february 2014 In this issue... I OSSTF attacks Catholic
education I TLLP promotes sharing
of teacher knowledge I The austerity agenda is
dragging us down I OECTA members speak
on professional learning
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Celebrating 70 years
OECTA fielded a large delegation of its local and provincial activists to the biennial convention of the Ontario Federation of Labour (OFL) in November. The event took place against a backdrop of attacks on organized labour that are unprecedented in their hostility. At the federal level, we see bills sponsored by the Conservative government, such as C-377 and C-4, that would gut safety James Ryan provisions in the federal labour code and put all union activities under a financial microscope not required of business and professional organizations, with even more malicious bills waiting in the wings. Closer to home, Ontario’s Progressive Conservatives are contemplating policies that would destroy the structures of unionized labour that have benefited millions of working women and men. If elected, say Ontario PCs, they would like to abolish the Rand formula, making the payment of union dues voluntary, undercutting the capacity of unions such as OECTA to provide services to members. With no assured funding this Association would be hard-pressed to defend our collective agreements, provide counselling, and legal defence when Children’s Aid or police level charges against our members or when they must answer to the College of Teachers. And of course there would be no Beginning Teachers Conference, no Leadership Training Program, no Common Good Conference, no Qualifications Evaluation Council of Ontario (QECO). In the same week as the OFL Convention, Pope Francis released his new apostolic exhortation, “Joy of the Gospel,” to which we can look for an explanation of the anti-worker stance adopted by some political parties in Canada, the US, and other countries. Pope Francis points to rising income inequality and spreading unemployment among critical issues in the world today. He highlights our “crude and naïve trust” in the “sacralized workings of the present economic system,” our “idolatry of money,” and calls for an overhaul of our financial system, “a return of economics and finance to an ethical approach which favours human beings.” We can only hope that some of our political and business leaders will pay attention and stop plant closures that put thousands out of work in order to maximize profits. That’s certainly what the labour movement is fighting for. Follow me @OECTAPrez
READ MY WEEKLY BLOG www.oecta.on.ca
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OECTA member honoured by Stephen Lewis Mark Whinton from the Halton Secondary Unit received the Health and Safety Activist Award from the Oakville and District Labour Council at their 13th annual Activists Award Banquet. The event recognized and celebrated five local activists for their involvement and contributions to their community and union. Mark was recognized for his long-standing contributions to the community, his union and workplace health and safety. Featured speaker at the event was Stephen Lewis, former UN Ambassador and former leader of the Ontario NDP, who congratulated Mark on his achievements. Regional seminars engage members From October 5 to December 3, 2013 regional collective bargaining seminars and health and safety workshops took place in five regions across the province. The Provincial Bargaining Team (constituted in accordance with direction from AGM 2013), the members of the provincial collective bargaining committee and over 200 unit presidents, chief negotiators and local bargaining team members were in attendance at the various collective bargaining seminars. Participants from across the province were briefed on the new provincial bargaining legislation (Bill 122) and provided input to the collective bargaining committee in order to revise and prioritize the Association’s bargaining objectives. Health and safety workshops focused on the themes of workplace violence, accommodation and WSIB. The 110 participants learned processes for reporting violence and injury in the workplace, risk assessment tools, what constitutes a workplace injury, appropriate accommodations, and more. Rising Together – OECTA attends 12th Biennial OFL Convention The Ontario Federation of Labour (OFL), which represents 54 unions and over 2 million workers in Ontario, held its 12th biennial convention in late November. Titled Rising Together, the week-long convention was an exciting event for organized labour as issues were debated that affect not only organized labour, but all workers in Ontario. Throughout the week, the 600 delegates, including 90 from OECTA, debated resolutions in the areas of human rights, women’s issues, young workers, and health and safety. Delegates also heard from a number of guest speakers, including Canadian journalist, author and public speaker, Michele Landsberg, and Thomas Mulcair, Leader of the Official Opposition, New Democratic Party of Canada. Read the daily summary of the event at www.oecta.on.ca in the News & Events section.
protest the latest college of teachers fee increase Learn what’s behind the latest fee increase by the Ontario College of Teachers and take action. Let the college know you disapprove. Send a prepared message available at www.oecta.on.ca and add your own.
Provincial Bargaining Team elected members: Back row Barb Dobrowolski, Louis Clausi, Keith Boyd and Carlo Palermo Front row - Warren Grafton, James Ryan, and Ann Hawkins
New provincial bargaining team The Provincial Bargaining Team began meeting in late 2013. The members of the team include: OECTA President James Ryan; Ann Hawkins, first vice-president; Warren Grafton, second vice-president; Marshall Jarvis, general secretary; Ed Chudak, department head of the Bargaining and Contract Services department, and members of the BCS department. Unit president representation on the team includes: Barb Dobrowolski, Eastern; Keith Boyd, Halton Secondary; Louis Clausi, Northeastern; and Carlo Palermo, Simcoe Muskoka Occasional Teachers. The team is responsible for determining the Association’s provincial bargaining priorities and representing the Association in provincial bargaining. Draft bargaining priorities were sent to the Provincial Executive and Council of Presidents for consideration at a special meeting held February 2014. The team will also be considering member responses to the collective bargaining survey, which members were notified about in the letter that accompanied their new membership card.
