International Day of Pink

On Wednesday, April 12th students at my school (along with many other students and staff in our board) celebrated the “International Day of Pink”. This day is different from “Pink Shirt Day” which was celebrated earlier in the year in February. The International Day of Pink is a day to stand up against bullying, especially against members from the 2SLGBTQ+ community. “We believe when we wear pink on Day of Pink April 12th, 2023, we join the stance in having the courage to be yourself, to be kind, and so much more.” (

This year’s theme was “Courage” so when planning for our school’s event, we talked about how can we embrace this theme in our school-wide activity day. As we started to plan, staff members mentioned that we should speak to our 2SLGBTQ+ positive space group first to get their ideas. They suggested poetry activities and other great ideas to be included in our day. Students from different classes in our school made posters, announcements and video advertisements about the day to get conversations started in classes about the meaning behind the day. Some videos included:

  • Students saying the Pink Day Pledge Pledge
  • Members of a school sports team sharing about times that they had shown courage
  • A video of 13 Trans and Queer Canadians that everyone should know Featured Canadians

These videos prepared students for activities that will be listed below that took place on the event day.

On the day of April 12th, teachers and students came together to prepare for the gym for a day of education and fun. Our stations were planned by a Committee of nine staff members who thought about activities that would be beneficial, educational and fun for students K-8. Each station was led by grade 7/8 student leaders. These students gathered together before hand to learn about what each station had to offer. I hope that you can use these acitivies next year as they all went off without a hitch and were loved by all.

International Day of Pink Activities

Colouring with Pride

Students used their prior learning from our video and were able to select a colouring sheet to colour about one of the 13 featured Trans and Queer Canadians. Link to this colouring book can be found above.

Photo Walkway

Students could wear some Pride related glasses, hats or pink items and take a walk down the rainbow/pink walkway. The walkway had a rainbow balloon arch around it so that students felt excited to walk down. It was great seeing students pose for photos with their friends. We will be making an iMovie of all the photos to send to teachers to show their students.

Poetry Station

Students could write poems while enjoying some quality time with their peers. We had pink cushions to sit on and a lava lamp for mood lighting. I was very excited to read a poem afterwards from one of my students who was proud to share what he had written. He was also one of the students who had come up with the idea for the station.

Pink Day Pledge

We had a station where students could read the International Day of Pink Pledge (which they had heard in their prior learning) and could agree that they would uphold that pledge by putting their finger print on it. We had pink stamp pads which students could use to place their finger on. They then would put their fingerprint on the pledge. We are getting this pledge laminated to hang somewhere in our school! A copy of the pledge can be found above.

Rainbow of Courage

We asked students to write on a sticky note about a time that they had courage. Our students leaders then stuck them on the rainbow. This is now hanging in the front of our school.

Friendship Bracelets

Students could make themselves or a friend a bracelet. One of our staff members thought about a meaning for each bead colour. So students could make the bracelets with meaning.

Positive Affirmations

One of our students had remembered an activity from a past pink day where students have their fortunes told. We changed that up a bit and had students sit with one of our student leaders and were told something positive about themselves. Our students leaders created 12 different positive affirmations and used those. This was a very popular part of our event as students went four or five times to hear a positive message.

Those were all of the acitivites we featured this year. We hope to think of more for next year as we heard from all students and staff that the students loved them all. We know that we educated our school community about the importance of being courageous to be yourself and to be kind to others. What did you do for Pink day this year?



This year, our positive school council committee planned an excited pink day event in our gym for our whole school. Student leaders in grade seven and eight set up, helped lead the stations and cleaned up at the end of the day. Students created posters and made announcements, informing the school during the week about our commitment as a school to stand up against bullying and discrimination. Our school board’s official statement about pink day is as follows:

On April 13, HWDSB students, staff, and community members raised awareness and affirmed their commitments to combat homophobic, biphobic, and transphobic bullying through Day of Pink. The event celebrates allyship and those who take a stand against discrimination and hate.

Students wore their pink/rainbow colours and participated in excited pink day activities. Our activities were:

  •  Bracelet making
  • Colouring pages of the 2SLGBTQ+ leaders from the day of pink website
  • Photoshoot with green screen with the day of pink background
  • Kindness rainbow with sticky notes of positive messages (pictured below)
  • Nail painting
  • DJ station with positive songs
  • Runway with props

Classes came down for thirty minutes at a time and the student leaders facilitated their stations all day long. The excitement amounts the intermediate leaders was so great to see! They have all been looking forward to these leadership opportunities for so long and it was so fun to see how engaged they were all day long. They even swept up their stations without being asked! Not only that, the staff and students were abuzz with excitement as they chatted about how fun the day was. Teachers were talking about it the next day, thrilled that we were doing something exciting for the whole school community once again. Something with a message that we can all stand behind! 

I think it was such a great day and we look forward to planning another whole school event. I know the grade eights are excited to show their leadership schools again, especially with grad so close and grad awards on the horizon! Pink day was a success and it was our first one since 2019. Can’t wait to do it again next year, but with less feather boas!

How did your school celebrate international day of pink? 

Restorative Circle Activities

Students come to school with many issues on their minds and in their hearts. As educators, we can help them process their thoughts and feelings so they can better handle their situations and be more present in class. Restorative circles are a useful practice to do just that. While frequently used to replace punitive forms of discipline, restorative circles are equally important in proactively building the relationships and skills students need to support one another and collectively address the challenges they face, especially during these unsettling and uncertain times for many of our students. Restorative circles are most effective when they’re an integral part of school culture and are embedded in your daily classroom routines. After all, you can’t “restore” a community that you haven’t built or sustained.

Below are some steps and questions I have researched and used that can support you in initiating a Restorative Circles program in your classroom.


  1. Co-create a safe and supportive space: Circles work best if teachers invest time up front to build relationships, develop skills and design a bank of tools to draw upon throughout the school year.

Early in the process teachers and students together explore values—like empathy, patience, kindness, courage and open-mindedness—that are essential to understand and agree upon when sharing openly and honestly in a circle. These include honoring the talking piece, which goes around the circle as an invitation to share while everyone else listens (participants may pass if they don’t wish to talk). Participants are encouraged to speak and listen from the heart with an equitable and inclusive lens. It is important that educators inform participants at the outset that we are mandated by law to report when a student threatens to harm themselves or others, or when students divulge abuse.

