Three seminars down, one to go. The lecture series finished this afternoon, concluding a series of somewhat interesting and yet also semi-poorly structured lessons. Much like the inclusive practices seminar, we have had the privilege of receiving guest speakers to educate us on various topics. Some were quite informative, others not so much.

Lecture topics have varied a fair bit, from the introduction of the superintendents of the school boards to the musings of one quirky Darren Lund. There are two which stand out in my mind, of which I will share with you today. The first dealt with the Fraser Institute and their “report card” on schools across Canada. The second dealt with something called “duty of care” and a case of negligence involving a school group on an environmental education field trip.

In the first lecture, we watched Mark Kelley’s 2005 CBC documentary on what the Fraser Institute had deemed the worst school in British Columbia. The documentary has Mr. Kelley going into this school and taking on the role of a teacher for a week to discover why it was ranked so low on the Fraser Institute’s report. Much of what he learned, we already knew about the Fraser Institute and the report itself because it is used here and because it is considered by many people in education to be more detrimental than useful. As the documentary plays out, we learned that despite their troubles, the school in question is actually doing the best it can under difficult conditions. One young girl can be seen arriving at the school one day with no parents or guardians to accompany her; the administrators simply worked through it and made it work for her.

Following the documentary, we connected with Mr. Kelley via Skype and held a question/answer period where he was able to deepen the meaning of the documentary. Since it has been 5 years since the film has aired, he had received much feedback from viewers across the country, both positive and negative. We learned that the principal of that school had since been let go, and that the public spotlight had garned a significant amount of attention for the school. All in all, it was a very engaging and interesting lecture.

The other lecture that I would share is the one on duty of care and a case of negligence. We were presented with a case in which a teacher had arranged a field trip for his students and that as a result of a series of unfortunate events, two students were hospitalized for hypothermia and extreme frostbite. Through a discussion on perceived negligence (without any background in law), we were engaged in a process of discovery to uncover the truth about this situation. Some thought the teacher had been negligent, others felt students were at fault for their own injuries, some blamed the school, and a few people put the blame on the parents. That there was such wide-ranging variety in responses made the discussion all the more fascinating.

From this lecture, we gained valuable insight into the meaning of “negligence” (also known as tort law). The final message was that negligence requires five elements:

  1. Duty of care
  2. Standard of care
  3. Proximate cause
  4. Reasonable foreseeability
  5. Damages

A breach in all five elements for a given situation can be definitively identified as negligent. There are plenty of details for what each of those elements means, but that’s a discussion for another day (or perhaps by someone who is actually a law student).

The overall feeling from the lecture series this semester has been a mixed one. On the one hand I feel that I have gained a great deal from guest speakers and what they’ve had to share with us. On the other hand, I feel that it could have been treated a little differently especially where the “pink slips” were concerned. Each class, we were asked to fill out a pink slip which were described initially as a way to obtain feedback on lecture content. No one would have taken issue with that except that the slips also asked for a name and student ID number. Our perception? Attendance slips. It’s all fine and well to want feedback but by presenting it in a way that gave the impression of being monitored for attendance, it became less about the comments and more about simply filling it out to show attendance at lectures.