covereng.jpg (10339 bytes)
review.jpg (4339 bytes) Getting the Job You Want, the not-so-happy Celebration Chronicles, Thinkwave Educator

The Celebration Chronicles

By Andrew Ross
Reviewed by Rick Chambers

 This Andrew Ross book is ostensibly about the development and marketing of the Disney model town, Celebration, on the south side of Orlando in Florida. However, much of the book focuses on the role of the school in the new community - how it was used as bait for middle-class, 40-something home-buyers and how it became the divisive force for the town as the school's progressiveness ironically threatened to drive down property values.

Ross is a New York University researcher and professor who lived with the Celebration pioneers for a year. The unrelenting media attention, given that the town was a product of the Disney empire and its Imagineers, meant that the citizens lived in a fish bowl with reporters constantly checking for leaks.

Celebration School was shaped by movers of the education reform movement - Theodore Sizer, Howard Gardner, William Glasser - with local university and school board input. The "school of tomorrow," supported by technological shakers Claris and Apple and Disney's deep pockets, was the dream-come-true of the Celebration marketing team.

The reality was different. Celebration School is part of the Osceola County public school system. The county, home to legions of minimum-wage Disney employees in the "dollar-poor purgatory of Central Florida," has one of the least rewarding school boards in the state.

Underpaid Teachers
Ross repeatedly refers to the district's underpaid teachers, who earned $16 per hour, less than a waitress could earn at Disney's Chef Mickey restaurant in the Contemporary Resort. A teacher's starting salary was about $23,000 and the average teacher's salary was under $30,000. Some residents of Celebration thought the school should recruit teachers "who had the kind of value system that could embrace the personal sacrifice" that came with low salaries.

Because of its affiliation with Osceola County, the Celebration School could not make use of Disney money to pay for its programs and facilities. The money had to be doled out equally to all of the county's schools, and even though Disney employees and their children were the students at those schools, the corporation's munificence was not going to be extended beyond the town of Celebration.

The most serious problem with the school was the fact that it had embraced the education reform movement without first helping the parents to understand the changes. "The professionals (were) more concerned with the process of learning itself." The parents, on the other hand, wanted a safe, orderly school that would "graduate students with basic skills and work habits."

Hounded Out
After one year, 25 of the 53 faculty had left, hounded out by parents' and homeowners' complaints, unrealized plans and low salaries. Many Celebration pioneers had purchased homes because they were true Disneyphiles who believed that if Disney was involved, the school would solve their children's learning difficulties.

One teacher said that the school "became a 'freak magnet' for many dysfunctional families" who had bought the Disney American Dream lock, stock, and mouse-ears. Even the homeowners who weren't Disnoids were distressed to think that their property values might plummet if the school was perceived to be a failure.

The Celebration Chronicles is an all-too-real account of big business and property values driving education policy and delivery of program. As Ross said about a parent-teacher meeting, despite explanations, the parents were "seemingly oblivious to the reasoning behind the teaching methods" and posed the same questions again and again: "Why aren't you teaching my son the basics?"

This familiar scenario reinforces the importance of communicating with all stakeholders about the reasons for education reform. And as Ross points out, it's not easy even with Mickey's endorsement.

The Celebration Chronicles, Toronto, 1999; ISBN 0-345-41751-8; $37.95 hardcover; Random House; 416-777-9477; fax: 416-777-9470

Rick Chambers, who taught English for 27 years, is a program officer in the College's Professional Affairs Department and vice-president of the National Council of Teachers of English.

Getting the Job You Want!

By Wally Moffat
Reviewed by Doug Wilson

job.gif (22781 bytes)Wally Moffat's book, Getting the Job You Want!, is an essential resource for student teachers about to enter the profession or for teachers interested in seeking employment with another board. Published by the Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario, this book is well-organized, concise, and full of vital tips and information.

Moffat describes the skills and qualities boards are looking for in new teachers. He provides tips and critical information on application letters, resumes and reference letters. The samples that are included clearly illustrate what works and what should be avoided - key information, since the quality of the application package often determines who gets an interview and who gets rejected before the process begins.

For those who need to improve interviewing skills, Moffat has included many strategies for success. The sample questions provide direction for organizing ideas and experiences about subject expertise, curriculum, evaluation, classroom management, discipline and instructional strategies.

The section on the recruitment process provides valuable information, especially on how boards operate when hiring new employees. This information may not be well known to those seeking employment in a particular school or board, so it helps prospective applicants to understand what to expect at the interview and what to do if offered a position.

With this excellent resource in hand, new and experienced teachers should be able to get the position they want and know what to expect on the job when they get there.

Getting the Job You Want!, Toronto, 2000, ISBN 0-9680759-9-1; $10, paper, Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario, 416-962-3836 or 1-888-838-3836, fax: 416-642-2424.

Doug Wilson is Manager, Standards of Practice and Education Unit in the College's Professional Affairs Department and a former superintendent of education for the Durham District School Board.

Thinkwave Educator

Reviewed by Roger Leduc

The Thinkwave organization, founded in 1997 in California, started out to make a product that would make teachers' lives easier. From a comprehensive teacher gradebook program, they created software that allows students and parents to gain an easy and secure access to classroom information via the Internet. Teachers can keep students and parents informed about what is happening in the classroom and in the school.