  1. Be prepared: Make sure that you, the facilitator, are well rested, calm and focused.

To hold the circle space effectively, it’s important to be fully present and able to manage other people’s stories and feelings as well as your own. If you’re exploring sensitive issues that may require follow up, consider alerting support staff.

  1. Plan ahead: Decide together on a topic or theme that sustains students’ interest.

Find a relevant activity to open the circle space such as a poem, quote or piece of music. A mindfulness activity can also be used to bring students into the space after a particularly stressful event. Look for information to ground the conversation and develop questions and prompts to invite student perspectives into the circle. Keep in mind that the larger the circle the more time you’ll need for the talking piece to go around. Think about how things might unfold and be ready to adapt and adjust accordingly. Make sure to leave time for a closing activity, giving students a chance to transition into spaces that may be less conducive to being vulnerable. A closing activity can be a commitment to safeguarding the stories shared in a circle or a breathing exercise in which we provide students with prompts and time to put themselves back together again.

  1. Invite student experiences into the space: Encourage students to connect with the circle content by sharing stories from their own lived experiences.

Include storytelling rounds by asking students to talk about “a person in your life who…” or “a time when….” Share authentically with yourself. This gives others permission to do the same. Model good listening skills as the talking piece goes around the circle. Be fully present as others speak. True active listening can create the kind of welcoming space that encourages even the quietest voices to speak.

  1. Acknowledge, paraphrase, summarize and practice empathy: Listen closely to what students share so that you can build on their experiences.

When the talking piece comes back to you, touch on what you felt, noticed or heard. If you sense that there was limited substance in the first round, send the talking piece around a second or third time, asking students for deeper, more meaningful connections, reflections, or additions. If challenging or painful issues come up, model agreed-upon circle practices for students to follow. Listening mindfully and being present with other people’s ordeals and lived experiences can create supportive, healing experiences that strengthen community connections and build empathy. If needed, let students know you’re available to check in with them later in the day or week. You might also have them consider speaking with other supportive adults or students to find solace if they’re in need.

  1. Explore what it means to be an effective ally: Beyond creating a supportive listening environment, ask what else, if anything, students need from you and from each other.

Explore how to be better allies in a circle so that students know they don’t need to face their challenges alone. Invite them to talk about a person in their lives who is a good friend or ally, or a person they’d like to have as a better friend or ally. Discuss the qualities these people have (or lack) and how they make us feel. Invite students to talk about a time they’ve been a good friend or ally themselves, and what gets in the way of being our best with one another.

  1. Zoom out to promote understanding on the systems level: Explore whether there are larger systemic forces that underlie the challenges students have touched on (such as racism, sexism, homophobia or lack of access to resources). 

Introduce information, resources and voices that might shed light on how these systems operate. Look for examples of people who took action to interrupt these and other oppressive systems. Invite students to connect to this information by sharing their thoughts, feelings and related experiences. Studying larger, systemic forces in society can help students better understand their situation and can be a useful starting point for students to become more active themselves. Action and activism can inspire hope, connection and healing.

Video example:

Circle time questions – Exemplars

Getting Acquainted

– What is your favourite…?

– If you had $1000 what would you do with it and why?

– How would your friend describe you, or how would you describe yourself to someone new?

– What do you like (or dislike) most about yourself?



– Give me an example of when someone has been kind to you in your life (or when you have been kind to someone)? How did that feel?

– What do you want to contribute to the world; How do you want to be remembered?

– Share an example of when you did the right thing when others were doing the wrong thing, or when no one else was watching


Story Telling

– A time when you were scared to do something good/important, but you did it anyway

– A time when you laughed a lot

– What (silly/funny/crazy/weird) thing did you used to do when you were little?



– One thing I couldn’t do a year ago… 

– One of my goals this year is…

– Something I can’t do but want to be able to do by the end of the year is…


Behaviour / Conflict

– Share one thing that makes you annoyed.

– Share a time when you were upset but then someone made you feel better.

– How can you show respect to others?

Point of View

This month, we are exploring different points of view through reading and writing a variety of texts. This “big idea” has many possibilities for critical thinking and cross-curricular integration with Media Literacy, Social Studies, Science, Visual Arts, Music and Drama.

In my Grade 2 class, we have used point of view to explore issues of accessibility, anti-Black racism, Indigenous sovereignty and homophobia. Here are some of the texts that Kindergarten-Grade 8 educators can use when learning on-line and in class:

William’s Doll
During Gender Splendour Week, we read “William’s Doll” by Charlotte Zolotov, to explore gender stereotypes and homophobia. We also watched a video from the movie, “Free to Be You and Me” that sings the story as a song. “William’s Doll” is about a boy who wants a doll to play with, but he is told that he cannot have a doll because he is a boy.

Young children receive powerful messages from family, media, clothing and toy stores about what is expected of “boys” and “girls.” These binaries reinforce heterosexism, and often cause harm and exclude students who do not fit into these boxes. It is important to give children the opportunity to name, question, and challenge these gender binaries, and create space for more possibilities.

Before reading “William’s Doll”, I asked students to share their ideas about what it means to be a “boy” and a “girl.” We talked about what a “stereotype” is and how these ideas might not include everyone. Students easily made connections to their own personal experiences of shopping, and described how different products are sorted and sold, (e.g., pink Kinder Eggs for girls). After reading, we used a graphic organizer to support our ideas with evidence from the text.  Then, students wrote about different points of view expressed in the text.  

Of Course They Do!
On the International Day of Pink, we continued to have courageous and critical conversations about how schools can be more inclusive, and how we can take action as allies. After reading texts such as, “Of Course They Do! Boys and Girls Can Do Anything” by Marie-Sabine Roger and Anne Sol, and “10,00 Dresses” by Marcus Ewert, students talked about their experiences of being told they couldn’t do something because of their perceived gender. For example, boys with long hair shared their experiences of being challenged in the washroom. We focussed our discussion on how we might respond to questions and/or suggestions that we don’t belong. We used Drama and role-play to practice naming and responding to behaviour.

