JUNE 2019 ISSUE
MAGAZINE of the Ontario English Catholic Teachersâ€™ Association
BUILDING SUPPORT AND SOLIDARITY
IN THIS ISSUE: RESISTING THE POLITICS OF DIVISION TEACHING MINDFULNESS, SELF-REGULATION, AND INCLUSION THE GRAND MARSHALL OF CATHOLIC EDUCATION
PLUS: The pitfalls of e-learning Being transformed by Project Overseas Political activity and teacher professionalism
I KNOW YOU CANâ€™T DO MORE WITH LESS KnowMore.ca
CO N T E N T S/J U N2019
INBOX 4 PRESIDENT’S MESSAGE 5
6 CALENDAR / EVENTS
FEATURES 8 A TALE OF TWO NEWS RELEASES
PC government attempting to divide and conquer By Mark Tagliaferri
MANDATORY E-LEARNING NOT FOR EVERYONE
By Liz Stuart
12 THE GRAND MARSHALL OF CATHOLIC EDUCATION After nearly four decades in OECTA, Marshall Jarvis looks back at his career
and legacy By Mark Tagliaferri
14 CREATING A CRISIS Government plans to shortchange publicly funded education By Adam Lemieux
TEACHERS’ AID 15 PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT When faith meets doubt By Karl Fernandes
17 CATHOLIC CONNECTION What we believe, we are becoming By Shannon Hogan 18 INSIGHT Filling up your cup By Michelle Despault 20 TEACHER ADVISOR Political activity and teacher professionalism By Joe Pece 21 LEGAL BRIEF Cross-country labour update By Charlene Theodore 22 PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT A place for all: Inclusive teaching practices in elementary drama By Kim Snider
PEOPLE WORTH WATCHING 24 BE TRANSFORMED BY PROJECT OVERSEAS By Rhonda Fox 26 HELPING OUR STUDENTS TO STOP AND LOOK AROUND What “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” teaches us about self-regulation By Anthony Perrotta
VIEWPOINT 27 MINDFULNESS IN THE CLASSROOM By Jessica Caruana 29
TAX CREDIT PROPELS CHILD CARE CRISIS
By Carley Desjardins
30 FOR WHAT IT’S WORTH A boxer, a teenager, and a book report that was not By Gian Marcon
PRESIDENT’S MESSAGE We spent the 2018-19 year honouring the 75th anniversary of our Association, and our long history of defending the rights of teachers and the students that we teach. In many ways, the momentum of this anniversary year serves as an important reminder of our collective resilience, grit, and determination in the face of the Ford government’s efforts to dismantle our profession and Ontario’s world-class publicly funded education system. We will not accept these dark times. We will continue to celebrate Ontario’s publicly funded education system, and we will continue to stand up against the Ford government’s devastating cuts. As Catholic teachers, not only will we not back down, we have seized the opportunity to stand up for teachers and students more determinedly and steadfastly than ever before. Challenging the status quo through social justice, the teachings of our faith, empowerment, and action is what we do best, and we will continue to work tirelessly and devotedly to better the lives of our fellow members, the students that we teach, and the communities in which we live – regardless of what the Ford government tries to throw our way. We do, however, realize that despite our resilience, the political turmoil and uncertainty this chaos has caused across Ontario’s entire education sector is taking a toll on everyone, and we remain cognizant of what this means as we head into the summer months. As an Association, we work vigorously to protect our members, and I want to assure you that our work will continue at full speed this summer. In recent years, we have focused a lot of our member engagement efforts on raising the voice of grassroots members, be it through our local units; social media presence; collective bargaining surveys; the Indigenous Education Professional Development survey; the Diversity Advisory Board; or the platforms enabled by our many conferences, rallies, and events. The feedback, ideas, and suggestions that filter through each and every one of these opportunities for members to connect and be heard helps inform our strategic actions and vision for the Association. We hear you; we are listening. This fall, I will be travelling to various units across the province to meet with members firsthand to discuss the impact of the Ford government’s education cuts, and I hope to have the opportunity to meet with you. We will keep doing everything in our power to share our stories and concerns in an effort to protect the well-being of our members and the students that we teach. If public education is to remain Ontario’s great equalizer, there is no other choice. We are committed to staying in touch this summer. I ask that you keep an eye out for provincial bargaining updates and other political action news. Our greatest strength is an informed membership. Wishing you a safe and restful summer. Take good care. God bless,
WE WANT TO HEAR FROM YOU If you would like to connect with us to share your thoughts, ideas or concerns, please reach out to us at email@example.com.
Michelle Despault Editor Adam Lemieux Mark Tagliaferri Associate Editors Cynthia Bifolchi Writer/Researcher Fernanda Monteiro Production Anna Anezyris Advertising
EDITORIAL BOARD Liz Stuart President Warren Grafton First Vice-President Marshall Jarvis General Secretary David Church Deputy General Secretary Carley Desjardins Communications Specialist/ Writer Catholic Teacher is published five times during the school year. Opinions and ideas expressed in Catholic Teacher are not necessarily those of the Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association. Catholic Teacher is a member of the Canadian Educational Press Association, and the Canadian Association of Labour Media. Return undelivered Canadian addresses to: Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association, 65 St. Clair Avenue East, Suite 400 Toronto, ON M4T 2Y8 PHONE 416-925-2493 TOLL-FREE 1-800-268-7230 FAX 416-925-7764 catholicteachers.ca Publication Mail Agreement No. 0040062510 Account No. 0001681016
There is no voice more important than a member’s voice. 4 CATHOLIC TEACHER | JUNE 2019
Cover: Staff at Bishop Alexander Carter Catholic Secondary School, in Hanmer (Sudbury Secondary), participating in #RedForEd
UP FRONT DO YOU KNOW OAME? The Ontario Association for Mathematics Education (OAME) is comprised of 2,500 members who are involved in mathematics learning and teaching. The association is involved in promoting, advocating, and supporting equitable, high quality mathematics education. Some of the ways they fulfil their mission are:
. Planning and hosting an annual mathematics conference
each spring (the conference in 2020 is called In Focus, and will be held at the Ontario Tech University, Durham) . Planning and hosting an annual Leadership conference each fall . Highlighting teacher- and student-ready resources . Developing position papers on issues related to mathematics . Supporting students through the local Mathematics Olympics, a fun and challenging mathematics competition for Grade 7 and 8 students
MAKE A DIFFERENCE WITH PROJECT OVERSEAS Want a chance to travel, while providing professional development in-services to colleagues in other countries? OECTA, through the Canadian Teachersâ€™ Federation, sends elementary and secondary teachers to developing countries, primarily in Africa and the Caribbean, each summer. Basic travel and living expenses are covered for participants. Applications for travel in the summer of 2020 will be available at the beginning of September and due by November 1, 2019. Application forms and program information will be available at catholicteachers.ca in the For Your Career section under Leadership Opportunities.
Furthermore, local chapters provide a more personalized environment and often host mini-conferences close to home. Your interest and participation are welcome. To learn more and to check out resources and upcoming events, go to their website at oame.on.ca and follow them on Twitter: @OAMElearns @OAMEtalks @OAMEcounts @OAMEwrites.
ONTARIO ASSOCIATION FOR DEVELOPMENTAL EDUCATION
The Ontario Association for Developmental Education (OADE) is an Ontario subject association whose primary goal is to improve the education of students with developmental disabilities. They provide professionals, parents, and community agencies with real life, applicable professional development (PD) and resources that support alternative education programming. Their annual conference specializes in providing PD in the following areas: Communication, Functional Academics, Social and Life Skills, and Experiential Learning through a post-21 transition planning lens. Please visit oade.ca for more information.
CLASSIFIED ADS Ontario high school in China requires qualified administrators/teachers for September 2019. Competitive compensation ($ CDN), return airfare, private accommodation, local travel and more. Forward resume to: John Holtom, firstname.lastname@example.org or Tel.: 416-763-4121. Acceptance of advertisements in Catholic Teacher neither endorses nor warranties any products or services. We welcome ads for teacher resources, travel, and teaching overseas. Personal ads are not accepted. Rate: $50 for the first 25 words and $3 per word thereafter.
