‘TIS THE SEASON FOR MERCY AND GRATITUDE
EDUCATING THE WHOLE
ONTARIO’S NEW WELL-BEING STRATEGY
PROTECTING STUDENTS AND TEACHERS
BILL 37 BECOMES LAW
MAKING AMERICA _____ AGAIN? THE ASCENSION OF DONALD TRUMP
The financial health of the Association Catholic teachers, labour leaders OECTA’s Ed Aid grants build better futures Administering medical care to students
Co-operative Education Part I English as a Second Language
French as a Second Language FSL Part I (available online) Guidance and Career Education Guidance Specialist Integration of Information and Computer Technology in Instruction (also available as modules)
Kindergarten Librarianship Mathematics (also available as modules for Part I)
Reading (also available as modules for Part I)
Religious Education (also available as modules for Part II)
Special Education - also available as modules for Teaching Students with Communications Needs (Autism Spectrum Disorders)
Student Assessment and Evaluation
Subsidies NOW AVAILABLE for Mathematics Primary/Junior Part I Modules
(also available as modules)
Teaching Combined Grades
Fall 2016 REGISTRATION OPENS ............................. June 7, 2016 REGISTRATION CLOSES ............................ Sept 9, 2016 COURSES START ................................... Sept 26, 2016 COURSES END ........................................ Dec 16, 2016
Spring 2017 REGISTRATION OPENS .............................. Dec 6, 2016 REGISTRATION CLOSES ....................... March 17, 2017 COURSES START ...................................... April 3, 2017 COURSES END ....................................... June 16, 2017
Summer 2017 REGISTRATION OPENS ............................. April 6, 2017
REGISTRATION CLOSES ........................... June 2, 2017 COURSES START ....................................... July 4, 2017 COURSES END ......................................... July 28, 2017
A limited number of $450 AQ Subsidies are available for ALL Math and Kindergarten courses.
ORDER ONE TO FIT YOUR NEEDS
CLOSING DATES WILL BE EXTENDED IF SPACES ARE STILL AVAILABLE
CO N T E N T S/D EC 2016
INBOX 4 PRESIDENT’S MESSAGE 5
OECTA INDEX / CALENDAR
7 EVENTS 10
NEW OECTA BENEFITS PLAN
11 PROTECTING STUDENTS, PROTECTING TEACHERS Bill 37 and the Ontario College of Teachers By Mark Tagliaferri 12 THE FINANCIAL WELL-BEING OF YOUR ASSOCIATION By Marshall Jarvis 14 EDUCATING THE WHOLE Ministry of Education moving quickly to develop well-being strategy By Adam Lemieux 16 BUILDING A BETTER FUTURE OECTA’s Educational Aid grants in action By Mark Tagliaferri
TEACHERS AID 17 CATHOLIC CONNECTION The Jubilee Year of Mercy By Shannon Hogan 18 PROFESSIONAL LEARNING Developing your practice, piece by piece By Claire Laughlin
19 TEACHER ADVISOR Medical care and students - who’s responsible? By Joe Pece 20
By Charlene Theodore
Two steps forward, one step back
21 INSIGHT ‘Tis the season for gratitude By Michelle Despault 22 BEGINNING TEACHERS Filling their bag of tricks! By Claire Laughlin 23 PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT One simple tool for class tomorrow By Anthony Carabache
PEOPLE WORTH WATCHING 25 TORONTO STAR TEACHER OF THE YEAR Dulce Moreira strives to promote advocacy and faith By Mark Tagliaferri 26 REMEMBRANCE DAY PROJECT TEACHES STUDENTS LOCAL HISTORY Courtesy of TCDSB 27 SILENT STORIES By Dan de Souza 28 CATHOLIC SCHOOLS = SAFE AND ACCEPTING ENVIRONMENTS By Mark Tagliaferri
VIEWPOINT 29 CATHOLIC TEACHERS, LABOUR LEADERS By Filomena Ferraro
30 MAKE AMERICA _____ AGAIN Donald Trump, the Republican Party, and revenge of a mythic past By Mark Tagliaferri
PRESIDENT’S MESSAGE It’s been a busy end to 2016. At the time of writing this message, there are still four outstanding local collective agreements – Niagara Elementary, Niagara Elementary Occasional, Thunder Bay Elementary and Thunder Bay Occasional – that we are seriously hoping will come to a close before the New Year. Meanwhile, we are already preparing ourselves at the provincial level for the expiration of 2014-17 collective agreements. In its ongoing attack on the Catholic school system, the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation (OSSTF) launched a website dedicated to the elimination of publicly funded Catholic education in Ontario. The site draws on an emotional appeal to taxpayers in its characterization of publicly funded Catholic education as unfair in this day and age, alleging that “it just doesn’t seem right” and that “it’s about what’s best for our children.” And, “Best of all, the money saved would go a long way to making all our schools so much better.” The fact of the matter is that OSSTF is concerned that their student enrolment numbers are down and their schools are closing. From a union perspective, this means they are also losing members. They are trying to bolster their numbers by raiding our membership, through cries to eliminate the publicly funded Catholic education system in Ontario. OECTA is at the forefront of this issue, but we need your help. At the end of the day, it is the grassroots efforts of our members and our communities that make our system all that it is. Our schools consistently outperform, and we deliver an educational experience rooted in the values of faith, fairness, acceptance, respect for others, and the importance of community – values that all Ontarians embrace. As Catholic teachers, we are universally committed to social justice, and we actively engage our students, schools and communities in the pursuit of positive social change. This is who we are, and this is what we do. We need you to spread our message – in your schools and throughout your communities – because these stories and these facts are irrefutable. But as we continue our conversation regarding threats to Catholic education, there is another major threat that needs to be addressed. I’m not referring to the media or advocates of one school system this time. This threat is internal. It is the financial vulnerability of your Association. After going nearly a decade from 2005 to 2015 without any increase to your OECTA fee, the Association finds itself in a deficit position without enough money to fund operating costs. As you already know, we’ve had to make difficult decisions to cut programs like the annual Beginning Teachers Conference (now biennial), the Leadership Training Program, and professional development workshops not fully funded by the Ministry of Education. But even at that, there’s still a near-$1 million deficit on the books that needs to be addressed. There’s an idea out there that services can be restored and the deficit paid by using money from the Reserve Fund in the same way that one may transfer money from their savings to their chequing account. But the Reserve Fund is a restricted fund, which means it can only be accessed for particular purposes, such as strike pay, dire needs grants, election campaigns, and provincial negotiations. The Handbook does permit the Reserve Fund to “lend cash to the General Fund or hypothecate some of its securities for a bank loan for the General Fund if the General Fund becomes temporarily unable to meet its obligations.” However, this is a short-term option that we’ve already tapped into, and now we must show a genuine attempt to repay the loaned money. And like all loaned money, it doesn’t come for free. We are subject to interest fees on any borrowed money, even if from our own Reserve Fund. With the move to central bargaining in recent years, provincial bargaining costs have relied increasingly on this fund. For this reason, delegates at the recent Annual General Meeting approved an additional levy of 0.13 per cent of grid salary to the Reserve Fund, in an effort to replenish some of the costs. If the Association were to find itself in a province-wide strike position again, this is the same money that would be used to issue strike pay and pay for your benefits. Similarly, in the event that a local unit is in a strike or lockout position, the Reserve Fund manages ordinary operating expenses incurred during this period. In order to ensure our financial well-being, we need a healthy portfolio of finances that adequately funds all areas of the Association. I encourage you to read the General Secretary’s piece, The Financial Well-being of Your Association, and to connect with your local unit to ensure that a fee that reflects our needs is achieved at the upcoming Annual General Meeting in March. This marks the final issue before the Christmas break. I wish you joy and peace this holiday season. It is my hope that you find the opportunity to relax and enjoy this special time of year with your loved ones. Merry Christmas!
Michelle Despault Editor Adam Lemieux Associate Editor Mark Tagliaferri Writer/Researcher Fernanda Monteiro Production Anna Anezyris Advertising EDITORIAL BOARD Ann Hawkins President Liz Stuart First Vice-President Marshall Jarvis General Secretary David Church Deputy General Secretary Carley Desjardins 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 catholicteachers.ca Publication Mail Agreement No. 0040062510 Account No. 0001681016 Cover: “Bethlehem Star” is the winning submission from OECTA’s Christmas Card Contest, by Rosemary Kavanagh Etmanski, a full-time teacher at St. Anne’s school in Kitchener and a member of OECTA Waterloo. She loves the creative process and has been in several juried art shows and galleries across the province. Her artwork can be viewed on her website: napworks-studio.com
UP FRONT RECOGNIZE ENVIRONMENTAL HEROES
Earth Day Canada has launched their Hometown Heroes Award Program for 2017. The program recognizes and celebrates environmental leaders at the community level with a youth, individual, teacher, group, or small business award to further their outstanding efforts. The Hometown Heroes Award Program has become one of Canada’s most prestigious environmental awards. Established in 2004, the program aims to foster meaningful, long-term community awareness and action. Local heroes, working at a grassroots level and often with very limited resources, can make an enormous difference to the health of our planet – they deserve our recognition. Learn more at earthday.ca/hometown. CONSIDER BEING AN AGM DELEGATE
OECTA’s Annual General Meeting (AGM) will take place March 11 to 13, 2017 at Toronto’s Westin Harbour Castle. If you would like to be considered as an AGM delegate for your unit, please contact your unit president as soon as possible. TAKE AN AQ COURSE THIS SPRING
Registration for OECTA’s spring AQ session is now open! Register between December 6, 2016 and March 17, 2017 for courses that run from April 3 to June 16, 2017. Check out the full AQ course menu on the inside cover page or visit the AQ section at catholicteachers.ca. Subsidies are now available for full Mathematics AQ courses as well as Math modules (Primary/Junior Part 1). SEARCHING FOR YOUNG AUTHORS
OECTA is once again proud to sponsor the annual Young Authors Awards/Prix Jeunes Écrivains. The awards celebrate the writing talents of students who submit short stories, poems, nonfiction articles and reports in both English and French. The first place winners at the school level advance to the unit level and then to the provincial competition. A collection of the winning entries is published in book form. Teachers must submit their class entries to their school’s Association representative by February 13, 2017.