Hey, Little Ant!
“Hey, Little Ant” by Hannah Hoose and Phillip Hoose, is a story about a kid who is about to squish an ant. The story is told from two different points of view. On each page, we hear the voice of the kid and a response from the ant. The story ends with a question, which is a great prompt for discussion and writing, “What do you think that kid should do?”

This story is a great opportunity to explore empathy and compassion, and students’ relationships with animals. “Hey, Little Ant” also includes a song, which can enrich the text. After reading, students wrote about the different points of view in the story, and then wrote about their own point of view.

The Tree
“The Tree” written by Dana Lyons is written from the point of view of a tree in the Pacific Rainforest. After writing and sharing the story, the author learned from elders of the Lummi Nation, the original inhabitants of San Juan islands, that he has written the tree’s song. Every tree has a song.

We listened to “The Tree,” drew pictures and shared stories about trees that are important to us. Then, students wrote their own poem or song from the point of view of a tree. We used sentence prompts, such as: “I live….” “I hear….” “I have seen….” “My favourite season is…..” “I wonder….” “I hope…” I found a video of Dana Lyons singing the text as a birthday present for Jane Goodall. I hope we will be able to turn our text into songs!

The Council of All Beings
I am always inspired by my teacher friends! Maria Vamvalis is currently working on her PhD, and shares her learning about climate justice with Natural Curiosity as a mentor coach. We took a course together at OISE, and Maria shared how she has used “The Council of All Beings” to allow students to connect with land and speak in-role from the point of view of other life forms, including animal, plant or natural feature, (desert, forest, etc). This article written by Joanna Macy describes the process.

I am learning that the purpose of the Council is to listen and give voice to land, which includes animals, plants, air, water, soil, etc. The process honours our shared responsibilities and relationships with more-than-humans, and helps us to remember and reconnect with land. It requires guidance and thoughtful facilitation. It sounds like a powerful teaching and learning experience.

Joanna Macy explains: “The Council unfolds in three consecutive stages. First, the beings address each other, telling of the changes and hardships they have experienced.” The second stage creates space for humans to hear from the more-than human beings directly. A few students remove their mask and are invited into the centre of the Circle to listen. The third stage of the council involves the other beings offering gifts to the humans. “As ritual guide I might cue this stage by saying, “Many humans now realize the destruction they are causing; they feel overwhelmed and powerless in the face of the forces they have unleashed. Yet our fate is in their hands. O fellow-beings, what strengths of ours can we share with them, what powers can we lend them?” With this invitation, the beings in the Council begin spontaneously to offer their own particular qualities and capacities. After speaking, each leaves their mask and steps in the centre as humans to receive gratitude and gifts. There is opportunity for singing, dancing and release, as well as reflection and stillness.

I think “The Council of All Beings” would enrich any Earth Day celebrations, and/or National Indigenous Peoples Day. I believe it could be adapted for on-line learning, and would be a powerful collaborative and creative experience for all members of the school community, including families.

People’s Tribunal on the Coronavirus Pandemic
I have a new subscription to “Rethinking Schools”, which is an excellent magazine about social justice education. In the Winter 2020-2021 issue, Caneisha Mills describes how she organized a tribunal with her Intermediate students to explore responsibility for the COVID-19 crisis in the United States. Some of those on trial include: Mother Nature, Racism, the HealthCare industry, Capitalism, and the U.S. government. You can read the article, “Who’s to Blame?” here.

Caneisha Mills honours student voice and engages students in a collaborative and critical process of exploring the global pandemic from different points of view.  She honours student voice, and creates a brave space for students to “grapple with profound social injustice” and imagine different possibilities. Mills explains that the “most important part of this lesson involves students writing a 10-point program — inspired by the Black Panthers’ 10-point program, adopted in 1966 — on how to prevent crises like this in the future.”

The article includes a clear teaching plan and provides information for educators who might want to implement the People’s Tribunal on the Coronavirus, on or off-line. “This people’s tribunal begins with the premise that a heinous crime is being committed as tens of millions of people’s lives are in danger due to the outbreak of the novel coronavirus — COVID-19. But who — and/or what — was responsible for this crime? Who should be held accountable for the spread of the virus and its devastating impact?”

The teacher plays the role of the prosecutor. Students are assigned different roles, and the “defendants” are supported to work in small groups to develop a defense against the charges outlined in the indictments. A jury is selected, and each group shares their arguments at the trial. There is only one rule: They may plead guilty, but they must accuse at least one other defendant of being responsible. After the jury deliberates and explains their verdict, all students are invited to reflect on the experience. Then, they use their voice to demand and create change.

The tribunal sounds like a meaningful learning opportunity for older students to explore different points of view. I am curious to think about how this might be adapted for younger students.

In your point of view, what are some powerful texts and/or dramatic conventions that you have used in the classroom and on-line?  Please add them to the Comments below.

Gender Splendour!

This year, our school community will celebrate Gender Splendour from April 6-9, 2021.  It will be our 11th year implementing arts-based curriculum that explores gender identity and equity, 2SLGBTQ+ communities, inclusive families, and disrupts homophobia and transphobia. 

Over the years, the Kindergarten-Grade 6 students have participated in several inclusive and intersectional workshops, including: Love Makes a Family, “The F-Word” (feminism), Kiki Ballroom and the History of Voguing, Toys Will Be Toys, LGBTQ+ Rights Around the World, Pronouns and Possibilities, and more! 

When I was in elementary school, my mother came out as a lesbian.  This was in the 1980’s and she told us not to tell anyone because she was afraid of losing her job.  I learned about the painful impact of fear, silence, and homophobia outside of the home.  I also learned about the power and strength of community and love, as we marched in the streets at parades and protests.  My young life as an activist and an ally has developed into a strong, on-going commitment to social justice.  When I became an educator, I was determined to break the silence and celebrate the pride and resistance of 2SLGBTQ+ communities.

All You Need is LOVE….and an ALLY:

When Shannon Greene joined the staff, I found an ally and an accomplice.  We were both creative and committed to transforming our pedagogy.  Together, we brainstormed ideas about how we might support students, families, and staff to explore and express their intersectional identities.  We gathered resources, including picture books and media texts to support these critical conversations.  We reached out to families and community members, and generated guiding questions to investigate.  We wanted to empower students to stand up to injustice and take action.  And we wanted to have fun!!   