communications awards 2014 These awards honour achievement among OECTA units for their communication projects and publications, created between AGM 2013 and AGM 2014. Share your successes for everything from your website, public relations and feature articles to photographs and Catholic focused activities. Details at www.oecta.on.ca in the Awards section. Entries are due April 1, 2014, 5:00 p.m. Scholarships, Fellowships and Bursaries OECTA provides financial assistance for teachers taking undergraduate courses leading to a first degree, post-graduate courses and professional development to support lifelong learning. Three post-graduate scholarships, two religious education fellowships and one labour studies fellowship of up to $10,000 each are available. Individual bursaries for study in any subject are valued up to $1,000. Programs and courses must be taken between July 1, 2014 and June 30, 2015. Applications are available at www.oecta.on.ca in the Members’ Centre under Career Development. join a provincial committee OECTA standing committees provide opportunities for teachers to contribute their expertise, be creative and develop new interests, while serving the needs of Association members. New teachers are particularly encouraged to get involved, and share their energy and fresh ideas. Small teams work on projects of their choice that can be completed within the school year. The standing committees are: Awards, Beginning Teachers, Catholic Education, Collective Bargaining, Communications and Public Relations, Educational Aid, Elementary Schools, Finance, Health and Safety, Human Rights, Legislation, Occasional Teachers, Political Advisory, Professional Development, Program and Structures, Secondary Schools, Status of Women and the Teacher Education Network. Applications are being accepted online at www.oecta.on.ca from March 1 – May 1, 2014. Committee appointments, made by the Provincial Executive, take effect July 1, 2014. Visit www.oecta.on.ca for more information
OECTA delegates at OFL convention
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ON THE COVER
OECTA celebrates 70 years! 2014 has special significance for OECTA. 70 years ago, in February 1944, an organizational meeting was held at Notre Dame College in Ottawa to create a provincial Catholic teachers’ federation to which all English Catholic teachers in the province would belong. Other milestones that year: • April 11-12, 1944 The first Annual General Meeting of the new Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association was held at the Royal York Hotel in Toronto. Delegates adopted a fee of $2 for regular members, of which 62.5 per cent was to go to the provincial treasury and 37.5 per cent to the locals.
the Association was incorporated. The signing of the Letters Patent took place at a drug store at the corner of Echo Drive and Pretoria Avenue in Ottawa, because a notary public was required to be present and the druggist happened to be a notary.
• September 8, 1944
To commemorate this milestone, the 70th anniversary logo displayed below, which incorporates the original 1944 OECTA symbol, will be used throughout the year in various OECTA communication materials. An archive of photos from the Association’s history is online at www.oecta.on.ca. As well, the June Council of Presidents will take place in Ottawa, where the Letters Patent were signed in 1944.
Leadership Training Program - Foundational
February 19-20 Sheraton Parkway Hotel, Richmond Hill
March 27-28 Airport Hilton Hotel, Toronto
Political Action Seminar
Beginning Teachers’ Conference
February 21-22 Sheraton Parkway Hotel, Richmond Hill march
OECTA Annual General Meeting
March 8-10 Westin Harbour Castle Hotel, Toronto International Women’s Day
March 8 International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination
National Child Abuse Prevention Month Day of Pink – International Day against Bullying, Discrimination, Homophobia and Transphobia in schools and communities.
April 10 Earth Day
April 22 National Day of Mourning: Remembering Lives Lost or Injured at work
Editorial Board Michelle Despault Communications Director
James Ryan President
Diana Thomson Associate Editor
Ann Hawkins First Vice-President
Delia Tavares Production and Advertising
Marshall Jarvis General Secretary
Adam Lemieux Writer/Researcher
David Church Deputy General Secretary
Elizabeth Price Website Administrator
Pat McKeown Executive Resource Assistant
@OECTA is published five times during the school year. Opinions and ideas expressed in @OECTA are not necessarily those of the Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association. @OECTA 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, Toronto, ON M4T 2Y8 | PHONE 416-925-2493 TOLL-FREE 1-800-268-7230 | FAX 416-925-7764 | www.oecta.on.ca Publication Mail | Agreement No. 0040062510 | Account No. 0001681016
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OSSTF launches attack on Catholic education By James Ryan
The Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation (OSSTF) has launched a campaign to eliminate the province’s Catholic schools and create an education system based only on Canada’s two official languages. This is the core issue in the federation’s education platform, announced at a news conference on December 5. In an article in the December 2013/January 2014 issue of its newsletter Update, OSSTF explains the campaign to its members as a logical development in a period of declining enrolment and government austerity. With loaded language, it not only misrepresents OECTA’s bargaining history and the realities facing unions today, but also misleads its own membership about the consequences of the reduction from four to two publicly funded education systems. While presenting the attack on Catholic schools and on OECTA as a way in which to protect its members from the impact of job losses due to austerity and declining enrolment, OSSTF insists these members will be safe when school boards and schools disappear. Who’s kidding whom? Education workers such as custodians, administrative support workers and others will be the first to be decimated if the local Catholic school or district board office closes. The impact will be as devastating for teachers. Why would OSSTF members be protected from job loss at the expense of OECTA members if schools were realigned? Any government that implemented the OSSTF policy would be faced with difficult choices. For example it could open up OECTA’s membership, comprised only of teachers, to other unions to organize. Competing unions would be compelled to offer enticements, particularly recognition of existing seniority, to persuade OECTA members to sign up. Or government could continue with the current system of statutory membership, channeling OECTA members to public school unions and forcing recognition of their seniority because of the demands of natural justice and legal requirements. The shake-up in the teaching ranks would reverberate for years, with job losses in the thousands, many of them in public school union ranks. The bottom line is OSSTF will not be able to protect its members’ jobs, no matter what it says to the contrary. OSSTF also targets OECTA’s recent bargaining history, as if our decisions were somehow different from those of other unions faced with intransigent governments that can always legislate what they want. A review of labour trends in 2012-2013 shows that unions in the private and broader public sectors were forced to compromise with employers in frequently unpalatable ways. The Canadian Auto Workers (CAW), Association of Management, Administrative and Professional Crown Employees of Ontario (AMAPCEO), college faculty members of OPSEU/NUPGE — all recognized the inevitable and signed agreements they viewed as the lesser evil.