DESIGN THE OECTA CHRISTMAS CARD
Do you have an artistic side? OECTA is looking for season-themed art to use on our 2017 Christmas card. The winning entry will grace the cover of @OECTA next December. Submit an original, twodimensional piece of finished art (photograph, sketch, collage, or painting) to OECTA’s Communications department by April 1, 2017. Entries can be received in hard copy or digitally (at least 300dpi). Send your submission to OECTA, 65 St. Clair Avenue East, Suite 400, Toronto, M4T 2Y8, attention: Communications department or by email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include your unit and contact information with your entry. CONTRIBUTE TO @OECTA
Know a great teacher whose story should be told? Got something to say on a topic that is of importance to teachers? Have a great photograph you would love to share? If you would like to contribute to @OECTA in any way, contact email@example.com. This publication is for Catholic teachers, and we welcome your input and support. ACKNOWLEDGE A GREAT TEACHER
Do you know an outstanding teacher? Why not nominate them for an OTIP/OTF Teaching Award? These awards recognize teachers who inspire students, colleagues, and parents in Ontario’s publicly funded education system. Anyone can nominate a teacher in one of three categories: elementary, secondary, or a beginning teacher in the first five years of teaching. Winners receive $1,000 and a Certificate of Recognition for both themselves and their schools. Nominations open January 9 and close March 31, 2017. Visit teachingawards.ca for more information. TRADE PLACES AND TEACH IN AUSTRALIA
Want to go Down Under? Ontario Catholic teachers are invited to trade places for a year with a teacher in an Australian Catholic school as part of an exchange program organized by the Canadian Education Exchange Foundation (CEEF). Visit catholicteachers.ca in the For Your Career section under Leadership Opportunities for more information. To register, contact Carol Wilkins via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 705-739-7596.
DECEMBER 2016 |
Deadline for Submitting AGM Resolutions
By Adam Lemieux
March is fast approaching, and planning for our Annual General Meeting (AGM) is already under way. Finances and the membership fee are always big topics of debate at AGM. It is important for members to have consistent knowledge and a clear perspective on the state of the Association’s finances, as we expect that many financial and fee resolutions will be brought forward for debate at AGM 2017. The yearly fee that members pay is the main source of revenue for the Association, and it is divided among a number of funds. Most of the Association’s operating expenditures come from the General Fund. The Reserve Fund is for expenses related to collective bargaining and strike action. Currently, there is a mechanism whereby five per cent of the member fees received are transferred from the General Fund to the Reserve Fund every year. There are also several other “restricted” funds, including the Building Fund (for capital expenditures at the OECTA Provincial Office in Toronto) and the Contingency Fund (for expenditures not anticipated in the annual budget).
National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women December 6
International Human Rights Day December 10
Christmas Break Provincial Office Closure December 26 to January 6
Below are some key figures and comparisons regarding the Association’s fee and finances. Financial information is taken from our most recent Audited Financial Statements. COMPARATIVE FEE STRUCTURES 2.1% of salary ............. Association des enseignantes et des enseignants
1.4% of salary* ........... Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO) 1.6% of salary ............. Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation (OSSTF) $1,000 + 0.25% of salary ......... Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association (OECTA) *ETFO also has a special levy of 0.2% when their reserve fund drops below $150 million FEE AMOUNT (based on A4-max salary)
PERCENTAGE OF FEE RETURNED FROM THE PROVINCIAL OFFICE TO LOCAL UNITS
13.3% ............................. Increase in A4-max salary, 2007-08 to 2015-16 5.3% ................................ Increase in OECTA fee, 2007-08 to 2015-16 37,655 ........................... Full-time active members, 2007-08 38,337 ........................... Full-time active members, 2015-16 NET FEE PER MEMBER RETAINED IN THE GENERAL FUND $514.24 ......................... 2007-08 $484.76 .......................... 2015-16
(after transfer to units, Reserve Fund, and other allocations)
- $913,000 ............... Balance of the General Fund at fiscal year end 2015-16 $40.6 million ............... Balance of the Reserve Fund at fiscal year end 2015-16 10* .................................... Number of days of strike pay per member the Reserve
Fund currently affords
*based on $50/day strike pay, plus benefits and other statutory contributions, for 45,000 members $103.5 million ............ Projected balance of the Reserve Fund (by 2025) with
existing 5% transfer from the General Fund $86.8 million ............... Projected balance of the Reserve Fund (by 2025) without 5% transfer from the General Fund Adam Lemieux is Communications Specialist in the Communications department at the OECTA Provincial Office.
| DECEMBER 2016
JANUARY Epiphany January 6
Family Literacy Day January 27
International Day of Commemoration in Memory of Victims of the Holocaust January 27
Lunar New Year January 28
FEBRUARY Black History Month Winter Council of Presidents February 1-3
1 Billion Rising February 14
Family Day February 20
World Day of Social Justice February 20
Pink Shirt Day February 22
EVENTS BARGAINING 2017
SOLIDARITY WITH TURKISH TEACHERS
We know what you’re thinking: we only just got a provincial agreement last year, and some of our units still haven’t settled their local terms; how could we be back at this again already? Alas, with agreements set to expire in August 2017, the Association needs to be prepared to serve notice of our intention to bargain as early as this spring. There is much to do.
Catholic teachers were among those who gathered on October 5, World Teachers’ Day, at the Embassy of the Republic of Turkey in Ottawa to protest and denounce the violations of human rights and freedoms in Turkey.
We have already provided our input to the government on suggested improvements to the bargaining process, and the government has announced its intention to introduce amendments to the School Boards Collective Bargaining Act. At the time of writing, new legislation has yet to be introduced. To inform our priorities for the next round of provincial bargaining, members were invited to participate in a Collective Bargaining Survey. Notice of the survey was sent on September 20, and all members who had registered a personal email address were able to participate in the survey on October 4 and 5. Many members, representing a good cross-section of teachers from across the province, completed the survey and provided some great input to the Provincial Bargaining Team. The government has also been turning its mind to the next round of bargaining. Over the past few months, exploratory discussions have been held with all the teacher unions regarding possible extensions of the current collective agreements. The Association was invited to participate, and entered into talks with representatives of the government and the Ontario Catholic School Trustees’ Association (OCSTA). As the magazine goes to print, these discussions have not resulted in an agreement. The Association continues to prepare for provincial and local bargaining under the School Boards Collective Bargaining Act.
ELECTED PROVINCIAL BARGAINING TEAM MEMBERS Back row L-R: Louis Clausi, Northeastern; Tracey Pecarski, Renfrew; Janice Manton Burns, St. Clair Occasional; Peter MacDonald, DufferinPeel Secondary; Front row L-R: Liz Stuart, First Vice-President; Ann Hawkins, President; Barb Dobrowolski, Second Vice-President
Since the failed coup of July 15, 2016, more than 28,000 education workers, including teachers, have been dismissed, and a further 11,301 have been suspended. As well, 112 Eğitim-Sen officials (Education and Science Workers Union) have been removed from their positions – many for simply signing a petition demanding peace. The rally was organized by the Canadian Teachers’ Federation and the Canadian Association of University Teachers in response to the global call for action issued by Education International, the body representing more than 32 million educators from around the world. Organizers had hoped to meet with the Ambassador to present him with a formal letter signed by the unions and organizations representing more than half a million Canadian educators. The letter, addressed to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, urges him to abide by international conventions to which his country is a signatory, and to reinstate the tens of thousands of educators and public sector workers who have been dismissed since the attempted coup. The rally was also intended to signal to the Canadian government our desire to pressure the Turkish government to observe and protect human rights and fundamental freedoms, including freedom of expression and academic freedom.
Barb Dobrowolski, Second Vice-President of OECTA was in attendance on October 5, World Teachers’ Day, at the Embassy of the Republic of Turkey in Ottawa to protest and denounce the violations of human rights and freedoms in Turkey.
DECEMBER 2016 |
EVENTS DISCUSSING HEALTH AND SAFETY IN THE WORKPLACE
Every fall the Association holds a series of Health and Safety regional workshops, which provide an opportunity for teachers and health and safety representatives to discuss current challenges in the school workplace environment. This year, five regionals were held between October 6 and November 28, with almost 200 participants.
More than 270 teachers, early childhood educators (ECEs), and school board and Ministry of Education staff attended our Teaching, Learning and Assessment in the Four Frames conference, held September 22 and 23. Of those attending, 120 were Kindergarten teams, comprised of the teacher and early childhood educator, who came together to understand the revised Kindergarten Program and the Addendum to Growing Success. Participants very much appreciated the opportunity for both members of the team to take in the same information and think about classroom implications.
The topics discussed at the workshops are determined based on the previous year’s participants; this year, the topics focused on teachers’ mental health, risk assessments, and violence in the workplace. All three of these issues directly impact Catholic teachers on a regular basis. Teachers’ mental health and well-being has been an area of growing concern, so it was not surprising that it was a big topic of discussion. These discussions focused on what’s impacting teachers’ mental health and well-being, and the employer’s obligations under the Ontario Human Rights Code. Discussions also referenced various disabilities associated with mental health and compromised well-being, associated accommodation requirements, as well as accessing resources through a board’s EAP (Employee Assistance Program) to help teachers cope. Violence in the workplace was also a very hot and timely topic. Here, participants discussed elements of the Ontario Health and Safety Act that deal with issues such as violence, including teachers’ rights to know about and refuse unsafe work. Discussions also focused on obligations under the Act that are specific to school board supervisors and workers. The discussions provided insight to participants on how to deal with local health and safety incidents and concerns, and provided guidance or direction to local Joint Health and Safety Committees.
