Telling Tales out of School

with Nick Martin

Email Nick Martin

  • The universities invade, and other stuff

    Peter Brass rolls out his annual road show this week, and if you’ve got a kid in grades 11 or 12, you should plan on going.

    Brass is the universities advisor at St. John’s-Ravenscourt School, and the guy who annually brings more than three dozen Canadian universities to the city for a recruiting fair.

    He’s also the guy I’ve quoted umpteen times saying that, Maclean’s notwithstanding, there isn’t a single public university in Canada at which you won’t get a good education.

    There are 37 schools coming to this year’s fair, which is an excellent opportunity to ask all the specific questions you want and pick up oodles of glossy brochures and get the addresses of websites galore chock-a-block with information.

    It gets under way Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. at SJR, when the recruiters will be available for individual discussions with high school students and their parents. Parents may also go to the Thursday evening session at Balmoral Hall School at 6:30 p.m.

    Students in grades 11 and 12 have been designated to attend one of four sessions around the city: Thursday at 9:30 a.m. at Vincent Massey Collegiate and at 1:15 p.m. at College Sturgeon Heights Collegiate; and Friday at 9:30 a.m. at St. John’s High School, and 1:15 p.m. at Garden City Collegiate.

    If your kid is smart enough to get into university, she or he can program the PVR so you don’t miss the hockey game. No excuses for not going Wednesday evening.

    Moving along....

    I’m trying to follow new Education and Advanced Learning Minister James Allum on Twitter. After two days, I’m still shown as pending.

    I remember following Nancy Allan on Twitter....then finding out that a teenaged girl in Sacramento had very little to say about Manitoba education.

    And again switching to something related....

    Academica Top Ten ran reference to my story in which Allum said that universities will be getting at least the same 2.5 per cent increase in operating grants as they got this year. And he also said the K-12 system will get at least the percentage increase in provincial growth in their operating grants.

    What I thought was remarkable is that Allum told me this months before the government officially announces the education system’s funding, something I can’t ever recall any of his predecessors doing.

    And I ran into someone in a position to know on the weekend, who told me that the Selinger government has been quietly slipping the word to universities to expect 2.5 per cent this year.

    And even more little bits on education:

    Three years now that Feed the Children has had the We Scare Hunger campaign following We Day, in which older students go out collecting for the food bank on Hallowe’en. Three years that I’ve got cans and pasta and peanut butter by the front door, and three years that nary a single high school student has come to the door collecting for We Scare Hunger. Did no student in north River Heights get involved in the campaign?

    And now for something completely different....

    Kids’ indoor soccer has no four-second rule this year, so teams don’t lose possession if they take longer than four seconds when they’re ready to put the ball in play.

    So I’m doing the pre-game checks, and a little kid asks me why that rule is gone, and I had no explanation to offer, saying that others made the decision and I am but a lowly proletarian drone. And I’m thinking later, that might have gone over a few heads.


    I had a delightful Saturday.

    First, I go to our favourite fruit and vegetable shop, where we go weekly. And there’s still a big sign outside saying they have wild blueberries.

    Now, keep in mind that I have no expertise as a greengrocer, though I do feel fairly confident in speculating that no fruit or vegetable sold in the shop grows when the ground is frozen. Nevertheless, I know that 95 per cent of the produce sold is fresh, and it’s been kept in some sort of cold storage until ready for sale.

    I’m in the berries, and ask a shopkeeper where I can find the wild blueberries. And he just stares at me with utter contempt for what felt like 15 seconds, saying not a word, and I finally say, OK, I know it’s an idiotic question this time of year, but you have a sign up on your window. And he continues to stare at me, and finally says, maybe he should take the sign down, then pauses again, and tells me the only blueberries I’ll find this time of year are frozen.

    Bringing home to me once again that it’s obvious why I’m not in management and marketing, if this is how successful businesses treat their regular customers.


    And continuing my delightful Saturday, we’re sitting in our season seats in the Warehouse waiting for the play to begin, and suddenly I get whacked in the right shoulder, a really hard hit. I spin around, and here’s a woman in the row behind looking at me. She goes: “Doug?”

    And I say no, I’m not Doug, and she says that this woman beside me (whom she hasn’t whacked) looks just like Doug’s wife. And she wasn’t Doug’s wife, she’s married to me, and neither of us is who this woman thought we were. And I tell the woman, maybe next time you decide to hit a complete stranger, you consider doing it more gently, which didn’t go over at all.

    Bottom line, I apparently was the only rude one.


    Finally, another one in which I can argue there are trace elements of education.

    We accepted a Couch Surfer, a Dutch student who looked very interesting, but because he was hitching and couldn’t give ballpark times he’d arrive, and because neither of us could leave work if he got dropped off in Headingley in the middle of the day, he opted to stay with more flexible, and younger, hosts.

    Then there were two we won’t take.

    The first is a master’s student at U of M from somewhere in Minnesota. She got her class schedule, two consecutive days in mid-week, didn’t know what to do, and someone suggested she could get free room and board through Couch Surfing.

    Uh-uh, that’s not what a community of travellers is about.

