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Take your kids to the fair

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If you’ve got a kid in Grade 11 or Grade 12, do the whole family a favour and get over to St. John’s-Ravenscourt Wednesday evening or Balmoral Hall Thursday evening.

The city’s 12th annual universities recruiting fair is way down in numbers, to about 30 schools from the 48 or so of three or four years ago, but it’s still so, so valuable to go.

Four city high schools will be hosting hundreds of senior students touring the recruiters’ booths Thursday and Friday during the day, but the two evening sessions, 7 to 9 p.m., are the opportunity for parents to attend, and for students to have one-on-one sessions with the recruiters.

It was the fall of 2005 at SJR when child the elder had long, detailed talks with recruiters from his short list, then returned the next morning out at the former Silver Heights Collegiate to do more follow-up.

I used to go every year and chat with the recruiter from the U of PEI, who knew the street on which my mother grew up and the restaurant where my grandmother was the chef. Alas, his school lacked men’s volleyball, and didn’t make the cut.

This year some very big schools will be missing — McMaster, Victoria, Saskatchewan, York, New Brunswick, Windsor. No Royal Military College this year, which always found an undergrad from Winnipeg to come and tout the school while wearing formal dress uniform.

But there will be 30 schools there, all Canadian, and all good ones, as SJR universities advisor Peter Brass will always tell students and parents — Brass always advises students to ignore Maclean’s rankings, and look for the programs and communities and environments that suit them best, rural or downtown, humunguous or small, local or either coast, because they’re all good schools.

Take the time. Look, the World Series will be barely into the third inning by 9 p.m., given how often Posada goes to the mound and Pedro shakes off signals, and I’ll teach you how to PVR The Tudors and The Border.

Meanwhile.........

Child the younger was briefly back home for a visit from university in Upper Canada, and off we toddled Sunday afternoon to our favourite local megaplex for some bonding. There’s a big sign in the lobby that heralds a special postsecondary combo, a ticket, drink and food for one low price, so we opt for it.

Child the younger produces her university ID card.

The cashier looks like someone trying to decipher the plot of Lost, and calls over the manager. The manager examines the ID card over, under, upside down, inside out, then demands to know where this place is. Child the younger tells her.

The manager tells us that the promo is for local students only, says she’ll cut us a break and let us do it just this one time, but tells me sternly not to try doing it again. I point out that the sign does not limit the promotion to students at Winnipeg institutions, manager repeats her stern warning.

After the movie — I recommend Where The Wild Things Are, a book our whole family cherishes, but it’s not a flick for little kids — I go over and read the promotional lobby sign, including the small print. It says it’s a national offer open to anyone attending an accredited, publicly-funded university or college, which certainly covers child the younger. And once again, I’m made well aware of why I have no future in marketing or business management, since I’m still silly enough to think that businesses should emphasize making customers welcome and encouraging them to come back.........

Well, that was less than delightful this past Wednesday evening, when we all showed up for two hours of recreational volleyball, only to find the school doors locked. Turns out the school was decorating the gym for Hallowe’en, in which case the school is supposed to notify the city, which is supposed to notify the two dozen adults who’ve registered to play.

Sigh.

I was flipping through some old stories I’d done, and came across the furore over the distribution of The Little Black Book in our schools. Just wondering, did the world actually end, as widely predicted? If it did, I can’t believe that I didn’t notice.

And again raising a can of worms that should never be reopened, I was cleaning out old emails and can’t believe how many people deluged me back in the day on the great pajama pants scandal.....from the students who defended wearing them, to the teachers who told me I was a complete idiot for wasting time on the issue.

And another segue........

I remember when the kids asked me long ago if other kids in Muddy York and Scarberia had laughed at my accent, shortly after I’d got off the boat, and I said I had. My kids, of course, were getting learned real good by Winnipeg School Division about human rights and anti-racism, and I had a hard time explaining why no one really gets upset when people ridicule English accents, and that no one had come to my defence.

I’m reminded about that because of the new commercials for coffee chain French onion soup, and that guy faking an abominable English accent — why is that OK?

My attention span is already moving on......I got an email from a company in Baltimore today, touting an announcement to be made about some on-line connection tool miracle that the company has developed, which (I am not making this up), will be revealed "tomorrow at a press conference today", at which the company will reveal ‘it’s’ product.....and I won’t even get into the opening paragraph’s ending in a preposition.

Harumph.

And, finally, back to education news......

It’ll be interesting to watch what happens with Chris Spence, Toronto’s new director of education. Every story about him mentions that he was in the CFL — a running back for the B.C. Lions in the late 80s — but the headlines are all about his proposals to create some boys-only schools and classes.

Allowing for the fact that I have absolutely no expertise in how kids learn, I’ve nevertheless never bought into the claim that boys do not learn and/or read as well as girls. What I’ve felt, especially having met a bunch of really bright young men in the 2006 and 2009 graduating classes, is that a much lower proportion of boys reads and learns at higher-than-average levels than do girls.

If Spence can figure out a way to reach and engage boys who are achieving and learning below expectations, good for him.

And BTW, he also wants to close 35 schools in Toronto because of declining enrolment, none of them the four I attended.

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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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