The conference provided keynote presentations, workshop sessions, and rich sharing and learning among the groups. Participants were afforded time, with guidance from skilled presenters, to dig into the new program in the “four frames,” and to consider how a frame might look and sound in their classroom, the professional learning conversations or questions for reflection that might flow out of this, and the connections to Catholicity and the Catholic Graduate Expectations. The opening keynote presentation by Roberta Golinkoff affirmed the work that teachers were doing, and supported the changes to the Kindergarten program by asserting that they are backed by solid research. The second keynote, Dr. Alex Lawson, engaged the group in the area of mathematics, clarifying mathematical concepts and instructional strategies to assist students in understanding and growing in mathematics. Participants also engaged in a series of workshops led by OECTA members with tremendous expertise in early learning. An additional 171 Kindergarten teams, who were not able to attend the conference, engaged in the learning through five regional workshops, which were held across the province on October 21 and 22. The regional sessions began with the taped presentation of Roberta Golinkoff’s keynote address and then moved into the program pieces, including the Four Frames and the Assessment, Evaluation and Reporting found in the Addendum to Growing Success. In addition to the conference and regional workshops, 150 Kindergarten teachers engaged in learning on the new “four frames” through the Summer Institutes, which the Association held in July and August. The conference, regionals, and Summer Institutes were all made possible through funding provided by the Ministry of Education.
| DECEMBER 2016
CATHOLIC TEACHERS RISE UP The Canadian Labour Congress hosted its second National Human Rights Conference, Rise Up! 2016, in October. This year’s conference focused on indigenous rights, including those of the missing and murdered Aboriginal women, as well as LGBTQ rights, women’s rights, disability rights, and racialized worker rights. The Association was proudly represented at the conference by: President Ann Hawkins; Third Vice-President Andrew Donihee; Lisa Lacaria, President of the Superior North Unit; Beth Dowe, President of the Ottawa Unit; Mara Torcaso, Elementary Vice-President, Ottawa Unit; and Lisa Bowers, First Vice-President of the Niagara Secondary Unit. The opening night of the conference featured guest speakers Hasan Minhaj, current Senior Correspondent on “The Daily Show;” Wab Kinew, writer, journalist, “university dude,” and Anishinaabemowin advocate; Dr. Dawn Lavell-Harvard, President of the Native Women’s Association of Canada; and
Hassan Yussuff, President of the Canadian Labour Congress. The next few days consisted of various caucuses, panel discussions, and workshops, ranging from a Women’s Caucus to an Aboriginal Workers’ Caucus, a Workers of Colour Caucus, and panel discussions on Building Power and Challenging the Status Quo. Echoing the value of the Association’s involvement with the Canadian Labour Congress, the conference was described by attendees as emotional, inspirational, and impactful.
THE OECTA PROVINCIAL BENEFITS PLAN IS HERE Almost 1,500 eligible members in three Wave 1 units are now accessing benefits governed by the OECTA Employee Life and Health Trust (ELHT) and administered by the Ontario Teachers’ Insurance Plan (OTIP). Much preparation went in to ensure as smooth a transition as possible for Wave 1 and the vast majority of members successfully enrolled and had their first claim paid promptly. At the same time, the ELHT and OTIP have been in communication about how to apply the lessons learned from Wave 1 to Wave 2 to ensure a better experience for all members.
Wave 2 – Get ready!
Wave 2 is set to launch on February 1, 2017 and will see the largest number of Catholic teachers transition to the new provincial benefits plan. In all, approximately 28,000 eligible members from 16 school boards will transition. Wave 2 will include eligible members employed in the following boards:
will be sent to the home address you have on file with your school board. You also need to ensure that your board email address is accurate and that you have access to it. Inaccurate information will cause delays in you receiving the necessary information to ensure a smooth transition. 2. Review all the information in your welcome package carefully. Your
welcome package will be sent by OTIP to the home address on file with your board. It will include: a. Welcome letter outlining important dates and steps to complete your enrolment. b. A detailed Q&A to answer your most common questions about enrolment. c. OECTA Benefits Plan Guide booklet. The mailing of the welcome packages will begin on December 19, 2016. 3. Watch your school board email address for your enrolment instructions.
Emails will be sent beginning the week of January 9, 2017. With so many members transitioning at one time there will be a greater demand on OTIP’s customer service call centre, and although extra staff are being hired to handle the increased demand, it is best to complete your enrolment as soon as possible after receiving the invitation. If you do not receive an email with enrolment instructions by January 31, contact OTIP Benefits Services at 1-866-783-6847.
Prepare in Advance
If you are an eligible member in a Wave 2 board, here is what you can do to ensure a successful transition for yourself come February 1. 1. Check the contact information your school board has on file for you and make sure it is up-to-date and accurate. Important material such as your
benefits card and other communications
4. Continue to submit your eligible expenses to your current plan for any claims incurred prior to February 1, 2017.
There is no need to change your approach to accessing your health and dental coverage, i.e. you do not need to “use up” all your existing benefits before January 31. Continue to access your health and dental coverage as normal. However, if you have prescription renewals to be filled around February 1, you may not want to leave those to the last
IF YOU HAVE QUESTIONS, CONTACT email@example.com
| DECEMBER 2016
minute, just in case there is a delay in you completing your enrolment and receiving your new benefits card. Check directly with your current insurer or school board benefit administrator to confirm how long you have to claim eligible expenses under your current benefits plan, and submit your claims as soon as possible. Common Questions
How do I know if I am eligible? Eligible members include all full- or part-time members employed by a Catholic school board, members teaching in long-term occasional assignments, and continuing education teachers. (Daily occasional teachers are not eligible at this time.) A more detailed list of questions on eligibility can be found at catholicteachers.ca in the Members’ Area under Benefits and Leave Provisions. How is my benefits coverage changing? Your welcome package will include the OECTA Benefits Plan Guide booklet, which outlines health, dental, and life insurance coverage provided in the plan. There will be a number of exceptions for eligible members in boards where some current provision are being grandfathered into the new plan. Check with your local to see if there are any exceptions that apply to you. How is a spouse defined under the new plan? The member’s legal spouse, or the person who has, for at least one year, been continuously living with the member in a role like that of a marriage partner.
PHOTO: @ Rawpixel / Shutterstock.com
The Provincial Benefits Plan launched on November 1, 2016!
PROTECTING STUDENTS, PROTECTING TEACHERS Bill 37 and the Ontario College of Teachers By Mark Tagliaferri
On October 18, MPP Lisa Thompson rose on the floor of the Legislature, and began reading newspaper headlines: “Teacher Charged with Sex-Related Offences Involving a Student;” “‘She Would Stalk Me’: Ottawa Teacher’s Aide Pleads Guilty to Sexually Assaulting Male Student for Years;” “Windsor Elementary Teacher Charged with Sexual Assault.” In her speech, the representative from Huron-Bruce urged the government to pass the newly (re)introduced Bill 37, the Protecting Students Act, which would make changes to the governing processes of the Ontario College of Teachers (OCT). On November 15, Bill 37 passed third reading, and will now be signed into law. We know that the overwhelming majority of teachers will never have any interaction with OCT, and only the tiniest proportion of those who do will face the sort of allegations that Ms. Thompson described. Unfortunately, we also know that many people read these headlines with morbid fascination. It’s important to remember that, although sordid and inflammatory headlines sell newspapers, they also contribute to the misperception that “bad teachers” are pervasive. Some of these mistruths motivated debate around the Protecting Students Act. Changes to the Ontario College of Teachers Act were a long time in the making. In 2011, the Toronto Star published a series of articles, which suggested that the College “may be too prone to shield errant teachers.” In response, the government commissioned the Honorable Justice Patrick LeSage to review the College’s investigation and discipline practices, and “consider whether they protect the public interest.” The resulting report identified two organizing principles, efficiency and transparency, which LeSage felt must govern the College’s actions, as he outlined 49 procedural and legislative recommendations that could enhance the College’s operations. More than four years have passed since the LeSage report was published, during which the College has taken steps to adopt more than half of the report’s recommendations. Much of Bill 37 was uncontroversial, and either addressed outstanding recommendations from the LeSage report, or formalized various customs and conventions that OCT had already adopted. There is unanimous agreement that protecting students is critical to the viability of Ontario’s education system. One of the more talked about additions is a stipulation that now sees automatic revocation of any member’s teaching certificate if that member is convicted of abuse or child pornography. The law also explicitly articulates timelines for the investigation and consideration of complaints, in the hopes to decrease the sometimes-years long wait period for a complaint to be heard. After all, justice delayed is justice denied.
However, the soon-to-be law is not without its complications. LeSage himself recognized that the issue is fraught, and described several of the legal and philosophical “conundrums” that emerged in the attempt to find the delicate balance between serving the public interest and protecting citizens’ rights. Unfortunately, several of these “conundrums” were not resolved. First, the new law will greatly expand the Registry, and will now include a link to the Notice of Hearing. The problem here is that the Notice of Hearing contains detailed and specific allegations against a member. Publishing these details prior to any finding of guilt or innocence will potentially cause great harm to a teacher’s reputation. In an age where speculation can ruin careers, expanding the registry in this way exceeds any potential benefit to serving the public interest and, in effect, prosecutes teachers in the public square, regardless of that teacher’s guilt or innocence. There are also several procedural issues. Despite several proposed amendments, which were rejected, the new law leaves open the possibility of the College serving as a duplicative adjudicator. Specifically around employer reports, the bill’s language potentially allows a board investigation to occur simultaneously with an OCT investigation. This is not due process. We were clear in our communication with the government: the school board is the employer, and should be allowed to complete its investigation and render its findings before the matter is taken up by the College. More troubling still is that the law will not mandate that complaints be made on “reasonable grounds.” As a result, teachers might be left exposed to having complaints lodged against them based entirely on hearsay or unsubstantiated accusations. This is patently unfair. We felt that there should be “reasonable grounds” to initiate a complaint, and that the College should require proper documentation before accepting a complaint, to ensure the complaint’s legitimacy. The Association carefully considered Bill 37, and presented the government with a legislative brief that outlines our analysis, as well as a list of proposed amendments. The brief is available on our website. We will continue to advocate for the idea that all of the College’s proceedings uphold the principles of natural justice. Teachers – like all other citizens – deserve due process and the presumption of innocence. Of course, protecting students is of paramount importance to every teacher in Ontario, but this should not come at the expense of teachers’ rights. Mark Tagliaferri is Writer/Researcher in the Communications and Government Relations departments at the OECTA Provincial Office.
