Thursday, November 03, 2005

In the News Today...

Hi all,

Couple interesting pieces in the news today re: literacy. Also, according to a news piece out in PEI, October 24 is National School Library Day. Who knew!

Illiteracy, childhood abuse haunted Demers' career, biography says
PUBLICATION: The Ottawa Citizen
DATE: 2005.11.03
BYLINE: John Meagher

MONTREAL − Jacques Demers rose from humble beginnings in Montreal and coached more than 1,000 games in the National Hockey League without ever publicly revealing his secret of illiteracy.

In Jacques Demers: Toutes En Lettres, (Jacques Demers: From A to Z) a biography written by Mario Leclerc of Le Journal de Montreal and released yesterday, the 61−year−old former Montreal Canadiens coach divulges that he never learned to adequately read or write, and masked his embarrassing deficiency by getting
others to do his paperwork, such as having former Canadiens trainer Eddy Palchak to fill out his lineup sheets.

Autograph seekers would often push Demers to his limit but he learned to bluff his way through two decades of scouting reports as an NHL coach.

"Everywhere I went ... the trainers or someone would always fill out the lineup without knowing my secret," Demers said yesterday.

"No one ever knew (but) my wife Debbie. In 1984, we were sitting in our kitchen in St. Louis and I asked her to pay some bills. She finally said, 'Look, I'm not your damn secretary.' So I had to tell her and we both kept it a very dark secret.

"Today, though, I'm a relieved man. I finally decided to tell the truth because I'm out of the NHL and nobody could do anything to me anymore. I'm just happy to be telling the truth I've been hiding all these years."

Coaching provided the charismatic Demers, a Grade 8 dropout, with an avenue to overcome his lack of education. It also channeled his anger from a troubled childhood.

"All my adrenaline, my frustration and anger as a coach was against my abusive father," Demers said.

The biography charts Demers's rise through the junior coaching ranks and eventually to the Montreal Forum, where he would guide the Canadiens to their 24th −− and last to date −− Stanley Cup in 1993.

"When I raised the Stanley Cup at the Forum, I did it for my Mom, who died when I was 16," Demers said.

"She was my hero and would have been very proud of me."

Demers began coaching professionally in the defunct World Hockey Association, and was behind the the bench of the Quebec Nordiques when they joined the NHL in 1979. He became the 22nd head coach in Canadiens history in 1992.

It was a dream job for Demers, who grew up in Montreal. He had it tough and took menial jobs to help pay the family bills after his parents died a few years apart in the 1960s, leaving him to care for his three younger siblings.

Demers had lived in fear of his father, Emile Demers, an alcoholic.

"He beat me up and he physically and mentally abused my mother," said Demers, who is donating 60 cents from each book sold to a Montreal shelter for battered women .

"My young life was so negative, I developed a positive side to hide everything from people. By not telling people what my dad was doing to my mom and me, I developed a positive side to hide the ugly truth.

"It was my way of surviving, but I developed anxiety," said Demers, who eventually sought professional help to deal with his personal torment.

"Going to a doctor two years ago helped me understand that when your father says, 'You're a no good SOB,' you don't go to sleep at night and you can't function or learn at school."

Demers ended his NHL coaching career with Tampa Bay in 1999. His all−time record was 409 wins, 467 losses and 130 ties. His career playoff record was 55−43.

Demers, a two−time winner of the Jack Adams Award as coach of the year, now works as a hockey commentator for RDS, the French−language arm of TSN.

He hopes his book will help others to help themselves.

"I didn't do it for anyone else but myself," Demers said. "But I hope it helps others who have similar problems to talk about it with someone.

"Don't hide it."
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Tests waste time
PUBLICATION: The Toronto Star
DATE: 2005.11.03

Ontario literacy strategy hinges on local efforts
Letter, Oct. 29.

The Liberal government is creating an environment that is allowing good things to happen in our schools once again.

For the first time in many years, time and money are being provided so that teachers and principals can talk about how to improve instruction for students. Teachers are able to use data from classroom assessments to really make a difference in their teaching practices so as to enhance the possibility of success for every student.

However, teachers continue to have concerns about the Education Quality and Acountability Office's (EQAO) province−wide testing. First, we believe these tests have a limited value for improving teaching or for communicating with parents.

We are also concerned about the government's target of 75 per cent of 12−year−olds reaching level 3 or 4 on the EQAO tests. This is an artificial target that the Liberals put forward in the 2003 election campaign. It creates an unhelpful focus on the test scores of Grade 3 and Grade 6 students, rather than on improving education for all.

In order to raise scores significantly, some teachers are being pressured to "teach to the test" by spending significant instructional time focusing on the types of questions that appear on the EQAO assessments. An overemphasis on test preparation decreases the time available for students to participate in other subject areas
such as the arts, physical education, social studies, science and technology and media literacy.

The motivation for province−wide testing is more political than educational. The resources spent could be better used to provide instructional support and learning resources for our students. The best way for parents to find out what is going on in our schools is to visit them and spend time talking with the teachers and school
administrators.

Emily Noble, President, Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario, Toronto

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