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My Experience Teaching With No Collective Bargaining and No Teacher Unions…Part Two

In my first year of teaching, some days went very well and other days I was ill equipped to support my students with what they needed. My students came from some very difficult homes. Many had addiction, drug dealing, and consistent violence in the home. One student that I will remember for my entire career shared with me that his job in his home was to hide in the closet while his mother turned tricks and  steal money from the John’s wallet before his mother finished. My students were very quick to anger and had very little in the way of self regulation or an ability to talk through their problems. As one student explained to me, to survive in their neighborhood, you had to punch first. My students needed so much more than I was able to give them. They needed counselling, mental health supports, addiction support and anger management interventions. None of which I was trained in at teacher’s college. They needed people who specialized in all of these areas supporting them and rooting for their success in school. Much of my time at school was spent trying to build relationships with my students so they could actually trust me enough to let me teach them. The majority of my students were 3 or 4 years behind in reading, and writing was an incredibly frustrating experience for all of them. They had needed reading intervention many years before they met me and needed additional supports that just didn’t exist in my school. There was no special education support or Educational Assistants. The guidance department in my school was completely overwhelmed trying to meet the needs. There was just me. A brand-new teacher with all the heart in the world but very ill equipped to support children through daily trauma. The system did not have enough supports to meet the students’ needs.

Just as my students were not supported, neither was I as a brand-new teacher. On one particular day, I had a lesson that was not going well. One of the students in my class had an altercation with another student the night before and was having extreme difficulty being in the same room with him. During this lesson, he got up and attacked the other student. At this moment, a senior teacher at the school came into my classroom and sat down and told me that I was being evaluated by her. I was not notified of this evaluation and I was not clear about the parameters of the evaluative process. The teacher stayed and heavily criticized me for my performance. The teacher did not provide me any supports or ideas of how I could improve. It was to this day one of my worst days in the profession. When I inquired about the process of evaluation in my district, I was told that the principal could assign a senior teacher any day at any point to come and observe me. The turn over rate of teachers is around 10 percent a year in this state. Without fair transparent evaluation practices and processes in place to support newer teachers, beginning teachers are not set up well to support their students.

My school was a very also a very violent place to work. There was some form of student on student or student on teacher violence daily. There were no stats collected on violent incidents and there was no accountability from administrations to follow up on violent incidents. There was never a plan to stop the violence or improve the violence within the building. What I was told on more than one incident by my administration was that I was not from here and that I didn’t understand the community I was teaching. Basically, there was no expectation for the situation to improve for the students or for the teachers in the building. Again, my students were set up to fail because there was no one looking at changing the system in which they were exposed to violence every single day.

I was also discouraged from protecting my students outside of school. During my first round of parent teacher interviews one parent stood up and grabbed a meter stick off of my blackboard and attempted to beat their child. I luckily had a phenomenal hallway of teachers that I worked with and they assisted me with stopping the parent. I went to an administrator and notified them that I would be calling child protective services. Again, I was told that I wasn’t from around her and I didn’t understand the community. There was no union to call and no support to ask for.

All of these experiences remind me why I will stand up to any cuts or erosions to our current world class Ontario education system! I stand up and fight back because….

  1. Supports for kids in need are a mandatory part of a strong education system. Taking away funding from students with special needs is not okay. Taking away funding from students with mental health needs is not okay. Taking away funding from students who need to have additional support to be successful in school is not okay.
  2.  My students deserve a well qualified, highly educated teacher. Most teachers have two university degrees and countless Additional Qualification courses. I have two degrees, 8 AQs and an extensive list of other self-directed learning to become the best teacher I can possibly be. My colleagues have Master Degrees, PHDs and College Degrees. The reason why Ontario has a world class education system is because we have world class highly educated teachers who are committed to education. un
  3. Hiring practices/Evaluation practices need to be fair and transparent. Otherwise, you end up with an entire teaching profession that looks like the principal they were hired by.
  4. Violence in school is not okay. Reported incidents needs to be transparent and analyzed to find solutions to protect all students. Every child deserves to come to school every day and feel safe. For many, it is the only place that they are able to be safe.


Thank you to the 83, 000 teachers that have stood up to stop the cuts to our education system over the past two weeks. The students of today and tomorrow will thank you for it!




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 schedules.screenshot-twitter.com-2019.06.30-20-35-53
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.