DECEMBER 2016 |
THE FINANCIAL WELL-BEING OF YOUR ASSOCIATION By Marshall Jarvis
The Association’s financial situation could become dire if it is not addressed adequately and responsibly by delegates at the upcoming Annual General Meeting (AGM).
mechanism to deal with inflation, we have had to cut back or juggle money in order to balance our budget. This way of doing business is no longer viable.
Just as your Provincial Office prides itself on providing superior service to members, our members have always taken pride in having the lowest fee of any teacher association in Ontario. But the reality is that we have come to a point where we simply do not have enough resources available to meet member needs, and our finances are in a deficit situation as a result.
The financial realities of the Provincial Office are further impacted by the automatic fee return to local units, which has increased to 46 per cent in recent years. The local return funds release officer positions, additional sponsored delegates at provincial events, conference funding for local members, and operational costs of local unit offices, among the many other local services. This fee return is in addition to any local levies units may charge their members. At the end of the day, this means that the Provincial Office only realizes 54 per cent of dues.
Over the years, we have worked tirelessly on your behalf. Long hours have been spent at bargaining tables, negotiating fair and equitable salary increases and staving off contract strips. Since 2002, this has resulted in an average salary increase of $23,589 based on an A4-max salary. We are very proud of these achievements and will do our best to ensure that our members continue to be recognized for the important work that they do – both financially and professionally. But while teacher salaries have increased on average by more than 25 per cent, OECTA’s fee has seen minor increases by comparison. During this same period of time, the fee increased by only 17 per cent, CPI increased by 27.4 per cent in Ontario, and so did our cost of doing business. With no built-in HOW IS OUR MONEY SPENT?
Next to the unit rebate, the largest contingency of funds is allocated to fund staff budget lines. It is the professional and administrative staff at the Provincial Office who ensure the everyday workings of our organization in all areas from bargaining and contract services to counselling and member services, professional development, communications, and government relations. These are the individuals who assist members in dire need; manage Children’s Aid Society complaints; negotiate contracts both provincially and locally; represent members at grievances and arbitrations, and in College of Teachers’ complaints; develop professional workshops; guide beginning teachers and teachers nearing retirement on all matters from the New Teacher Induction Program (NTIP) to pension; liaise with government officials and the Ministry of Education; develop and produce high quality publications to assist and engage members; and the list goes on. OECTA Provincial Office staff manage these numerous portfolios despite having a smaller staff-to -member ratio than any of the officer teacher unions in the province.
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For instance, in 2015-16, the Provincial Office received $483.90 of every $1,000 following the rebate to local units, transfers to the Reserve Fund, and other mandatory allocations prescribed by the Handbook. Back in 2006-07, the net monies available to the Provincial Office were $523.43 of every $950. Effectively, there is less money available at the provincial level now than there was 10 years ago. OECTA’s fee at-a-glance
a a a
2004-2005 to 2014-2015
2001-2002 2002-2003 2003-2004
Why the deficit?
The deficit is a product of the cumulative impact of not having a fee increase for a decade. As a result, the Association has been in a deficit position since 2012, due to insufficient funding of the General Fund and a decrease in actual revenue resulting from a decline in membership. Despite a reduction in spending by the Provincial Office, the General Fund has a deficit of $913,000, according to the audited financial statements from the 201516 fiscal year. This deficit must be addressed through monies
in the General Fund, which means we either need an increase in revenue to the General Fund or a decrease in expenditures from the General Fund. Already, this past June, the Council of Presidents had to make difficult budgetary cuts that affected member programs like the Beginning Teachers Conference, the Leadership Training Program, and Professional Development Workshops, while trying to maintain services to those in need.
General Fund Allocations 2015-2016
Cutting services and benefits has bought us a year on the books, but it’s not sustainable. It punctures the fabric of who we are and makes it difficult to move forward in a positive direction, especially at a time when Catholic education is under threat. Quite simply, it is unrealistic to think that expenditures can be reduced any further without significantly impacting core service to members.
$1,000.00 base member fee
How does our fee stack up to others?
Unlike OECTA, where every full-time member pays the same flat fee, our affiliates all have percentage-based fees that are reflective of an individual member’s income. Members of the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO) pay 1.4 per cent of their annual salary (with a special levy of 0.2 per cent when their defence fund falls below $150 million); members of the Ontario Secondary Schools Teachers’ Federation (OSSTF) pay 1.6 per cent of their annual salary (0.3 per cent is automatically dedicated to their strike fund); and members of l’Association des enseignantes et des enseignants franco-ontarien (AEFO) pay 2.1 per cent (with an automatic transfer of 0.4 per cent of earnings dedicated to their solidarity fund). Based on the current A4-max salary, this means that our affiliates pay $1,340, $1,531 and $2,010 respectively. What does the Association need from you?
RETURN TO UNITS ............ 46% or $460.00
The financial concerns of your Association may come as a surprise to you, but that’s because we have done everything in our power to protect members from feeling the impact. We have drained all “rainy day” funds in order to uphold the level of service and benefit to members we’ve established over the years.
OTHER AFFILIATE TRANSFERS AND MEMBERSHIPS .................... 9.2% or $92.00
At last year’s AGM, delegates made the decision to not adequately fund the operating costs of the Association. We cannot survive down this path any longer.
RESERVE FUND ..................... 5% or $50.00
As members of this Association and representatives of Catholic education in Ontario, we are asking that you support a fee increase at the upcoming AGM, so that we can continue to put members first. For far too long, the Association has been trying to make its financial needs and goals align with limited monies available. It’s time that our fee reflects the values and goals of the Catholic teachers in Ontario. Marshall Jarvis is General Secretary at the OECTA Provincial Office.
STAFFING ....................... 21.6% or $216.00
PROVINCIAL OPERATIONS .................. 18.2% or $182.00 (AGM, COP, WORKSHOPS, PUBLICATIONS, OFFICE EXPENSES, ETC.)
* All numbers taken from Audited Financial Statements, June 30, 2016.
In addition to the base fee members also pay a variable fee of 0.25% of salary, which is broken out as follows:
. 0.12% to Member Protection Fund . 0.13% to Reserve Fund
DECEMBER 2016 |
EDUCATING THE WHOLE Ministry of Education moving quickly to develop well-being strategy By Adam Lemieux
Teachers have long recognized how well-being impacts the school environment, teachers’ working conditions, and student success. We know that children and adolescents are more likely to experience mental health or addiction disorders than any other age group, but they are less likely than adults to receive adequate care. We are also well aware of how issues related to self-identity, self-esteem, bullying, and test-related stress can create significant barriers to learning and achievement. Just as important is the well-being of teachers and other staff. Especially over the past few years, we have consistently heard from teachers across the province about how they are grappling with things like workload, large class sizes, violence in the classroom, and the professional drive to meet the diverse needs of students. It is good to know that the Ministry of Education has been listening. In Achieving Excellence: A Renewed Vision for Education in Ontario, which was released in 2014, well-being was identified as one of the interconnected pillars that will support a thriving 21st-century education system. Last year, the ministry released Ontario’s Well-Being Strategy for Education Discussion Document. Defining well-being as “that positive sense of self, spirit and belonging that we feel when our cognitive, emotional, social and physical needs are met,” the document states that supporting well-being is essential for fostering healthy, active, and engaged citizens. The concept has been broken down into four main components: equity and inclusive education; safe and accepting schools; healthy schools; and positive mental health. Following the release of the discussion document, the ministry has been holding meetings with experts and stakeholders, and has also organized provincial and regional engagements sessions, guided by a new paper titled Well-being in Our Schools, Strength in Our Society. Broad approach
Catholic teachers have always worked to develop the whole child, and we have been actively involved in the engagement process around the provincial well-being strategy. We have stressed the need for a rigorous program of early identification and support for vulnerable students, as well as increased co-ordination between the Ministry of Education and other ministries, which will provide better access to much-needed professional services. We have also encouraged the ministry to keep in mind the effective solutions already in place, which
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could be reinforced or expanded. For example, to help teachers identify and address mental health problems, enhanced and sustained professional development must be a major component of any strategy; some funding and opportunities have been provided over the past few years, but this needs to be a determined, ongoing effort. And we have been very clear that the strategy must pay close attention to the well-being of teachers and staff. The personal and professional challenges faced by teachers are real, and should be addressed in much more proactive and constructive ways than through punitive and demeaning attendance management programs. While a well-being strategy for education is vital, we must not lose sight of broader societal factors that can seriously affect well-being inside and outside of the classroom. For example, poverty is known to be related to poor nutrition and limited opportunities for cognitive and social development, and parents who work precarious jobs often find it difficult to integrate their families in the community. Harmful forms of discrimination based
You can join the conversation about well-being. www.edu.gov.on.ca/eng/about/wellbeing2.html
to access the discussion and engagement documents.
More than numbers
Although the discussion and engagement papers acknowledge that well-being is intangible and multifaceted, the Ministry of Education maintains a firm belief that measurement “will provide the system, boards, schools and educators with indicators of how our students are doing beyond literacy and numeracy.” It is notable that one of the three themes in the engagement paper is entirely focused on measures of well-being. We are wary of a strategy that is overly concerned with data collection, and we are particularly disconcerted that the Education Quality and Accountability Office (EQAO) has been involved in consultations with ministry staff and other stakeholders
on developing a “well-being construct,” which EQAO will then seek to measure. Through the Ontario Teachers’ Federation, our Association and the other teachers’ affiliates have argued that limiting our conceptualization of well-being to a few indicators is overly reductionist and simplistic, and that other groups and methods, such as teachers’ observations and existing school climate surveys, are much better for examining well-being in all its complexity. Moreover, teachers know the stress and anxiety that is caused by standardized testing, especially among younger students. It is paradoxical, to put it mildly, that the organization directly responsible for threatening students’ comfort and mental health would consider itself the appropriate body to measure well-being. The recent debacle with the online Ontario Secondary School Literacy Test is just one more example of EQAO doing more harm than good when it comes to wellness in our schools. Any serious effort to foster widespread, sustained well-being in our schools would seek to limit or eliminate the influence of EQAO, not expand it. Be well
Explicitly promoting wellness is something we can all embrace. The Association will continue to work with the government and others in the education sector to shape the system-wide approach, and to discourage the focus on measurement. In the meantime, we will continue doing what we can to foster well-being. Teachers have always been in the best position to recognize emerging problems and mitigate the effects on learning, and the Association provides a wide range of supports to help teachers deal with professional and personal struggles. The most effective path to well-being in our schools is not through shiny documents or stuffy meetings, but in the day-today work of understanding and assisting one another.