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OSSTF itself, despite its inflated claims, bowed to the inevitable when it reached an agreement with the government in March 2013. This after the repeal of Bill 115, which OECTA also opposed as it undemocratically forced agreements on unions that had not settled with the province. The OSSTF agreement built on improvements to the government’s original February 2012 parameters that OECTA had negotiated over many months of bargaining. And despite its attack on OECTA’s “me-too” clause, OSSTF’s own “me-too” clause in 2013 allowed it to benefit from an improvement negotiated by another union. The reality is that, finding itself powerless to stop a provincial government determined to legislate changes to the collective agreements of teachers and education workers, OSSTF has turned instead to attacking another union to deflect attention from the limitations of its power during a period of austerity and widespread anti-union hostility. Ironically, because the ranks of education workers and teachers would shrink if its policy were adopted, OSSTF finds itself squarely in the Conservative camp that wants cuts to the public and broader public service. That’s an odd stance for a union that prides itself on its status within organized labour. With anti-union attitudes common at Queen’s Park and Canada’s Parliament, this is a time for unions to come together and support each other. This is not just an attack on OECTA members but also on every unionized educational worker. It undermines our solidarity when it is needed most. To allay its own members’ anxieties and increase its power, OSSTF is prepared to destroy a school system of proven excellence that has contributed immeasurably to Ontario’s success for more than 170 years. Almost one third of Ontario’s students, both public and Catholic, will find themselves uprooted from their schools, their education disrupted with potentially life-long consequences for their wellbeing. And by acknowledging that “there is virtually no prospect of a quick adoption of our policy by any major political party,” and that “the issue remains polarizing and progress should be expected to be slow,” OSSTF shows its willingness to devote years of work and considerable resources to create conflict in the whole school system, antagonize thousands of teachers and their supporters, and exacerbate divisions in Ontario society. OECTA is committed to supporting all four systems of publicly funded education. Not only do we care about the welfare of OECTA, but of all educational employees, including members of CUPE, AEFO, ETFO, Unifor, OPSEU, SEIU and yes, even OSSTF. I cannot emphasize strongly enough that OECTA will be relentless in fighting OSSTF efforts to destroy the Catholic education system. James Ryan is the president of OECTA.
OECTA members speak up about professional learning By Claire Laughlin
OECTA members have strong opinions about professional development for teachers – about what is offered and how it’s delivered. They also have definite ideas about what more their Association can do to address their 21st century learning needs. With that in mind, last fall OECTA invited members to participate in OECTAListens, an online survey, about 21st century learning and the Additional Qualifications (AQ) courses offered by OECTA. More than 3,300 teachers participated and here’s some of what they had to say. Members take AQ courses for a variety of reasons, but significantly, two-thirds took a course for ongoing professional learning, while only about half took a course for salary advancement. This trend reflects members’ desire for ongoing learning that can help them in the classroom. One of the most popular courses is Special Education, taken by close to 40 per cent of respondents. While courses specifically related to a subject area or classroom requirement are most often selected, such as Student Assessment & Evaluation, and Information Technology, there is also interest in taking courses that satisfy teachers’ personal interests, such as Using Social Media Tools and Introduction to Google.
Joining the panel is free and easy at www.oectapanel.ca If you have any questions about the OECTAListens panel, send an email to email@example.com
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Almost 75 per cent of members said they would likely take an AQ course in the future, but only 36 per cent thought it “very likely.” The reason most cited for not taking a course is the difficulty many members have fitting AQs into their busy schedules.
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Not surprising then that 63 per cent of members said they are more likely to take a course if offered in smaller modules. They would also want credit for the modules taken.
You are not alone. We can help.
In response to members’ requests for convenience and affordability, in the next few months, subject to discussions with and approval by the College of Teachers, OECTA is planning to introduce AQ modules that require a shorter time commitment, cost less than an AQ course, and can be used towards completing a full-course credit. More information will be shared as the plan develops. All members are invited to join the OECTAListens panel. Surveys are conducted several times a year to allow you to have your voice heard on various topics. Surveys are conducted and managed confidentially by Pollara, a leading, independent national public opinion research firm contracted by OECTA. Claire Laughlin is a secretariat member in Professional Development at OECTA Provincial Office.
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This program is offered to OTIP and Teachers Life members as part of their LTD benefits plan.
Liana Côté and Grade 10 students discuss a graphic novel.
A Grade 2 student explains his answer to a math problem to his teacher Alison Morawek and her colleague Daniel Arscott.
