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Virtual Museum – Visit and Reflection

Over the course of the pandemic, the importance of virtual options for greater accessibility has become more and more apparent. From meetings to field trips, the way in which we accessed the world changed for a while and I hope that as we look to the future, some of these changes become permanent options as they support a greater ability for more to participate. Although many are excited to be back to in-person field trips, many organizations are still offering virtual field trips. In this post, I’m sharing a resource that I created for students last year that you might find useful to use with students, where appropriate. 

The Why?

I love art. It’s no secret to any of the people who know me well. It’s taken me a long time to feel confident in creating and not equating how good I am – or perhaps not- at art with creativity. I think it’s the same for kids. Those who like art, often feel as though they are good at it and those who don’t like it, often feel as though they aren’t. We all have the potential to be creative and sometimes having the ability to explore different art forms, gives us the inspiration to do just that. 

Last year, I taught Art and I wanted students to have the opportunity to visit different galleries. Many were offering virtual tours of some of their exhibits which is great because it gave greater access to museums throughout the world. I tried to find different galleries that might have artifacts that may be of interest to my students and created this resource for them to have an opportunity to explore. Not only did I want them to explore, but I’m always interested in what catches their attention or pieces that they like so I thought it would be great for them to have the opportunity to reflect on their experience, an artifact, and/or museum. I also think that it’s important for them to notice and be able to communicate their thoughts or feelings about different forms of art. Hands down, many enjoyed the MET for kids because of the way in which it was presented – as a cartoon map – but there were also students who were interested in looking at sculptures. 

After hearing some of their feedback, I changed some of the reflection questions, added a few more places they could visit and also gave them a bit more room to write. I’m always grateful for students sharing their feedback with me as it helps me to be a better teacher. 

Considerations

As with all resources, please take time to review the slides and links prior to sharing this resource with students. I used this with my Grade 4/5 class and we had already built a strong classroom community where we could have conversations about the different types of art that were seen and discuss some of their cultural significance. We also had conversations prior about museums and how they “received” their collections and some of the difficulty in finding museums with online collections that weren’t sharing art that is solely eurocentric. 

Get Exploring!

Here’s the link to your own copy of the resource. Change it up. Make edits that might be better suited to the needs of your students. Google also has a wide variety of online collections from museums that you can use.  Just have fun exploring on your own or with students. Either way, I hope that you find something new that tickles your fancy. 

During the pandemic, I have fallen more and more in love with art. Consuming art. Creating art. Sharing art. I hope that as you and potentially your students explore art, you’ll have the opportunity to get creative and share what inspires you all. The last month of school is fast approaching. I do hope that you find this resource helpful and are able to use it.

Bring Back Specialist Teachers

Back in the day (I always feel so old whenever I say that) I remember we used to have a full-time librarian, an in-school nurse, a guidance counsellor, as well as design/technology and family study teachers. Nowadays, some of these teachers are so rare to see in elementary schools; there seems to be a huge decline in specialist teachers across the province. Instead of eliminating these specialist teachers in elementary schools, students should be having access to more of these specialist educators. By this, I also mean specialists in various subject areas such as the arts (music, visual art, drama, dance) and in core subjects (literacy, numeracy, science and social studies). Under the current provincial funding formula, the majority of Ontario schools don’t have access to these specialist educators and, to me, that is a huge detriment to the education system in our province.

 

What are specialist teachers?

While there is a formal definition by the Ontario College of Teachers, the day-to-day definition of a specialist teacher might change depending on one’s professional perspective and philosophy. Specialist teachers bring a wide range of both formal qualifications as well as informal learning and experiences to their classrooms. They are specifically trained (often through additional qualification courses) in the subject matter to which they teach. Funding for schools also plays a role in the way schools and school boards access and utilise specialist teachers. There continues to be a disparity between urban and rural schools in relation to the availability of, and access to, specialist teachers in a variety of settings and subjects. As the number of specialist teachers continues to decline across the province, it will affect the administration and organization of the education system and the allocation of resources. This will undoubtedly have a huge impact on student choices, student mental health and student success.

 

What does the literature say about specialist teachers? 