    Literally minutes after joining, she emailed us, asking to stay one night each week for the semester, beginning that very evening when she’d arrive in time for dinner. I noted she, of course, had no profile and no references, and she was not even offering her own couch for surfers.

    The other one was kind of flabbergasting, and way too full of potential pitfalls.

    He’s from Cameroons, living in England where he’s studying both law and an MBA. He’s decided to immigrate to Canada as of Jan. 1 — how this all fits together he didn’t explain — and stay with us starting Jan. 1, six days in the first message, then only for two in the second message.

    He talked both about entering Canada through the provincial nominee program and obtaining landed immigrant status, and wanted to stay with us so we could give the immigration authorities a good reference.

    I told him that neither way of getting into the country involves references from total strangers, that I had no intention of getting involved in the immigration process of someone whom we hadn’t known extremely well and for a very long time, and that I didn’t like the sound of this.

    He made a final appeal, saying he’d arrive Jan. 1, and on Jan. 1 and 2 would obtain an apartment into which he’d move Jan. 3, and in those two days we’d all become such jolly friends that my wife and I could vouch for him to get immigrant status.

    Uh, no.

  • Easy money? No thanks

    I had a shot at some really easy cash money last week — even though I was on vacation in Upper Canada.

  • Go away for a week and look what happens

    Nancy Allan did a lot of good things for public education.

  • Intermission, and some soccer stuff

     I'm going to be away again, back just in time for WSD's forum on ward boundaries Oct. 28, and for We Day.

  • Math teacher puts me in my place

    This was a pretty unsual on-line contact for me — it came from a grown-up, someone who signed his name.

    It came from a high school math teacher. I won't print his name here, his school division may not think it's too cool to use the divisional email to conduct this kind of business, but if he wants to hit the comments section and identify himself, feel free.

  • One way media get exclusives

    I had thought Winnipeg School Division trustee Cathy Collins might have been joking when she told the board this week that the Toronto Globe and Mail had been given exclusive access to a warm and fuzzy event she’d just attended at Pinkham School.

  • NDP brings smile to grumpy old senior

    Premier Greg Selinger and Health Minister Theresa Oswald just gave me a belated 65th birthday present — a free abdominal ultrasound.

  • Game on, Mr. Schipper!

    We received our season tickets for your theatres, Steven — time we had a frank talk.

  • The real WSD work is done in secret

    It was an amazing statement, all the more appalling in its banality.

  • My apology to the feds

    I should apologize to federal Health Minister Rona Ambrose.

  • Hrynyk bides her time, and other exciting news

    Winnipeg School Division board meetings may become worth covering again this fall and could merit your taking a seat in the public gallery — only just not tonight.

  • Sorry, my bad

    To quote Peanuts, I am feeling somewhat akin to a fool.

  • It could be worse...

    I see by Academica Top Ten that the U of Alberta now has to chop $56 million out of its budget over two years, rather than three, because of severe cuts to provincial funding.

  • When your nest empties

    We’ve taken two kids to university for first year and watched each have one year in residence and then share a succession of houses.

  • Alas, varsity soccer won't go indoors

    Stop the presses, stop the presses, major soccer breaking news here.

  • Jim Rondeau, best you read this

    Jim Rondeau, I’m watching you.

  • Bad university news to our west

    Two more doom-ridden stories showed up on this morning’s Academica Top Ten roundup of postsecondary news.

  • Bide your time, eh?

    We're off today for the lake for the next 18 days...lots of kayaking and hiking ahead, and with luck, some of the spectacular Northern Lights we saw only once all of last year.

  • Hansard is like a box of chocolates

    The possible end of police in schools really jumped out at me from the voluminous pages of Hansard.

  • More Babinsky, and this time it's personal

    Try to keep in mind that Winnipeg School Division spends $365 million a year and educates one child in six in the public school system. The people involved in governance of this empire are all, biologically at least, adults.

About Nick Martin

Nick Martin is the old bearded guy at the back of the newsroom, the most experienced reporter at the Winnipeg Free Press, having started his career in Ontario in 1971.

He’s been covering education for the Free Press since the spring of 1997, after decades primarily covering municipal politics, including a four-year stint at the Ontario legislature for the London Free Press.

Nick moved to Manitoba in 1988 with his Winnipeg-born wife, who is a professor at the University of Manitoba. They have two kids, both of whom graduated from Grant Park High School: son Chris and daughter Gillian.

Nick has won a national journalism award from the Canadian Association of University Teachers, two Manitoba Human Rights Journalism awards, and the Ontario Reporters Association investigative award.

Nick is a long-distance runner, having finished and survived 18 marathons and 15 half-marathons and 30-kilometre races, and having (barely) survived 10 years as an outdoor and indoor soccer coach.

Nick became a soccer referee in 2007, delighting in his 60s in outrunning 16-year-olds and keeping his distance from obstreperous coaches and parents.

Nick and his wife have discovered a mutual love for kayaking at their Whiteshell cottage, and are both regulars at the Reh-Fit Centre. They hold season tickets to both the Manitoba Theatre Centre and the Warehouse, and as empty nesters, have rediscovered the joys of an active winter vacation.

A native of Jarrow-on-Tyne, England, Nick is a member of the Toon Army as a Newcastle United supporter, and a proud citizen of Leafs Nation.

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