Self-directed professional development TLLP promotes sharing of teacher knowledge By Diana Thomson
Liana Côté’s Grade 10 English class at Holy Name Catholic High School in Windsor, has a small percentage of students lacking basic literacy skills. These same students also have a significant interest in video games. When one of her students, a self-described non-reader, devoured the graphic novel Amulet, Liana had an epiphany. She began thinking that tapping into students’ love of personal electronic devices could be the way to provide a high interest, interactive experience that would increase their literacy proficiency. To test her theory, Liana and her colleagues Daniella Czudner, Joe Castagna and Jessica Renaud submitted their idea, “Comics Aren’t Just for Kids,” to the Teacher Learning and Leadership Program (TLLP) and received funding for a pilot project at their school during the 2013-14 school year. The TLLP is a joint initiative of the Ontario Teachers’ Federation (OTF) and the Ontario Ministry of Education. Introduced in 2007, the TLLP supports experienced teachers in self-directed, advanced professional development for improving their practices and supporting student learning. Projects also help teachers to develop leadership skills for sharing their professional learning and innovative instructional practices. “Students with learning disabilities have a fear of connecting words with ideas and images,” explains Liana. “They need extra help to make connections, so we’re using the graphic novel, comic books and other graphic texts to jump-start students’ ability to make inferences with text and help them become readers.” Have an idea for a TLLP project? “The TLLP is revitalizing professional learning for teachers,” says Liana Côté. “It’s teacher friendly, teacher learning that benefits students,” . 2015-16 application deadline is November 15, 2014. 7 @Visit OECTA | february 2014 www.edu.gov.on.ca/eng/teacher/tllp.html
The $27,000 that Liana’s team received from the TLLP is being used for release time, test trials, and to purchase copies of graphic texts and iPad Mini tablets for every student in each of her three English classes. Another of the more than 50 OECTA projects that received funding in 2013-14 is “Math: The Write Way – Developing Communication Skills in Numeracy,” Project leader Alison Morawek teaches a Grade 2/3 combined class at Our Lady of Fatima Catholic School in St. Catharines. Her project, being developed with colleague Daniel Arscott, will help students improve their abilities to comprehend and effectively respond orally and in writing to open response mathematics questions. With the support of her principal, it has become a school-wide project for all 180 students, including two French immersion classes, and 11 teachers. “Problem-solving in 21st century learning requires that students be able to explain how they arrived at the answer to a math question,” explains Alison. “Our project will help teachers build upon current instructional practices and develop greater expertise in composing appropriate mathematics open response questions. In turn, students will learn to be more analytical when decoding questions, to be collaborative and communicate effectively with their peers and teachers.” An important outcome of the TLLP projects is teacher resources. Liana’s and Alison’s plans for sharing their experiences include PD workshops, printed teacher guides and lesson plans, published articles, website and blog postings. OECTA members’ TLLP-funded project proposals are at www.oecta.on.ca in the Members’ Centre under Teaching Resources. Diana Thomson is the associate editor in the Communications Department at OECTA Provincial Office.
Making work pay OECTA is part of the campaign for a $14 minimum wage By Adam Lemieux
Paid employment is supposed to be the best route out of poverty. However, for a growing number of Ontarians, this is simply not the case. Even if someone is able to find a job and secure enough hours to be working full-time, the minimum wage does not provide sufficient income. This is why a group of forward-thinking organizations, including OECTA, have joined forces to call for an increase of the minimum wage to $14 per hour. Contrary to the popular myth, it is not just teenagers living with their parents who are working in minimum wage jobs. Recent research by the Wellesley Institute shows that almost 40 per cent of Ontario’s minimum wage employees, and 60 per cent of those that make between $10.25 and $14.25, are over 25 years of age. These people are finding it very difficult to provide for themselves and their families. Over 10 per cent of the Ontarians who accessed food banks in 2013 listed employment as their primary source of income. Since the minimum wage was frozen in 2010, the Consumer Price Index has increased by seven per cent, making it considerably more expensive to pay for meals, health care and transportation. Meanwhile, the severe shortage of affordable housing means that the poorest Ontarians often devote more than half of their income to accommodation costs. The ideal solution would be for more Ontarians to move into better, higher-paying jobs, but the structure of our labour market makes this unlikely. We have what is known as an “hourglass economy” – there are a fair number of lucrative positions in technology and financial services at the top, but also a lot of low-paying sales and hospitality jobs at the bottom. There are a
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decreasing number of positions in the middle. As a result, it is not possible to move up the career ladder as people once did. Even those with post-secondary education are often stuck in a cycle of low-skill jobs that pay minimum wage and offer no opportunity for advancement. Businesses argue that raising the minimum wage will cause them to cut jobs or move their operations elsewhere. In reality, such decisions are usually based on far larger issues than small increases in labour costs. Furthermore, workers who are no longer living in poverty will be healthier and more productive, and any additional income they earn will be spent on goods and services in the local economy, leading to economic growth and more jobs in the long run. Also, let us remember that almost half of Ontario’s minimum wage workers are employed by large businesses. As economist Armine Yalnizyan points out, raising the minimum wage is hardly going to cause Tim Horton’s to disappear. A $14 minimum wage will enable working Ontarians to afford all of life’s basic necessities and fully participate in their communities. OECTA members should be proud that their union is one of the organizations advocating for this policy. To learn more about the issues, get involved in the campaign and upcoming events, visit www.raisetheminimumwage.ca Adam Lemieux is a writer/researcher in the Communications and Government Relations departments at OECTA Provincial Office.