The literature seems to say that as the curriculum goes through revisions, year after year, and students move into higher grades, the subject matter increases in complexity and therefore the skills, content and expertise required by educators also increase. Specialist teachers are additionally trained to understand, interpret and deliver curriculum to students with more effective pedagogical strategies to reach all learners with diverse needs and to improve student overall success and achievement. These teachers themselves report feeling more confident in their understanding of the curriculum and more prepared to teach in their specialist field compared to other teachers. However, it is important to note that the magnitude of a well prepared, effective and confident teacher in the classroom cannot always be measured in a tangible way. The focus here is really on the overall success, achievement and wellbeing of students. 

 

What does the literature say about the relationship between specialist teachers and student achievement? 

Bring back specialist teachers to elementary education! Specialist teachers are able to deliver a high quality and rigorous program for all students. However, the evidence on whether such instruction leads directly to improved student achievement remains inconclusive. More research is needed in this area to make any substantive claims on the effectiveness of specialist teachers. I think that more specialist teachers in elementary schools, however, would likely serve to support students positively and contribute to their social, emotional and intellectual development. I think that specialist teachers are an important aspect to ensuring high quality education for all students and therefore should be a consideration for any successful education system. 

ETFO completed a literature review of research that examines the effectiveness of specialist teachers to the quality of education in elementary schools. The 2015 review reveals that, “Overall, the literature surrounding specialist teachers in a range of content areas appears to support the claim that specialist teachers can positively impact student achievement and contribute to student success at the elementary level.” You can find more information on the following ETFO website: 

The Importance of Specialist Teachers

The Importance of Music Spaces for All Students

Think back to your elementary school days.  Did you have music in a designated classroom, or did the teacher come into yours with a variety of supplies?  Perhaps the music classroom was reserved for middle school band to store stands and cases, or maybe there wasn’t even a music program at your school.

I started elementary school music instruction either with my homeroom students or through a teaching assignment 10 years ago, and have come to reflect on the advantages of having a personal space for lessons.  Posters are readily able to be displayed, and learning centres are easily able to be set up for a variety of activities.  Also, for the few periods a day that I am not teaching, I usually invite our EAs to bring their assigned students into the room to be able to explore the instruments in a big, quiet space.  I have already met a kindergarten student who definitely has a ear for singing as through playing with the toned bells, was able to order the pitches from high to low.  And using some of my budgetary funds, I used bubble wrap on some of the materials that some of the more boisterous students may have had difficulty with handling so that we continued to have instruments available for all the classes.

Of course, given the layout and allocation in your board, a separate music room may not always be possible.  However, there are multiple ways to turn some spaces into inviting escapes for students.  For example:

*consider turning a small section of a sensory room into a ‘music corner’ where mindfulness can be practised using speakers through devices, with small chimes and other small soothing instruments.  You can even give students a ‘carry cart’ to take out into the hall so they be safely supervised while teaching your lessons to practise self-regulation.

*print out some info cards for various topics in music (e.g., composers, genres, note names, etc.) that can be used while teaching ‘on a cart’ for ready made group or partner activities.  These independent formative assessment areas can allow for leadership from students who have received training outside of school with lessons and help when there is a supply who may not have as much familiarity with the program.

*use open spaces in your building for practises with choir and other emsembles.  One teacher I saw would wheel a piano to the front of the school and have students sing outside the office.  The others coming by to pick up lunches and use the washroom would see the group and want to join in.

Most importantly, continue to advocate for music spaces in your school, especially if a room has been designed with that purpose.  There are many advantages to having a music room, such as the use of risers, sound proofed walls, and spaces for movement performance.  A common misconception is that the arts do not require a designated room like a gymnasium.  But given how often homerooms and libraries are being redesigned (e.g., flexible seating), it’s time we looked at how creativity can be limitless and prioritized when it comes to architecture.

Board and Virtual Games in a Language Classroom

Every so often at board game events, or simply by playing a new activity with my nieces, I think “Wow, this is fun…how can I integrate this into the classroom to promote exciting and relevant learning?”

One of the games I played at a cottage in the summer was “Spot It.” It’s a very simple premise: take a tin of cards with pictures and words on each card. There are a variety of matches to be made on all the cards using both pictures (visual) and words (lingual).

