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The mean streets of River Heights

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The guy who turned right off Kingsway this morning onto northbound Oak and then suddenly stopped dead, no signal, a single car length north of the intersection on the no-parking side, to disgorge your kid, do you seriously intend to take him to school that way for the next 10 months?

Do you know how close I was to rear-ending you? Or how close the person behind me was to rear-ending me? Do you have a clue how many vehicles were hung up behind you, by your making a totally illegal stop? Do you know what could happen if there’s a chain reaction of rear-enders as your kid takes off his seat belt and starts getting out of your car?

Sigh.

Now that school’s started, I plan my way to work to avoid as many schools as possible. It’s a safety thing, it’s a delay thing, and most days I’m out of the neighbourhood before the safety patrols have even taken up their posts. I know that when I get near the office, that chances are there’ll be kids going to Sisler who are totally wrapped up in their electronic gadgets as they step off the curb in the middle of a block, and I’ve always got my head up looking for them.

But back to the neighbourhood.

My kids each spent eight years at Robert H. Smith, where a lot of kids get dropped off by mom or dad on the way to work. Don’t even dream of going near Ash or Oak south of Kingsway, where people double-and-triple-park, let little kids out of the car on the traffic side, or leave the car running in mid-road while they walk their children to the school door.

School’s back — let’s all keep our heads up out there.

And smoothly seguing into another topic......

Had a long conversation my first night on the road going to Peterborough on university students transferring duty, while sitting in the den of a gorgeous bed and breakfast on the shore of Lake Superior half an hour east of Thunder Bay.

One of the host family is a speech and language pathologist in schools in Upper Canada, in communities with which I’m familiar. He was about to head back for the start of school, and spent a lot of the evening over a couple of glasses of very generously complimentary red wine explaining to me the intricacies of coding, the means, he said, by which the vast majority of kids pick up reading. Some others can be taught fairly readily to read, he said, and some need a lot of help.

His contention is that Ontario teachers generally do not teach kids to read. They follow the curriculum in a school system totally ruled by and concerned with government-mandated test scores, and that’s entirely different than teaching them to read, he said.

One opinion from one person on the front lines in the Ontario public school system.

My attention span wavers.....

You send out a news release touting Advanced Education Minister Diane McGifford’s announcing Literacy Month in Manitoba, you gotta know that someone’s going to check the grammar and spelling. Especially someone who got learned real good back in grammer class.

And here in the second paragraph, a quote: "Developing literacy and numeracy skills at a young age and maintaining them throughout our lives has a direct impact......," says the minister.

Developing and maintaining HAVE a direct impact.....

Harumph.

Meanwhile, here’s another reminder to me of why I have no hope for a career in marketing and management.

A popular outdoor facility changes its policy about admission fees. This would be somewhere the kids used to visit in day care, think they went there with their school back in the elementary days. Anyway, the facility decides that it will drop the policy of not charging admission to group supervisors bringing large numbers of children to the facility — now everyone has to pay.

So you’ve got a summer camp that used to bring the kids there once a week, hundreds of kids over a summer. And now this year the young-adult supervisors have to pay to get in, even though they’re not using the delights of the facility, they’re just taking care of the little kids, which in and of itself should be a reason that the attraction wants them on site. And the camp can’t afford to pay the admission fees for its supervisors, so it stops going to the facility. And thus hundreds of little kids don’t pay admission fees.

So, as a person obviously not fluent in marketing, I’m wondering how that decision worked out for your business?

On another topic.......

The Manitoba Teachers’ Society will get its nose severely out of joint if I divulge anything that teachers asked me at the recent workshop on new media and education coverage, of whose panel I was a part.

So I’ll report only something I said, which is that when I write something on-line, my name is on it, my photo is there, people know how to phone me or email me, but above all, I put my name on everything I write — and I said that I have absolutely no respect for anyone who writes a blog anonymously or files an anonymous comment to a website, and lacks the guts to put his or her name on it.

Segue.

For the umpteenth time, you third parties out there, you cannot set up interviews for me with a student, no matter how idealistic and warm and fuzzy your cause. You have to go through the school division, which ensures the superintendent and principal are onside to have an ink-stained wretch come into the school, and to ensure that the parents consent to having their child interviewed and photographed.

And it wouldn’t be a ranting blog without soccer......

The story a few days ago about all terrain vehicles ripping up the Varsity View fields that’s certainly not the only place that people in ATVs and other motorized vehicles are ripping up recreational playing fields. I’m at Sturgeon Road this evening, and when I was there two weeks ago, the east field was a horrendous mess of tracks, and the west pitch was only marginally better. I’ve seen tracks at Wildwood, and a handful of others this year.

You people who are ripping around a community field on your ATV, or allowing your kids to do so, where on earth are your heads?

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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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