People worth watching
OECTA member receives educator of the year award By Elizabeth Price
Sister Pat Carter is the first teacher from a Catholic school board (OECTA Huron Superior Unit), and the first teacher outside Toronto, to receive the Harmony Educator Award, presented to her in 2013 for her efforts to promote and enhance diversity, equity and inclusion in her classroom, her school, and community. The Harmony Movement (www.harmony.ca) is an educational non-profit that works with teachers and students across Ontario to address issues of racial discrimination and prejudice in Canadian society to promote awareness and challenge all forms of discrimination. “Many teachers in Northern Ontario Catholic school boards are doing the same great work,” says Sister Pat, who has been a secondary school teacher for more than 20 years. “I accept this award for all of us who try to bring equity and inclusive education policies to life for all students and colleagues.” Equally active in her community, with social justice organizations such as the Society of St. Vincent de Paul and L’Arche, Sister Pat also works tirelessly to improve the lives of the poor by
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fundraising for the local soup kitchen and joining in a sidewalk sleepover to raise awareness of the hardships faced by the homeless in Sault Ste. Marie. Her activism and handson involvement make her a valued resource for teachers and students. For the past four years, Sister Pat has been the Religious Education and Family Life Consultant, and Faith Animator in the Huron Superior Catholic District School Board. “My role is to help students to develop multicultural manners in matters of faith and culture – skills necessary to be global citizens,” she explains. “In our Grade 10 religion program, for example, I tell students that they have two questions to answer: ‘What kind of person am I becoming?’ and ‘What kind of person do I want to become?’ Be sure to read Sister Pat’s weekly blog, Catholic Culture Update, where she provides religious, equity and inclusivity edu-tips, videos, teachings, inspirations, and lesson ideas via the CARFLEO (Catholic Association of Religious and Family Life Educators of Ontario) website, http://bit.ly/1j7PmCq
Sister Pat Carter
Here are a few topics from her blog that you can investigate for your classroom: • Tips for building a school equity team • Inspirational videos from Godtube.com • 115 Saintly Fun Facts • Calendar feast and memorial days • Quotes to carry in your heart for the week Elizabeth Price is the website administrator in the Communications Department at OECTA Provincial Office.
people worth watching
2013-2014 Unit Presidents
Bob Giasson Algonquin-Lakeshore
Len McDonald Brant Haldimand Norfolk
Anna Morrison Bruce-Grey Elementary
Bill King Bruce-Grey Secondary
David Dolan Dufferin-Peel Elementary
Peter MacDonald Dufferin-Peel Secondary
Melissa Cowen Durham Elementary
Chris Montgomery Durham Secondary
Barb Dobrowolski Eastern Ontario
Nina March Halton Elementary
Keith Boyd Halton Secondary
Sergio Cacoilo Hamilton Secondary
Nick de Koning Hamilton-Wentworth
Angelo Ippolito Huron-Perth Elementary
Mike Ennett Huron-Perth Secondary
Katrina Wheaton Huron-Superior
Dean Demers Kenora
Sheila Brescia London District
Marie Balanowski Niagara Elementary
Scott McAvoy Niagara Secondary
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Linda Gordon Nipissing Elementary
Rick Belisle Nipissing Secondary
Louis Clausi Northeastern
Dan Maltais Northwest
Beth Dowe Ottawa
Dean Spence Peterborough VNC
Tracey Pecarski Renfrew
Wayne Bechard St. Clair Elementary
Dean Bradley St. Clair Secondary
John Vella St. Michaelâ€™s CSTA
Joe Martone Simcoe Muskoka Elementary
Michele MacDonald Simcoe Muskoka Secondary
Kent MacNeill Sudbury Elementary
Dan Charbonneau Sudbury Secondary
Lisa Lacaria Superior North
Aldo Grillo Thunder Bay Elementary
Mike Pozihun Thunder Bay Secondary
Mario Bernardo Toronto Elementary
RenĂŠ Jansen in de Wal Toronto Secondary
Mike Devoy Waterloo
Unit president contact information: www.oecta.on.ca in the About section under Bargaining Units Mark Berardine Wellington
Harold Fox Windsor-Essex Elementary
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Brian Hogan Windsor-Essex Secondary
Liz Stuart York
OECTA advisor Real life situations and solutions By Joe Pece
In the last 10 years we have seen the Ministry of Education and school boards introduce a number of initiatives that are intended to boost student achievement. School Effectiveness Framework, Professional Learning Communities, and Schools Helping Schools are a few examples that focus on teacher professional learning and require teacher collaboration and evaluation. Collaborative teacher inquiry is one of the latest professional practices that the Ministry is promoting to schools and boards. Initiatives implemented using this professional learning model, such as the Ministry’s Collaborative Inquiry for Learning – Mathematics, and Early Primary Collaborative Inquiry, involve teams of educators conducting “in-class investigations” of students’ work and teachers’ lessons. While these types of initiatives can help teachers to further their professional practice through a deeper understanding of the connection between student learning and classroom instruction, problems can arise.