As a Core French teacher, it can often be a hard sell to find activities that appeal to students. I immediately sought out the game in its bilingual form (you can also find other examples of languages it has been produced in) and played it with my students. Here is what I observed:

*this was a great way to get English language learners (ELLs) to participate with all of the visuals
*there were a lot of entry points for students on IEPs who couldn’t remember some of the language rules, but could still participate, just by matching pictures
*one of the students with physical motor issues could easily ‘point’ to his selection and his EA was easily able to assist him with communication 
*each student was able to learn that there was a way to match each card if they kept looking

I like to use hands on games, but I am continuing to be more adept at seeing how students use technology in their learning. I have a class of split Gr. 4 and 5s, which means most students have over a year’s experience with the younger students with the FSL program.  However, due to mitigating circumstances (e.g., returning students from the Immersion program, students new to Canada), there are various reasons why some may be of a higher level of learning than others.  I try to pair students in mixed ability groups of three for cooperative learning and to have them critically evaluate the sites and games they use.  Are they fun?  User friendly?  Easy to use at home and at school for practising their skills?  

The end of the year can be challenging for motivating students; however, I do like students to participate actively in their learning so I encourage them to create their own puzzles.  They have created board games similar to Snakes and Ladders where students can choose the dimensions of the board (e.g., smaller or larger size) as well as the unit that they want to have students review (e.g., placing a colour square vs more detailed weather/season examples). For Bingo, the students enjoy figuring out how to use probability to maximize their ‘winning’ potential and can make the card at a chosen square level either on paper or using an online design.

Sometimes we need to examine that the social learning that happens with games can be just as important as the language skills given the various re-entry points of students into in-person learning, and it can be all the more rewarding if we can positively motivate them to have fun at the same time.

sounds

I love walking around and peeking into classrooms – especially at my own school. As a SERT, it does not seem as weird when I show up unannounced in the middle of a lesson or work time since I am always in and out over the course of a day. In the spirit of transparency, my curiosity has found me marveling in rooms at other schools too. There is so much to see each time the opportunity presents itself. Long before ever becoming an educator, I was wont to wander off the tour when given the chance – still do.  Now that I am, it would be great if we all had more time to visit each other’s amazing learning environments. 

Each of my visits offer informative insights into these incredibly and creatively constructed spaces. I’ve even made some friends along the way as a happy coincidence when my curiosity leads to conversations after compliments. I think every educator wants to check out what is going on in other classrooms, but we are given little opportunity to do so while siloed in our own schools. Wouldn’t it be fun to swap places with a teacher of the same grade for a week to experience what they do and vice versa?

Admittedly, that wonder and awe comes with a hint of professional jealousy as well. I think of the time, effort, thought, and sweat it takes to make learning come alive within them. It is a gift to work among so many talented and caring educators. Each trip to another educator’s classroom is guaranteed to give me a boost of energy and inspiration. Now imagine what would happen if we all had the time outside of our own walls?  

This has occured to some small extent during family of schools events or one-off PD sessions that happen occasionally. I always love it when another educator visits my classroom. It is validation. It definitely keeps me on my toes and, like watching a movie with your own children, you notice things that you might not sans visitor(s). 

I know that when folx come by my room, they do so with an open invitation to my classroom. Over the years I have welcomed delegations from Brazil, Denmark, and Sri Lanka. Not to mention system admin types from time to time. I always wonder what they must feel like to be back in the classroom? What do they remember from “their days” pacing the rows and teaching. What did it look like? What did it sound like? 

For me, their is this constant soundtrack playing in the classroom. Each day it constructs itself out of the rythym and melody of which we all play our part.

Now, I bet you thought it was something like a cross between Brazilian Thrash Metal, Opera, and Worldbeat and it kind of is however the beautiful noise that gets made is more of a melodic cacophony to accompany the magic that happens wherever and whenever students are being taught. If you listen close enough, you here the soundtrack that accompanies a live rocket launch or cornerstone being laid. It could come in the form of a question or a response and the a “Wait! No, I meant…” followed by an answer and mini-exhale. It could sound like 26 pistons each firing perfectly to accomplish a task or like the timed pops of fireworks at 10 pm on a summer holiday (all safety precautions observed, of course). These are the sounds that reverberate off of pastel painted cinderblock walls. 

Sure I could put on some Lo-Fi Hip Hop or share my Productivity Workflow playlist from Spotify, but they could never compare to the intersection of lives and learning going on each day. 