Adam Lemieux is Communications Specialist in the Communications department at the OECTA Provincial Office.
DECEMBER 2016 |
PHOTO: @ 2xSamara / Shutterstock.com
on gender, ethnicity, and sexual orientation also persist. Any comprehensive approach must consider how these external factors influence well-being at school, and concede that until these problems are tackled, our students and teachers will not be able to reach their full potential.
BUILDING A BETTER FUTURE OECTA’s Educational Aid grants in action By Mark Tagliaferri
Our Association plays a multifaceted role in modern society. We are a labour organization. We are advocates of a strong, publicly funded education system. And we are promoters of Catholic values. Undergirding all of these roles is a strong and steadfast commitment to social justice. As Peter C. Murrell Jr. once said, “Education is the practice of assisting people to find agency in, and responsibility for, the struggle for freedom.” Catholic teachers take this message to heart. As Catholic teachers, we have the capacity to build a society, at home and abroad, in which everyone has genuine opportunities to participate and succeed. That said, we know that achieving this goal requires shifts in attitudes and bold investments in infrastructure and public services. One initiative aimed at realizing this social justice objective is the Association’s Educational Aid Grants program. The program’s purpose is to improve educational opportunities, and assist in the organization and implementation of social justice programs in underdeveloped areas, in Canada and throughout the world. Providing roughly $250,000 per year, either in one-time or multi-year funding, the Educational Aid Grants program covers a range of projects, which can include:
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• The purchase or development of educational materials. • The purchase or development of teacher training and curriculum materials. • The development/production/purchase of union educational materials, professional materials, and organizational materials. • The purchase of basic needs for children, women, and families, such as medical supplies, shelter, clothing, food, and water. • The purchase of building and/or construction materials for hospitals, schools, water treatment centres, orphanages, libraries, day care centers, hospices, and/or the infrastructure requirements of a project that supports women’s issues, teachers’ unions and union activities, the purchase of materials/food/medical supplies, or the purchase of goods/materials that raise the subsistence level of the population. The projects that receive funding from the Educational Aid Grants program are a testament to Catholic teachers’ commitment to social justice. For instance, St. Michael and Father Michael Goetz high schools, both of Dufferin-Peel, teamed up to send seven teachers and 14 students to the Dominican Republic. Partnering with Sister Maude Rhenau of the Congregacion Hijas de Maria (Daughters of Mary), the group worked to set up kitchens for families in needy communities. With the Ed Aid grant, they were able to purchase things such as stoves and cookware. The group also brought with them both a culinary teacher and an art teacher; the culinary teacher offered classes for local citizens to learn about food
HAVE AN IDEA FOR A PROJECT? Learn more about making a funding request at catholicteachers.ca in the For Your Career section.
preparation and nutrition, while the art teacher worked with the Canadian and local students to create a mural commemorating the experience and honouring the relationship. In another effort, St. Thomas Aquinas Secondary School participated in its seventh annual Solidarity Trip. Twelve students and four Catholic teachers travelled to Kep, Cambodia, to work alongside community members to help create better irrigation systems to allow for a higher yield of crops. With crops in this region often being adversely affected by the local climate, the group’s efforts helped to alleviate food security problems. This work not only benefitted local families, but also helped the various school lunch programs at the elementary school in the area. These are only two of the many projects funded by the Ed Aid grants. These programs have a direct benefit on the communities in which they operate; at the same time, they benefit student participants, who gain a global perspective on social justice issues, and come to understand how they can make a positive impact, locally and globally. One of the more impressive features of the program is that travel funds are raised by the students and school communities themselves – giving students an added sense of ownership in these important social justice causes. If life is the test, then the Catholic teachers and their students who have taken advantage of this program are passing with flying colours.
Mark Tagliaferri is Writer/Researcher in the Communications and Government Relations departments at the OECTA Provincial Office.
By Shannon Hogan
I am often reminded of a scene in the last part of the film “Jesus of Nazareth,” when the Roman centurions who crucified Jesus enter the empty tomb. Upon seeing the white burial cloths strewn about, and the body of Jesus no longer there, one of the centurions stares at the sight and says, quite prophetically, “Now it begins.” At the end of the experience of major life events – a wedding or funeral, for example – when everyone goes home and all the food is gone, it begins: the real work of loving, of healing, of living. So it is with the close of the Jubilee Year of Mercy. It ends on the feast of the Solemnity of Christ the King. Upon this closing, we enter the season of Advent. After a year of contemplation on the beatitude of mercy, we are invited to enter the season of Advent as contemplatives in action, to live as fully as we are able, mindful of the unconditional mercy that God affords us every minute of every day, whether we feel it or not, believe it or not. The image chosen by Pope Francis I for all publications related to the Jubilee Year is of the father embracing the prodigal son. The point that the Pope emphasizes through this parable is not that the son who has abandoned his family and squandered his inheritance is returning home to beg for forgiveness. Instead, the focus is on the father who, seeing his son a very long way off, calls for a feast to welcome him home. The father has not yet heard the son’s voice, nor held him in his arms. He forgives his son before the son can ask for forgiveness, before he has a chance to repent. It is this kind of unconditional mercy, without qualifications or strings attached, which Pope Francis sees as the centre of God’s love.
This mercy, in its essence, is at the heart of what makes Christianity utterly countercultural. As a model for our life we hold up a crucified Christ, who, while dying on a cross, forgave those who were inflicting unbearable pain on the physical body. None of the centurions asked for Christ’s forgiveness. None could see why they would need mercy. It was given freely, it was given anyway, without conditions or limitations. In a world consumed with all interpretations of justice, and its infliction on “the other,” the Jubilee Year of Mercy has invited us to consider an alternative to this dominant cultural narrative, and to return to the roots of our faith, found in the radical belief that absolutely no one is beyond the mercy of God, ever. As Portia states in her famous speech on mercy in Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice: “It is an attribute to God himself and earthly power doth then show likest God’s when mercy seasons justice consider this – that in the course of justice none of us would see salvation. We do pray for mercy, and that same prayer doth teach us all to render the deeds of mercy.” As the Jubilee Year of Mercy ends, and the miracle of the Incarnation draws near to us again, the true works of mercy and the living out of the unconditional love of God call out to all the faithful to bring them to fulfillment in our time. Now it begins. Shannon Hogan is a member of the Counselling and Member Services department at the OECTA Provincial Office.
DECEMBER 2016 |
DEVELOPING YOUR PRACTICE, PIECE BY PIECE By Claire Laughlin
We teach our students the value of lifelong learning, and it’s important that we live these values by continuously developing ourselves as individuals and professionals. The Association strives to help you in this process. Two years ago, we applied to the Ontario College of Teachers to become accredited to offer a number of Additional Qualification (AQ) courses as modules. Modules are full AQ courses, broken down into five segments. Breaking them down enables teachers to pursue professional learning while managing the time commitment and cost. Most of our modules run for 20 hours, during one half of an AQ session, and cost only $120. There are many benefits to enrolling in OECTA’s AQ modules. These modules provide teachers with new and current ideas, which can be applied immediately in the classroom setting. This commitment to remaining current allows teachers to respond to the challenges of today’s classrooms, and can contribute to enhancing their approach to education. AQ modules also let teachers drill down on particular areas, in ways that simply aren’t possible in full AQ courses. In this sense, modules can serve as building blocks that can ultimately lead you to a full AQ accreditation in a particular field of interest. OECTA’s online AQ courses and modules instruct theory and revise practice in a variety of formats. Tasks are relevant to the subject area, and to you. If you choose to take a module for professional learning, and not for AQ accreditation,
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completing assignments is optional. However, assignments are grounded in the course and the subject, and instructors will give feedback to enhance your practice. Modules are an innovative answer for all teachers who want to engage in professional learning. The number of module-based courses that we offer continues to grow, and now includes areas such as Combined Grades and Primary/Junior Math.
Currently, the following courses are available in a modular format: ICT Part 1 Mathematics Primary/Junior Part 1 (including a $90 Ministry subsidy) Reading Part 1
Claire Laughlin is a member of the Professional Development department at the OECTA Provincial Office.
e ies ar d i s b u ! S ilable a v a now
Religious Education in Catholic Schools Part 2 Student Assessment and Evaluation Teaching Combined Grades Teaching Students with Communication Needs (Autism Spectrum Disorders)
Go to catholicteachers.ca under the For Your Career tab to access all of the information about OECTA AQ courses and Modules and to enrol.
MEDICAL CARE AND STUDENTS – WHO’S RESPONSIBLE? By Joe Pece
Some students may require some form of medical care in order to fully participate in school. When it comes to ensuring the health and well-being of these students, everyone has a role to play. Duty of care
Teachers, along with other school staff and administration, as well as board staff, have a “duty of care,” which is a legal obligation to protect students from reasonably foreseeable risks of injury or harm. All can be held liable if they fail to meet this duty. The liability comes in acting without proper care, which can be a result of action or inaction, depending on the circumstances. In the case of a student who needs medication, for example, ensuring that the student receives the medication falls under this duty of care.
Emergency situations are different. In an emergency situation, the requirement to provide reasonable safety procedures is a legal requirement for teachers. Regulation 298 of the Education Act requires teachers to ensure that all reasonable safety procedures are carried out in courses and activities for which the teacher is responsible.