In some cases however, teachers are simply critiquing and reporting on the practices of other teachers. This constitutes an evaluation of teacher performance – it is not grounded in professional inquiry and does not include collaboration with the evaluated teacher. Teacher Performance Appraisal is the formal process for evaluating teachers, which can only be done by an administrator. 3. Teachers are not to evaluate or report on the classroom practice of other teachers.
When teachers begin to scrutinize the classroom practices of another teacher, professional lines begin to blur. Members are advised not to participate in the assessment of, or reporting on another member’s classroom practices. In some cases, members have been asked to participate in board review teams as part
members must refrain from making any statement and/or assessment that could be considered as evaluative regarding the classroom practices, discipline methods, or competence of another member. Teachers sometimes differ in their professional opinions about teaching practices or discipline methods. However, criticizing the professional competence of another member is a serious matter, even when done appropriately, for example, through board officials. Teachers often neglect their obligations under Section 18(1)(a) and (b) of the Teaching Profession Act, which states: “avoid interfering in an unwarranted manner between other teachers and pupils,” and “adverse comments against another member be communicated in writing within 72 hours to the individual who is the subject of the comment.”
1. Participation in any initiative involving a type of collaborative inquiry practice must be voluntary.
Teachers are meant to work together to assess current practice, develop lessons collaboratively and develop implementation of the plan together. The spirit of collegiality and openness that underlines this practice cannot be achieved when participants do not enter into the process voluntarily. 2. Beware of evaluation posing as inquiry. Some principals have
incorporated the term “instructional rounds” to describe their version of the collaborative inquiry model. “Instructional rounds” involve groups of teachers moving from one classroom to another observing the practice of other teachers.
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of the Literacy and Numeracy Secretariat’s initiatives. These teams visit schools and classrooms, making observations to assist schools in setting goals, and provide a report to the principal highlighting specific areas of need based on their observations. Whether required to participate in such teams as a consultant or coordinator, or participating in a voluntary manner,
One of the best strategies to manage conflict between colleagues is to know and understand your professional obligations towards your fellow members and maintain that professionalism at all times. Joe Pece is the department head for the Counselling and Member Services department at OECTA Provincial Office.
Surviving and thriving in the first five years
Dealing with those everyday issues
By Claire Laughlin
By Doug McCarthy
Nearly 200 new teachers gathered in Toronto in February for OECTA’s annual Beginning Teachers Conference, Bullying: Stepping Up to the Challenge. Despite all the initiatives and media profile on this issue in recent years, it remains a serious problem for many students in our schools, and for teachers, too. On top of the many other challenges faced by beginning teachers, confronting by bullying can seem daunting. But, like any movement, change starts with one person stepping up and taking a stand for what is right. Here are some steps to guide you: IDENTIFY – Before moving forward, be clear about what you are
taking action on. Identify the bullying behaviours in your school – who is being bullied, who are the bullies, and who are the bystanders? What initiatives are already taking place in your school to address this issue? Where do you see gaps in programming or room for improvement? UNDERSTAND – It is critical to understand the power dynamic at play, the enabling role of the bystander, and the various issues confronting the bullied and bully alike. Without this deeper understanding your actions will likely be just a band-aid solution that doesn’t address the root causes or sources, and therefore won’t have a lasting impact.
All conference delegates received a copy of The Bully, The Bullied, The Bystander, The Brave. This powerful anthology of poetry is an excellent tool to build understanding of bullying in a nonthreatening way. “Elementary Bullying Prevention: Resources for Teacher-Librarians and Classroom Teachers” is one of many helpful resources available at www.oecta.on.ca under Teaching Resources. RESPOND – Have the courageous conversations that need to be had. Encourage your students and colleagues to take action as well. Bullies attain power because of the silence of others.
The Power of Words
Meeting former students who are now adults is usually a delight. But recently, I had a chance meeting with a former student and I worried that our conversation would be awkward because of an incident that happened years before. Brian was in my Grade 8 class my first year of teaching. He had just turned 15. He didn’t like school, but he did have a wonderful gift for repairing car engines. Despite his youth, many people in town brought their cars and trucks to him for service. Unfortunately, his passion for cars led to his arrest for auto theft, and before the end of the school year Brian was sent to a youth correctional facility. Thankfully, he was able to turn his life around. Brian told me that he has a successful business and two children in university. He has been recognized as a community leader and is an active member of his church. Then he told me that while in detention something I had once said inspired him to reform his life. I was puzzled. What words of wisdom could I, as a new teacher in my early 20s, have shared back then that were powerful enough to change the course of this young man’s life? I probably said what many teachers might have said in the same situation: “You can get past this and make changes for the better” or “This one incident does not define who you are as a person.” I may have been one of the few people who said something encouraging to Brian. Many others, including his family, were very upset with him.
ELIMINATE – This is the ultimate goal that you must never lose sight of. Be mindful of what a fully supportive and bully-free school community would look like. Continue to enrol your students and colleagues in your vision.
As I thought more about our conversation and the powerful effect that our words can have on others, the image of a honeybee and its imperative to collect nectar and pollen came to mind. The bee doesn’t realize that, as a consequence, it is also pollinating flowers and plants that we need to survive. Similarly, we may not be aware of the positive effect our words can have on others. Sadly, I also know that at times my words are as harmful as a mosquito bite. The mosquito’s imperative is to collect mammal blood, but unintentionally it also spreads disease such as West Nile virus and malaria. Careless words can also cause hurt and grief, even if that wasn’t the intention.