JUNE 2019 | CATHOLIC TEACHER 5
National Indigenous History Month Right to Strike Month (OECTA recognized)
10 Summer AQ Course Registration Closes 12 World Day Against Child Labour 13-14 Spring Council of Presidents Meeting
J U LY
Canada Day New Provincial Executive Takes Office Summer AQ Courses Begin Summer AQ Courses End
5 12 19-20 28-29
Civic Holiday International Youth Day OTF Annual Meeting Unit Treasurers Workshop
International Literacy Day
Fall AQ Courses Begin
O C TO B E R
1 2 26
AU G U S T
25-26 Grievance Officers Seminar
World Teachers’ Day
14 Thanksgiving 17
International Day for the Eradication of Poverty
HEALTH & SAFETY REGIONALS North: September 30 - October 1 East: October 7-8 Southwest: October 21-22 GTA: October 28-29
EVENTS RIGHT TO STRIKE MONTH OECTA recognizes June as Right to Strike Month. We reflect on the effort and sacrifices that led to teachers in Ontario finally gaining the right to strike in 1975, and the hard fights we have undertaken since to defend our rights and working conditions. This year is especially meaningful, as we are also marking the 100th anniversary of the Winnipeg General Strike, when more than 35,000 public and private sector workers effectively shut down the city for six weeks, to protest poor wages and working conditions. The strike ended badly for its leaders, many of whom were imprisoned or deported, but as Hassan Yussuff, President of the Canadian Labour Congress, recently wrote in the Toronto Star, “it left a legacy of labour law reforms that redefined fair and safe work across the country.” In the past few years, we have seen the reaffirmation of workers’ bargaining rights in the legal arena, but also a troubling backslide on the political front. While the Supreme Court of Canada has clearly decided in favour of the rights to organize, bargain collectively, and strike, Conservative and Liberal governments at the provincial and federal levels are still regularly siding against workers and interfering in the collective bargaining process. We are reminded that all workers must continue to be united in supporting one another and standing up for our basic rights. No worker wants to go on strike, but it is a fundamental principle of any advanced society that, as workers, we own our labour and have the right to withdraw it if necessary to ensure fair treatment. As OECTA enters another round of collective bargaining, our goal, as always, is to reach a fair agreement without the need for job action. However, we also understand that it may be necessary to demonstrate our resolve. We are thankful that if the time comes, the law will be on our side.
2019-20 PROVINCIAL EXECUTIVE
The 2019-20 Provincial Executive members were elected by delegates at the Annual General Meeting. Starting this year, all elected Provincial Executive members will serve two-year terms.
Top row L-R: Diana Corazza, Councillor; Chris Cowley, OTF Table Officer; René Jansen in de Wal, Second Vice-President; and Dean Demers, Councillor
Bottom row L-R: Anthony Rocchio, Third Vice-President; Barb Dobrowolski, First Vice-President; Liz Stuart, President; Ann Hawkins, Past President; and David Church, General Secretary
Not in the picture: Michel Derikx, Treasurer and Mary Lachapelle, Deputy General Secretary DIVERSITY SURVEY RESULTS
LEADERSHIP TRAINING PROGRAM
As part of the mandate of the OECTA Diversity Advisory Board, a survey was developed to explore the experiences and attitudes of members from particular diversity groups, including: members of colour; members with disabilities; First Nations, Métis, and Inuit members; and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, two-spirited, and/or intersex (LGBTQ2SI) members. The survey identified barriers that may be preventing members from these groups from becoming more active participants in the Association, and sought input regarding ways to overcome these barriers.
The 2018-19 edition of the Specialized Leadership Training Program wrapped up in April. As the program reaches maturity, we are seeing more and more graduates with every session. This year, a remarkable 26 participants were completing their last of the four modules. This bodes well for the Association’s future, as we are able to ensure a steady succession of leaders who have well-developed knowledge and skills.
The results produced a number of interesting findings on topics such as current levels of engagement; the experiences members from diversity groups have in their interactions with the Association; challenges to progress; and suggestions for better addressing issues of diversity and inclusion. The survey data will help to inform the advisory board in developing recommendations to the Provincial Executive. Thanks to all who participated in this important study!
JUNE 2019 | CATHOLIC TEACHER 7
A TALE OF TWO NEWS RELEASES PC government attempting to divide and conquer
By Mark Tagliaferri
Government news releases can be painfully boring. Typically, they arrive in your inbox during late afternoon with mundane, matter-of-fact headlines, like: “Province Seizes 15,100 Unmarked Cigarettes,” or, “Unlicensed Individual Fined $3,500 for Pesticides Act Violation.” Most are either deleted immediately, or skimmed quickly… and then deleted. Almost always, their contents are forgotten within minutes. In some ways, their dullness is by design: government news releases are not meant to make news. Instead, they are a record of daily announcements and decisions – a digital paper trail of the minutiae of government. Nothing more. Well, usually nothing more. Take, for instance, two releases from April, both dealing with education. The first, from April 4, provided the government’s response to the student-led walkouts, which saw more than 100,000 students from across Ontario take to the streets to protest education cuts. The second, dated April 30, encouraged education affiliates to begin the labour negotiations process. At first glance, both releases seem like any other: mundane, matter-of-fact headlines, with statements that respond to the news of the day. But when you look beyond the words and begin to think about motive and intention, they take on new significance. Both offer a glimpse into the strategic playbook the PC government will use to approach negotiations with teachers – not at the bargaining table, but in the all-important court of public opinion. Read this way, the government’s strategy for “winning” becomes clear: divide and conquer. There is nothing new or particularly innovative about this; the concept of 8 CATHOLIC TEACHER | JUNE 2019
dividing and conquering has been written about by theorists ranging from Sun Tzu, to Machiavelli, to Immanuel Kant. Its tactics are relatively straightforward: • Launch a disinformation campaign to confuse the public and leave your opponents scrambling to correct the record. • Create a narrative that blames one group for other groups’ problems in order to foster mistrust among those who may otherwise align. • Create a culture of fear that breaks down intra-group relationships, in the hope your opponents will take fewer risks. By recognizing these tactics, we can go beyond the inflammatory positions the government has taken and understand why those positions were taken. Doing so not only blunts the attack, but also offers clues as to how education advocates might respond. All governments “spin” the facts, though most follow Mark Twain’s advice to do so “thoughtfully and judiciously.” But when it comes to a divide and conquer strategy there is no time for subtlety. The government’s releases are rife with “alternative facts” and outright mistruths. For example, despite the government’s claims, it is patently untrue that “our kids are failing math.” Nor is it true that “teachers unions have offered no solutions to the math crisis.” The Association has made numerous submissions to the government on education policy, though it bears repeating that no data support the notion of a math crisis in the first place.
This willingness to spew disinformation has strategic purpose. The government’s objective is threefold. First, research shows that once misinformation is encoded in someone’s mind, it is very difficult to change perceptions, even when corrected with facts. Second, the government is using mistruth to make more subtle attacks on educators. Take the following claim from Minister of Education Lisa Thompson on April 4: “We know teachers’ unions organized student walkouts under the previous government.” Of course, this statement is utterly false, but that is not its point – by tying unions to protests under the “previous [Liberal] government,” Minister Thompson is suggesting teachers will complain regardless of who is in office. It is a way to diminish the sincerity of teachers’ anger with this government’s regressive education policy. The third and perhaps most important objective is to shift people’s focus by drawing them into a series of more pedantic arguments. In the aftermath of both releases, hundreds of tweets and Facebook posts picked apart the various
demonstrable lies. Those posts elicited responses from people who support the government, and debate ensued. Entire websites have been established to track falsehoods uttered by PC government officials. And while offering correctives is important, the sheer amount of effort expended fighting mistruth takes time away from debating the core substance of policy changes, and the effects they will have on publicly funded education in Ontario. This is the politics of distraction; if you can cause people to miss the forest for the trees, it is easy to get them lost in the wilderness. If dishonesty provides the smokescreen, the divide and conquer strategy hinges on its second tactic: to sow division among those who are united. The government has been aggressive on this front. “Today is a disappointing day for parents and students,” they said on April 4. Right from the start, the government attempted to divide educators from parents and students, and pit them against each other – one group “disappointed” in the other. The release continued, “On a day when we reached out to begin goodfaith consultations with Ontario’s teachers, we instead are seeing Ontario teachers’ unions condoning a student walkout at schools across the province.” Notice the rhetorical sleight of hand. Having separated educators from parents at the outset, the release now attempts isolate teachers from their unions: teachers want to consult in good-faith, the Minister claims; it is their unions – specifically leaders, or “union thugs,” as Premier
Ford has called them – who are the source of the problem.
divide and conquer, we are better able to turn our minds to conquering the divide.
The statements on April 30 took things a step further. “We are pleased that the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation (OSSTF) has taken up our invitation to start early good faith bargaining… We are extremely disappointed in the remaining teachers’ federations and education workers unions have not responded to this opportunity.” In reality, each union has the right to file notice to bargain at a time of its choosing, and OECTA supports its sister affiliates in making those decisions in the best interests of members. The government knows this, but the true goal is to single out teachers’ organizations, offering praise to some and condemnation to others, in the hopes of painting the education community as not united.
In some ways, the government’s choice to dismiss student activism, patronize parents, denigrate teachers, and attack unions has created an issue around which people have mobilized. The past several months have seen an all-affiliate joint statement on education and the resounding success of the Rally for Education, which brought 30,000 people to stand united on the front lawn of Queen’s Park. The support for Ontario educators and our system of publicly funded education has been nothing short of overwhelming.
