Did anyone else go to sleep on the last night of school already thinking about next year? I did.

It’s not the first time either. After 10 years in education, it is now a given that I will go to sleep on the last day of school reflective, happy, and excited about the past, present, and future of this calling.

2 sleeps into the Canada Day long weekend and the reflections continue. Along with my REM time retrospectives (not the band, although they are awesome) come some big looks forward to September. It’s okay if you think this is not normal. I’m good with it. It’s not above, but it is definitely beyond what I ever expected to happen the very moment I started teaching.

For me, it is a great time to look back and recognize the growth over a school year at the speed of learning. It is also a time to reflect on the emotional highs and lows and to unpack the instructional tool kit for some much needed organization and maintenance. However, this June seems a bit different because of the current political climate in Ontario. This has me thinking even more about the importance of some advanced preparations. And why not?

I do this now because the year is still fresh in my mind. Whether I can control it or not, I remain in teacher mode – my internal alarm clock is still waking me up on teacher time. Since it takes time to wind down, I might as well wean myself off bit by bit and I know there must be many others out there as well going through eduwithdrawal. Want proof? Check out #onted on Twitter. There is still so much happening on an hourly basis directly relating to eduction.

Consider this recent tweet from Sam Hammond to our newly appointed MOE Stephen Lecce. It appears that despite going on a nearly 5 month break from the legislature, the new minister was concerned that teachers did not know their
You’ll come to your own correct conclusions about the collection of castigating contrarians currently in public office. I have. With so many educators still in teacher mode, more are becoming actively engaged in challenging the effrontery of messages like Lecce’s. This is in order to protect all students from the political dynamite intended to undermine the bedrock upon which our stable and progressive society was built. It may be Summer, but time out of the classroom can be well spent in dispelling false claims and  controversial assertions coming from the ruling party.

One of the biggest loads of misinformation in need of incineration has been the outright promise that no teacher jobs will be lost. This has been a massive cause of concern as class sizes have been co-opted. It has also come with the staggering and sad losses of positions for many amazing educators. Many who continued to go beyond the job in order to serve their students all the while holding the cards of an uncertain future.

Someone who is going beyond to inform us all is Andrew Campbell. He curates a comprehensive document that shows how the cuts to education are affecting our profession by the numbers and from board to board. Warning, this might provide many with night terrors if they read it before bedtime.

This is what keeps teachers awake at night. We have to deal with stunted salvos like the one above from Mr Lecce and disrupt its corrupted political narrative. We must take a stance for the students whose voices and opportunities are being stripped down to the basics in act that will only destabilize their future by limiting their access to education. This is beyond anyone’s mandate or scope of power. No decent citizen voted in the hope of shortchanging the future of our youth.

In order to get past it, we must go beyond signing petitions or retweeting.

So stay up late.
Write a letter to your MPP.
Support and encourage one another.
Read up on the issues via @ETFOeducators on Twitter or via the Building Better Schools website.

We must go beyond the government insults, the inexplicably random policy choices, the gutting budget cuts, the acrimony, the villification, the distrust, the disingenuous praise, and the indifference because the 2 million students who we are fighting for are worth it.

There is something each of us can do to make sure our collective voices are heard. Sharing yours in July and August while you rest, recharge, and prepare for September will ensure that our support of students will be heard loud and clear all Summer too.

When the bells ring again in September, our answer to the ruling party will be in the form of 83 000 + strong devoted educators each ready to teach far beyond the destructive discourse of a politician’s disputes, and instead straight to the hearts and minds of our students like we always do.

Best to you all this Summer. Thank you for a great year of interaction and inspiration. See you on Twitter.

Remember to breathe (as you continue to inspire others)

I checked in on a few of my former student teachers today. Each of whom are shining examples of professionalism, commitment, and creativity in their classrooms. They have been on my mind alot lately, as daily news of the government sponsored attrition games occupy headlines and conversations across the province. I am sure they represent the hundreds, even thousands of new educators who have recently joined our calling.

It’s rough out there right now, and for many new hires to school boards the uncertainties of the day are leaving many wondering what the future holds? For each one of these amazing educators, things are changing and there is not much they can do to about it until the facts and figures are finalized. It must be difficult to know that the educational landscape is shaking beneath so many feet. We all need something to hold on through the experience.