The Thinkwave Educator software facilitates report preparation, whether it is on results of an assignment, lesson plans and more. It also allows the teacher to communicate with students and parents at any time without having to make an appointment. It helps teachers in the classroom by giving them more time to teach and reducing the amount of time spent on repetitive and monotonous tasks.

You only have to select a specific day and class and insert the activities for that selection. A text editor allows you to generate and print written materials. It is also possible to import and export an existing lesson as well as organize and insert into your schedule numerous daily lesson plans by using the cut-and-paste technique. The software also allows teachers to keep online a calendar of meetings, assignments, tests, statutory holidays, special events and more.

At the end of an evaluation period, you can export grades and submit them to the school administration.

Thanks to this software, each of my students and each of their parents have their own password, allowing them to check their marks and what is coming up.

It ensures direct communication between the school and home. There are no more excuses for late assignments.

You can obtain a copy of the software and the accompanying information free from the web site at However, a subscription for a classroom costs approximately $25 per year and it is still not possible to obtain the software on a diskette in Canada. Only American teachers have this privilege so far.

Roger Leduc teaches Mathematics at école secondaire catholique l'Horizon in Val Caron.

Advocating Change: Contemporary Issues in Subject English

Barrie R. C. Barrell and Roberta F. Hammett, Editors
Reviewed by Rick Chambers

This book is both a summary and a heads-up for pre-service candidates about what's new - or what should be new - in English classrooms. It has some interesting essays that provide insight, practical suggestions and the theories behind the suggestions. This is the kind of book which faculties of education and school district offices should purchase for their teacher candidates, associate teachers and employees. In other words, it's a good book for some of us to borrow.

Advocating Change: Contemporary Issues in Subject English, Toronto, 2000;
ISBN 0-7725-2778-4; $36.95 paper; Irwin Publishing; 416- 798-0424 ext. 226;
1-800- 263-7824; fax: 416-798-1384; e-mail:

Children's Minds, Talking Rabbits & Clockwork Oranges

By Kieran Egan
Reviewed by Doug Wilson

children.gif (23064 bytes)Kieran Egan has published a collection of essays that deal with how young people think and how their thinking is different from adults' thinking: it is greater in complexity abstractness, and sophistication than is generally understood. Egan - a professor of education at Simon Fraser University - disagrees with the concept that children learn best using expanding-horizons principles. These principles form the core of most social science programs in North America where children learn sequentially about themselves, their families, neighbourhoods, communities and then increasingly larger political areas.

Egan believes that the profiles of child development attributed to Jean Piaget are based on limiting biological assumptions and do not take into consideration such factors as culture, literacy and the vivid and creative imaginations of young people. He challenges contemporary educational structures such as the use of planning by objectives and the objectives-content-methods-evaluation schemes prevalent in schools, textbooks and curriculum documents.

Educators who believe that the arts and oral literacy should be prominent components of children's learning will enjoy and benefit from Egan's viewpoints. These essays challenge educators' minds and question the foundations of quality and effective education for our children.

Children's Minds, Talking Rabbits & Clockwork Oranges, London; 1999,
ISBN 0-920354-46-7; $24.95 softbound; Althouse Press;
519-661-2096; fax: 519-661-3833; e-mail:

The Teacher's Complete and Easy Guide to the Internet

By Ann Heide & Linda Stilbourne
Reviewed by Mary Storey, who is curriculum consultant for information technology for the York Region District School Board

guide.gif (23994 bytes)Are you beginning to use the Internet? Are you an experienced Internet user who needs web site ideas for your students? Do you need to learn how to create a web page for your school or class? The answers to all your questions can be found the second edition of The Teacher's Complete and Easy Guide to the Internet.

This Canadian book is written by two educators from the Ottawa area who are experienced technology users and leaders. The second edition is updated with many new web sites and more current information on using the Internet.

The format of the book allows for easy reading and quick access to the many questions Internet users have. Throughout the book there are distinguished pages that suggest classroom-ready ideas for Internet use. The sidebars, quotes, short teaching tips and screen snaps allow readers to concentrate on only the information required at the time.

The Teacher's Complete and Easy Guide to the Internet, Second Edition, Toronto, 1999; ISBN 1-895579-44-9, $39.95 soft cover (368 pages); Trifolium Books; 416-483-7211; fax: 416-483-3533; e-mail:

Foster Care Resource Guide

By Kim Lewis
Reviewed by Rebecca Cossar, who is an English teacher and a program officer in the College's Evaluation Services Unit

foster.gif (26977 bytes)When Kim Lewis was coping with the challenges of raising a nine-year-old foster child, this is the kind of resource she needed but couldn't find, so she wrote it herself. The Foster Care Resource Guide is a practical, much-needed manual designed to assist teachers and other adults interacting with children who are in foster care.

Lewis presents strategies for dealing with children when they withdraw or lash out. She tells us how to identify and accommodate the special needs of children stunned by loss or abuse or rejection, and how to provide a supportive, positive, consistent learning environment for children who feel insecure and upset.

Children in foster care need all the support they can get. When it falls on teachers to give this kind of support, this book will make a big difference.

Foster Care Resource Guide, Gabriola, B.C.; ISBN 1-895110-71-8; $8.95 soft cover; Pacific Edge Publishing Ltd., 1-800-668-8806; fax: 1-800-247-8138; e-mail: