Picture by C-B studio

The Art of Cursive Writing: A Valuable Journey.

In the bustling world of elementary education, where the focus often lies on specific subjects and foundational skills, including cursive writing might seem like a quaint notion. However, delving into the art of beautiful writing from an early age brings forth many benefits.

Alright, picture this: little ones in elementary school getting into the groove of cursive writing. You might think, “Wait, isn’t that more for grown-ups?” Introducing cursive writing to the kiddos early on is like unlocking a treasure trove of skills that go way beyond just pretty handwriting.

Primarily, cursive writing serves as a nuanced exercise in fine motor skill development. The meticulous movements required to craft elegant strokes with a pen or brush contribute significantly to the refinement of hand-eye coordination. As students navigate the intricacies of cursive writing lettering, they concurrently enhance their motor control, laying the groundwork for improved dexterity in various academic and extracurricular activities.

Moreover, cursive writing imparts invaluable lessons in patience and focus. The deliberate and measured approach demanded by the art form instills a sense of meticulousness in young learners. In an era characterized by constant stimuli and distractions, instilling the ability to concentrate on a singular task becomes a transferable skill that can positively impact a student’s overall academic experience.

But it’s not all serious business. Cursive writing is a way for kids to show off their personality. Scribbling becomes an art form, a canvas for expressing feelings and ideas. That creative outlet isn’t just about making pretty letters; it’s about feeling proud of what they create and boosting their confidence.

Within the language arts domain, cursive writing uniquely combines visual and verbal communication. As students engage with this art form, they naturally develop an enhanced appreciation for the aesthetic aspects of language. This heightened sensitivity to the visual nuances of letters and words can elevate their understanding and enthusiasm for written expression, transforming language arts into a more captivating and enjoyable subject.

The advantages of learning cursive writing extend beyond the academic sphere, reaching into the realm of mindfulness and well-being. This art form’s deliberate, meditative nature gives students a serene space to explore creativity. In navigating the rhythmic flow of ink on paper, students can cultivate mindfulness, offering a valuable respite from the frenetic pace of contemporary life.

The integration of cursive writing into elementary education transcends the mere enhancement of penmanship. It represents an investment in the holistic development of students, fostering skills that span from refined motor control and patience to enhanced creativity and an enriched appreciation for language arts. The early introduction of cursive writing catalyzes comprehensive student growth, leaving an enduring impact on their academic journey.

Elementary – Podcasts as a resource to broaden and deepen teaching practice.

Elementary is a podcast for teachers, education workers, and anyone who wants to know more about public education in Ontario. This podcast will take on some of the big issues in education, outline opportunities available to ETFO members, and bring together educators, activists, teachers, and students to share ideas and information about education” (ETFO, 2023).

In the ever-evolving realm of education, continuous professional development remains vital for educators to fine-tune their teaching practice and deepen their grasp of pedagogy and subject matter. Enter podcasts – the dynamic, accessible, and conversational tool transforming how educators broaden their horizons and refine these skills.

Picture this: educators like you and me tuning in to podcasts during our daily routines – be it commuting, exercising, or catching a breather between classes. Podcasts offer a variety of content, from insightful discussions on pedagogy to practical classroom strategies, all at our fingertips.

One of the primary benefits of podcasts is their ability to broaden understanding by providing access to expert insights and diverse perspectives. We can explore topics ranging from innovative teaching methodologies to discussions on equity and inclusion in education. By tuning into podcast interviews, discussions, and expert analyses, we gain exposure to new ideas, approaches, and best practices that enrich our professional repertoire.

But wait, there’s more. Podcasts don’t just scratch the surface; they invite us to dive deep into complex educational issues and theories. Through thought-provoking analyses and real-world examples, we’re encouraged to critically engage with content, challenge assumptions, and explore new avenues for teaching and learning. It’s like having a fireside chat with fellow educators, sparking ideas and igniting our passion for education.

From implementing innovative strategies to fostering student engagement, podcasts inspire us to infuse our classrooms with creativity and purpose. They’re our go-to resource for staying ahead of the curve and keeping our teaching practice fresh and dynamic.