School administration and the student’s teacher share the responsibility in different ways. If a student requires medical care in order to attend school, the principal must ensure that the required medical care is available and that appropriate procedures are put in place. Teachers, however, are required to ensure that the procedures put in place are adhered to, and that reasonable steps are taken to ensure the safety of students under their charge. The “standard of care,” or the degree of prudence or caution required, is that of a careful or prudent parent, and also would vary depending on the circumstances.
Furthermore, in 2006, Sabrina’s Law, An Act to Protect Anaphylactic Pupils, made teachers responsible for the administration of an Epi-pen if a student is experiencing a severe allergic reaction. A teacher might be the subject of a criminal investigation if the failure or refusal to administer an Epi-pen is considered criminally negligent, or amounts to a failure to provide the necessities of life. Collective agreements may have provisions limiting a member’s responsibility for performing medical procedures of any sort, but in an emergency situation the member may have to administer the Epi-pen because of the life threatening nature of anaphylaxis. Also, since 2015, Ryan’s Law has required all school boards to have an asthma policy in place to support students with asthma. In response to an emergency situation, teachers should use their professional judgment to determine the best course of action, be it calling 911, calling the office, administering an Epi-pen, or contacting the designated first aid provider in the school.
Routine medical care
Proceed with prudence
Some students may require regular medical care, such as medication that needs to be administered throughout the day, or assistance with feeding or toileting, etc. Teachers are trained to teach, deliver curriculum, and assess and evaluate student learning – they are not trained health care providers. As such, the Association has made it very clear that teachers should not be required to dispense medication to their students or undertake activities that fall in the realm of medical care. This is even stipulated in some local collective agreements. Indeed, it is the job of school administration to establish procedures to meet the needs of these students that do not rely primarily on the classroom teacher. However, these procedures are to be communicated to the classroom teacher, so they are aware of how that student is going to receive their medical care. For example, consider a student who needs to get an insulin shot each day. There should be a procedure established and in place that allows the student to receive their shot. While the classroom teacher is not responsible for administering the medication, they are responsible for a standard of care of their student, and if they know that the student has not received their medication, they are to take steps to make sure the procedure is undertaken. This would entail flagging the issue for administration, as opposed to administering the medication themselves.
Should administration request that you administer medication or any medical procedures, you should respectfully decline. If an administrator is directing you, ask for the direction in writing and contact your local OECTA unit office or the OECTA Provincial Office. The Association can provide advice and direction depending on the particular situation and the local circumstances. There are several local collective agreements clearly stipulating that no teacher shall be required to carry out any medical or physical procedures on students, such as feeding or toileting. But regardless of whether this language is in your local collective agreement, you are counselled not to perform these types of activities on your students. In addition to the liability issues already discussed, the physical contact required to provide these types of medical and physical procedures can put teachers at risk of allegations of inappropriate touching and/or lead to charges of professional misconduct at the Ontario College of Teachers. Joe Pece is Department Head in the Counselling and Member Services department at the OECTA Provincial Office.
DECEMBER 2016 |
TWO STEPS FORWARD, ONE STEP BACK By Charlene Theodore
Across the country, and around the globe, there have been significant developments in the world of work. Union and non-union workers, as well as worker-advocates, have made headway but also suffered a few setbacks in the global fight to attain fair working conditions for all. Here’s a rundown of developments in several jurisdictions…
On October 17, the government launched a federal panel on youth unemployment. The panel is chaired by Vass Bednar, a director at the Martin Prosperity Institute and a former senior policy adviser to the Ontario Liberal Party. Canada’s youth unemployment rate is twice the national average for the working age population as a whole, and the panel is tasked with advising the government on how best to help young people who are entering the job market. The panel’s work will impact our overall economy, as it will shed light on the future of economic indicators, such as the housing market. The panel is expected to complete its work by next March. Given the cold reception Prime Minister Trudeau received at the Canadian Labour Congress Youth Forum in October, many believe that the report is long overdue.
The sharing economy is here to stay, and it will be interesting to see how this interacts with the union movement. In the UK, the Central London Employment Tribunal ruled that Uber drivers are not self-employed, but rather are employees of the California-based company. The result of this ruling is that Britain’s 40,000 drivers are now entitled to a minimum wage, sick days, vacation, and related labour protections. Uber has reported that it will appeal the decision. No matter the jurisdiction, each case against Uber impacts the way the sharing economy develops.
The provincial government and union leaders have been at odds for months over a proposed amendment to the province’s labour relations legislation. Bill 7 was brought forward with a promise to end “forced unionization.” However, the proposed changes seem to strike at the heart of some fundamental collective bargaining principles. The bill would change the organizing process, in that it would mandate a secret ballot vote for every organizing drive, regardless of the number of cards signed. The existing process allows for automatic certification when 65 per cent of workers sign union cards. UNIFOR and other unions have mobilized against the legislation. Charlene Theodore is in-house Legal Counsel at the OECTA Provincial Office.
ILLUSTRATION: @ isaxar / Shutterstock.com
‘TIS THE SEASON FOR GRATITUDE By Michelle Despault
It’s hard not to notice the prominent role that gift-giving and generosity play in the holiday season, and I don’t just mean the consumerism on steroids that is the Christmas shopping epidemic. Whether it be a local toy drive for children, or purchasing goats for families in developing countries, charities and causes around the world do significantly better at Christmas time, and have come to depend on this generosity to help fund their operations all year round. There is also a greater generosity of spirit in ordinary encounters among friends and strangers alike. But giving and generosity are only one side of the coin. The corollary to giving and generosity is receiving and gratitude. Christmas truly is a time to celebrate both what has been given to us, and our receipt of that gift. If you’re giving, someone is receiving, and vice-versa. When we are not being generous and grateful in our receiving we are robbing the giver of the joy they get in giving. So many of us are very thoughtful in our giving and will take time to search for the “perfect” gift. And nothing gives us greater joy than knowing that our gift is truly appreciated. During the holidays it can sometimes be hard to stay present to the gratitude side of the equation, especially when we are bombarded with messages such as “it’s better to give than to receive,” or when we are busy planning parties, hosting relatives in our home, cooking and/or baking up a storm, and desperately searching for a perfect gift along with a thousand other people in a store that feels like the size of an elevator. At Christmas – or anytime – undertaking a practice of gratitude can be an effective way to turn around our feelings or reactions to situations, and to expand our capacity for love, understanding, and connection with others. If we are feeling grateful, we can’t also be angry or upset at the same time. When you are present to what is good in your life, feelings of anger and resentment naturally dissipate. Gratitude is also a key factor in bringing abundance into our lives. As Michael Bernard said, “Nothing
“It is not happy people who are thankful. It is thankful people who are happy.”
“If the only prayer you said in life was Thank You, that would be enough.” Meister Eckhart new can come into your life unless you are grateful for what you already have.” Be grateful for that parking spot at the mall, even if it is a mile away from the entrance. Be thankful for the five Christmas cakes (and counting) you have received, even if you aren’t likely to eat them. Be grateful for your ability to have a wonderful dinner with your family, even if they argue and bicker the entire night. Practicing gratitude can be especially powerful when we are dealing with challenging people or tragic circumstances in our lives. Being in gratitude can help put us back in the driver’s seat of our feelings and emotions, as opposed to being in reaction to circumstances and events. I am very fond of this quote from Pastor John Ortberg, who says, “Gratitude is the ability to experience life as a gift. It liberates us from the prison of selfpreoccupation.” Truly being in gratitude means being thankful for every experience, person, and situation – good or bad – in our lives. It means acknowledging and understanding that even challenging circumstances offer us the opportunity to grow in discovery of ourselves and others. A great way to build the muscle of gratitude is through a daily practice. You can keep a journal and each morning write down 10 things you are grateful for, or before bed think of five things from the day that made you feel grateful. Try putting a jar beside your bed and fill it each day with colourful notes of what you’re grateful for, and watch it grow until it overflows. Or post a message on social media announcing what you are grateful for that day. There are lots of ideas out there on how you can practice gratitude, and there is no right or wrong way. The point is to start making gratitude a consistent and intentional undertaking in your life. How you practice gratitude is less important than whether it is undertaken with intentionality, and whether there is a heart-felt experience that goes along with it. Giving thanks is the most common expression of gratitude. But there is a difference between giving a perfunctory “thank you” to the person who held the door open for you this morning because it was the polite thing to do, and truly being grateful that someone took a moment to help and acknowledge you by holding the door open, whether you were in need or not. Michelle Despault is Director in the Communications department at the OECTA Provincial Office.
DECEMBER 2016 |
FILLING THEIR BAG OF TRICKS! By Claire Laughlin
As an experienced teacher, there is nothing more professionally rejuvenating than interacting with beginning teachers. In my role in the Professional Development department, I act as the staff resource to the Beginning Teacher Committee, which generates ideas for the Beginning Teachers Conference; this allows me to interact with the many delegates who attend. These meetings are among the highlights of my year. More than 200 teachers in their first five years on the job enthusiastically gathered for this year’s conference, with the theme of “Fill Your Own Bag of Tricks.” Elementary, secondary, and occasional teacher delegates, representing all Catholic school boards in Ontario, attended plenaries to examine the provisions of a collective agreement, discuss maintaining professional boundaries in the conduct of their duties, and learn about the teachers’ pension plan. A wide range of workshops were
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also offered, focusing on key themes like Catholicity, as well as Ministry of Education priorities, such as math and technology. Single session topics on visual arts, movement, FSL, classroom management, violence in the classroom, and many more rounded out the conference agenda. In addition to providing opportunities for professional development, the conference is also meant to introduce delegates to the many ways our Association supports teachers, including beginning teachers who are just starting their careers. If you attended this year, or have in the past, this may have been your first interaction with your union. Use it as a catalyst to keep going. As a first step, make sure you let your unit president know that you enjoyed the conference. Act as an advocate to ensure that we are able to continue running the conference for many years to come, for the benefit of future generations of beginning teachers. After that, act as a staff representative, or pair with someone who is doing the role currently, to contribute a beginning
teacher’s perspective to unit newsletters. You could also join a local or provincial committee. Never doubt your value. OECTA is counting on you to actively take a next step. Our strength lies in the potential of each of our members to get involved. Beginning Teachers are the future of the Association, so get started wherever you can. Believe me, it will be rewarding for you to look back on your career, both as a teacher and as an actively involved member of your Association. You cannot imagine where this can lead you. It led me to meet many new teachers, and it doesn’t get much better than that!