Sharing what we have in the emotional toolbox may be all that can be done for now. I encourage everyone to keep checking in on one another as we remain united and ride out the storm. A call, an email, or time for a cup of coffee could provide a little needed encouragement. I have noticed that even veteran teachers are feeling the tension of these days too. I have caught myself stress eating, acting a little more impatient than usual, and struggling for motivation. I’ve taken to breathing exercises to slow down my busy mind. Perhaps it’s the unknowns of it all that are keeping me off my game?

To get a sense of it all I have been turning to Andrew Campbell. He curates Ontario Education Cuts. This is a list of announcements and projections from school boards and grade panels that challenges the message being delivered by the province to the public and school boards about job losses, shrinking course offerings, expanding class sizes, and shifts to online instruction. information and numbers in this document seem to add up differently than political messages about job losses over time due to attrition and attrition alone. Maybe there is a Math Curriculum revision opportunity in the works here since such skewed accounting discrepancies exist?

What we all need is to have the complete set of numbers to work with before we can truly provide assurances to our new teachers that there will be jobs for them in education.

I remind myself that I am surrounded by incredibly dedicated and caring professionals whose lives are dedicated to making the world a better place. Stay informed. Stay encouraged. Be strong. We are all here to support and lift each other up when things get rough. Sometimes it might be a time for a cup of coffee and a conversation. Other times, it might be a simple reminder to breathe.




Bursting bubbles

that sound?
Fear and loss,
dreams – on hold,
watching, without a
voice as opportunity
is cut and cancelled.
For the people, or
for their bank

Doubts – fill the staffroom.
Murmurs – echo down the halls.
Uncertainties – buzz through minds.

Bubbles – bursting before they are even formed.
Cuts like needles meant to pierce hearts and minds.

Are preparations being made for a classless class war?
Why has education been made the enemy in our province?

They say the bitter pills prescribed in government cuts must be taken or else there won’t be a future and that everyone must sacrifice because this mess is nobody’s and everybody’s fault. Yet, why aren’t elected officials in line for the same medicine that they’re prescribing? We hear tonnes of sound bites and sound bluffs. We see posturing on every stump, but where are the planters and peace makers after the forest that is public education has been razed?

We see fingers pointing in every direction because everyone is worried more about the colour of the ink on the spreadsheet than the lives that it will stain to change it.

What message is being sent to our youth by the adults, who cannot get along? The same adults making decisions about their futures? We ask our students to advocate, invest, and dedicate to their potential. We teach them to think critically, consider the facts, and make good choices. We expect students to buy into a better system, but it has already been sold out by the ones elected to take care of it.

Investing in our youth and their education should never come at a cost of denying them anything less than what their predecessors and parents had before them. Opportunity cost may be a term from an Economics textbook to understand the potential for a loss by doing something else. When we consider where things are heading in schools over the next few years, the money saved will never make up for the lost opportunity, innovation, and productivity, or the imminent financial and social costs.

Remember. Quality only hurts once. Our students are worth it. The work we provide prepares and protects them to possess a future. Our youth cannot be blamed for the mistakes of those who leveraged their futures before they were ever born. We cannot let another bubble burst and expect their children to pay for it.

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.

Before you get hurt…again.

Student: (momentarily non-responsive to verbal interaction) slap, push, slap, hair grab, lunge, slap, yell, cry, run, crouch, cry, calm, apolgize

Staff: (1 CYW, 2 SERT) block, block, reassure, block, supportive stance, reassure, block, redirect, clear space, block, reassure, follow, remain calm, reassure, accept

The slaps(verbal/physical) are like slabs of concrete that a student piles up when they are in distress(feeling helpless, unheard, confused, frustrated, angry, trapped, hurt, and _________).

Our students are using these slabs to construct walls which will insulate and protect them from what they feel are are real threats to their wellbeing, happiness, and safety. All the while, staff are working tirelessly to keep them from walling off completely to the point of hurting themselves or others because the ability for flight has left, and the fight is on…again.