Like our students, the sounds we hear in class have their own rhythms. Believe it or not, there is such a thing as productive noise. It can be unnerving to new teachers who enter the classroom still holding on to their own experiences as learners, but now nearly a decade past those carefree days from K to 8. At risk is losing the energy in a room when order is the only expectation. Teachers each need to work out and manage their “acceptable noise” levels with students. We must also be willing to renegotiate these terms from time to time. Setting routines and irreducible minimum expectations starts in September, but must be consistent from then to June. 

This might require a few changes to be achieved. With the sun burning brightly and birds chirping, the energy/noise levels in classrooms seem to be set to 11 out of 10. As such, a little more outside and movement time built into the day has helped. I am also adding in more time to productively self-direct or collaborate. My recent art classes saw us touring the school and then partnering up to co-create something. Through all of this, the room was filled with creative conversation with only a few moments of chaos.

I wonder whether someone else would hear it that way if they visited? I guess there is only one way to find out. 

 

Pandemic Stories in Children’s Literature

I’ve been reading books that seem to have a theme centred around the impacts of the pandemic. Children’s books and YA novels are often some of my favourite reads, whether or not I take them back to the classroom to read or study with students. In this post, I’ll share 2 books that I have recently read.

New From Here – Kelly Yang

If you have read any of my previous posts or follow me on Twitter, you know that I am a Kelly Yang fan, through and through. Her writing is real and vulnerable and I strongly believe that it’s because she writes from her own lived experiences. While I knew that I was in for a treat with New From Here, I didn’t think that I would find myself as emotional as I was while reading through the pages. 

Written from the perspective of ten-year-old Knox Wei-Evans, New From Here shares the impact of the pandemic in a real and vivid way. While not only trying to stay safe from the threat of Covid-19, we also get a real look at the anti-Asian hate experienced, not only by adults but young children. Although my heart ached for the characters in the book, seeing the bravery and advocacy of Knox, not only for himself and his family but also for his classmate, made me hopeful. I journeyed into this profession because I strongly believe that children are the very best humans on the planet. This book was a great reminder of just how great they really are. 

I’ve used other Kelly Yang books in my classroom to talk about themes of stereotypes and racism and would use this book in a similar way. Depending on the relationships we have built, it might also serve as an opportunity for students to share their experiences during the pandemic. Hate and discrimination in a variety of forms have been experienced by many people during this pandemic. Sharing and hearing each others’ stories is essential in learning just how deep the impact of this has been. From this learning, we have an opportunity for change, if as a collective, we choose. While there are many who seem eager to shed their masks and “return to normal”, for many, this isn’t a possibility nor a desire because the Covid-19 pandemic isn’t over and the pandemic of race, rages on.

Ain’t Burned All the Bright – Jason Reynolds and Jason Griffin

This book came as a recommendation from a colleague – Casey MacDonald – and I’m so grateful! I listed both the name of the author and illustrator because this mixed-media work of art is just that, a work of art. 

Grounded in 2020, and beginning with the pandemic of race, Breath One reminds us of the protests that were happening in many parts of the world after the murder of George Floyd. While we saw black squares and written statements, this is a pandemic that has continued to rage on. While many were panic-stricken with the thought of something new potentially causing harm, long-term injury or death, this was an added layer to merely trying to exist for many communities. 

Breath Two delves more into the isolation of lockdown and the experience of relying on one another, within a family, to make it through. I know that during the lockdown it was challenging to compete for space to teach while others are working and still others, learning. The challenge was real and I wonder the impact this may have as we reflect back in a few years. 

Breath Three is a somewhat optimistic look at what is most important when it comes to breathing through both pandemics – Covid-19 & race. Although this text is grounded in 2020, it’s important to note that for many, not much has changed. We’ve moved on from performative statements and symbols and we’ve “opened up” and yet Black deaths are still captured on video and many still remain isolated at home because of the very real threat of Covid-19 to their lives. It’s interesting to sometimes sit and note for whom a “return to normal” is acceptable or wanted.