Podcasts are more than just audio recordings; they catalyze growth, inspiration, and community among educators. As we embrace the conversational nature of podcasts, we embark on a journey of exploration and discovery, enriching our practice and empowering our students to thrive.

So, fellow educators, let’s plug in, tune in, and elevate our professional growth – It’s Elementary. Together, let’s spark meaningful conversations, ignite change, and shape the future of education, one episode at a time.

“You can listen to Elementary here or find it on most podcast apps.”

 

Reference:

Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario. 2023. Elementary: A podcast from ETFO. Retrieved from https://www.etfo.ca/news-publications/publications/podcast-elementary

logo of the International Decade for People of African Descent

Empowering the Future: The Significance of the International Decade of People of African Descent in Elementary Education

Picture: UN Promotional Materials

The International Decade for People of African Descent (IDPAD) emerged as a pivotal force in pursuing a more inclusive and equitable education system. Focused on championing the rights and contributions of individuals of African descent, this global initiative carries significant implications for elementary education, where foundational values of respect, understanding, and embracing diversity are imparted to young minds.

This decade was positioned to act as a catalyst for promoting cultural diversity within elementary schools. By integrating the history, heritage, and achievements of people of African descent into the curriculum, we cultivate a learning environment that authentically mirrors the world’s diversity. This enhances the cultural awareness of all students and fosters a sense of inclusion for those of African descent.

In the formative years of elementary education, children are shaping their perceptions of race and ethnicity. The IDPAD represents an opportunity to disrupt stereotypes by presenting a more accurate portrayal of people of African descent. The use of diverse educational materials and narratives enables students to gain a comprehensive understanding of the contributions and achievements of African communities.

Incorporating the principles of IDPAD into elementary education is crucial for creating an inclusive and fair learning environment. By celebrating the diversity of cultures, traditions, and perspectives within the African diaspora, schools contribute to breaking down barriers and fostering a sense of unity among students of all backgrounds.

Moreover, educators must recognize the importance of showcasing the achievements of individuals of African descent to inspire their students. By highlighting diverse leaders, scientists, artists, and historical figures through the lens of IDPAD, elementary education offers a broader range of role models for young minds to emulate.

IDPAD goes beyond fostering a global perspective; it emphasizes collaboration and understanding on an international scale. Lessons exploring the experiences of people of African descent contribute to global awareness and nurture a sense of solidarity with diverse communities worldwide.

Educators play a pivotal role in shaping the values and attitudes of students during their elementary years. IDPAD equips them with the tools to address racism and discrimination by fostering an understanding of the challenges faced by people of African descent. Educators nurture a generation committed to justice and equality by engaging in open and honest discussions.

Now, more than ever, educators must incorporate IDPAD principles into their teaching practices. The global call for justice and equality underscores the urgency of instilling these values in young minds. By integrating the lessons of IDPAD, educators contribute to developing socially conscious and empathetic individuals ready to navigate and challenge the complexities of a diverse world.

Beyond symbolism, the International Decade for People of African Descent is a resounding call to action in elementary schools worldwide. By embracing IDPAD principles in education, we empower young minds to embrace diversity, challenge stereotypes, and contribute to a fair and inclusive society. Elementary education becomes the fertile ground where seeds of understanding are sown, cultivating a generation prepared to shape a world where everyone’s story is acknowledged, celebrated, and valued.

 

References:

United Nations. (n.d.). International Decade for people of African descent. United Nations. https://www.un.org/en/observances/decade-people-african-descent/background

The International Decade for People of African Descent: Who have these ten years served? Black Agenda Report. https://blackagendareport.com/international-decade-people-african-descent-who-have-these-10-years-served

picture of trees in winter covered in snow

Embracing the Chill: The Crucial Role of Winter Outdoor Learning for Kids

Picture by Iyanuoluwa Akinrinola

The resource, “How Does Learning Happen? Ontario’s Pedagogy for the Early Years,” states that Educators should pay heed to the environment to ensure that their beliefs and values about children and learning are represented in the space. It goes on to say that these benefits occur especially within children’s connections to and interactions with the natural world because the growing body of research suggests that connecting to the natural world contributes to children’s well-being in many ways.

