As the pandemic takes a mental toll on Quebec students, teachers are trying new ways to keep them learning
Teachers in Quebec are facing students racked by stress and anxiety related to the pandemic, but they are also finding new ways of ensuring that learning still happens amid the upheaval. Across the province, teachers at all grade levels are adapting their classrooms and lesson plans to a student body they say is more distracted and disruptive than ever before.
“We are seeing a lot more panic attacks this year, which is linked to the uncertainty the students are facing,” said Françis Sabourin, a psychoeducator at École Père-Marquette, a large public high school in Montreal. Dozens of teachers provided similar descriptions of the mental health of their students to CBC Montreal last week. The descriptions were among nearly 2,000 responses to a questionnaire that asked education professionals in Quebec about their working conditions.
More than 500 teachers also offered descriptions to CBC Montreal of alternative teaching strategies they were having success with. One popular approach appears to be making time in the day for open-ended discussion about whatever concerns may be on their students’ minds. “I started a discussion period every morning so students can vent their frustrations, their pain, their joys, their pride,” said an elementary school teacher in the Eastern Townships.
The unusual context this year, where classes can be quarantined at a moment’s notice, has made many teachers more willing to improvise with the curriculum. “We made our priority their mental health and don’t follow the curriculum like we would in a normal year,” said an elementary school teacher in the Outaouais. Other teachers have focused on implementing measures to help their students follow the public health guidelines. At a high school in Montreal, a teacher constantly teaches in different areas of the school, or even outside, in order to add some diversity to the school day.
Sabourin also said parents and teachers should try as much as possible to normalize the current situation. “This is happening around the world. So students need to know they are not going through this alone,” he said. On Wednesday, the Quebec government announced it was increasing funding for youth mental health services by $25 million. “The increase in anxiety and psychological distress is an issue that greatly concerns me,” said Lionel Carmant, Quebec’s junior health minister.
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Canadian ICUs brace for COVID-19 resurgence on top of the flu
When Canadians successfully flattened epidemic curves during the summer, the goal was to prevent hospitals and intensive care units from facing a crush of too many patients with COVID-19 all at once. Health officials wanted to avoid what happened in hospitals in New York City, where refrigerated trailers were used as temporary morgues. But the recent surge of new coronavirus cases in all provinces beyond Atlantic Canada has already thwarted surgery plans and led to the cancellation of surgeries such as hip replacements at one hospital in Toronto and postponements in Edmonton.
Dr. Bram Rochwerg, an associate professor at McMaster University and critical care lead at the Juravinski Hospital in Hamilton, anticipates a surge of patients with COVID-19, and he worries they won’t be able to accommodate them all as more surgeries resume. Unlike in the spring, beds and crucial staffing need to be reserved for medical and surgery patients, too. Traditionally, autumn in hospitals means scrambling for health-care workers such as nurses and respiratory therapists to backfill those sick with the cold and flu or who need to stay home to care for sick children. “We’re all worried about it,” Rochwerg said. “You see the provincial [COVID-19] numbers creep up day by day. We see that critical care numbers [of ICU patients] creep up.”
Patty Tamlin, a registered nurse working in critical care at a hospital in Toronto’s east end, said she’s also concerned about the coming cold-and-flu season. “One of the biggest concerns is you may be overrun by patients,” Tamlin said. Dr. Eddy Fan, medical director of the Extracorporeal Life Support (ECLS) program at Toronto’s University Health Network, said the increase in COVID-19 cases so far is “manageable,” but “we’re going to need to brace ourselves for another potential flood of very sick patients.” Extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) is like an artificial heart and lung machine to support the sickest patients — and influenza season also typically brings patients with lung failure who may need ECMO.
UPS executive granted special ministerial exemption from Canada’s COVID-19 quarantine
The president of U.S. operations for global shipping giant UPS was granted a special ministerial exemption from Canada’s mandatory 14-day COVID-19 quarantine, a CBC News investigation has learned, which he used to lobby Ontario employees to accept the company’s new contract offer. Nando Cesarone travelled from Atlanta to Toronto for three days of meetings starting Oct. 19. The company says Cesarone sought and received an authorization for a conditional exemption from mandatory quarantine from Global Affairs Canada.