Claire Laughlin is a member of the Professional Development department at the OECTA Provincial Office.
ONE SIMPLE TOOL FOR CLASS TOMORROW By Anthony Carabache
The rhetoric that pervades our classrooms about “21st century learning” has become a curriculum unto itself. Onward and upward into a framework that is born out of trend, material desire, and stealthy marketing, while the true essence of teaching is often forgotten. In the end, it really doesn’t matter what technology you use in the classroom as long as it works, works efficiently, and works fast. Consider that the new WWW. Below you will find an example of a tool that works, works efficiently, and works fast. It is effective when working with students of all ages to facilitate communication, critical thinking, and collaboration. Introducing TodaysMeet.com
TodaysMeet.com is the perfect tool to teach students, from Grade 3 and up, about the basics of social media. I recommend reading their privacy statement, which is written in plain English. The beauty of this tool is that it requires no login to use. What is TodaysMeet.com?
TodaysMeet.com is a chat tool that allows for a conversation during class, note-taking, and/or questions and answers about a lesson. It looks and feels like most social media sites and allows students and teachers to post questions, resources, or any other thoughtful contribution to lessons learned in class. It can run in the background of the lecture portion or be used as a live poll for students. What are some of its features?
1. A teacher can open a chat room for one hour, two hours, eight
hours, one day, one week, one month, or one year. When trying something new, it’s good to know that if anything goes wrong, the room will close in a very short time. This allows you to reflect on the experience without exposure to the World Wide Web.
2. The room tools allow you to save and print a transcript of the chat that can serve one of two purposes: to provide documentation of learning, or to provide evidence of misuse. The ability to print a transcript allows you to collect vital information about how students behave, how they process information, and what gaps may be present in their learning. The transcript will also capture the thinking of students who may not always readily participate in class. Finally, the evidence collected can be saved. You can show it to parents, develop a portfolio, and use it to drive your teaching to fill in the gaps. 3. For advanced users, you can embed the chat, present and share too. If you are using a virtual learning environment like BrightSpace (D2L), Blackboard, a blog, Google Sites, or Office 365, you can link the chat or even embed the chat so that users never have to leave their native learning environment.
4. It works on all platforms regardless of browser, operating system, or choice of hardware. It doesn’t matter what device your board provides, TodaysMeet.com works on all. This means that whether you use iOS, Android, Safari, Chrome, or Firefox, it simply works. This translates to a lot less stress for you, the teacher. 5. It extends the conversation beyond class. Sometimes we as adults have our “Aha!” moments long after the conversation. A tool like this allows for later contributions to the conversation and gives the students time to “soak in” the concept you were teaching that day. The tool also allows students who may be out of class to participate, or at least to consume valuable information shared during the lesson. RECOMMENDED TIPS 1. Post rules about online conduct first (e.g., be respectful,
stay on topic, no slang, etc.). 2. Anonymity is not allowed. Insist that students join the chat with first name and last initial. If someone signs in inappropriately, suspend their usage of the tool. 3. Avoid permitting the entire class to take part until a culture of online citizenship has been established. Do yourself a favour and start slow. When you first introduce this tool, select a small group of students (3-4) to be the note-takers for the day, the week, or any given class. As weeks pass, consider assigning different students roles as researchers, questioners, and fact-finders. Once a culture of online citizenship has been established, feel free to allow periods when the entire class can use the tool together. 4. Post the Ontario Catholic Graduate Expectation “the Effective Communicator” somewhere at the front, and draw your students’ attention to it often. Anthony Carabache is a member of the Professional Development department at the OECTA Provincial Office.
DECEMBER 2016 |
PEOPLE WORTH WATCHING
TORONTO STAR TEACHER OF THE YEAR Dulce Moreira strives to promote advocacy and faith By Mark Tagliaferri
Dulce Moreira’s tone is almost nonchalant: “I kind of forgot about it over the summer. You know, life happens. Then I got this call out of the blue in late September.” The “call” Moreira is referring to was from the Toronto Star, informing her that she had been selected as Teacher of the Year, after having been nominated by five of her colleagues.
To achieve this, Moreira tries to create situations where students make choices for themselves, and then justify those choices. “If they’re taking a test, I won’t just give them help.” Instead, Dulce makes a range of options available. If a student wants help, they must ask, then choose a type of assistance, and then explain the reasons for their request.
A teacher at St. Nicholas elementary school in Barrie, Moreira is fond of home renovations – maybe not in the physical sense, which requires blood sweat and tears, but rather in a more abstract way. For Dulce, the idea of home renovations provides a useful analogy for how she approaches education.
Along with self-advocacy, Moreira promotes inclusiveness, within the framework of Catholic values. “We need to value the different abilities people have,” she says. “All students should be proud of who they are, and where they come from.” Moreira does much of this in service of her larger objective to create a sense of community within her school.
“When you renovate your home, you have a number of tools at your disposal,” she says. To successfully complete a job, a person needs to choose the best tool for any given situation, and understand why it’s the best tool to get the job done. And then they have to do it. This notion of giving students “tools,” and letting them decide, enables Dulce to put students at the centre of their own learning experience. It allows them to become their own advocates. Self-advocacy is central to how she sees her role in the classroom. The daughter of Portuguese immigrants who worked three jobs, Moreira was often required to take initiative and speak up for herself at a young age, something she now tries to instill into her students. As she puts it: “I try to have students create their own plans to succeed.” Moreira has taught just about everything since joining St. Nicholas in 1998. Currently, she teaches special education, where she feels that the need for promoting self-advocacy is especially important. “I need to prepare these students for high school,” she explains, and “lift the stigma that many students have around special education.”
In addition to her educational role, Moreira serves as one of the school’s two Faith Ambassadors. Part of her duties are formal, and she helps run activities for Catholic Education Week, or board initiatives such as “Celebrating God’s Family.” But Moreira also identifies a more informal role, to act as a “listener for staff who just need to vent.” The goal of creating a loving school community is never far from her mind. Moreira can often be seen putting up photos of staff and students from various events. “Just like families like to keep photo albums or ‘remember when’s,’ our school is a family.” These formal and informal roles allows Dulce to put Catholic values into action, and provide a model for students that the entire community is a family. “We are stronger together,” she says. “We are proud to be Catholic, in Catholic schools.” We all congratulate Dulce on this fantastic achievement, just as we celebrate all teachers who strive to create inclusive and rewarding school communities. Mark Tagliaferri is Writer/Researcher in the Communications and Government Relations departments at the OECTA Provincial Office.
DECEMBER 2016 |
PEOPLE WORTH WATCHING
REMEMBRANCE DAY PROJECT TEACHES STUDENTS LOCAL HISTORY Article courtesy of the Toronto Catholic District School Board
It was a couple of years back when teacher Henrique Da Costa stumbled upon the Poppy Maps of Canada’s Fallen, shared by journalist Patrick Cain (Global TV). Being a bit of a cartographer afficionado himself, he was drawn to the map, recognizing its historical significance as well as an opportunity to bring history to life for his students. So, for the past few years, Henrique has been creating a life-sized display of the poppy file in the front foyer of his school as a dedication to the surrounding neighbourhood’s fallen heroes.
with a newspaper clipping or media piece associated with that particular soldier. For authenticity, Mr. Da Costa also visited various Toronto heritage websites to retrieve old photos from the era in the community. This year, one of his students said she found photos and news articles of the individual she was researching. So, they delved deeper as a class and found the Canadian Veterans Affairs site Canadian Virtual Memorial: http://www.veterans.gc.ca/eng/ remembrance/memorials/canadian-virtual-war-memorial
Henrique Da Costa, pictured back left with his Grade 6 class.
Combining geography, cartography, and historical research, his students went about mapping the war casualties from their own community. His idea behind the display was to bring Remembrance Day to life and help it resonate with students who live in the same neighbourhood. It also creates a connection with the community; to let the students know that people who roamed our streets and lived in homes like ours made the ultimate sacrifice. They created a life-sized map of the neighbourhood, placed a poppy on each address, and had a profile along
This provided the class with an even more in depth look at the neighbourhood’s fallen soldiers. The students really took to it and felt a connection with their particular soldier, their age, their kin, and their experience. It helped put a face to the people who went over to fight for our country. The students really enjoyed this project and felt an obligation to present their soldier in the best way possible. Henrique Da Costa is a Toronto Elementary Unit member who teaches at D’Arcy McGee and St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic elementary schools in Toronto.
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SILENT STORIES By Dan de Souza
It is Christmas, and Christmas, more than any other season, is defined by its stories. The Magi, stories of light, of stars, of Scrooges, of Grinches. The stories we tell define us too. They explain our position in the world. This season is the season above all when people gather to listen to stories, whether in song or in prose, whether told or read. These stories make me think of our stories. What are the stories of teachers? So many of our stories can never be told, or if they can be told, they must be told with care and almost in a whisper. Most of the students have gone home. Some linger in hallways, wishing each other well and “all the best” and “Merry Christmas.” But most have said their goodbyes, “Have a good break sir, Merry Christmas!” The teacher is packing his bag; he has a dinner with friends planned and the Christmas break runs ahead like a smooth, flat, frozen river. She stops him in the hallway as he is heading to his car. She is crying, sobbing. Her brother has been hearing voices. He’s kicking in the walls. He kicked in the fridge. Her parents are at a loss. He stands and listens and ushers her to the side, near the lockers, so that others in the hall cannot hear her. He calls home, quickly arranges a meeting at the school. Their boy’s first break with reality happened in grade 10. He started hearing voices that summer. The teacher listens, even though the hallways of the school have been empty for hours. The family is too embarrassed to talk about it, too afraid. They don’t know where to turn. There are calls made. Arrangements come together and quickly, efficiently, the young man is placed into professional care. He is admitted to a hospital and he begins to get the help he needs.