The idea of taking education outdoors might seem counterintuitive as winter blankets the world in a glistening layer of snow. However, the benefits of outdoor learning in winter for kids are as vast as the snowy landscapes. Beyond the cozy confines of the classroom, the winter wonderland serves as a rich and dynamic setting for valuable educational experiences.

Winter transforms the outdoors into an expansive classroom, providing a unique and captivating environment for learning. The crisp air, frost-kissed trees, and snow-covered landscapes offer a sensory-rich experience that engages children on a different level. It’s a living, breathing textbook where lessons extend far beyond the pages of a conventional workbook.

In the winter, the great outdoors becomes a playground for physical activity. Engaging in winter sports, building snowmen, or simply stomping through the snow provides an excellent way for kids to stay active and healthy. The invigorating cold air can also boost their immune systems and contribute to overall well-being. Winter also offers a prime opportunity for hands-on scientific exploration. Kids can observe the unique properties of snow and ice, explore changes in the natural environment, and learn about the fascinating adaptations of plants and animals to the cold season. Outdoor winter activities can serve as a gateway to lessons in the sciences: chemistry, physics, biology, and environmental science.

Experiencing and adapting to winter conditions fosters resilience in children. From dressing appropriately for the weather to problem-solving in snow-related challenges, outdoor winter learning instills a sense of adaptability and perseverance. These life skills extend beyond the classroom, preparing kids to face challenges confidently. Similarly, winter’s white canvas sparks creativity in young minds. Whether crafting intricate snow sculptures, composing winter-themed poems, or capturing the season’s beauty through art, outdoor winter learning encourages imaginative expression. The open-air setting inspires fresh perspectives and allows children to connect with their creative instincts.

Outdoor winter activities provide a social arena for kids to collaborate, communicate, and develop interpersonal skills. Building snow forts, organizing winter games, or engaging in collaborative projects foster teamwork and camaraderie. The shared experience of conquering winter challenges creates lasting bonds among peers. Connecting children with nature in winter lays the groundwork for environmental stewardship. Understanding the seasonal cycles, appreciating the delicate balance of ecosystems, and witnessing the impact of human activities on the environment instill a sense of responsibility towards nature.

The winter landscape is not a barrier to learning; it is an expansive canvas waiting to be explored. Outdoor learning in winter for kids is a holistic approach that nurtures physical health, scientific curiosity, resilience, creativity, social skills, and environmental awareness. As educators, let’s embrace the chill and open the doors to a world of educational opportunities extending far beyond the confines of indoor classrooms. Winter is not just a season; it’s a classroom waiting to be discovered.

The Significance of Professional Learning for New Teachers

PL Value

Participating in professional learning (PL) is a valuable and optional supplement to the ongoing job-embedded PL during the school day and the New Teacher Induction Program, to which new teachers are entitled. This additional avenue for growth aims to provide a range of benefits to educators, complementing their existing learning experiences.

New teachers are encouraged to consider the optional opportunities for professional learning to deepen their understanding of teaching strategies, methodologies, and innovative instructional techniques. These programs offer workshops, seminars, and conferences that provide insights into effective teaching practices aligned with the latest educational research and curriculum standards. As teachers become more adept at adapting their methods to different learning styles, students can benefit from more engaging and impactful classroom experiences.

PL Growth

In the dynamic field of education, characterized by a constant evolution in technology, research, and teaching philosophies, engaging in professional learning becomes a choice to stay current with the latest trends. This allows new teachers to integrate cutting-edge tools and pedagogical approaches into their teaching, ensuring students receive the most relevant and up-to-date education possible.

The optional nature of professional learning also allows teachers to refine their teaching techniques and experiment with diverse strategies tailored to meet the individual needs of their students. This enhancement of instructional effectiveness can increase student engagement, academic achievement, and overall satisfaction in the learning process.

Engaging in the reflective aspect of professional learning provides opportunities for personal growth for all teachers. Through workshops and exercises, educators can evaluate their teaching practices, identify areas for improvement, and set goals within the current school year and for the next academic year. This reflective process contributes to increased self-awareness and proactive pursuit of professional excellence.

PL Connect

Professional learning is highlighted as a platform for establishing a supportive professional network. New teachers can connect with experienced educators, administrators, and experts during these events, fostering collaboration, idea exchange, and access to mentorship opportunities—all contributing to ongoing growth and career advancement. Seasoned teachers can also connect with new teachers to gain different perspectives, explore new insights, and often develop and foster a culture of collaboration and cooperation.