It’s a decision that the Teamsters, the union representing UPS workers in Canada, finds mystifying. “We believe the government needs to explain itself on that one. It’s absolutely crucial,” said Christopher Monette, public affairs director for Teamsters Canada. Foreign Affairs Minister François-Philippe Champagne has granted 191 such quarantine exemptions on “business mobility” grounds since the pandemic began — 138 of them over the past six weeks, a spokesperson said. Permission to skip the self-isolation requirement is given only under “exceptional circumstances,” the department said, and applicants must “thoroughly justify the immediacy of their purpose of travel to Canada.” Global Affairs refused to discuss Cesarone’s exemption, citing the federal Privacy Act.
Cesarone declined interview requests, and UPS did not respond to written questions about the exact reasons for his trip or why the meetings couldn’t be conducted remotely. But in a statement to CBC News, the company noted that UPS is an essential service and said Cesarone observed “every regulatory and safety protocol” and followed a detailed COVID-19 “risk mitigation plan,” while in the country. Two employees who met with Cesarone dispute the company’s characterization of the trip and his health precautions, telling CBC News that the meetings “were 100 per cent about labour” and that on at least one occasion, the UPS executive removed his mask so that he could be better heard in a crowded room. The employees asked not to be identified for fear of repercussions.
Bank of Canada says economy will likely be scarred by COVID-19 until 2023
Tiff Macklem, Canada’s chief central banker, has warned of a long, slow recovery as successive rounds of COVID-19 lead to a “scarring” of the domestic and world economy. After what some see as a false dawn this summer as the economy resurged, Macklem, governor of the Bank of Canada, and his senior deputy, Carolyn Wilkins, offered a gloomy outlook for an economy that they say is unlikely to get back on track until 2023. Not only that, but job losses are disproportionately affecting Canadians with the lowest wages, and Macklem said some of those jobs may never come back.
The good news — if you could call it that, writes CBC’s Don Pittis — was that the central bankers have committed to keeping interest rates at current extraordinarily low levels until inflation climbs back to between two and three per cent, which they don’t foresee as likely for three years. Forecasting the economy is always something of a guessing game, Pittis writes, but Macklem and Wilkins said that this time there was added uncertainty because of not knowing what the novel coronavirus is going to do next.
The central bankers made it clear that the current outlook depends on a number of assumptions about the path of the pandemic that may turn out to be better or worse than they currently foresee. While the central bank is compelled to consider the bleakest case in its economic planning, Macklem does not exclude the possibility of a far less gloomy outcome, which he said would be “wonderful.” “There’s certainly scenarios where a vaccine is available early next year and it proves effective, and we can deploy it at scale so that by the end of the year, we don’t need to physically distance anymore,” he said.
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Calgary rent-a-chick business takes off amid pandemic
A Calgary business that rents out chicken eggs so families can hatch them at home says the pandemic has put their eggs in high demand. Kathy Torgerson, one of the founders at Nanny McCluckin’s Chick Hatching Experiences, said parents are looking for something safe to do with their kids and this offers a fun, educational experience.
Torgerson said clients receive a kit that includes a fertilized egg, an incubator, a housing bin, food, a heater and shavings. The total cost is $157.50. “This is something that families can do together. It’s relatively low cost, it is very easy. We give you everything and it’s magical. I mean, who doesn’t love a little bit of magic and fun in nature and birth?” she told CBC Radio. “You can actually watch your baby chicks hatch out of their shell and then you get to keep them for about a week and just experience all the magic that comes with that.”
From there, she said, the final step is bringing the chick and its kit back to the business, and the baby bird will then be transported back to the farm it came from. “We work with the intent on growing [the farms’] flocks,” Torgerson said. “That part was really important to us to make sure that these birds were not just hatched and then culled. They are kept for purpose.” Nanny McCluckin’s Chick Hatching Experiences is already sold out of eggs for 2020, but Torgerson says Calgarians can join a waiting list and hopefully get one next year.
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