Finally, having attempted to distract and divide, all that is left is to create a culture of fear and to suppress those who would stand up in defence of publicly funded education. Sure enough, both memos are chock-full of ominous warnings. For instance, parents are reminded, “Should they be concerned about their child’s safety because of any union support of the walkout, they always have the option to contact the Ontario College of Teachers, which is the regulatory body responsible for teacher misconduct.” In another thinly veiled threat to teachers, school boards are instructed to “take action to discipline anyone who abandons their classroom responsibilities.” Rabblerousers be warned. Read from an emotional perspective, all of this can be frustrating – indeed, many felt a deep sense of anger when the statements were released. However, by pulling back the curtain and breaking down the releases to the level of strategy, we begin to see the political calculations motivating the government’s incendiary language and casual relationship with truth. If we understand the goal is to
With the bargaining process now underway we must sustain that momentum, as the government is likely to ratchet up its rhetoric even further. Now more than ever, advocates of publicly funded education must stand united, speak truth to power, and call out those who would try to divide us. As the saying goes, “So powerful is the light of unity that it can illuminate the whole earth.” Perhaps we can start by illuminating some of the folks at Queen’s Park. Mark Tagliaferri is Communications Specialist in the Communications department at the OECTA Provincial Office.
By recognizing these [divide and conquer] tactics, we can go beyond the inflammatory positions the government has taken and understand why those positions were taken.
JUNE 2019 | CATHOLIC TEACHER 9
MANDATORY E-LEARNING NOT FOR EVERYONE By Liz Stuart
This opinion editorial originally ran on April 25 in QP Briefing, a publication focused on Ontario politics and public policy, as part of an OECTA sponsorship. In a slew of education announcements made last month, Ontario Minister of Education Lisa Thompson announced the government’s plan to implement a minimum of four mandatory e-learning credits in high school beginning in the 2020-21 school year. In her announcement, Minister Thompson said, “the reality of today is we need to be embracing technology for good.” While Catholic teachers are proponents of 21st century learning, this rash decision to transition from zero to four mandatory e-credits for all students in Ontario’s publicly funded education system is void of due consideration of the real impact this will have on the future of public education in Ontario. Yes, four mandatory credits of e-learning would be a North American first, but problems arise when education policies are used as blanket tools to cut costs rather than improve the overall system and well-being of students. For instance, the relationship between teachers and students is one of the most important elements of quality education. Courses delivered in a classroom allow teachers to better identify student needs and adapt their teaching strategies as necessary. However, the shift to mandatory e-learning would result in an estimated 440 fewer hours of teacher-driven classroom instruction; this means students will now be physically in school for three and a half of the four years required to complete high school in Ontario. This 13 per cent reduction in the number of classdelivered credits will hinder teachers’ ability to connect with, and provide individualized attention to students. Beyhan Farhadi, a University of Toronto PhD candidate whose thesis looks at e-learning at the Toronto District School Board (TDSB), has said the government’s plan to impose mandatory e-learning is a “terrible idea” that will affect students who are already struggling the most. Farhadi’s research shows how “online learning, as an emerging method of course delivery at the secondary level, is producing new geographies of inequality” in which only a minority of students succeed using this platform. For high-achieving students, Farhadi explains that e-learning offers an efficient means to accreditation,
10 CATHOLIC TEACHER | JUNE 2019
but this efficiency comes at the cost of collaboration and the vulnerability of classroom dialogue. We must also remember that high-achieving students are just that: high achieving. They will often find ways to achieve no matter the circumstances. But research shows that students who are already struggling to learn independently or in faceto-face environments consistently perform worse in online environments. Mandatory e-learning will only amplify the divide between high- and low-achieving students in our school system. Teachers and other experts know that not all students are suited to e-learning, and attrition and failure rates are generally high for online courses. So, what exactly does this move to e-learning do to “give teens a chance to ‘put their best foot forward,’” as the Minister claims? It is also unclear whether the government has considered several structural issues that could arise from an abrupt turn toward e-learning, and how these might impact access and equity. Many students living in rural communities across the province do not have access to reliable internet service, and students who live in poverty may not have access to the technology necessary to access e-learning courses at all. This discrepancy highlights a geo-socio-economic divide in our province, where some students with access to Wi-Fi and electronic devices at home can complete course work outside of regular school hours, where others are restricted. Under the current structure for the delivery of e-learning, a great deal of care is paid to the needs of students, their aptitude, and likelihood for success. Courses are delivered through school boards, and a school-based guidance councillor is available to each student as a resource while they engage in learning outside of the classroom. Despite these added supports, student success in e-learning remains low. Furthermore, much time and attention is paid to the delivery of the courses to ensure that a credit earned online is equal to a credit earned in a classroom. With every student required to take four online courses and class ratios of 35 to 1, it will not be possible to ensure credit integrity within the current delivery system. And when the government says that it will “centralize the delivery of
The government’s plan to impose mandatory e-learning is a ‘terrible idea’ that will affect students who are already struggling the most.
all e-learning courses,” it raises the question, will it even be Ontario-certified teachers teaching e-learning courses? Without answers to these questions, we could be well on the road to an American-style attempt to privatize teaching and credit delivery in Ontario’s public education system. As teachers, we know that one-size-fits-all models do not work for all students, and that they inadvertently end up harming vulnerable students the most. Blended learning environments that incorporate differentiated learning methods are best for all students. As teachers, we know that it’s the unplanned opportunities, the “teachable moments,” where we seize the
opportunity to offer insight to our students that real organic learning happens. These are the moments that teachers and students thrive on, and the moments that make learning come to life. These moments are about connection and community, collaboration and accountability, in the safety of a supervised classroom led by an Ontario-certified teacher. If public education is to remain Ontario’s great equalizer, the inequity of e-learning could be its biggest challenge. Liz Stuart is President of the Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association.
JUNE 2019 | CATHOLIC TEACHER 11
THE GRAND MARSHALL OF CATHOLIC EDUCATION After nearly four decades in OECTA, Marshall Jarvis looks back at his career and legacy By Mark Tagliaferri
hen the history of OECTA is written, there will almost certainly be a chapter – or two – dedicated to Marshall Jarvis. For nearly four decades, Marshall has devoted himself to the Association and the cause of Catholic education. Now, having held positions as President of York Unit, Provincial Executive member, OECTA President, Staff Officer, and General Secretary, Marshall is about to embark on a new challenge: retirement.
As the spokesperson for OECTA, Marshall worked with his fellow Provincial Executive members and a host of others to organize rallies across the province, and Days of Action under the umbrella of the Ontario Federation of Labour. The response to the government’s assault on publicly funded education culminated on October 27, 1997, when more than 125,000 teachers walked off the job. This was not a legal strike, but a political protest: teachers stayed on picket lines for two weeks, without salary or strike pay.
Long before he was a leader of one the largest job actions in North American history, or appeared on TVO’s “The Agenda” to battle with Progressive Conservative politicians and Sun Media personalities, Marshall Jarvis was a high school math and science teacher. It was a natural career choice: “Education ran in my family,” he explains. “My older sister was a teacher, and I got interested that way. I also did some tutoring in university because I coached basketball and helped some of the players. I guess you could say I was aiding and abetting students from a young age.”
Throughout it all, Marshall Jarvis remained front and centre.
As unique as Marshall’s career would be, his entrance into OECTA and the politics of education is a more familiar story. Early in his teaching career, a situation arose in which Marshall was unhappy with the representation teachers received. “Instead of complaining about it, I thought I would try to make a difference,” he says. From the vantage point of 36 years later, it turns out that was something of an understatement. From 1983 to 1995, Marshall held various positions on the York Unit executive, including as Unit President from 1986 to 1990. He would return to the York Unit executive for a second stint from 1999 to 2005. Between those bookends with York, Marshall spent a decade on the Provincial Executive, starting in 1992, and was elected OECTA President in 1997. It is said that, in history, sometimes people seek the moment, while other times the moment seeks them. OECTA staff interviewed for this piece were split as to which applies to Marshall. In any event, just two weeks into his term as OECTA President, the PC Government led by Mike Harris made good on Education Minister John Snobelen’s promise to “create a crisis in education.” The passage of Bill 160 cut nearly $2 billion from the education budget, centralized education funding, increased teachers’ workload, and threatened to replace qualified teachers with paraprofessionals or instructors. 12 CATHOLIC TEACHER | JUNE 2019
As he thinks back to that period more than 20 years ago, Marshall does not romanticize the decisions that had to be made and their impact on Catholic teachers. “Look, it was a tremendous challenge,” he admits. “But on a personal level, to think about the strength, unity, and inventiveness of the membership, it was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. The members made my job easier.” Although unable to entirely halt the government’s agenda, pressure from OECTA and other education affiliates led the government to walkback some of its more egregious plans. In the end, Marshall remembers the political protests of the late-1990s as one of the Association’s greatest successes, and a turning point in promoting a new generation of teacher-activists. Following his term as OECTA President and his return to the York Unit executive, in 2005 Marshall accepted a position to join the Provincial Office, working in the Contract Services (now Bargaining and Contract Services) and Counselling and Member Services departments. Four years later, in 2009, he became the OECTA General Secretary, a position he has held since.
To think about the strength, unity, and inventiveness of the membership, the political protest was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. The members made my job easier.