Addressing specific challenges that teachers may face in their classrooms is presented as an optional benefit of engaging in professional learning. Workshops or training sessions focusing on classroom management, student engagement, anti-oppression, or addressing the needs of diverse learners become opportunities for new teachers to develop effective strategies to continue to refine the tools that they need to effectively facilitate their student’s learning from a culturally responsive lens, as they create a positive learning environment.

Recognizing the need for more significant support in the early careers of new teachers, engaging in professional learning can be a proactive choice to mitigate challenges, equipping educators with the necessary skills and knowledge to handle classroom complexities effectively. This support system fosters job satisfaction and professional growth, increasing teacher retention rates.

One Learning Journey at a Time

All educators are encouraged to seek out professional learning opportunities. Members are invited to explore the optional conferences and workshops ETFO offers over the school year and in the summer. These opportunities provide benefits such as enhancing teaching skills, staying current, developing specialized expertise, building a professional network, addressing challenges, and fostering reflective practice. By choosing to invest in professional growth, educators have the potential to positively impact their students’ lived and learning experiences and contribute to achieving equitable education for all students, one learning journey at a time.

Register for a professional learning workshop with ETFO today. 

What’s in a name?

Hello, my name is…
I have never heard that name before
… Can you say that one more time?
Is there a shorter form of your name?
That is a hard name… Can I call you…?

In the classroom, where knowledge blooms,
Names are like stories; never assume.
Each kid’s got a name, unique and cool,
A tale in sounds; don’t treat it like a school rule.

Some kids have names that might sound entirely new,
Hold onto them; it’s what makes them true.
It’s on you to get it right,
Say those names like you’re reading the night.

Generations of kids given names with pride,
A cultural mark; don’t let it slide.
In each twist and turn of every name,
There’s history, stories, a deep-rooted claim.

Step up; it’s part of your task,
To honour each name, even if you must ask.
Mispronunciation, that’s a miss,
Say it right, it’s a big part of this.

Empower students, let their names ring,
In each syllable, let understanding cling.
The classroom is where their stories bloom,
In every name, there’s room for room.

In the everyday chatter, let respect be heard,
For names are more than just a word.
It’s on you, make no mistake,
To say each name and raise the stakes.

In classrooms where futures unfold,
Speak each name with clarity, let the story be told.
For the duty is yours, let it be clear,
To honour, to learn, to be challenged, to care.

 

Why Pronouncing Students’ Names Correctly is So Important

Avoiding Burnout: A Vital Pursuit for Educators

Burnout is a pervasive problem affecting educators worldwide, leading to decreased job satisfaction, compromised well-being, and diminished classroom effectiveness. Addressing this issue is paramount to maintaining a high-quality education system. The demands of teaching can be overwhelming, leading to physical, emotional, and psychological exhaustion. To maintain a high standard of education and foster a healthy learning environment, educators need to prioritize their well-being and avoid burnout.

The first step in avoiding burnout is recognizing its signs and symptoms. Burnout is characterized by emotional exhaustion, depersonalization, and reduced personal accomplishment. Educators may feel emotionally drained, detached from their students, and experiencing a diminished sense of personal competence. Identifying these signs early on can help educators take proactive steps to prevent burnout. Understanding the root causes of burnout is essential for developing effective prevention strategies.

Photo by Nataliya Vaitkevich

 

One of the primary causes of burnout is an imbalance between work and personal life. Educators often dedicate long hours to lesson planning, grading, and extracurricular activities, leaving little time for themselves and their families. Educators must be intentional about self-care and establish clear boundaries between work and personal life to address this issue. Setting aside time for relaxation, hobbies, and spending quality time with loved ones can help alleviate the stress associated with teaching.

Educators should not hesitate to seek professional support when experiencing burnout symptoms. This may involve consulting with a counsellor or therapist specializing in educator well-being, and sharing challenges and concerns with a trusted mentor and/or professional can provide educators with valuable insights, coping strategies, and emotional support to navigate the demands of their profession effectively.