Boas and Bowties:

We celebrate Gender Splendour during the second week of April, which includes the International Day of Pink.  This year, COVID-19 has pushed our celebration a week earlier.  In addition to wearing pink, we encourage everyone to dress-up in different ways.  These Dress-Up Days are always optional.  They are meant to be playful and fun, and create brave spaces for community members to express themselves without fear.  In the past, we have worn: Rainbow Colours, Wings and Capes, Boas and Bowties, Clothing Inside-Out, Spots and Stripes, Glitter and Glam, and Pink! 

Free to Be:

Every social movement needs a soundtrack.  Throughout the years, we have discovered several songs that make us think, and make us dance.  “True Colours” by Cyndi Lauper, is an anthem that honours how it feels to be seen.  “Same Love” by Macklemore, explores issues of homophobia and same-sex marriage.  “Stereotype” by Samsaya, invites us to stand up to injustice.  Recently, we collaborated with Freedom School Toronto, and learned about how dance can be a form of resistance.  Everyone enjoyed learning about Kiki Ballroom, and the five elements of voguing, before strutting our stuff on the runway. 

As we prepare to smash gender stereotypes and critically examine gender binary roles in our society, I am feeling reflective, grateful, and proud.  I am also looking forward to practicing my “death drop!”


GLOW (Gay, Lesbian or Whatever) is an extracurricular club for Grades 6-8 students to explore issues related to the 2SLGBTQ+ community and their allies. We have been meeting on-line every week since April 2020. Before COVID-19, we would meet during lunch at school. GLOW is a proud and positive space for students and educators to share their own stories, ask questions, make art, and take action. It is always the highlight of my week.

There is extensive data to hold schools accountable and support students who may identify as 2SLGTBQ+. Many of these students continue to be bullied or harassed by their peers, and pushed out of school. It is critical that educators respond to homophobic or transphobic comments and actions that are harmful, and to teach diverse stories of 2SLGBTQ+ communities with pride.  There are several resources provided at the end of this blog.

You don’t need permission to start a GSA (Gay-Straight Alliance). In fact, if a student requests a GSA, many schools are required to provide one. The first thing I did was reach out to my Grade 7/8 teacher friend, Tia Chambers. I asked her to share the role with me because everyone needs an ally. It didn’t take long before other staff wanted to join GLOW. This year, we are sharing the role of co-host with Kindergarten teacher, Nikki Kovac.

We start every meeting with an introduction, which includes our pronouns, and we answer a question. This helps us to build relationships and honour who we are. If there is a new member, we will review our GLOW Agreements. These agreements were generated together in our first meeting and describe what we hope for and what we need in order to feel comfortable.

After making our agreements, we invited students to share music that they like and we created a playlist. Some of these songs are performed by 2SLGBTQ+ performers, and other songs just make us feel good. We asked everyone for ideas about what they wanted to discuss, and the type of activities they might want to do. It is important for educators to amplify student voice, listen and respond with respect. Inspired and informed by the students’ ideas and questions, we prepare activities and questions to guide our discussion every week.

Here is an example of what we discussed at our GLOW meetings in February. As Valentine’s Day was approaching, I wanted to challenge the heteronormative narrative about love and romantic relationships that are reinforced by the media, and create space for more possibilities. I thought that we might discuss these issues and create our own Valentine’s Day cards with inclusive messages.

Our check-in question was about love. I asked: “What or Who do you love?” Then, I used these guiding questions: “What are the messages about love and relationships that you notice on television or in movies?” “Who do they include or exclude?” “How do these messages reinforce a “norm” about relationships that is heterosexual?” “How might we make Valentine’s Day more inclusive?” We also talked about self-love and different ways we might care for ourselves.

I shared a few examples of Valentine’s Day cards that provide a counternarrative, and I invited everyone to design their own inclusive Valentines. We talked about word play, and how Valentines often include puns and rhyme. As we drew, we listened to songs on our playlist. The following week, one of the students shared a poem that they had written about love that was inspired by our discussion. It filled my heart with pride.

ETFO has created many resources to support educators who want to create brave and inclusive spaces in our schools.

My teacher friend, Melissa Major, has written two excellent articles in VOICE magazine, which can spark meaningful discussions with your students:

How to Become a Super Rad Gender Warrior reminds us that all members of a school community have the right:

To be free from discrimination and harassment.
To have a safe and inclusive learning environment.
To use the bathroom or change room they feel is the most appropriate.
To dress in a way that feels right and safe for them.
To be spoken to with their chosen name and gender pronoun.
To be treated with dignity and respect and the recognition that all gender expressions and identities are a normal and healthy part of a spectrum.
To present their gender in different ways at different times

Gender Neutral Language: An Activity for Day of Pink or Any Day explains how educators can use inclusive language to disrupt the gender binary.

Last Spring, I attended an ETFO webinar called “How to start a GSA and support 2SLGBTQ+ during Remote Learning” presented by Toronto teacher, Jordan Applebaum. It was intersectional and inspiring. You can watch the webinar in four parts here:

Be Proactive to Support Trans and LGBTQIA2S POC – Part 1
Be Proactive to Support Trans and LGBTQIA2S POC – ​Part 2​
Be Proactive: How to Start a GSA During Remote Learning – Part 3​​
Be Proactive: How to Start A GSA During Remote Learning – ​Part 4

I have also joined a few Facebook groups to support this work. Recently, I discovered that the Durham District School Board has created Pink Shirt Day and Beyond, a slide deck which is filled with lesson plans to use in the classroom or at your next GLOW meeting.

Shine on!!


Be Strong in the Face of Poor Government

FDK (too soon)

EQAO (to help real estate $)

Class sizes (to build resilience)

Drill and Kill Math (We’re Open for Worksheets)

Funding formulas (creative govt accounting to underfund boards)

Antiquated HPE curriculum (since no one needs to learn about consent)

Don’t let them fool you.

Despite what the government says to the contrary: public consultation involves asking many more people than a few plum political campaign contributors. The world is not flat, and Ontario has one of the best education systems in the world.

