Full Disclosure: I am a proud and active ETFO member who feels grateful every day for the privileges I have as an elementary educator.
In the last 17 years, I have met educators and activists from all over this province who are passionate, committed, smart, innovative, creative, and brave. I am inspired by the collective strength of our membership, and ETFO’s ongoing commitment to equity and social justice.
As a classroom teacher, I have participated in many programs offered by ETFO’s Equity and Women’s Services, as well as ETFO workshops, conferences, and Summer Academy courses. This professional learning has supported me to deepen my teaching practice, build relationships, develop leadership skills, and find my voice. ETFO facilitators and instructors are strong, and they always bring an inclusive, anti-racist/anti-oppression framework to their practice.
I strongly recommend visiting the ETFO website regularly to find out about professional development opportunities that are available, and to work with your local union to bring ETFO workshops to your area. Search: “Supporting Members & Local Leaders: Equity Workshops”
Mobilizing for Justice
Last year, I participated in a powerful ETFO program called “Mobilizing for Justice”. At the time that I applied, I had no idea that our school year would be impacted by job action and COVID-19. This program supports women members to learn what it means to be an ally in social movements, and to develop an action plan in their local communities. I used the opportunity to create a BBSAT: Building Better Schools Action Team to increase engagement and political action.
As we prepare to return to work, I am using our BBSAT to mobilize and organize families to support what we need for a #SafeSeptember. You can find resources to create your own BBSAT at: BuildingBetterSchools.ca.
Recently, I joined OEWU: Ontario Education Workers United. They are actively working with Ontario Parent Action Network and other community groups to fight for the schools our students deserve. OEWU have organized many resources to empower members to mobilize for justice in our schools. Check out these resources: linktr.ee/oewu
Another way to get involved in ETFO is to become a Union Steward. In my first year of teaching, I shared the Union Steward role with a mentor teacher. Working in collaboration with 1-2 other staff members helps to build relationships across divisions and supports effective communication, especially in a big school. Last year, during our contract negotiations, I really appreciated the support of my co-Stewards.
Union Stewards participate in training throughout the year, which is an excellent way to learn about your local and provincial union, and to appreciate the importance of solidarity and action. This training has prepared me to advocate and collaborate with staff, families, and community members. I have also made a lot of friends and allies!
If you really want to appreciate the power of the union, you should attend an Annual Meeting, which is held every year in August. This is an opportunity to meet educators from all over Ontario, hear reports from ETFO officers and committees, ask questions, participate in elections, vote on resolutions, and receive a line-by-line financial report of how our membership dues are spent. It is exhausting and exhilarating! ETFO members work hard, and they know how to celebrate and honour achievement. The annual dinner is always a highlight!
Every other year, the whole delegation participates in United Social Justice Actions. This year, ETFO will take action on anti-Black racism and will re-affirm its commitment to develop policies, professional learning and curriculum resources to hold members accountable and push for systemic change in schools.
You will find excellent resources created by ETFO members at: www.etfo.ca. Search: “Building a Just Society: Anti-Black Racism”.
Re-Think, Re-Connect, Re-Imagine
This year, I am honoured to be joining the writing team at ETFO’s Heart and Art Blog. I look forward to learning with you during this transformative year as we explore pedagogies of hope and healing.
The 2020-2021 school year will be challenging for all of us, but it can also be an opportunity to transform the way we teach, learn, and assess. It will require us to collaborate, to think critically and creatively about pedagogy and possibilities. As my wise ETT colleague Ayesatta Conteh says, “May we rise as we re-imagine.”