The imagery in this book is incredible. While the words are powerful, the combination of the two is what really makes this book a work of art. In a number of instances, I had to go back and it was as though I saw more with a second take. This might be a powerful book to support the teaching symbolism with secondary students for Visual Arts. I do love the explanation at the end of the collaboration and wonder if a similar project, perhaps about this subject or another might be an opportunity for cross-curricular learning. 

Two books, very different in style, and specific experiences of the characters and yet the themes of Covid and racism are seen throughout. As the world looks toward “reopening” what will change? What will remain the same? How might these stories help support us in searching for and creating better for and with those most marginalized? I so love how Children’s books and YA Novels can prompt us to consider how we might do better as a society.

Prom Project Hamilton

All about Prom Project

HWDSB is involved in some incredible initiatives but I thought I would take the time to write about one of my favourites- Prom Project Hamilton. If you haven’t heard of this event, I am happy to fill you in! Prom Project Hamilton is a non-profit event that focuses on finding students the best outfit for prom (grad or any other formal event they may have). Students can shop and acquire one outfit, accessories and shoes for free. Prom Project accepts donations from stores in the community and from families that have a gently used outfit that they do not need anymore. Then, volunteers sort through these outfits for the months leading up and get them organized, tagged and ready for the big day. Thankfully, I received information about this event and was able to volunteer again, not just for the day of but for the sorting parties leading up to the big day.

Preparing for Prom Project 2022

Sorting through these suits and dresses was easily one of the best parts of my week. Under the incredible leadership of co-organizers Krysta Bucci and Amy Leaming Cote, staff from around HWDSB came together to sort and organize prom outfits. We tagged each item and made sure it was suitable for students to own. Not only that, but we organized jewelry, shoes, ties and other accessories so that come the big day, students could easily browse through each item and find their perfect event outfit. I was always in awe of how hard Krysta and Amy worked to pull the event off. They had little time to advertise this year as they received notice that the event would run later than usual. All 125 volunteers (and 500 students that attended) would surely agree that they pulled off an incredible event.

Prom Project had to create a website for students to pre-register this year due to COVID. I helped my students find the website and advertised in my school to ensure students were all set. Getting our students there is something that is extremely important, so once they were all set on the website, they were halfway to Prom Project. Letting them know about transportation options was the final step. The website was user friendly so that all students and volunteers could easily register. Feel free to browse the Prom Project website. I also made sure to show my students some of the outfits available by bringing in some of my personal donations to my classroom. I asked the grade sevens and eights to model available dresses and suits, making sure to provide suit sizes for all genders. A total of 28 students modelled for their peers, really bringing the event to life! I also made sure to share and post the dresses, suits, shoes and accessories on the days leading up to the event for further advertising. Showing students how beneficial this event would be for them was a super important part of the process. Some students would not be able to afford a graduation outfit and this event gives them the opportunity to attend their event with confidence and without worrying about the costs.

Prom Project 2022

The day started at 8:00am as all of the volunteers gathered in the staff room at Sir Winston Churchill high school in Hamilton. The volunteer lead gave a speech about our roles and responsibilities and we gave a big round of applause for our co-organizers Krysta and Amy. We were graciously blessed with coffee, donuts and cookies to get the morning started. Walking into the Sir Winston Churchill gym was quite the surreal experience. All the gowns, suits and accessories that had been stored in two storage rooms were now displayed in a ginormous gymnasium. Staff, students and volunteers had spent all day Friday setting up the gym so that students could feel at ease while shopping for the perfect outfit. The ties, shoes, suits and checkout areas were at the front while the short and long dresses were at the back. The back wall also beautifully displayed the jewelry selection and the purses. The entire right wall of the gym is where the incredible team of 5-10 seamstresses were located. Alterations took place on site as volunteers hemmed, adjusted straps and took in/let out dresses. I was incredibly fortunate to have my mom come to help out as I know she is one of my favourite seamstresses. She worked with many dresses and suits, making sure that she didn’t stop until the outfit was perfect. She worked one hour straight hemming and taking in a beautiful three layer grey gown. I was really appreciative of my mom as she spent most of Prom Project working on alterations. Her sewing machine was the last one to be unplugged at the end of the event.