Be strong. We serve over 2 000 000 future voters, taxpayers, and consumers who will be impacted by the short sighted and overt actions of the current government to undermine our profession. Why would anyone want to risk losing 2 000 000 votes to curry favour with businesses who prefer to pad their bottom lines rather than pay their share of taxes. It’s time we start to boycott the companies that lobby our governments for an even slimmer share of their tax obligations while holding jobs over everyone’s heads. It’s time to unite.

Be strong. The work you do has meaning. Yours may be the only kind words and smiles that a child receives each day. That snack you pay for and provide means more to that child than you could ever know. The time you invested in coaching students(teams, academics, life) long before and after the day is done continues to impact their lives long beyond the years in school. You are equipping students to do great things in their own lives and the lives of others.

Be strong. The time you spend learning, creating, and collaborating with colleagues matters. None of us is a strong or as smart as all of us when we work and stand together. Stand together, support each other when times are tough and the government tries to undermine our confidence and that of the public in us with misinformation.

Be strong. You matter. Education matters. Our students matter. We matter. And because we do, it’s time to work, even more closely together, to support one another for the collective good, not the corporate coffer.

Be strong.

Gender Rights = Human Rights

gender theory

Education is one of the foundations of Canadian society … and so are human rights.

In Ontario, education is a “publically funded education system to support and reflect the democratic values of fairness, equity, and respect for all” (Policy/Program Memorandum No. 119, Developing and Implementing Equity and Inclusive Education Policies in Ontario Schools, Ministry of Education, 2013).

The Ministry of Education recognizes that factors such as race, sexual orientation, physical or mental disability, gender, and class can create students’ barriers to learning. There is evidence that some groups of students continue to encounter discriminatory barriers to learning. Research shows that when students feel connected to teachers and other students, they do better academically (Goleman, 2006).

So what does this mean to teachers?

Through Policy/Program Memorandum No. 119, school boards must seek out barriers to learning for all students. Teachers therefore must also address barriers to learning due to factors such as race, sexual orientation, physical or mental disability, gender, and socioeconomic status.

Recently, the Ontario PC Party passed a resolution to debate recognition of gender identity which was proposed by Tanya Granic Allen of the Ontario PC party.  The resolution read as follows:

“Be it resolved that an Ontario PC Party recognizes ‘gender identity theory’ for what it is, namely, a highly controversial, unscientific ‘liberal ideology’, and, as such, that an Ontario PC Government will remove the teaching and promotion of ‘gender identity theory’ from Ontario schools and its curriculum.”

The debate of whether this “theory” is “unscientific or not”, is not meaningful to all the students in Ontario who differ in their gender identity. Students who differ in their gender identity exist in our schools and in our classrooms.

I will say this again, students who differ in gender identity are real and in Ontario classrooms. Students who differ in gender identity need to be supported through their human rights and freedoms and need to be protected against abuse and bullying.

By not discussing gender identity in classrooms presents the possibility of students who differ in gender identity not being accepted for who they are and how their difference is also real. Not discussing gender identity in classrooms puts these students at risk of abuse and bullying. Not discussing gender identity in classrooms means that teachers are being asked to pick and choose factors that can be barriers to student learning. Teachers must consider all aspects of the Ontario Human Rights code that include honouring students’ diversity in  race, sexual orientation, physical or mental disability, gender, and socioeconomic status.

In not discussing gender identity, schools who ignore barriers to student learning risk violating the Policy/Program Memorandum No. 119, Developing and Implementing Equity and Inclusive Education Policies in Ontario Schools which advocates for “democratic values of fairness, equity, and respect for all” (Ministry of Education, 2013).

In promoting to “remove the teaching and promotion of ‘gender identity theory’ from Ontario schools and its curriculum” is not going to happen as this statement is against the Ontario Human Rights Code. The Ontario Human Rights Code supersedes any curriculum and therefore teachers can promote human rights within the Ontario Human Rights Code anytime in classrooms. Discussing gender and sexual orientation issues are part of the Ontario Human Rights Code.  

Be aware, that Tanya Granic Allen has a history of odious discrimination against gender and sexual orientation rights, as well as the rights of other religious groups. The Ontario Liberals released a 2014 Granic Allen video which “spewed hatred and homophobia”. The CBC News article (May 5, 2018) states that “Ontario PC Leader Doug Ford says former party leadership hopeful Tanya Granic Allen will no longer be a candidate for the party” and followed with “We are a party comprised of people with diverse views that if expressed responsibly we would respect”. Ford goes on to state that “However, the fact is her characterization of certain issues and people has been irresponsible” but then Ford continues with “She is a welcome addition to our strong and diverse PC team.”

Granic Allen was removed by Ford “as a candidate for the party in the spring election [2018] after controversial social media messages she posted were made public” (Jeffords, November 17, 2018). Granic Allen is not a Minister of Provincial Parliament of Ontario for Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound; Bill Walker, MPP holds that position. Granic Allen, in May 2018, wrote in the National Post that “The accusation by the Liberals and the press that I am somehow against the dignity and human rights of LGBT+ people is a lie” (Granic Allen, May 8, 2018).

Granic Allen also has made comments against, gay marriage and Muslin dress. CBC news cites Granic Allen tweets and blogs dating back to 2013 speaking out “against gay marriage and compares women wearing burkas to ‘ninjas’ and ‘bank robbers.’ (David Donnelly, CBC News, April 10, 2018).

Another article cites Granic Allen as a “kingmaker” for Ford. “Without Granic Allen in the race, Ford wouldn’t have had enough votes to eke out his narrow win over Christine Elliott, and he [Ford] may not have leaned as hard to the right to court social conservative members” (Fitzpatrick, March 14, 2018).

The bottom line is that it does not matter if people differ in their opinions about gay marriage or gender issues, or even Muslim dress; what does matter is that when opinions violate and impact people’s rights and freedoms according to Ontario Human Rights Code, these becomes legal issues.

Respect for all.