It has been happening a lot more frequently in our classrooms and it knows no age limit as educators are experiencing violence from JK to 12. Has it happened to you? How about to someone in your school?

A 2016/17 survey of elementary teachers showed that 70% of them had experienced or witnessed violence in their schools. That distills down to an average of 7 in 10 educators are on the frontlines of a serious problem. No one wants to work where threats and acts of violence are now daily bi-products of their job? Yet, that’s what many teachers are facing as they enter the classroom each day. Even with NVCI, CPI, SERT, CYW, EA, IBT, BHS, and Social Work support in the building or available from regional teams, incidents are increasing in number and intensity.

Students are taking out their frustration, anger, and anxiety in physical ways directed towards school staff. More than ever, it is being documented and reported more across all age panels. So what’s happening inside our schools where once seemingly uncommon incidents are now daily occurences? All of this cannot simply be dismissed as statistical anomalies.

A reminder

Before you get hurt, or hurt again. Each time a student slaps, bites, kicks, target throws, pushes, strikes with an object etc. a report must be made. If you are injured, seek medical help first. Make sure you tell someone (union rep, admin, a colleague). See the graphic below to make sure you are protected as you have the right to refuse work when you believe workplace violence is likely to endanger you. If you are hurt, it is not the time to play through pain or put on a hero cape. It is your health and well being that must be protected. No one should go to work expecting to be hurt on the job. If you need help, call your union rep or a colleague. Let your voice be heard.

Our schools cannot be left under-supported with an expectation to educate our students in the face of increasing violence and increasingly complex behavioural needs? Our schools need supports in place to ensure safety for all and that includes you.

I will leave you with this final question.

How have spaces of nurture, growth, hope, and community also become places of anxiety, stress, harm, and PTSD for both teachers and students? How are you managing in your school? Please keep the conversation going.

 In case you need some more food for thought

Our notifications, news outlets, and social media feeds are filled with stories, images, and video sharing what’s happening. As I draft this post. CBC News shared a disturbing news story that surfaced online involving a teacher being assaulted by several students in Toronto.

Read more about how ETFO has been lobbying our government to address the issues of violence in our schools.


Teaching in Uncertain Times

When I graduated teacher’s college it was the beginning of the “Harris years”.  Teachers were being declared redundant all over Ontario. I spent three years teaching outside of the province.  Since then I have been through many rounds of collective bargaining-both as a teacher and a local ETFO leader.  I have seen how Ontario’s Provincial governments have continually eroded our collective bargaining rights, stripped our benefits and made working and learning conditions steadily worse for teachers and students.  As you well know, they’re at it again. I’ve been asked, what can new teachers do to make a stand for education while still keeping a focus on our classroom in these uncertain times?

1. Take care of yourself  Anxiety abounds in times of uncertainty and scarcity.  Focus on the present moment as much as possible.  Make sure you have the facts you need but try to stay out of the swirling vortex of unproductive conversation and speculation.  Take time when you need time, do something for yourself that isn’t school related, eat healthy, exercise, if it is something you do-meditate, and get some sleep.  Take one day at a time.

2. Don’t believe everything you hear in the staff room  Well meaning and passionate teachers will discuss the political situation.  Some of the things that you hear will be true and some will not.  The correct information will come from ETFO Provincial office, local ETFO  leadership and your school Steward.

3. Social Media  Social media is a great a source of information but also one of anxiety.  Remember to follow reputable sources such as ETFO and other Ontario Education Unions and get the information you need from reliable sources.  As always, be cognizant of who could be reading your social media posts and pass on correct information.

4. Attend Union meetings and ask questions  Collective bargaining and political legislation can be daunting.  Sometimes it is assumed that everyone in the room knows exactly what is being discussed.  Ask questions when you need clarification.  You might find there are others in need of such clarification too.

5.  Follow the advice of your Union Your Provincial ETFO has a plan of action that is communicated to all local ETFO leadership and ETFO members.  As a new teacher you may feel powerless, but there is strength in members taking action together.  Read your emails from your stewards and participate in political actions when asked.