You can ‘step up’ to the challenge of bullying. Great things happen when one person gets things started. You never know how big something will grow. Nelson Mandela has surely taught us that!
This quote from Buddha sums it up well: “Whatever words we utter should be chosen with care for people will hear them and be influenced by them for good or ill.”
Claire Laughlin is a secretariat member in Professional Development at OECTA Provincial Office and liaison to the Beginning Teachers Committee.
Doug McCarthy is a retired OECTA member and principal, and currently a member of OECTA’s Speakers’ Bureau.
CHANGE – It’s an often slowly evolving process, but don’t be discouraged. Every action and conversation builds upon the previous one. As more people stand up and take action, the culture of silence will change to a culture of action in our schools and our communities.
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Resources & events for teachers Nominate an excellent teacher
The annual OTIP Teaching Awards recognize innovative teaching methods; creative program development; engaging students in process of learning; demonstrating a commitment to personal lifelong learning, and more. You can nominate a teacher in one of three categories: elementary, secondary, or a beginning teacher in the first five years of teaching. At a fall awards ceremony in Toronto winners receive $1,000 and a Certificate of Recognition. Their schools receive $1,000 and a Certificate of Recognition. Deadline for submitting nominations is March 31 of each year. http://en.teachingawards.ca EcoLinks Conference 2014
Teachers interested in the integration of environmental topics into curriculum are invited to attend the Ontario Society for Environmental Education’s upcoming conference “Green Inside. Green Outside,” May 9-10, 2014, University of Toronto, Mississauga. Focus on teaching literacy, numeracy, geography, science, drama, art and math through an environmental sustainability lens. Conference includes outdoor workshops, exhibitor area, nature and bird walks. http://home.osee.ca/ environmental education materials
The Giant Panda Classroom Kit from the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) is an innovative way to inspire and inform students about the role they can play in securing a healthy future for our planet. The Classroom Kit contains an educator’s guide with dozens of in-classroom activity ideas developed in partnership with the Dr. Eric Jackman Institute of Child Study (University of Toronto/OISE) and K-Grade 8 teachers across Canada, and a panda bear plush toy. Each kit is $30 and supports WWF’s conservation efforts. http:// schools.wwf.ca Teaching equality, justice and fairness
“Teaching Human Rights in Ontario” is a practical resource to help teachers educate students in Grades 8-12 on the valued concepts of equality, justice and fairness. The resource has been extensively updated, focuses on Ontario’s Human Rights Code, its human rights system, and most recent developments in human rights policy and case law. Links to video vignettes from the Living Rights Project. http://bit.ly/18H1aCD Dance, drama, Yoga classes for all grades
The Travelling Stage is an arts and yoga education company offering teachers and students an opportunity to participate in dynamic workshops alongside established guest artists and instructors. Led by Toni Grates, president and artistic director, The Travelling Stage has taught in over 425 Ontario schools. www.travellingstage.com
Legal brief Teachers and the law By Charlene Theodore
My goal for this column was to deliver new and interesting legal information affecting the teaching profession in every issue. This month, however, I feel compelled to share an old favourite – the dire warnings on misuse of social media. If you’ve participated in OECTA’s “On Thin Ice” workshop or listened to our social media podcasts, you’ve learned that the landscape of social media can be a professional minefield. That being
said, you only need to turn on the evening news to see that everyone, from politicians to postal workers, is still under the illusion that their online activities won’t affect their paycheque. In spite of all the warnings, workers of all professions are being fired or disciplined due to their use of social media. A Canada Post employee with 31 years seniority was fired for making disparaging statements about management and the company on Facebook. The Canadian Union of Postal Workers filed a grievance on her behalf but lost at arbitration. The employee worked at a postal depot in Edmonton that was in the midst of significant labour unrest. The comments were posted after a verbal altercation with her supervisor, for which she was suspended without pay for three days. Her statements referred to using a voodoo doll on a supervisor and running one over with a vehicle. The posts were sent to her Facebook friends, including several co-workers. Even though the union argued that the toxic work environment played
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a part in the employee’s need to vent her frustration, the arbitrator ruled that Canada Post had just cause to terminate her. A first-grade teacher in New Jersey with 13 years of service posted the following on Facebook: “I’m not a teacher – I’m a warden for future criminals!” In her testimony, she advised that she posted the comment after one of her students hit her and others allegedly stole money from her. She also spoke to her efforts to respond to the students’ ongoing behaviour by sending disciplinary referrals to the school administrators on several occasions. Although the comment was intended solely for her 333 Facebook friends, it was forwarded to other readers and was eventually seen by school administrators and parents. Her dismissal was challenged by her union but was upheld on appeal. A teacher in Georgia posted photos of her summer break trip to her Facebook page. One photo showed her holding a glass of wine in one hand and a glass of beer in the other. Of her 700 vacation photos, 10 had alcohol in them. Although her page was set to private, the photos were taken from Facebook and emailed to her employer. The anonymous email, sent from an unidentified account, alleged that a student had somehow seen the Facebook page. She lost her job and was unsuccessful in subsequent litigation. In Canada, workers being disciplined for social media activity is on the rise and not going away. Teachers should not think themselves immune to this growing trend. Charlene Theodore is in-house legal counsel at OECTA Provincial Office.