Collaboratively Yours,

Dr. Deb Weston, PhD


CBC News, (April 10, 2018), Tanya Granic Allen under fire for online comments against gay marriage, Muslim dress, CBC News. Downloaded from

CBC News. (May 5, 2018) Tanya Granic Allen no longer an Ontario PC party candidate after ‘irresponsible’ comments, Doug Ford says, CBC News. Downloaded from

Fitzpatrick, M. (March 14, 2018). Who is Tanya Granic Allen, the kingmaker in the Ont. PC leadership race, and what’s next for her? CBC News, Downloaded from

Goleman, D. (2006). Social Intelligence: The New Science of Human Relationships. New York, NY: Bantam Dell, A Division of Random House.

Granic Allen, T. (May 8, 2018). Tanya Granic Allen: I’ve been slandered. It’s time to set the facts straight, The National Post, Downloaded from

Jeffords, S. (November 17, 2018). Social conservatives say their voice is being ignored at Ontario Tory convention, The Canadian Press. Downloaded from

Ontario Ministry of Education. (2013). Policy/Program Memorandum No. 119: Developing and Implementing Equity and Inclusive Education Policies in Ontario Schools, Government of Ontario. Toronto.

Ryan, R. (November 17, 2018). Ontario PC Party passes resolution to debate recognition of gender identity, Global News. Downloaded from

Recognizing and Responding to Mental Health Problems Among Students

Supporting Minds


An Educator’s Guide to Promoting Students’ Mental Health and Well-being

Government of Ontario Draft 2013

Note that dealing with mental health problems among students is highly complex and challenging. Often students are not responsive to using mindfulness and self-regulation strategies as their significant mental health needs require the support of professionals such as doctors, psychologists, and therapists. Educators cannot diagnose mental health issues.

As stated below, educators can support their students by observing and documenting possible triggers and behaviours.

How to Use Supporting Minds Document

The Supporting Minds document is presented in two parts.

Part One provides an overview of mental health and addiction problems and guidance about the role of educators in supporting students’ mental health and well-being.

Part Two contains eight sections, each dedicated to a particular mental health problem. Each section is structured to first provide educators the information they need to recognize mental health problems in their students and offer appropriate support (under such headings as “What Is Depression?”, “What Do Symptoms of Depression Look Like?”, and “What Can Educators Do?”). Background information about the particular type of mental health problem is given towards the end of each section. Hyperlinks to resources that provide more detailed information are included throughout.

Please refer to the Supporting Minds document for more in depth information.

Knowing Your Students

A first step in recognizing whether a student has a mental health problem may be simply documenting the behaviour that is causing concern. School boards may have their own forms on which to record this information. Once several observations of the particular behaviour have been gathered, educators can share these with others who can help to develop a plan to manage the behaviour.

Educators should look for three things when considering whether a student is struggling with a mental health and/or addiction problem:

  • Frequency: How often does the student exhibit the behaviour?
  • Duration: How long does the behaviour last?
  • Intensity: To what extent does the behaviour interfere with the student’s social and academic functioning?

Highlighted Mental Health Challenges

1. Anxiety in Students


Although different signs of anxiety occur at different ages, in general, common signs include the following. The student:

  • has frequent absences from school;
  • asks to be excused from making presentations in class;
  • shows a decline in grades;
  • is unable to work to expectations;
  • refuses to join or participate in social activities;
  • avoids school events or parties;
  • exhibits panicky crying or freezing tantrums and/or clingy behaviour before or after an activity or social situation (e.g., recess, a class activity);
  • worries constantly before an event or activity, asking questions such as “What if …?” without feeling reassured by the answers;
  • often spends time alone, or has few friends;
  • has great difficulty making friends;
  • has physical complaints (e.g., stomach-aches) that are not clearly attributable to a physical health condition;
  • worries excessively about things like homework or grades or everyday routines;
  • has frequent bouts of tears;
  • is easily frustrated;
  • is extremely quiet or shy;
  • fears new situations;
  • avoids social situations for fear of negative evaluations by others (e.g., fear of being laughed at);
  • has dysfunctional social behaviours;
  • is rejected by peers.

(Based on information from: CYMHIN-MAD, 2011; Hincks-Dellcrest-ABCs, n.d.) Note: This list provides some examples but is not exhaustive and should not be used for diagnostic purposes.


  • Create a learning environment where mistakes are viewed as a natural part of the learning process.
  • Provide predictable schedules and routines in the classroom.
  • Provide advance warning of changes in routine.
  • Provide simple relaxation exercises that involve the whole class.
  • Encourage students to take small steps towards accomplishing a feared task.

(Based on information from: CYMHIN-MAD, 2011; Hincks-Dellcrest-ABCs, n.d.)

See Supporting Minds document Table 1.1 for Specific strategies for supporting students with anxiety-related symptoms

2. Depression in Students


Some common signs associated with depression include the following:

  • ongoing sadness
  • irritable or cranky mood
  • annoyance about or overreaction to minor difficulties or disappointments
  • loss of interest/pleasure in activities that the student normally enjoys
  • feelings of hopelessness
  • fatigue/lack of energy
  • low self-esteem or a negative self-image
  • feelings of worthlessness or guilt
  • difficulty thinking, concentrating, making decisions, or remembering
  • difficulty completing tasks (e.g., homework)
  • difficulty commencing tasks and staying on task, or refusal to attempt tasks
  • defiant or disruptive behaviour; getting into arguments
  • disproportionate worry over little things
  • feelings of being agitated or angry
  • restlessness; behaviour that is distracting to other students
  • negative talk about the future
  • excessive crying over relatively small things
  • frequent complaints of aches and pains (e.g., stomach-aches and headaches)
  • spending time alone/reduced social interaction; withdrawn behaviour and difficulty sustaining friendships
  • remaining in the back of the classroom and not participating
  • refusal to do school work, and general non-compliance with rules
  • negative responses to questions about not working (e.g., “I don’t know”; “It’s not important”; “No one cares, anyway”)
  • arriving late or skipping school; irregular attendance
  • declining marks
  • suicidal thoughts, attempts, or acts
  • change in appetite
  • loss of weight or increase in weight
  • difficulty sleeping (e.g., getting to sleep, staying asleep)

(Based on information from: Calear, 2012; CYMHIN-MAD, 2011; APA, 2000; Hincks-Dellcrest-ABCs, n.d.) Note: This list provides some examples of symptoms or signs but is not exhaustive and should not be used for diagnostic purposes.