His role as General Secretary has allowed Marshall to interact with all aspects of the Association, something he relishes. “I took this role because I felt I had the knowledge and willingness to move the Association forward. And to keep moving forward.” In this, Marshall regards himself as a facilitator: “I help others to further OECTA’s goals,” he explains, though he admits he has “no qualms in making the decisions necessary to accomplish what must be done.” Throughout it all, he is relentless in his defence and promotion of Catholic education. As he explains it, “I am consistently motivated by a deep desire to make the Association the best it can be. And to lead by example.” Asked how he thinks others would describe his management style, Marshall pauses, then chuckles: “Well, I guess that depends on who you talked to.” He admits, “Many would find me strong-willed. But I hope people see me as one who allows others to take chances. Allows staff to take chances. If it doesn’t work, we learn and we move on.” When the subject turns to his legacy, it is clear Marshall is not one to dwell on the past: “My legacy? I think out of everything, I think it is how the Association is now positioned to take on the trials ahead.” That said, he is aware of a certain symmetry to his career: Marshall came of age in OECTA during a turbulent political time with a conservative leader willing to make severe cuts to publicly funded education. “Now we have a government similar to the ‘90s, which will dismantle what took us 15 years to rebuild.” Somewhat idealistically, his ultimate wish is that one day all political parties come together, work with education stakeholders, and develop a common platform, then fund it properly and bring long-term stability to the sector.
all members participate, and all partners openly commit to the undertaking.” As his time with OECTA draws to a close, many wonder what will be next for Marshall Jarvis – some colleagues go as far as to question his ability to relax in retirement. When asked about this, Marshall wants to set the record straight: “People don’t realize that I’ve stopped at various times in my career. I spent four decades committed to OECTA. I am a grandfather now; I want to put all that effort into my family.” Regardless of Marshall’s ability to relax, one thing is abundantly clear: after everything he has done for the Association and Catholic education, Marshall Jarvis has earned this next step. For nearly 40 years he has stood on the frontlines. As one colleague said, “One day, when Marshall is no longer of this earth, it will be discovered that his blood was not red, but the colour of OECTA teal.”
Mark Tagliaferri is Communications Specialist in the Communications department at the OECTA Provincial Office.
In the shorter-term, Marshall’s advice is more pragmatic. “We need to be unified as an Association, and as a sector. We need to commit to a strong public defence of our system in which JUNE 2019 | CATHOLIC TEACHER 13
CREATING A CRISIS Government plans to shortchange publicly funded education By Adam Lemieux
Announcements from the Ford government tend to create more questions than answers. Such has certainly been the case with the rollout of the provincial budget and the 2019-20 Grants for Student Needs (GSN). Rather than filling in details and reassuring Ontarians that they understand the importance of investing in education, the government has gone out of its way to make it difficult for schools and students to plan for the years ahead. What we do know is that the publicly funded education system will be expected to do more with less. The provincial budget, released in early April, shows that education funding will increase by an average of 1.2 per cent annually over the next four years. This rate of growth does not keep up with inflation or student population growth. We also have to keep in mind that the education budget includes a number of items that are not directly related to elementary and secondary education, in particular the hundreds of millions of dollars per year the government plans to spend on the new child care tax credit. All together, this means that by the 202122 fiscal year, the government will be underfunding education by $1.1 billion. Usually, the release of the provincial budget is closely preceded or followed by the details of the education funding formula for the next school year. This year, the government kept everyone in suspense until the last week of April, well into school boards’ budget planning cycles. When the numbers were finally released, they showed that funding will increase by a mere 0.2 per cent compared to 2018-19. More than $630 million has been cut from the core grant that provides per-pupil funding, including money for staffing. The government also has not committed to maintaining the Local Priorities Fund, which
was negotiated by OECTA in the 2017-19 contract extension agreement to hire teachers for programs dedicated toward Indigenous students, students with special education needs, and other at-risk students. The bulk of the new spending will be going to what the government is calling an “attrition protection fund.” The $1.6 billion fund will be rolled out over four years, in an attempt to help school boards avoid laying off teachers while they implement mandatory e-learning and increases to class sizes. This is an important bit of political gamesmanship for the government, because they have claimed repeatedly that despite all of their cuts to public services, no worker will lose their job. But band-aid solutions will not make up for the long-term consequences of the government’s decisions. The bottom line is that thousands of teaching positions will be lost – likely well more than what the government is claiming. Essentially, they are spending billions of dollars to cover up their cuts ahead of the next election, rather than committing to meaningful, sustained investments in the classroom. At the time of writing, the government has just released the full GSN Technical Paper, and OECTA staff are analyzing the document. The Technical Paper breaks down the funding formula, including detailed board-by-board projections, enabling everyone to understand fully how funding will be allocated and distributed. Boards need this information before they can finalize decisions about programming and staffing. However, generally speaking, the consequences of the government’s actions are well known. In addition to the loss of teaching positions, we will see the loss of many specialized programs and supports, ballooning class sizes in core subject areas, less attention and engagement, and confusion for high school students as they try to select courses from year to year. New stories emerge every day about the difficult decisions school boards are facing, and the devastating effects these are having on working and learning conditions. Rarely have teachers, administrators, students, and the public been so united. Unfortunately, thus far the government has doubled down on the strategy of ignoring facts, accusing critics of “fearmongering,” and desperately trying to sow division between teachers and the public. While much is still up in the air, and we will continue doing everything we can to teach the government about how schools actually work, it is becoming increasingly difficult to ignore the obvious: the government is willfully creating crisis in education, and it will be left to the rest of us to pick up the pieces. Adam Lemieux is Communications Specialist in the Communications department at the OECTA Provincial Office.
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WHEN FAITH MEETS DOUBT By Karl Fernandes
Deep in a snow-covered forest, in the heart of the picturesque Haliburton Highlands, a small platform floats above the tree line. It was on that platform that my faith was tested.
And then there was that platform. I had heard about this particular activity and had excitedly described it to my students. The Leap of Faith, it was called. An initial climb, which looked to be the height of a telephone pole, followed by a scramble onto a small platform, followed by a shorter but more difficult climb to a much smaller platform – which swayed. And then, a leap through the air toward a tethered ball, before a gentle return to the ground below. A leap of faith. It sounded like something that just had to be experienced. Yet, to face that platform in those woods on a cold winter morning was to realize that doubt can be stronger than faith. Teaching can be like this. As educators, we find ourselves immersed in challenging times, Catholic educators perhaps even more so. The ground is shifting, and glimpses of the future become ever more elusive. We are witnessing generational shifts in social skills and health-related issues for our students. With so many uncomfortable
PHOTO: @Jacob Lund / Shutterstock.com
We were on a grad trip with our Grade 8 students. What a memorable experience. Our students were challenged and thrilled by climbing, orienteering, and team-building activities. The bonds between teachers, students, and program leaders grew thick. Through laughter and words of support, we watched with pride as our students pulled together for each other.
realities to navigate, why should we not retreat to that which is familiar? Why try new ways? Why take a leap of faith? There is no answer convincing enough for all. However, can we accept that holding tight to the ways of the past – the ways that we know – is partly about fearing the unknown? If we can acknowledge this, we can open ourselves to deeper truths. Truth often reveals itself in simple and mysterious ways. In truth, each day is a leap of faith. Each day provides opportunities to write our stories and understand our truths. Each imperfect day can help us to realize that moments of doubt can restore our faith by uncovering our fears and revealing the courage we need to work through them. Each day we can find the beauty of our
Gospel stories, even in uncomfortable moments. As for that platform – well, it is safe to say it had to be climbed. The sky that day was steel grey, the wind brisk. One step at a time, looking forward not back, trusting circumstances and quietly pushing doubt aside, this is how one can embrace a leap of faith. Give us this day, our daily bread. Karl Fernandes teaches Grade 7 and 8 students at Our Lady of Grace School, in Toronto. He is a Professional Development Network facilitator for OECTA.
JUNE 2019 | CATHOLIC TEACHER 15
LONG-TERM DISABILITY COVERAGE DURING LEAVES OF ABSENCE Long-Term Disability (LTD) insurance provides a safety net that will replace a percentage of your salary and provide pension protection should you be unable to work because of an illness or injury. The OECTA LTD plan recognizes that most members are in a highly vulnerable financial position should they be confronted with a loss of income during a lengthy or permanent disability. Of course, to receive the benefits of LTD coverage, members of the plan must pay premiums. It might be tempting to cease your premium payments when, for example, you take a leave of absence. However, such a decision could leave you unprotected if you suffer an illness or injury. If you choose to maintain your LTD coverage and you become disabled while on leave, you are eligible to apply for LTD benefits. There will be no break in your coverage and you will not be subject to a pre-existing condition clause upon your return to work.