My students arrived at 9:00am and about eight girls from my school ran towards me. I quickly asked them about their style and colour preference, their size and then we started going through the racks. We had been talking about styles for weeks so I had a rough idea in mind. With the registration this year, students only had an hour to shop so time was not on our side. The girls pulled about ten gowns each and ran into the dressing room. I quickly ran over to the suits to see that one of my students was in good hands with another volunteer. I am not the best at suit sizes! The change rooms were private and professional, offering many mirrors and private stalls for changing. When my students showed me a dress, I was in awe at how nicely they fit and just so grateful that they agreed to come to this fantastic event. They all walked out with a beautiful dress, some with five-foot trains and others simple and perfect for their style. My toughest critic exclaimed to me on Monday, “Miss, I actually had fun, the dresses were actually nice!” Those words mean a lot coming from a skeptic grade eight. They have missed out on a lot these past few years and giving them the grad of their dreams will mean so much more when they are in something that makes them feel comfortable and confident. I also saw a lot of my old students and was excited to help them find a nice suit/dress for their upcoming formals. The event could not have run smoother. I was happy to see over 30 of my students (past and present) attend, even some grade sevens coming to find a nice outfit. Two of my students found matching pink ties which was very cute.

Things to consider in the future

There were so many beautiful shoes and dress options but I know they were lacking a lot in male clothing and male shoe donations. I noticed it was frustrating for a few families who could only get a later time slot but then arrived to find the XS male options had been taken. I will try next year to start looking for donations earlier and to ask for menswear donations rather than accumulate as many dresses as possible. Especially with so many students choosing from a wide variety of styles, options are key. I also think it is important that we find tights and long sleeve under shirts for students that need these options. I was very thankful we had multiple long dress options but felt bad when I couldn’t find something to cover a students arms. I will make sure I think of these options for next year as well.

If you are ever looking for a unique and fun volunteer experience, be sure to google Prom Project around April/May next year. I will never miss one of these events again!

Feel free to read this lovely article as a CBC reporter finds volunteers to reflect on the day. I am featured towards the end of the article.

Below are multiple photos from the event. You can also follow Prom Project on twitter and instagram to stay connected for future events.

Virtual Presentations

On my bucket list of things to do as an educator, one of my wishes has been to have students attend a live concert.  However, given the ever-evolving nature of Co-Vid as well as emerging issues of equity, this has been something that has presented a challenge, in addition to not having the same opportunities as a homeroom teacher to organize a field trip.  Fortunately, given these unprecedented times, the accommodations given to still present these experiences to students have also been pivoted from various artistic organizations.  Here are some of the ways students have continued applying their knowledge in new formats:

*the Toronto Symphony Orchestra digitized two concerts that my students enjoyed, The Ultimate Guide to Eating Hallowe’en Candy and Zoophony:  http://www.tso.ca .One of the advantages of virtual concerts is that gives students an opportunity to pause the video and discuss what is happening, and given the nature of so many different types of student learners these days, may present an in-class version of a ‘relaxed performance.’  I even let students bring snacks and lie down in the class to listen to the music if needed.  Many virtual concerts have a fee for digital rights that accompany class resources.

*the BBoyzm dance company: http://www.bboizm.ca recorded presentations and made them available to teachers along with a virtual Q and A with the artist.  Students were able to connect live despite not having the advantage of seeing a live performance with audience interaction, and were able to see a presentation from a group outside of the travel area that may not have been possible in person.  The funds for the presentation were provided by a cultural grant and therefore this free presentation was ideal for a community with various needs.

Naturally, we hope to return to in person presentations soon, however, if you are interested in checking low cost or free presentations for students, here are some other places to check out virtual resources:

-your local library or community/arts centre

-educational locations such as nature preserves, museums and science centres

For students and staff that have had a challenging few years, it is wonderful to see how people react to this technology integration of creativity and education.

Why Union Matters

As a new teacher, back in the day, the idea of being a part of a union was fairly new to me. I had very little idea of what unions do and how they support the professional and mental well-being of people like me. I recall hearing varying opinions about ETFO, as a union body, as well as learning about some of the ways colleagues interacted with their local and/or provincial union. However, I wanted to find out for myself what my union was all about, what they could do for me and what I could do for them.