Mindfulness and stress reduction techniques can be valuable tools for preventing burnout. Practices such as meditation, deep breathing exercises, movement activities, nature explorations or yoga can help educators manage stress and stay grounded in the present moment. Integrating these techniques into daily routines can improve emotional resilience and well-being.

Creating/immersing in a supportive community within the school environment can also contribute to educator well-being. Participating in professional development opportunities, such as workshops, conferences, and ETFO local union events (socials) and peer support groups, can provide a network of like-minded individuals who understand the profession’s challenges.

Burnout is a significant concern in education, as it affects educators’ lives and the quality of education provided to students. Prioritizing your well-being and implementing strategies that enable work-life balance, will ensure that you have a fulfilling and sustainable career as an educator while providing the best possible learning experience for your students. Ultimately, the prevention of burnout is not only essential for us as individual educators but also for the betterment of the entire education system.

ETFO members who feel that they are experiencing mental health challenges should discuss their concerns with their family doctor. Mental health support may be available to ETFO members through Employee Assistance Programs (EAP), accessed via their district school board.
Additional support may be found through Starling Minds, which offers a variety of digital programs free of charge for ETFO members. Read this PDF about Starling Minds and learn how to register.

My Union and Me

Five ETFO members share their perspectives about the union and their engagement within it in an interview. Here is what they had to say.

 

Question 1: What would you say to new teachers about ETFO?

ETFO is the union for elementary teachers that advocates and protects our teachers’ rights. Get to know your union. Get involved early! You are your union and so many opportunities are available for new teachers. Grab a friend and show up to something local or provincial. Make sure ETFO has your contact information and stay connected to your Local. ETFO sends out lots of valuable information, but your Local should be your first call for clarification and support. Know your union and get involved.

Question 2: What benefits or advantages do you feel you have gained from being a member of ETFO? The collective strength of the union. Access to information and resources to help inform my practice as an educator.

Deep learning, meaningful connections with educators all across Ontario. Collective Bargaining is so important, especially when faced with systems that don’t show value for teachers and education. The government can talk about how they promote education, but their actions and budgets do not reflect this. Support and knowing my rights are protected as an educator is a crucial benefit of being a member of ETFO. ETFO fights for my rights as an educator and for the rights of my students in the classroom.

Question 3:  How do you perceive the role of your union in advocating for your rights and interests as a worker?
I feel that we receive support from our union as required. The union represents you and your interests as an educator. Overall, I feel the union advocates for the rights of teachers, however, the issues are so complex and a proactive attempt to initiate change in the education system is underway. I believe the union is doing what it can with what it can when it comes to advocating for the rights and interests of its 83000 workers. I believe the union’s role is upholding the collective agreement and advocating for better working conditions for their workers. It is the most important of its jobs.
Question 4: What ETFO activities/programs do you most look forward to yearly?
ETFO workshops are very educational and supportive of teachers’ needs even when we don’t know what our needs are. The Annual Meeting in Toronto and the Professional Learning offered create space to meet meaningfully with fellow teachers across the province. I also look forward to the events and workshops provided by my Local. Learning from/with racialized and marginalized educators wherever the opportunity presents itself in ETFO’s programming challenges my thinking and enables me to refine my teaching practice each year.
Question 5: If you could describe ETFO in one word, what word would you choose and why?
Supportive. Layered. Evolving. Responsive. ETFO is there to help educators through each ebb and flow.
Get to know your union today, and be a part of “safeguarding public education in Ontario and ensuring all students have access to high-quality public education, as we address inequities in all parts of society, ETFO takes action” (ETFO Action, 2023).

 

Culturally Responsive Teaching and the Brain

“Culturally Responsive Teaching and the Brain” by Zaretta Hammond (2015) explores the intersection of culturally responsive teaching practices and brain research. The book delves into how teachers can better engage and support students from diverse cultural backgrounds by understanding how the brain processes information and responds to different instructional methods. It addresses the critical need for educators to acknowledge and embrace students’ cultural identities and backgrounds while fostering optimal learning experiences in the classroom. This book offers valuable insights into how educators can effectively engage diverse learners and create inclusive learning environments.