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However, if you choose to discontinue your LTD coverage while you are on leave, you will not be eligible for LTD benefits. Moreover, although you will be reinstated in the plan upon your return to work, you will be subject to a pre-existing condition clause if you become disabled within 12 months from the date of reinstatement â€“ you will not be covered for a disability arising from an illness or injury for which you obtained medical care during the 90-day period before you became reinsured. To illustrate the point, letâ€™s consider two possible scenarios for a fictional member, Tracey. 1. Tracey is diagnosed with cancer
during her leave of absence. While undergoing cancer treatment, her leave of absence ends and she is unable to return to work. As Tracey maintained her LTD coverage during her leave, she is eligible to apply for LTD benefits. The benefits, payable on or after the date her leave is scheduled
to end, will help her replace her income while she is unable to work. 2. Tracey is diagnosed with cancer during her leave of absence. Tracey did not maintain her LTD coverage during her leave, so she is not eligible to apply for LTD benefits to help her replace her income if she is unable to return to work. If Tracey returns to work after her leave of ends, her LTD coverage will be automatically reinstated, but if she has to discontinue work less than one year from her reinstatement of insurance date, her benefits will be subject to a pre-existing condition clause. She can apply for LTD, but if it is determined that her medical condition is preexisting, her LTD application will be declined.
You never know if or when you might need LTD coverage. You should carefully consider your options before deciding to discontinue your participation in the plan.
WHAT WE BELIEVE, WE ARE BECOMING By Shannon Hogan
The Gods we worship write their names on our faces; be sure of that. And we will worship something, have no doubt of that either. That which dominates the soul and mind, Will determine our life and character. We may think that our tribute is paid in secret; In the dark recesses of our hearts – But, it will out… Therefore, it behooves us to be careful what we worship; For what we are worshipping, we are becoming. RALPH WALDO EMERSON
As the summer holidays draw closer, I am always left with mixed thoughts about the whole process of the ending of the school year. Many of us continue our studies through AQ courses, or the continuation of another degree. Many make their way to the crunch of teaching summer school or coaching summer leagues of varied sports teams. There is at least some unscripted time with family and friends, which is a treasure. And for all of us, regardless of our plans, there is some reflection on our lives, our vocation, and on the year to come. I have found the process of “gearing down” from my hectic life prods my soul into an almost instantaneous space of inner reflection. Perhaps the dizzying pace of the school year makes all of the deeper reflection on life “take a number” and wait until the end of June to make itself known. The above quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson has been circling the drain of my unconscious these days, as the beginning of the summer holiday – seemingly far off, but actually ever so near – is arriving. As we stand on the threshold of another battle for publicly funded Catholic education, and for the existence of all public education in the province of Ontario, reflecting on our lives and our vocation is taking on a new urgency. The clarity in understanding who we are as Catholic teachers is central to the
unity we require to stand firm in the struggle for what is best for our students, and for those who teach them. Our dedication to Catholic education, whether strong or tepid, will show up in everything we do – in our conversations with each other, our students, our neighbours, and our families. What we really believe about our vocation, and about Catholic education, becomes especially visible in turbulent times, whether we want it to or not. As Emerson says, “It will out.” Some years ago, while I was teaching a Religious Education Part II course in the summer, I had three teachers out of a class of 20 who were clearly uninterested in the course content. They spoke and laughed loudly throughout the class, and there seemed to be no way to engage them. They eventually confided in me that they were taking the course because they wanted to be principals, and needed the course qualification. They were clear that being principals was the goal in their lives, and they openly admitted that the Catholicity of our system did not mean much to them. This course occurred during the Mike Harris years, just before the political protest, when teachers across the province walked out of their classrooms. At the closing of the course, in my parting remarks, I begged the class to spend some time in the month of August to consider their commitment to Catholic education. I said that if they found in their hearts it did not matter to them, they might be best to leave us. Under the intense scrutiny of the political challenge we were facing, we could not afford a tepid, incidental relationship with Catholic education. I hope you enjoy your time over the summer, as you renew, regroup, and reconsider our commitment to our vocation as Catholic teachers. May we all return in September “on fire” in our souls and minds, prepared to defend and advance the cause of publicly funded Catholic education in our province. What we believe, we are becoming – and it shows. Shannon Hogan is a member of the Counselling and Member Services department at the OECTA Provincial Office.
JUNE 2019 | CATHOLIC TEACHER 17
FILLING UP YOUR CUP By Michelle Despault
self-care / self ker/ noun the practice of taking action to preserve or improve one’s own health. l
the practice of taking an active role in protecting one’s own well-being and happiness, in particular during periods of stress. “expressing oneself is an essential form of self-care”
In my last column, I mentioned the role of self-care and how, despite its importance, it is one of the easiest aspects of our lives to overlook. Many of us do not have any established selfcare routines, and if we do they are often the first things to go when life gets busy. Taking the time we need to safeguard our physical, mental, and emotional health is one of the most important things we can do to promote well-being and happiness.
For many of us, putting our needs and ourselves first does not come naturally. We bear the weight of guilt and unmet expectations when we prioritize ourselves over our family, friends, and colleagues. But this does not diminish the importance of prioritizing self-care, in fact quite the opposite – it means we need to double down, be intentional and unreasonable in our pursuit, and stop apologizing for wanting to take care of ourselves.
My mom gave so much of herself to ensure that my brother and me had everything we needed. But as I reflect now, I realize there is something I never saw my mom do: take time for herself. I do not recall my mother ever taking a sick day. We never had babysitters, because she never went out without us – she did not date or go out with friends. She never got her nails done or went for a massage. We did not take vacations, or even weekend getaways. My mom was generous and selfless, and I was raised to be the same.
I grew up as one of two children in a single-parent household. We lived modestly, but we had an abundance of love and support from my mom. In fact, this is what I remember most from my youth – how much my mom loved us and sacrificed for us.
Not having someone model self-care behaviour and communicate its importance to me, it is no wonder I did not internalize it as a priority. Furthermore, there is very little in our society that promotes self-care as a virtue. We value and reward productivity, ingenuity, resilience, etc. Self-care is relegated to the “nice to do” list, after all the other obligations on the “must do” list have been satisfied.
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Our fast-paced, 24-7, interconnected world and demanding lifestyles are not going to slow down; we must be unreasonable in carving out time for ourselves every day, week, and month. I use the word “unreasonable” intentionally, because most of us rationalize our way out of doing things for ourselves, especially when it competes with others’ needs. Unless you have an abundance of extra time you have been struggling to figure out what to do with, putting ourselves first means we have to make tough choices that involve saying no to some people or opportunities. But they are your choices to make and they require no explanation to anyone. You are the only person responsible for your health and well-being, so start building the muscle of advocating for yourself. Consider activities that could help centre you, calm you, promote mental clarity and physical health, or simply make you feel good about yourself. Plan what you could do on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis and schedule it in. These do not have to be grand actions, but they do need to be intentional. They should be things you deliberately undertake, not that just happen, or that you we going to do anyway. You are making an active choice to do something for yourself, and it needs to
be treated as such. If needed, talk to your family, friends, and colleagues about what they can do to help keep you on track with your commitment to yourself.
If the glass just stood still and accepted all the water, it would eventually overflow, leaving the glass full of water and providing water for all those around it as well.
Give up the guilt If you have ever flown in a plane, you have heard the instruction in the safety demonstration that encourages you to put your oxygen mask on first, before you assist your child or any other person. There is good reason for this – you cannot help anyone else if you are incapacitated.
Giving to ourselves and giving to others is not mutually exclusive! The more we fill up our cup, the more we have to share with others. The more peaceful we are, the more we spread peace to others. But more than that, the more we fill up our cup, the more whole and complete we are.
Consider this analogy: You are a large glass and the water you receive fills you up and gives you life, sustenance, and purpose. As water gets poured into you, you rock side to side and tip over a bit, trying spill out some the of life-giving water onto those around you. More water, more rocking, tipping, and splashing. Until, at one point you rock too hard and the glass falls over and shatters. No more glass means no more vessel to capture and share the precious water, for yourself or for others.
Pay it forward My son is four years old now and in Kindergarten. One of the most important things they are learning this year is to identify their emotions and self-regulate. Just the other day, he told me how he was sad and frustrated (also known as being “yellow”) and we discussed strategies that would get him back into balance (know as being “green”). He took the time and space he needed to be with and feel his emotions, then decided to move on. Admittedly, it takes a lot less to move on when you are four years old than when you are forty, but it struck me that he is already learning mindfulness and advocating for himself and his needs. And it made me seriously consider if I am modelling this for him. Are my actions consistent with my words? Like many people, I struggle with taking the time I need for myself. I am aware of the things that work to calm me and centre me, or just bring me joy. For example, I know that when I meditate regularly, even just 15-20 minutes a day, I am less quick to anger, less judgmental, and more able to roll with things as opposed to just reacting to new developments. But I am aware that I often let these practices slip – usually when they are needed most! This is not about being perfect, or having one more aspect of our lives to beat ourselves up over when we waver. It is about recognizing this is difficult, and that it will not come naturally or just happen without being intentional, but taking the actions anyway. And what a gift to give my son (and others) – not just a calmer mom, but a mom who demonstrates what it looks like to prioritize and advocate for oneself.
Michelle Despault is Director of Communications at the OECTA Provincial Office.