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Penny wise, pound foolish The austerity agenda is dragging us down By Adam Lemieux
It is intuitively appealing to think that a government’s finances should be operated like those of a family. Spend a little less than you make, save a bit for a rainy day. When times are tough, tighten your belt. The problem is, at least when it comes to budgeting, governments are very unlike families. Governments have access to much greater borrowing resources and face almost no risk of bankruptcy. Furthermore, government consumption has enormous power to fuel an economy, while spending on public services helps to balance the whims of the market and provide quality of life for all citizens. These expenditures are especially important when the economy is struggling. Governments are not like businesses, either. When businesses borrow money, they do so with the expectation that they will be able to repay these debts fairly quickly because they will be realizing immediate returns on their investments. On the other hand, governments exist in large part to deliver those public goods that will not be equitably supplied by for-profit businesses, such as education and health care. The social and economic returns on these investments might take years to be fully borne out. This is why they must be undertaken by governments. Unfortunately, these truths seem to have been completely forgotten – or worse, rejected – during the Great Recession of 20082009. Although there was initially some emphasis on stimulus, by 2010 there existed a general consensus that government spending was counterproductive and needed to be slashed. Support for the austerity agenda by government and the public was based almost entirely on ideology and disregard for past experiences. However,
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once austerity took hold, it was difficult for any leader to resist the idea without being labelled fiscally irresponsible. Ontario has witnessed firsthand the consequences of austerity. Among other things, Dalton McGuinty’s government cancelled a planned child benefit increase, froze social assistance rates, and launched an attack on public servants. As a result of this limited spending on public programs, the government has actually acted as a drag on economic growth. Meanwhile, Ontario is falling well short of its poverty reduction targets and the long-term unemployment rate remains significantly higher than it was before 2008. Ontario’s focus on austerity has ignored the fact that the budget was in balance prior to 2008, and Ontario already had the lowest per capita spending on government programs of any Canadian province. The deficit was not caused by excessive spending, but reduced tax revenues as a result of corporate tax cuts and the economic slowdown. Most importantly, the austerity agenda has flown in the face of overwhelming evidence that public expenditures are key drivers of economic growth, job creation, and future prosperity. The government has recently indicated a willingness to increase spending on public infrastructure, however, we have yet to see any concrete action. Going forward, we will need to see a strategy that recognizes that protected and enhanced public services will help to grow the economy out of recession. The government is not like you; it does not have to pay off its credit card bills just yet. In fact, we would all be better off if it didn’t. Adam Lemieux is a writer/researcher in the Communications and Government Relations departments at OECTA Provincial Office.
Book Review From Demonized to Organized A convincing read for youth and skeptics about the value of union membership By Adam Lemieux
Part primer, part analysis, and part rallying cry, Halton Catholic school graduate Nora Loreto’s recently released book addresses the challenges and opportunities facing unions today. Published by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives – the country’s leading progressive research institute – Loreto’s work provides a timely reminder of what unions are, what we do, and how we can continue to play a crucial role in modern economies and societies. The book’s central purpose stems from an issue that OECTA members have probably faced in their own discussions with neighbours and family members. With union density in Canada now below 30 per cent, and many people never having directly experienced the advantages of unionism, there exists a widespread belief that unions do not act in the public interest, but merely line the pockets of their already well-paid and well-pensioned members. Not so, says Loreto. In her outline of the fundamentals of union formation and membership, she repeatedly highlights the simple truth that unions exist primarily to provide a democratic forum through which workers can co-operate to protect their safety and livelihoods. Furthermore, the bargains they negotiate set company- and industry-wide standards that benefit all workers. She goes on to argue that labour organizations are as necessary today as ever. While politicians and business leaders focus on lower taxes, corporate profits, and government austerity, there remains a legitimate need for unions to speak on behalf of all of those who value responsible citizenship, fair working conditions, and strong public services. Fittingly, the author pays particular attention to the difficulty of involving youth in the labour movement. As a former elected official with the Ryerson Students’ Union and Canadian Federation of Students – Ontario, Loreto is keenly aware of the ambivalence or outright scepticism with which her generation
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views traditional unions. Having been raised in a culture that trumpets individual achievement, and facing a labour market that offers few opportunities for decent, stable employment, young workers often do not see themselves as beneficiaries of union effort. A key challenge for unions going forward will be to harness the energy and talents of Canada’s youth, and Loreto advises that we will need to reconsider our communication and decision-making processes in order to do so. Although new technologies will obviously play a part, Loreto cautions that these strategies must go beyond social media and engage youth in grassroots organizing as well as education and leadership roles at all levels. To be sure, unions face an upward battle when it comes to overcoming demonization and connecting with the wider public. However, Loreto describes some recent examples of creative collaboration that might provide a model. For example, unions such as Unifor have begun to reach out to the large and growing numbers of workers on
the margins of the labour market – such as private contractors, freelancers, and food and retail workers – in an effort to organize and serve the interests of people who have not seen themselves as part of the traditional labour movement. For those who have been committed to OECTA’s mission for some time, this book may not offer much in the way of revelation. However, if you are new to unionism or unsure of our place in today’s world, this read is a valuable introduction to both the pitfalls and possibilities that lie before us. Adam Lemieux is a writer/researcher in the Communications and Government Relations departments at OECTA Provincial Office.
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