A personal story: My very first interaction with my union came at a very pivotal point in my career. My first job in 1999  was as a LTO teacher in Toronto. It was shortly after the amalgamation of the six cities into one mega city, and many of the administrative roles and responsibilities at the various board offices were still going through reorganization. After working for a month, I realized that I wasn’t getting paid and my bills were piling up. Though I submitted all the necessary paperwork and documentation to the board on time as directed, apparently I was nowhere to be found in their payroll system. Every time I called payroll to find out what was going on, I was redirected to someone else based on my last name. At one point, I was told that I was calling the wrong board office and was given another number to call. Apparently that person was out of the office and no one else was able to respond to my issue at that time, so I was given another number to contact, and so on and so on. This continued for another two months and I had no idea what else to do to solve the problem. One day, I shared this issue with a colleague, who happened to be our school’s union steward. She gave me instructions on how to contact my union with all the necessary information and documentation of my issues with getting paid. I contacted the union and, to my surprise, the very next day I got an emergency cheque from the board. Two weeks later my regular pay was deposited into my bank account and I have had no issues with payment ever since. That was my introduction, and the start of a great partnership, with my union and the connection has grown stronger over the years. 

As I got more involved in the union in my role as union steward, volunteering on various local and provincial committees, attending ETFO’s annual general meetings as a delegate and representing ETFO at the Canadian Teachers’ Federation (CTF) Project Overseas program, I began to learn a lot about why union matters. I learned that ETFO not only fights for better wages and working conditions of its members, ETFO fights to improve equitable access to publicly funded public education. ETFO also advocates to ensure that members’ working conditions are safe and free from harassment and oppression. I also like the fact that members have access to professional development and quality teaching resources and support to ensure high quality student learning and achievement. I believe in a strong partnership between the union and the school boards across Ontario. A strong partnership would help to ensure that members feel safe at work and students receive high quality education in an equitable and inclusive environment. I know that not everyone might have had the same experience with their union as I did, but what remains true is that, together, our union makes us strong. 

For more information about your union, visit: ETFO

Supporting 2SLGBTQ+ Students and Families

In today’s current climate, most would agree that there has been a significant increase in the number of incidents being reported that are motivated by hate over the past few years. Our classrooms and school communities have not been spared. Many schools across the province have reported a rise in hate-based incidents. Many school boards are addressing these issues by  implementing action plans to combat anti-racism within their school communities. In the many schools that I have worked in, I seldom see strategies that specifically address 2SLGBTQ+ issues in our school community. I wonder why that is so?  What barriers might exist that impede the opportunity for students to learn about the 2SLGBTQ+ community? How can schools equitably teach and support 2SLGBTQ+ students and their families so that they too feel safe and welcomed in our schools? 

From my understanding, it seems that 2SLGBTQ+ families are one of the fastest, if not the fastest, growing type of family structure in Canada, especially in our major cities across the province. These families are looking to us, as educators, to ensure that our classrooms and schools are welcoming spaces for their children. As such, I think that it’s important that 2SLGBTQ+ students see themselves reflected in the school environment and the curriculum.

In fact, teachers don’t need to wait for explicit curriculum expectations to teach about 2SLGBTQ+ realities in their classrooms. As educators, we have a moral and ethical obligation to do so.  Many school boards across the province are implementing strategies to support 2SLGBTQ+ students and families. However, more needs to be done to ensure consistency, accountability and equitable access to support, services and resources across the province. I feel it would be helpful to have clearer expectations embedded in the curriculum that address 2SLGBTQ+ issues and the lived realities that individuals who identify as 2SLGBTQ face in the community. With funding to support this, there would greater equity across the province when it comes to having access to resources and support for teachers, students and families. This is a matter of accountability and responsibility in providing quality, inclusive education for all students. I think 2SLGBTQ+ students and families deserve better from their education system, and better must come.

ETFO has put together 2SLGBTQ+ learning materials and resources for all grades to support teachers in the classroom. These materials and resources are geared towards helping teachers address issues of homophobia, transphobia and biphobia and create a safe and inclusive learning environment for all. 

ETFO 2SLGBTQ+ resources

ETFO has also created a brochure to support members that includes curriculum links, resources, useful language, and communication tips.

2SLGBTQ+ families brochure

The Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC) has a statement on the Ontario’s Health and Physical Education Curriculum that connects strongly with my post. Here is the link for your reference:

OHRC Statement: 2019 Health and Physical Education Curriculum | Ontario Human Rights Commission