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POLITICAL ACTIVITY AND TEACHER PROFESSIONALISM By Joe Pece
In the current political climate, especially with all of the proposed cuts and changes to education, there are numerous campaigns, rallies, and other opportunities to show support for teachers, students, and publicly funded education. Teachers have already been involved in wearing buttons or t-shirts, provided by their union, at work. Some teachers have been handing out materials, prepared by the union, to parents and other members of the public. In response, we have heard wildly exaggerated claims by the Premier and the Minister of Education about how teachers are politicizing the classroom. What are the guidelines for members around these sorts of activities? Some rules around political activities are explicitly defined in teachers’ collective agreement provisions. In the absence of specific provisions, school boards have the right to make workplace rules relating to teachers’ political activities. An employer can restrict a teacher’s right to display political messaging if it is deemed to have a harmful effect on students or the school system in general. However, these rules must be reasonable and consistent with the collective agreement, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and the Labour Relations Act. Previous court rulings have stipulated that gratuitous political expression without a distinct tie to the best interests and legitimate political agenda of the union are not allowed. However, courts at various levels – including the Supreme Court of Canada – have decided that teachers have the right to wear buttons and t-shirts that support a candidate or a cause that is aligned with the political interests of the union. Supporting a cause or a candidate “because they are good for education” is certainly legitimate, as this aligns with the
interests of the union, does not interfere with students, and does not put education into disrepute. The #KnowMore materials being produced by OECTA, as well as the #RedForEd campaign many teachers are participating in, clearly fall within this category. In terms of other forms of expression, OECTA bulletin boards in staff rooms are for union use. Members may post political leaflets or flyers on these boards. But members are advised not to post these items elsewhere in the school. If a principal requests that a member not wear a particular button because they deem it is too political, or requests that campaign flyers not be displayed or distributed to other staff, members should comply and then immediately notify their local unit office. If the union creates information leaflets intended for parents, members are advised to follow the directions of the Association regarding the distribution of that material. It is not appropriate to start handing out flyers to parents at parent-teacher interviews; however, if the union decides to set up an information picket outside the school, it would be acceptable to provide this information to parents. Teachers should always use your professional judgment when dealing with political issues with students. It may be appropriate to discuss current events involving teachers and the union in certain course contexts, or when a student raises a question. But you should always consider the age of the students and their ability to understand the issues. You should also ensure that the discussion serves some educational purpose and does not distract from the curriculum for the particular class. Finally, when it comes to political activities outside the classroom, the same guidelines apply as in all other aspects of your life. Teachers are citizens who have every right to political values and viewpoints. While teachers are held to a higher standard of behaviour given the role we play in the community, meaning we are always under particular scrutiny, you should feel free to exercise your rights to political expression so long as you are acting reasonably and within the law. Given all that is happening in education right now, it is crucial to get the facts out and show that teachers are united in our defence of our profession, our students, and our schools. We should always practice an appropriate level of caution, but all teachers should feel confident and comfortable in their rights to be part of this important political movement. Joe Pece is Department Head of the Counselling and Member Services department at the OECTA Provincial Office.
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CROSS-COUNTRY LABOUR UPDATE By Charlene Theodore
We have all been mired in the labour unrest across all sectors in this province. But let us take a moment to check in on the labour highs and labour lows across the rest of the country. Manitoba
The home of the 1919 Winnipeg General Strike – a turning point for the Canadian labour movement – is going through labour unrest a century later. Labour leaders report the provincial government has introduced policies harmful to organized labour. These policies include forgoing a minimum wage increase that would have reflected a living wage, in favour of indexing minimum wage increases to inflation. Public sector wages have also been frozen for the next two years. The Manitoba Federation of Labour has launched a court challenge over the wage freeze legislation, arguing it infringes upon collective bargaining rights. British Columbia
After its first public review in almost 30 years, sweeping changes are in store for British Columbia’s Labour Code. The province is responding to 29 recommendations from an independent review panel, generated after consultation with labour organizations, lawyers, and industry stakeholders. The changes include: - Reducing the time period between a union application for certification and a certification vote from 10 to five business days
- Increasing enforcement power for the provincial Labour Relations Board when employers attempt to interfere with the certification process - A mandatory review of the Labour Relations Code at least every five years - Granting successorship rights to union contracts in the service and health care sectors - Removing education programs from the essential services category (British Columbia was the only province to deem education an essential service) Nova Scotia
The Union of Safety and Justice Employees (USJE), representing prison staff, trades workers, and parole officers, has released the findings of an internal Corrections Canada report that describes working conditions in the province’s correctional institutions. The workplace assessment describes a culture of bullying, harassment, and intimidation
by management, made worse by severe understaffing. Roughly 30 per cent of correctional workers in the province are on extended sick leave. The recommendations also include hiring conflict management consultants. This news comes on the heels of a survey of Canadian parole workers, showing that a majority of respondents say their working conditions prevent them from properly assessing, supervising, and preparing offenders for their safe return to society. Alberta
After a three-year wage freeze between Alberta nurses and the Alberta Health Service, wage negotiations were to begin in February of this year. In the event there was no agreement by the end of March, the issue was to go to arbitration no later than June 30. In May, there was a request for postponement by the province, advising they wished to engage in stakeholder consultation before entering into arbitration. The United Nurses of Alberta says the request from the newly formed United Conservative Party government, led by Jason Kenney, amounts to a violation of their constitutional right to collective bargaining. At the time of writing, the union had sought and was granted an emergency labour board hearing on the matter. Charlene Theodore is In-house Legal Counsel at the OECTA Provincial Office.
JUNE 2019 | CATHOLIC TEACHER 21
A PLACE FOR all TEACHERS’ AID
Inclusive teaching practices in elementary drama By Kim Snider
On one spring afternoon, the sound of a waterfall emanates from Rochelle Matthews’ Grade 3/4 classroom at St. Michael Catholic School, in Toronto. Returning from lunch, students notice that desks have been moved to create an open space. It is time for drama, and excited chatter erupts. “Waterfall!” The students ssshhhhhhh collectively, quieting so they can discuss what behaviour is needed for good drama work. Answers include listening, concentration, and working together. “What interferes with good work?” Matthews asks. Laughing at someone who makes a mistake.
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As a drama specialist and Secretary of the Council of Ontario Drama and Dance Educators (CODE), Matthews understands that drama’s cross-curricular connections and emphasis on creative thinking can address the diverse learning needs in her classroom. Some of her students are dealing with trauma, have learning exceptionalities, or require enrichment. For Matthews, who is currently mentoring York education student Jessica Torres, team-teaching, side-coaching, and behavioural reminders help her students work positively in drama.
“I’m interested in the creative process and enabling my students to make connections and find meaning and purpose in what they create.”
“I’m not really interested in readers’ theatre or script work in the primary/ junior grades,” Matthews explains.
One student describes a character as “bossy” and the class erupts in dissenting opinions. Matthews knows there is a
Today’s lesson integrates drama and language arts, with a focus on social justice and Catholic values. Students have read picture books about characters who overcome obstacles to fight for what is right. As pictures are passed around the circle, students formulate statements about each character. Words bubble to the surface: sad, brave, helpful.
character’s inner thoughts were scribed, and with support from Torres, they co-created a still image with another student and was visibly excited to share it with the class. “The rehearsal process is important to that student. It allows them the opportunity to gain confidence in performing because they have difficulties decoding. The student is afforded the time and support to perform on an equal footing with peers.” Drama benefits Matthews’ students in other ways as well. “Drama makes me feel confident, happy, and energetic,” says another Grade 3 student.
kernel of an idea here and poses questions to extend their thinking. “Why do you say that?” she asks. “Because she tells people what to do,” the student replies. “In a mean way?” The student pauses to reconsider. “No… she’s more of a teacher.” Drama develops students’ listening and speaking skills, explains Matthews, but it also works at a deeper, empathetic level. “In drama we are enforcing learning skills, but the endgame is voice and perspective – to get into the point of view of a character so that you can think as that character.”
Reflecting on the lesson, Matthews describes the complexity of students’ needs and the ways drama helps them socially and emotionally. “Monday transitions are hard for students with learning exceptionalities,” she explains. This was evident when a student was unable to join the circle to begin drama games. She and Torres have procedures to help students self-regulate, and after a break to wash their face and listen to music, the student was able to reintegrate into small group work. With support from an educational assistant, their
For Matthews, drama lets her learn alongside her students, asking questions together through dramatic inquiry. This passion led to her involvement in CODE, which supports the development of drama and dance education in Ontario through professional development, online resources, and advocacy. “Working in partnership with like-minded educators, artists, and advocates who believe wholeheartedly in the value of arts education has undoubtedly made me a better teacher,” she says. Kim Snider is Past President of the Council of Ontario Drama and Dance Educators (CODE). Visit CODE online at code.on.ca to access free resources, become a member and access even more resources, and register for the October 19 conference, “CODE-upon-Avon,” in Stratford.