6.  Support one another These are uncertain times for all teachers and education workers.  It is important to be aware of your own mental health and that of your colleagues.  Check in with your mentor and friends on staff when possible.  A note or a treat in a mailbox, an email or a visit at recess might make the difference in someone’s day.  Remember, other education workers in your school, whether they belong to a union or not, feel the same pressures.

7.  Your students  When the learning begins, your students will always need your full attention.  They will sense the anxiety that you are feeling.  Try to leave the uncertainty and politics at your classroom door as much as possible.  Concentrate on the students that you have in front of you for the next three months.  The students are at the heart of what we do as educators and we will get through this together.


Why Ontario Teachers Need to be Political

Class sizes have concequences

According to The Washington Post’s Valarie Strauss “Teachers are often expected to remain politically neutral in class, not letting their students know which candidate they support or where they stand on controversial issues” (Strauss, 2016).

Parents may anticipate that teachers could “indoctrinate” students by expressing their own views in classrooms (Strauss, 2016) and as a result, so many teachers are tentative to discuss their political views.

Given that “teachers teach who they are” (Susan Drake, n.d.), it’s hard for teachers to be neutral in their passions for education and especially for the inclusion and equity of students.

I state that the act of teaching is a political act as classrooms hold future citizens and what teachers say and do matters.

Teachers teach children to become creative, collaborative communicators, critical thinkers, problem solvers, and global citizens. Teachers help their students become good citizens or as Dewey stated the “organization of the school, as it affects the mind of both teacher and pupil, [is a] growth and extension of the democratic principle in life beyond school doors” (Dewey, 1903).

The act of advocating for democracy and human rights in schools is a political action – so should teachers be political?  Former state and national U.S. Teachers of the Year wrote in an open letter “there are times when a moral imperative outweighs traditional social norms. There are times when silence is the voice of complicity” (cited in Strauss, 2016).

As teachers, we regularly espouse ideas of supporting human rights, through equity and inclusion. In the act of teaching, we are the political messengers of these ideas. Teachers are role models for students as we set the example through what we say and do. Our students watch our every move in our words and our actions. Teachers’ words and actions matter.

In Ontario politics, teachers’ voices matter and our representation and advocacy through our unions matter. Through the Ontario Teachers’ Federation, teachers represent almost 200,000 voices in Ontario. Teachers’ votes matter!

Results of Ontario political outcomes directly impact education funding for schools, staff, and students. In 1994, the election of Mike Harris cut billions of dollars from education (Martin, 2009). By the time I became a teacher in 2000, classrooms were void of resources – teachers ended up filling this gap directly with money out of their pockets. Teacher salaries are also directly regulated by provincial governments. Politics impacts teachers’ net income.

Teachers have built their advocacy for public education through their boards of education and their agency through their unions.

Should teachers talk about which political party they will vote for on this 2018 Provincial Election Day? Probably not, but teachers can just be who they are … advocates for public education, advocates for human rights, and advocates for the inclusion and equity of all students.

Above all, teachers can be advocates for democracy. The most impactful act a citizen can do to support democracy is to vote.

Teach who you are, be who you are. Vote.

Yours Collaboratively

Deb Weston


Dewey, J., (1903). Democracy in education. The elementary school teacher4(4), 193-204.

Drake, S., (n.d.) Professor (PhD), Department of Graduate and Undergraduate Studies in Education,  Brock University,

Martin, R., (October 20, 2009). What happened to Canada’s education advantage? The Toronto Star, Downloaded from

Strauss, V., (October 14, 2016). Teachers are expected to remain politically neutral. These Teachers of the Year say they can’t., The Washington Post, Downloaded from

Gender Equity in 2018



The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms outlines what gender equity should look like … but do women really have gender equity in 2018?

In education and workplace participation, gender equity has made some strides.