  • Support class-wide use of coping strategies and problem-solving skills.
  • Provide all students with information about normal growth and development and ways to cope with stress (e.g., ways to address peer pressure, build friendships, address depressive feelings, maintain good sleep hygiene, build exercise into each day).
  • Write instructions on the board to provide a visual cue for students who are having trouble focusing on spoken information.
  • Model and teach optimistic and positive attitudes, language, and actions.
  • Work with students’ strengths and build on them when they complete activities in class.
  • Provide students with responsibilities and tasks that they may enjoy (e.g., allow students who enjoy computer use to incorporate a computing component into tasks; allow art-loving students to choose illustrated reading materials).
  • Provide a space in the classroom for students to go to when they are feeling overwhelmed.
  • Help students to chunk assignments and prepare for tests well in advance of deadlines.

(Based on information from: Evans et al., 2002; Hincks-Dellcrest-ABCs, n.d.)

See Supporting Minds document Table 2.1 for Specific strategies for supporting students with depression-related symptoms

 3. Bipolar Disorder in Students


Some common signs to watch for include the following:

  • extremely abnormal mood states (generally lasting weeks or more) and involving a depressed or manic mood
  • depressive symptoms (see the section on depression)
  • manic symptoms, including:
  • feeling extraordinarily self-confident, in a manner that is out of character for the student
  • extreme irritability or changeable, “up and down” (labile) moods that are not typical for the student
  • grandiose and illogical ideas about personal abilities (e.g., the student believes he/she has supernatural powers)
  • extremely impaired judgement compared to usual ability
  • a perception that thoughts are racing
  • extreme changes in speech, particularly very fast speech or talking as if he/she can’t get the words out fast enough
  • explosive, lengthy, and often destructive rages that are out of character for the student
  • new or marked hyperactivity, agitation, and distractibility
  • “dare-devil”, risk-taking behaviour

(Based on information from: CYMHIN-MAD, 2011) Note: This list provides some examples but is not exhaustive and should not be used for diagnostic purposes.

In addition, the cognitive functioning of students with diagnosed bipolar disorder may be affected, so that they have difficulty:

  • paying attention;
  • remembering and recalling information;
  • using problem-solving skills;
  • using critical thinking skills and categorizing and organizing information;
  • quickly coordinating eye-hand movements;
  • staying focused on a topic.

See Supporting Minds document Table 2.2 for Specific strategies for supporting students diagnosed with bipolar disorder

 4. Students with Attention and Hyperactivity and/or Impulsivity Problems

SUBTYPES OF Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder

The following three subtypes of ADHD have been identified:

(1) predominantly inattentive (without symptoms of hyperactivity/impulsivity)

(2) predominantly hyperactive/impulsive (without symptoms of inattention)

(3) predominantly combined (symptoms of both inattention and hyperactivity/ impulsivity)

 (Eiraldi et al., 2012). The combined type (inattention and hyperactivity/impulsivity) is the most common of the three. (Based on information from: APA, 2000)


Some common signs of attention problems and/or hyperactivity/impulsivity include the following:

Attention problems: The student:

  • is easily distracted;
  • fails to pay attention to details and makes careless mistakes;
  • forgets things (e.g., pencils) that are needed to complete a task;
  • loses things often;
  • has difficulty organizing tasks;
  • finds it hard to concentrate;
  • follows directions incompletely or improperly;
  • frequently doesn’t finish tasks;
  • does not listen to what is being said when spoken to;
  • avoids or shows strong dislike for schoolwork or homework that requires sustained mental effort (dedicated thinking).

(Based on information from: CYMHIN-MAD, 2011; APA, 2000; CAMH, 2007)

Hyperactivity/Impulsivity: The student:

  • has difficulty sitting still or remaining in seat;
  • fidgets;
  • has difficulty staying in one place;
  • talks excessively or all the time;
  • is overly active, which may disturb peers or family members;
  • has difficulty playing quietly;
  • is always on the move;
  • has feelings of restlessness (for adolescents);
  • is unable to suppress impulses such as making inappropriate comments;
  • interrupts conversations;
  • shouts out answers before the end of the question or without being called on;
  • hits others;
  • has difficulty waiting for a turn;
  • is easily frustrated;
  • displays poor judgement.

(Based on information from: CYMHIN-MAD, 2011; APA, 2000; CAMH, 2007) Note: This list provides some examples but is not exhaustive and should not be used for diagnostic purposes.


  • Provide a structured environment and a consistent daily routine.
  • Provide advance warning of changes in routines or activities.
  • Establish a routine and set of rules for moving from one activity to the next.
  • Establish procedures that allow all students equal opportunities to participate in activities (e.g., establish rules for turn taking; arrange for everyone to get a chance to be first).
  • Provide easy-to-follow directions and instructions (e.g., explain one step at a time; chunk multi-step directions).
  • Post rules where everyone can see them.
  • Reinforce positive behaviour such as raising a hand before speaking, engaging in quiet work.
  • Provide opportunities to learn by doing to give students an outlet for excess energy.
  • Limit visual and auditory distractions in the classroom as much as possible while considering the needs of all students.
  • When talking to students, address them directly and use eye contact. Wait until a student is paying attention before continuing a conversation.
  • Avoid a focus on competition, as students’ urge to win or be first can increase the likelihood of impulsive behaviour.