Catholic values are threaded throughout the lesson. Students match words such as “compassion”’ and “courage” to the characters who exemplify those characteristics. They are then presented with pictures of scenes from the books. “What are the characters thinking and feeling at this moment?” Matthews wonders aloud. In groups, students recreate the images as she moves through the space, tapping students on the shoulder to cue them to speak in character. They are given cue cards to write down these inner thoughts. Quiet descends as students write or discuss their ideas with peers. JUNE 2019 | CATHOLIC TEACHER 23
PEOPLE WORTH WATCHING
BE TRANSFORMED BY
PROJECT OVERSEAS By Rhonda Fox
“Travel is… a heightened state of awareness, in which we are mindful, receptive, undimmed by familiarity and ready to be transformed. That is why the best trips…never really end.” PICO IYER
Teaching has taken me far from my hometown of Grand Bank, Newfoundland. Though I have spent the majority of my 28 years as an educator at John Cabot Catholic Secondary School in Mississauga, our profession has also taken me to Asia, the Caribbean, and Africa, thanks to Project Overseas. Project Overseas is a joint endeavour of the Canadian Teachers’ Federation (CTF) and its member organizations, including OECTA, to support overseas partners in developing countries as they provide professional development to their members. Since 1962, Canadian teachers have been sent all over the world to help strengthen teacher competence, union capacity, and gender equality, while promoting quality, inclusive publicly funded education for all. I first heard of Project Overseas 10 years ago through an OECTA publication. I promptly completed the online application, and it was not long after my interview that I heard I would be off for my first international teaching assignment in Mongolia. This was followed by further postings in Grenada, Dominica, and Uganda. Each project was as unique as the nation in which it was held, but common threads united them all. First, the collaboration that Project Overseas allowed was career-changing. I learned a great deal about our many provincial and territorial education systems through my team members who hailed from across Canada. CTF partners with our host countries’ national teachers’ unions to meet their specific professional development requests. In Mongolia, for example, I worked with a class of university professors who were making the transition from being Russian to English teachers. In the Caribbean placements, the local teacher partners and I provided special education training. Last summer, the Ugandan coteacher and I facilitated ESL workshops to primary teachers and administrators. Not only did we collaborate as educators, we also came together as union members. Project Overseas allowed me a firsthand look into the important work of national teachers’ unions of varied structures, who were in different stages of capacity-building. I heard the concerns of their members, celebrated their numerous achievements, met inspirational leaders and educators, and shared perspectives from Canadian teachers’ unions. And I learned that no matter the country or situation, all teachers want 24 CATHOLIC TEACHER | JUNE 2019
the same thing: sustainable, inclusive, quality public education for the young people placed in their care, which will positively impact the future of their learners and their nations. Of course, Project Overseas has also been my passport to the world. My long-held dream of attending Nadaam, Mongolia’s ancient celebration of Mongol culture, was realized through Project Overseas. In Grenada, after a day of teaching, the turquoise crystalline seas of Grand Anse Beach were my backyard. Here, I was also captivated by the sights and sounds of Carnival. In Dominica, I hiked the country’s jungle paths and toured its impressive historic sites. Most recently, I stayed in the mountain jungles of southwest Uganda, where breathtaking scenery greeted me every morning. Other highlights included witnessing the music and dance of Uganda’s varied regions and visiting local schools. Because of Project Overseas, I have met presidents, prime ministers, bishops, ambassadors, union leaders, and government officials. And I have forged lifelong friendships with outstanding educators in Canada and beyond our borders. When I sat to write this article, I must admit that I struggled. Not because of the subject matter, since applying for Project Overseas is one of the best choices I have ever made. It is because I knew from the outset that words would fail to express fully the impact Project Overseas has on its participants, both personally and professionally. I encourage you to embrace the transformative experience that is Project Overseas. Your mind will be broadened, your career will be enriched, and your impact will be long-lasting. Rhonda Fox is a teacher at John Cabot Catholic Secondary School in Mississauga.
I ENCOURAGE YOU TO EMBRACE THE TRANSFORMATIVE EXPERIENCE THAT IS PROJECT OVERSEAS. Rhonda Fox
JUNE 2019 | CATHOLIC TEACHER 25
PEOPLE WORTH WATCHING
HELPING OUR STUDENTS TO STOP AND LOOK AROUND What “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” teaches us about self-regulation By Anthony Perrotta
Some of the best “literature” on establishing a culturally responsive learning space through self-regulation in the classroom does not come from traditional academics, but rather the classic films of John Hughes. From “Pretty in Pink” to “Uncle Buck,” the filmmaker’s nuanced study of teenagers is a masterclass in self-regulation, and can provide high school teachers with an important reminder that students are teenagers inside and outside the classroom. I arrived at this conclusion recently, upon finishing a course titled Self-Regulation Inquiry, as part of my Masters of Education studies at Queen’s University. The course provided a deep journey into the world of self-regulation and the importance of student goal-setting. I learned throughout the course that active self-regulation is truly dependent on goal-setting, as the goal provides learners with opportunities to monitor progress and reimagine their learning journey. Hughes’ 1986 classic “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” offers valuable insight into the headspace of the “average teenager” – reminding us that teenagers have complex relationships with home, school, and themselves. The film centres on two friends, Ferris and Cameron. While they are complete opposites, upon closer study we see they represent two sides of the same person. Ferris ultimately fears the isolation that Cameron embodies, whereas Cameron is intimidated by Ferris’ sense of ultra-liberation and freedom. Together, they are balanced and speak to the student reality that many high school teachers face. Let us begin by studying Ferris. In an ideal situation, Ferris, in all of his direct address and ability to scheme and plot, would be the academically high-achieving and hyper-engaged student in our classroom and school setting. He is articulate, creative, and a genuine problem solver. However, although intelligent, Ferris lacks a distinct goal other than facing the responsibilities of being a student and preparing for this future. It is through Ferris and his enabling parents that Hughes explores the dangers of a reality without expectations. This is important within the realm of goal-setting, as expectations
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shape the ability to self-regulate. To self-regulate is to be actively aware of self, which includes limits and strengths. This is something Ferris does not do. He exists within the film without consequence; one must wonder what would become of him in a potential sequel. While Ferris is Hughes’ characterization of the dangers of unharnessed potential, Cameron is his deep exploration of the anxiety many teenagers face as they look into the abyss of posthigh school life and the world that shapes them. If you have ever taught Grade 12, you can surely appreciate the stress and anxiety many students carry. Like Cameron, they are worried about the future. This is especially true of students today, who face a number of economic unknowns. Thus, starting a new chapter that potentially removes them from their friends and sense of comfort can be daunting. Some students thrive, while others become like Cameron in his sense of the unknown. He has nothing planned and is burdened by it. In many ways, Cameron is the Ferris of the future, but who exists in the present. When charm and the lure of a life without responsibility begin to falter for Ferris, and the consequences of growing up without goals or the proper external supports becomes heightened, he is Cameron. A balance is needed. Regardless, both characters remind us teachers that each of our students comes to school with their own narrative. Meaningful practices that promote self-regulation may help us unlock their stories. By unlocking, we can then help both the Ferrises and Camerons to take on their journeys in healthy and constructive ways. Our students are so much more than numbers in our classrooms. Hughes reminds us of their complexity – the same complexity that we teachers may have faced in our teenage years, or at some other point in our lives. Our job is not merely to call out their names in succession and speak to curriculum, but to understand who they are, what their goals are, and how we can help them regulate their journey along the way. Anthony Perrotta is a teacher with the Toronto Secondary Unit. He uses popular film as a powerful tool to further classroom dialogue on Catholic values and conscious media consumption. Visit his website aperrotta.com for more resources.
MINDFULNESS IN THE CLASSROOM By Jessica Caruana
Take a deep breath. Notice the air as it moves through your body. Pause. How do you feel? Whatever the answer, it is okay. The goal is not to change anything, but more simply, to become aware or mindful of it. In today’s fast-paced, multi-tasking society, we are taking less time to connect, examine, and centre ourselves. We can change this in our classrooms. As Susan Dafoe-Abbey says, the incorporation of mindful practice in education helps to create cohesive and independent classroom experiences, because mindfulness increases positive emotions, the ability to focus, and self-regulation. Mindfulness elicits calming responses in the body through observation of the present moment, without action. What is mindfulness?