  • in 2015, women are almost as likely to have a high school (82.5% women vs. 89.3% men) or university degree (83.1% women vs. 89.9% men)
  • in 2015, 77.5% of women were employed compared to 85.3% of men, up from 21.6% in 1950 and 65.2% in 1983
  • in 2015, women are more likely to be away from work (30.0% women vs. 23.9% men) and more likely to be away for a full week of work (38.4% women vs. 24.8% men)
  • in 2015, women are more likely to work part-time (18.9% women vs. 5.5% men)
  • in 2015, women are more likely to do volunteer work (67.2% women vs. 53.0% men)
  • In 1976 – men had higher levels of employment based on the marital status
    • 1976 men – 78.0 % employed single/never married, 92.7% employed married/common-law, and 82.3% employed separated/divorced/widowed
  • In 2015 – women employment rates of women no longer differ based on marital status
    • 1976 women – 79.4% employed single/never married, 44.6% employed married/common-law, and 59.2% employed separated/divorced/widowed

Nevertheless, challenges remain:

Too few women are advancing into leadership roles.

  • Women make up just 21.6% of Financial Post 500* board member (2016)

Women are under-represented in politics in 2015.

  • 26% of those elected to the 42nd Parliament are women
  • women made up 28% of municipal councillors and only 18% of mayors

Women continue to be responsible for the majority of care giving and household unpaid work.

  • women vs. men still spend (25.7 hrs/week) more time caring for their children (in 2010 women 50.1 vs. 24.4 hours/week on unpaid child care)
  • women vs. men are twice as likely to spend more than 10 hours per week unpaid work caring for seniors (49% women vs. 25% men)
  • women vs. men spend 5.5 hours more on housework (13.8 hrs women vs. 8.3 hrs men per week)

Women in the workforce tend to earn less than men.

  • women earn $0.876 for every dollar men earn, largely as a result of inequity between women and men within occupations (2015)

Women continue to experience high rates of gender-based violence.

  • Women have a 20% higher risk of violent victimization than men (2015)
  • Women account for 87% of victims of sexual offences and 76% of victims of criminal harassment (2015)

Some groups are at particular risk for gender-based violence.

  • 10% of aboriginal women were about three times as likely to report being a victim of spousal violence as 3% of non-Aboriginal women (2015)


How does this impact ETFO members?


As 82% of elementary teachers identify as women, women’s issues directly impact elementary teachers.


  • With too few women (21.6%) in leadership roles, women’s voices are not heard.
  • With under-representation of women in politics, women’s needs and equality are not addressed.
  • With more women spending their time, away from work, on unpaid work (caring for children and seniors, housework, volunteer work) , this unpaid work is not valued.
  • With women taking more time off work than men, this means women pay for higher sick leaves and long term leaves (on a personal note, when my children were young, I used 15 days of vacation days, before teaching, to take care of sick children and had no vacation that year). Again, women’s time at work is not valued as much as men’s time at work – if it was, more men would be taking time off to deal with family responsibilities.

Further, our ETFO colleagues are 20% more likely to be victims of violence than men and 87% of victims of  sexual violence. Our aboriginal ETFO colleagues are 3 times more likely to be victims of spousal violence.

Fortunately, female and male ETFO members are paid equitably based on experience and qualifications.

How do we change this?

  • Advocate for women leaders and leadership
  • Advocate for men to take on more caregiving and household responsibilities
  • Advocate for better, more inexpensive and supplemented childcare
  • Start small by changing attitudes and behaviours of women’s paid and unpaid work
  • Challenge gender stereotypes and subtle sexism encountered every day
  • Challenge sexism and discrimination that allow gender inequality to exist
  • Go for leadership roles and run for office

How can you change this on a personal level?

  • Expect men to take as much responsibility as women to care for children and seniors
  • Expect men to take parental leave so women to go back to work
  • Expect men to take as much responsibility as women for household chores
  • Hire house cleaners to clean your house, even if they clean part of the house
  • Advocate for better, more affordable/supplemented childcare, where the childcare workers are fairly paid


In Canada, gender equity is exists but it’s not completely equal. Let’s hope women can make similar strides in improving stats in leadership, unpaid work, and gender violence that have happened in education and employment. Let’s hope in the next 10 years, the stats noted above will look more equal, more equitable, and less biased towards women.

Happy International Womens’ Day 2018

Collaboratively Yours,

Deb Weston

Interesting Resources:


*The Financial Post’s ranking of Canada’s largest companies by revenue.

all data from Stats Canada

Weston, DPA, 2015. Downloaded from