(Based on information from: House, 2002; CAMH, 2007)

See Supporting Minds document Table 3.1 for Specific strategies for supporting students with attention and hyperactivity/impulsivity problem

5. Behaviour Disorder in Students


Some common indicators of problem behaviour include the following:

  • defiance (persistent stubbornness; resistance to following directions; unwillingness to compromise, give in, or negotiate)
  • persistent testing of limits (by ignoring, arguing, not accepting blame)
  • persistent hostile mood
  • lack of empathy, guilt, or remorse, and a tendency to blame others for his/her own mistakes
  • low self-esteem that may masquerade as “toughness”
  • acting aggressively
  • disobedience
  • oppositional behaviour (e.g., challenging or arguing with authority figures)
  • bullying, threatening, or intimidating others
  • initiating fights or displaying physical violence/cruelty
  • using weapons
  • stealing
  • deliberate destruction of property
  • frequent lying
  • serious violations of rules (e.g., in early adolescents, staying out late when forbidden to do so)
  • skipping school often
  • outbursts of anger, low tolerance for frustration, irritability
  • recklessness; risk-taking acts

Signs that the problem may be serious include the following:

  • The student shows problems with behaviour for several months, is repeatedly disobedient, talks back, or is physically aggressive.
  • The behaviour is out of the ordinary and is a serious violation of the accepted rules in the family and community (e.g., vandalism, theft, violence).
  • The behaviour goes far beyond childish mischief or adolescent rebelliousness.
  • The behaviour is not simply a reaction to something stressful that is happening in the student’s life (e.g., widespread crime in the community, poverty).

(Based on information from: APA, 2000; CPRF, 2005; Hincks-Dellcrest-ABCs, n.d.) Note: These lists provide some examples but are not exhaustive and should not be used for diagnostic purposes.


  • Provide predictable schedules and routines in the classroom.
  • Focus the students’ attention before starting the lesson.
  • Use direct instruction to clarify what will be happening.
  • Model the quiet, respectful behaviour students are expected to demonstrate.
  • Create an inviting classroom environment that may include a quiet space, with few distractions, to which a student can retreat.
  • Be aware of the range of needs of the students in the class in order to provide an appropriate level of stimulation.
  • Communicate expectations clearly and enforce them consistently. Use clear statements when speaking to students: “I expect you to …” or “I want you to…”.
  • Focus on appropriate behaviour. Use rules that describe the behaviour you want, not the behaviour you are discouraging (e.g., Instead of saying “No fighting”, say “Settle conflicts appropriately”).
  • At the beginning of the school year, clearly and simply define expectations for honesty, responsibility, and accountability at school. Repeat these expectations often to the entire class, especially when violations occur.
  • Don’t focus too much attention on children who blame others, since that might inadvertently reinforce the behaviour.
  • Begin each day with a clean slate.
  • Facilitate the transition from the playground to the classroom by calmly telling students when there are five minutes left and then one minute left in recess, encouraging them to prepare to come in, and helping them settle in class when recess is over. Schedule a predictable classroom activity that most students will enjoy to follow recess, to help provide a smooth transition.

(Based on information from: CYMHIN-MAD, 2011; Hincks-Dellcrest-ABCs, n.d; Lee, 2012)

See document Table 4.1 for Specific strategies for supporting students with behavioural problems in classrooms

 Please see the Supporting Minds  document for further information on 

  • Eating and weight-related problems in students
  • Substance use problems in students
  • Gambling in students
  • Self-harm and suicide in students

Taking care of self as an educator

(Supporting Minds, Appendix C: Mental Health Action Signs)

Your behavioural health is an important part of your physical health. If you are experiencing any of these feelings, let your doctor know.

  1. Feeling very sad or withdrawn for more than 2 weeks
  2. Seriously trying to harm or kill yourself, or making plans to do so
  3. Sudden overwhelming fear for no reason, sometimes with a racing heart or fast breathing
  4. Involvement in many fights, using a weapon, or wanting to badly hurt others
  5. Severe out-of-control behaviour that can hurt yourself or others
  6. Not eating, throwing up, or using laxatives to make yourself lose weight
  7. Intense worries or fears that get in the way of your daily activities
  8. Extreme difficulty in concentrating or staying still that puts you in physical danger or causes school failure
  9. Repeated use of drugs or alcohol
  10. Severe mood swings that cause problems in relationships
  11. Drastic changes in your behaviour or personality

Source: The Reach Institute, The “Action Signs” Project, p. 6. Retrieved from

Dealing with students with mental health needs can be very challenging and draining.

Be kind to yourself and practice self care.

Reach out for help and support if you need it.

Collaboratively Yours,

Deb Weston


Teaching About the Genderbread Person

I’m taking the new ETFO AQ … Teaching LGBTQ Students Additional Qualification Course. I’m learning a great deal about stigma, discrimination, and privilege. PS I’m a LGBTQ2S Ally.



The first day of the course, we discussed the Genderbread Person which really help me understand the diversity in  people, and especially in LGBTQ2S communities. This concept was developed by Sam Killermann. I’ve included several of Sam’s resources below.

Aspects of the Genderbread Person (my understand of the Genderbread Person concept):

Gender Identity deals with how a person thinks about their gender.

Gender Expression deals with how a person presents with regards to gender.

Biological Sex is how male, intersexed, or female a person is born.

Sexual Orientation deals with who a personal is sexually attracted to but no necessarily who they fall in love with. This means that a person may be sexually attracted to another person and want to sleep with them but may or may not be romantically attracted to them.

Romantic Orientation deals with the opposite where a person may be romantically attracted to another person but may or may not to be sexually attracted to them and want to sleep with them.

All of the above occur on a separate continuum. This means Gender Identity, Gender Expression, Biological Sex, Sexual Orientation, and Romantic Orientation are all on a separate continuum. For example a person could identify as male, express themselves as male, be biologically female, have a preference for males both securely and romantically – or in other words, a girl who looks and presents as a boy but still likes to have sex and love boys (based on a real life case).

Remember about 1 in 10 or 10% of our students likely identify as LGBTQ2S so it’s important to understand about the equity issues around the identities. Knowing about LGBTQ2S is not just about celebrating a day of pink, it’s about embracing the issues everyday!

Collaboratively Yours,

Deb Weston

Check out these resources below

Genderbread Personb v3

One Huge Prickly Reason Why Anti-LBTQ Folks Don’t Change Their Views

Let’s Talk About Bathrooms

5 Reasons Why So Many People Believe Feminism Hates Men and Why They’re Not True

Dear White, Straight, Cisgender, Man People: You Are Privileged

Comprehensive* List of LGBTQ+ Vocabulary Definitions

30+ Examples of Cisgender Privilege

Solution for the “Confusing” Gender Neutral Toilet Sign Issue

Video: Understanding the complexity of gender

Video: From Boxes to “-Ness” A Journey Exploring Gender

Video: Social Justice is for Everyone