To be mindful is to be living in the present moment. While meditation is not mindfulness, meditative practices such as redirecting thoughts through breathing and sensory techniques can assist in cultivating presence. Formal mindful practice involves focused exercises such as body scan, breath, and movement. Mindfulness can be practiced informally when one focuses on the present moment, throughout the business of the day. This could involve acts as simple as taking a deep breath or observing details in your surroundings. As society increasingly demonstrates imbalance, it becomes apparent that mindfulness is missing from many day-to-day lives. The positive impacts of mindful practice
With mental health and exceptionalities on the rise, and new-wave education objectives focusing on resilience and regulation, there is no better time to begin including mindful practice in the classroom. Mindful practice attunes students’ attention to their bodies and needs. This creates autonomy in understanding and regulating one’s self. Greater attention to the present moment provides students the ability to fully engage in class activities. Mindful techniques help them to approach learning with compassion, kindness, and focus. This positively affects how the class interacts in lessons, group work, independent exploration, and overall management. Mindful practice in the classroom provides students the opportunity to take control over their own minds, instead of
allowing neurobiological responses to take over. As education works toward an intrinsic motivation and natural consequence model, mindful practice has the potential to play a significant role in behaviour management. How to incorporate mindfulness in the classroom and daily living
Formal mindful practice
Including mindful practice at the start of each day or block can take as little as five minutes, and have an incredible impact on student learning. Using books such as I am Peace, by Susan Verde, is a great way to introduce mindful practice to students in an approachable manner. Guided mindful practice is a way to teach the fundamentals of mindfulness and enable students to carry these lessons into their daily lives. “Calm” is a mindfulness app that provides guided mindful practice through mediation, breathing techniques, body scan, mindful eating, mindful walking, stories, and sounds. The app has a variety of guided practices designed for children within specified age categories and dealing with different emotions. The company’s goal is to share the app with 100,000 classes this year, for free! Teachers can go to calm.com/schools to apply. As well, the MindUP curriculum has a plethora of resources that provide a solid guide to teaching about mindfulness. Creating safe spaces
Setting up a physical space in the classroom with supportive tools to create a mindful state is beneficial for the class and student equanimity. Examples of items that can encourage students to constructively regulate and release their emotions include a class meditation jar, finger labyrinth, or meditation bell. Creating an emotionally safe space in the classroom can be fostered through activities such as sharing circles, emotional artistic expression sessions, and most importantly, secure relationships. It is crucial for teachers to nurture compassionate and kind relationships with each student on a consistent basis. Secure attachments create positive neuroconnections that allow others to feel safe, develop secure attachments with others, and have a positive relationship with themselves. Jessica Caruana is teacher in the Simcoe Muskoka Elementary Unit. She is strongly influenced by her background in psychology and the arts.
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TAX CREDIT PROPELS CHILD CARE CRISIS By Carley Desjardins
There is an undeniable child care crisis in our province. It should be news to no one that child care costs in Ontario have run wild in recent years, especially in the province’s major cities. With both limited access to licensed child care and runaway fees that continue to rise at rates much higher than inflation, Ontario’s parents face a perfect storm of limited supply and high cost – a situation that is making it more difficult for Ontario’s families to afford to have children, and forcing many women to ask the question, “work or family?” – because they cannot afford both. According to this year’s Children Services budget analysis for the City of Toronto, “licensed child care currently serves less than 20 per cent of the child population with the available funding providing only enough fee subsidies to support 33 per cent of Toronto’s low-income children age birth to 12.” The fifth annual report on child care from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA) also confirms what we already know: child care is unaffordable for most Ontarians, with the median cost of infant care setting families back $20,220 per year. And that is per child. For those families who are fortunate enough to access a licensed child care program, the problem then becomes one of affordability. For too many, the steep costs of child care outweigh the opportunity for mothers to return to work. But research shows that affordable, accessible, high-quality early childhood education and care increases equity in learning outcomes, reduces poverty, and creates a strong foundation for lifelong learning. It also improves labour force participation, particularly among women, and helps boost household incomes and end workplace inequality. However, what we are seeing
in Ontario is a child care caste system, where only high-earning families can afford to struggle with the cost of quality, licensed child care. As economist Gordon Cleveland found in his recent study, Affordable for All: Making Licensed Child Care Affordable in Ontario, “The current child care subsidy system in Ontario calculates that families earning below $35,000 can afford to pay no more than $1,500 in total for child care annually.” Given the median cost of care in cities across the province, low-income families would still have to come up with $7,250 even after the new Childcare Access and Relief from Expenses (CARE) tax credit. This is inequitable and inefficient. Cleveland also cautions that a tax credit could spur low-quality child care given the discrepancy between the credit and the actual cost of care. The government says the credit, provided on a sliding scale up to a household income of $150,000, is worth an average of $1,250 per family, and can be used for many child care options, like in-home daycare and camps. Presented under the guise of supporting “parent choice,” it does nothing to create quality, regulated options for parents. Even the promised 30,000 additional spaces will do little to address the widespread issues with access and affordability. What the people of Ontario need is for the Ford government to put its misleading rhetoric aside, stop insisting on treating public services like private business, and make the smart, long-term investments in public services that Ontarians need. Despite the Ford-Fedeli fearmongering, Ontario’s finances are not in crisis. Program spending as a share of Gross Domestic Product is barely above what it was in 2008 before the onset of the recession; debt service as a percentage
of revenue is almost half of what it was in 1999; and Ontario remains one of the lowest per-capita collectors of revenue, while also being one of the lowest percapita spenders on social programs. If truly “for the people,” the government needs to stop looking for politically appealing short-term gains and instead think about the future of all Ontarians. The personal and corporate tax cuts implemented since the 1990s have created a structural revenue problem in Ontario; rather than draining the social services Ontarians need most, a more sensible and balanced approach to managing the deficit would ask everyone to contribute their fair share. Like a strong publicly funded education system, affordable, high-quality publicly funded early childhood education and care yields significant social and economic benefits, including improved educational outcomes of children, increased participation of women in the workplace, higher future wages, and reductions in poverty and inequality. These are the positive investments Ontario needs if it is going to stay “open for business.” Carley Desjardins is Communications Specialist/Writer in the Administration department at the OECTA Provincial Office.
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FOR WHAT IT’S WORTH
A BOXER, A TEENAGER, AND A BOOK REPORT THAT WAS NOT By Gian Marcon
The year was 1976. In a Catholic high school in the west end of Toronto, an English class had just concluded a unit on Shakespeare, and an independent reading activity was being introduced. As I sat with my two best friends, we listened in surprise as we were told we would be able to choose a biography for which we were to provide a book report. As this was the first time we could remember having the opportunity to select what to read for English class, we were intrigued. We were given the weekend to think about our selection and would be required to share our choices with our teacher on Monday. On our way home after basketball practice that night, the three of us contemplated which biography we would choose. Invariably, we began to bandy about the names of various sports figures whom we admired, and when we came up with our choices they were all from the world of sports. I believe we all chose books we had already read – there were no flies on us – and if memory serves correctly my friends chose to do their reports based on the biographies of Wilt Chamberlain and Jean Béliveau. I chose to write about Rubin “Hurricane” Carter, whose story I had read the previous summer. The title of the autobiography was The Sixteenth Round: From Number One Contender to Number 45472. It told the story of Rubin’s turbulent life and the miscarriage of justice that resulted in him and a young fan, John Artis, being convicted of murdering three white people in a New Jersey bar in 1966. A brief confession here: The Sixteenth Round was not my first choice. My first thought was Jim Bouton’s controversial and raucous baseball autobiography, Ball Four. However, after a short reflection and the sage advice of my friends, even my 16-year-old self realized that I would not be allowed to do a report on a narrative which profanely and graphically shattered any illusions of the athlete as role model. The Sixteenth Round, however, was altogether a different matter. Here was an inspiring story of gross injustice 30 CATHOLIC TEACHER | JUNE 2019
that helped fuel indignation about overt racism, a corrupt justice system, and the need for social reform. It reflected the issues with which many of us who grew up in the 1960s and 1970s were preoccupied. Moreover, the story of Rubin Carter was infused into the popular culture of the day. Social icons no less prominent than Muhammad Ali and Bob Dylan had visited Rubin in prison and taken up his cause. I was smitten with his story and his cause. So I was excited when we entered our English class that day. But then reality set in. One review of Carter’s biography, which I read years later, praised the book by saying, “The liveliness of Carter’s street language, its power and ironic humor, makes this an eloquent, soul-stirring account of a remarkable life not soon to be forgotten.” My high school self certainly felt that way about the book – especially the part about the “liveliness of Carter’s street language.” I was soon to discover that what most appealed to me about this book could be viewed as problematic by others. Shortly after submitting my selection, I was called upon by my teacher, who proceeded to politely
inform me that, while she was well aware of Rubin Carter’s story, the book was inappropriate for the assignment given its extensive employment of foul language. Initially, I was surprised, and I contemplated employing some of the “lively street language” responsible for the book’s offensiveness. However, I managed to show some uncharacteristic restraint and return to my seat without incident. Still, it must have been clear that I was not very happy, and as a result I received the inevitable “request” to stay behind after class. I do not recall much of the onesided conversation, but in the end I was given an extra day to make an alternate and “more acceptable” selection. I duly chose another autobiography, which was approved and for which I eventually received a good grade. Much later, when I met Rubin Carter at a reading in Toronto, he graciously signed my copy of his autobiography. While he was busy taking great pains to spell my first name correctly, I mentioned that he was one of the motivations behind my decision to become a teacher, and that I shared his story with my students. He smiled and said, “God Bless You.” Years later, when I was a veteran English teacher in Dufferin Peel, our department initiated and successfully established a Sports Literature course at Loyola Catholic Secondary School in Mississauga. Not surprisingly, I made sure to include The Sixteenth Round as an independent study option for students who enrolled in the course. With a little prompting, a number of them engaged the book enthusiastically. Rubin Carter died in 2014, but I still think of him. While I never fully expressed to him just how his story helped consolidate the thoughts I had been having about becoming a teacher, I can say that reading his autobiography was a pivotal moment in my eventual career choice. For that, I am grateful. Gian Marcon is a member of the Bargaining and Contract Services department at the OECTA Provincial Office.