Cultural Diversity and Educational Equity:
The book begins by highlighting the importance of cultural diversity in the classroom and its direct impact on educational equity. It discusses how students from various cultural backgrounds bring unique perspectives, experiences, and learning styles, which educators can leverage to enrich learning. Hammond emphasizes the significance of understanding the cultural influences that shape students’ cognitive development and the role of educators in acknowledging and respecting these influences.

Neuroscience and Learning:
In the following chapters, the book delves into neuroscience and its implications for teaching practices. Hammond presents research findings that shed light on how the brain processes information differently based on cultural background and experiences. By understanding these neural mechanisms, educators can tailor their instructional methods to match the diverse needs of students, thereby optimizing learning outcomes.

The Cultural Learning Framework:
Hammond introduces the Cultural Learning Framework, a practical and evidence-based model designed to guide educators in implementing culturally responsive teaching strategies. The framework provides insights into understanding cultural norms, community dynamics, and the impact of stereotype threat on student performance. It also emphasizes the role of the teacher as a cultural broker, fostering trust and building strong relationships with students and their families.

Culturally Responsive Pedagogy in Practice:
The book explores various culturally responsive pedagogical practices educators can integrate into their classrooms. Examples include incorporating culturally relevant texts, integrating students’ cultural practices into the curriculum, and promoting collaborative learning to encourage cultural exchange among students. Hammond emphasizes the significance of teaching students metacognitive strategies to develop self-regulation and critical thinking skills. Hammond provides practical examples and case studies throughout the book to illustrate how culturally responsive teaching and brain-based strategies can be implemented in various educational settings. The author emphasizes teachers’ continuous growth and development in their journey toward becoming culturally responsive practitioners.

Implicit Bias and Stereotype Threat:
Addressing the prevalent issue of implicit bias and stereotype threat, Hammond highlights these factors’ negative impact on student’s academic performance and self-esteem. The book offers practical guidance on how educators can identify and mitigate their biases and create an inclusive and supportive learning environment that fosters student success.

Professional Development and Teacher Training:
The book underscores the need for ongoing professional development and teacher training to equip educators with the knowledge and skills necessary to implement culturally responsive teaching practices effectively. It advocates for school-wide efforts to promote culturally responsive education and create a collaborative and supportive learning community for teachers and students.

Culturally Responsive Teaching and the Brain by Zaretta Hammond is an indispensable resource for educators and educational stakeholders seeking to create inclusive learning environments and improve academic outcomes for diverse student populations. By bridging the gap between neuroscience and culturally responsive teaching, Hammond offers practical and evidence-based strategies to nurture all students’ cognitive, emotional, and social development, regardless of their cultural backgrounds. Embracing cultural diversity in education empowers students and contributes to a more equitable and socially just society.

Ontario’s Children: Our Hope & Light

Photo by RDNE

In the heart of young minds, a world unfolds,
Where seeds of change and justice are sowed,
Ontario’s children, our hope and light,
Embrace the path of equality, shining bright.

In elementary schools, a sacred space,
Where lessons weave a tapestry, embrace,
A tale of courage, empathy, and grace,
Of breaking chains, to reach a higher place.

In classrooms where the laughter rings,
A symphony of voices, diverse things,
Their innocence, a canvas so pure,
Where colours of acceptance shall endure.

Oh, let them learn of struggles faced,
Of heroes who, with love, embraced,
The fight against oppression’s might,
To carve a future that’s just and right.

Teach them the power of unity,
That strength resides in diversity,
No voice too soft, no heart too small,
To stand for justice, one and all.

As whispers of the past float by,
Lessons of history, they can’t deny,
The pain of prejudice, we must reveal,
To kindle empathy, foster what’s real.

To understand the wounds that scar,
And strive to heal, near and far,
In this young realm, we plant the seed,
Of anti-oppression, urgent need.

In every story shared and heard,
A tapestry of humanity is stirred,
To weave compassion into the core,
And let injustice exist no more.

For as they learn with open hearts,
A world of change, this love imparts,
A generation, bold and wise,
Embracing truth, no compromise.

Ontario’s children, a beacon strong,
In their hearts, a justice song,
They’ll rise above, lift others high,
A future bright beneath the sky.

So let us teach with love and care,
Anti-oppression, always aware,
In elementary schools, the power resides,
To shape a world where all love abides.