that committee (and many others related to other organizations in the province) made its presentation, the Department of Education of Rodney MacDonald’s Progressive Conservative government made its announcement that outside credits would be granted. It met with huge resistance from the Union and some others at the time. That announcement was accompanied by rather strict guidelines governing that credit, however while it seemed like a giant step publicly, those in the education field in the province knew it was in draft form only and really meant virtually nothing. That caused great confusion in high schools when students started seeking these credits which didn’t really exist. Then… nothing… until a week or so ago when the current (NDP) Department of Education made an announcement that made it look like the work and decisions were recent.
    At the time that I participated on that committee, I wasn’t really sure that this was for the best. I’m less sure now. I don’t see it quite as strongly as you do, but I certainly see your point. At the time I reviewed the curriculum for a high school leadership course (taught by teachers) that granted a credit to successful students. That course covered a fraction of the leadership that was covered by an Air Cadet (or Sea or Army Cadet) in 3 years. This was one of my reasons for supporting the outside credit plan… I’m seeing now that perhaps I was looking at things backwards and maybe the content of the high school leadership course needed to be ramped up instead.
    Anyway… keep up the good work. I don’t always agree with you, but I look forward to reading more. I may start to reply to your blog, on my own new site.

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