PHOTO: @ artpritsadee / Shutterstock.com
Later, while others are at home, while others are with friends and family, the teacher struggles with his coat. “I’ll be back soon,” he says as he heads out the door. There is a bag in the car; chocolates, a gift card for Tims, a book. He nods at the nurse as he walks down the corridor, entering the room of a boy who talks to people who are not in the room. The stories of teachers are not always the stories of pageants and choirs, of decorations and class parties. Most times they are not the stories of dramatic rescues or heroic journeys. They are not the stories of the powerful, of the famous, of the rich. Our stories are about children, they are about families. Ultimately, our stories, some of our most important stories, must remain as quiet as a silent night. Dan de Souza is in his last year of teaching at Sacred Heart CHS in Newmarket. He teaches English.
Follow Dan’s final year blog at http://teach1coach1.blogspot.ca and also follow him on Twitter @teach1desouza DECEMBER 2016 |
PEOPLE WORTH WATCHING
CATHOLIC SCHOOLS = SAFE AND ACCEPTING ENVIRONMENTS By Mark Tagliaferri
Fostering a safe, inclusive, and accepting school environment is essential, and every Ontario school is required to have a team dedicated to promoting this objective. In many ways, achieving this environment is a reward unto itself – it ensures that everyone feels welcomed and safe in their school community. That said, it’s always nice to be recognized for your efforts. In this spirit, the Ontario government annually selects several recipients of the Premier’s Awards for Accepting Schools. The award recognizes school teams of students, educators, and parents, acknowledging the teams’ “creativity and leadership in creating positive school environments, and supporting student achievement and well-being.” This year, half of the ten award recipients came from Catholic boards: • Annunciation of Our Lord Catholic Elementary School (Hamilton) • Bishop Tonnos Catholic Secondary School (Ancaster) • St. Anne Catholic High School (Belle River) • St. Francis Xavier Catholic Elementary School (Stoney Creek) • St. Thomas of Villanova Catholic High School (LaSalle) Each recipient has found unique ways to identify and confront various issues of inclusivity, and has improved student wellbeing by promoting creative solutions. For instance, at Annunciation of Our Lord, the school team created weekly “Together Everyone Achieves More (TEAM)” assemblies where, every Monday, the school sets a positive tone by showcasing students’ talents, and celebrating clubs and teams. At Bishop Tonnos, female student leaders organized the “Girls Empowerment Summit” in response to the unique bullying that female students face. Attended by 100 female students, participants discussed topics such as body image, selfconfidence, social media, and peer pressure. Many said they came away feeling inspired, with newfound motivation and strategies to create positive change in their own schools and communities.
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Taking a holistic approach to inclusivity, St. Anne Catholic High School organized “The Saints Soar.” This program was designed to promote “wellness of heart, mind, and body” through various events aimed at fostering physical and spiritual health. At St. Francis Xavier, staff and parents took a leading role in nurturing engagement, by launching a series of community-building events. By organizing spring concerts, theme nights, and a “Breakfast with Santa,” the school team engaged the wider community and, as a result, boosted family participation in school life. The fifth Catholic school award winner, St. Thomas of Villanova, focused its team’s efforts on LGBTQ rights. The school boasts the largest Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) in Essex County, and has become a community and province-wide leader in promoting equality. Students in the St. Thomas GSA have led awareness campaigns, attended national events, and participated in OUTShine conferences in order to promote gender and sexual equality. The school’s achievements have not gone unnoticed; besides being a recipient of the Premier’s Awards for Accepting Schools, St. Thomas was also recently recognized at We Day, in Toronto. Promoting student well-being is a key goal of Ontario’s renewed vision for education. As Education Minister Mitzie Hunter explained, “We know how important safe and accepting environments are in helping students become confident, capable and caring citizens.” Catholic teachers know this too, and have been striving to create school and community environments that are welcoming, safe, and accepting for more than 100 years. Congratulations to all of this year’s recipients of the Premier’s Awards for Accepting Schools. If your school is doing something unique or interesting to create a safe and accepting school environment, we would love to hear about it! Send your stories and ideas to firstname.lastname@example.org. Mark Tagliaferri is Writer/Researcher in the Communications and Government Relations departments at the OECTA Provincial Office.
CATHOLIC TEACHERS, LABOUR LEADERS By Filomena Ferraro
Laughter, tears, animated conversation – and, of course, the shuffling of papers – describe the sounds of people gathering for a meeting of the local labour council. Hundreds of people representing many unions, occupations, religions, and ethnicities gather once a month to confirm their commitment to the house of labour. I gather alongside them. We gather to share and listen to stories of success, as well as stories of struggles faced in the workplace. In doing so, we often refer to ourselves as a “labour family” – a fitting name, since we not only address labour issues, but also often take on broader social justice issues that affect all Canadians. Our common chants are not just words, they are our firmly held beliefs: “the best way to make it fair is to make it union;” “organize, educate, and resist;” “no justice, no peace;” “the best anti-poverty program is a union.” Workers share inspirational stories of their struggles to achieve and maintain their rights in the workplace. As teachers, it can be difficult to relate to issues of pay equity, or employer intimidation, the challenges of organizing a union, or the need to support workers who face termination while on maternity leave. Unfortunately, these are real problems for many workers, in many workplaces, and they may one day affect someone we know, such as our children or grandchildren, or the students we teach. Labour council meetings provide a forum for workers to speak up. As Catholic teachers and unionists, we should take an active role in the fight for social justice. Participation in labour council meetings and events provides us the opportunity to get involved. Hearing about the success of recent organization drives – such as Renaissance
Hotel workers, or personal trainers at Goodlife Fitness centres in Toronto – one can’t help but feel the excitement for all unionists and all workers. Many in the room applaud and hug one another, while others shed tears. It is clear that everyone shares an emotional investment. You leave every meeting motivated to continue the fight for yourself, your union, and the next generation of workers. Labour council meetings also provide a great opportunity for Catholic teachers to share OECTA’s rich history and modern realities with our sisters and brothers. For example, we can talk about the fact that our high schools welcome students of all religions. We can also highlight Catholic teachers’ work to achieve social justice. We might prepare presentations on climate change, in connection with Pope Francis’s encyclical, or discuss the ways local units address poverty and inequality in their respective communities. We can also inform our union sisters and brothers about how poorly teachers are treated in other parts of the world. We might point to the imprisonment of teachers in Turkey, or the fact that teachers in Brazil have not been paid for months, because the government is using their salaries to pay for the summer Olympics. As a labour council, we can work together to develop action plans to address these matters. Through the acknowledgment that we share common goals and values, we realize that there is more that unites labour groups than divides us. The labour council should be seen by all as the voice of the working people. Catholic teachers must be active in this endeavour. Your local labour council meetings should be regularly scheduled events. Members of your local Political Action and Collective Bargaining committees should be
encouraged to attend. These gatherings can provide opportunities for leadership development, particularly for young workers and beginning teachers. We should challenge our local executives to discuss how to increase participation and inspire union members to dedicate time and energy to the common efforts of working people. Even if you are not formally involved in the local labour council, you can still participate in labour-sponsored events. For example, many Catholic teachers recently joined with workers from across the province for the Ontario Federation of Labour’s Rally for Decent Work, at Queen’s Park in Toronto. In your local community, you might make an effort to support striking or locked-out workers, march in your Labour Day parade, or participate in food drives or other charitable activities. Working at the grassroots level improves solidarity, and keeps us grounded in the struggles of the majority of people. An injustice to one is an injustice to all. Deepening and personalizing our understanding of social justice issues helps us to develop empathy for all. When relationships are forged at the local and personal levels, we become better equipped to challenge the injustices found in every institution. This also allows us, as Catholic teachers, to build stronger bonds with the various local unions in our town or city. Continue to work with your local labour council, and encourage your fellow teachers to do so as well. Let your community know what Catholic teachers are all about! Filomena Ferraro is First Vice-President at the York Unit Office.
DECEMBER 2016 |
MAKE AMERICA _____ AGAIN Donald Trump, the Republican Party, and revenge of a mythic past By Mark Tagliaferri
By 11:45 p.m. on election night, if you listened closely enough, you could almost hear the collective sound of every journalist in America frantically re-writing their post-election analysis. Newspapers that had been running with the headline “Madam President” hurriedly changed to titles like, “Now What?” November 8 was decision day in America, but it has somehow left us with more questions than answers. We can talk about Trump’s victory in many ways: the failure of polls and predictive analysis, the rejection of the political elite, the unfortunate manifestation of latent misogyny and outright distrust of Hillary Clinton. And while each of these are true, in part, I tend to also see Trump’s victory as part of a longer, historical process of modern American politics. And so now that the dust has settled a little bit, it’s important to try to get some perspective on what our neighbors to the south just went through, and how America arrived at this point. I spent several years in New York City as a university lecturer, teaching US political history – the kind of 8 a.m. jumbo classes you get when you’re a rookie in academia. My own research was on political identity; specifically, I was fascinated by how the two emerging political parties in 19th century America drew on very different versions of a mythic past to articulate distinct visions of the country, especially during times of political and military conflict. I wrote and spoke a lot about how, during this early period, political parties struggled to maintain a delicate balance: energize support from the masses, without letting power slip into the “middling” and “lower sorts,” and cohere around a strong leader, while avoiding a monarch-like strong man. To illustrate the difficulty in parties walking this tightrope, I’d use an anecdote from my high school days. Around Grade 9, my friend, without her driver’s license, “borrowed” her parents’ car. One by one she picked up her friends, and soon the group was engaged in an increasingly dangerous joyride. At some point, with friends screaming in the back, my friend lost control of the car and crashed. Everyone was fine. The car was damaged. But the house they smashed into was never the same. Thinking through election night, I found myself revisiting this analogy. The “driver” is well known. Little can be said about President-elect Donald J. Trump that hasn’t already been written by others, or tweeted by himself. He has the flimsiest grasp on the truth, and somehow an even flimsier grasp of policy. He speaks with a frenetic disjointedness – a stream-ofconsciousness style that reminds me of Jack Kerouac, minus any insight. Whether, in his heart of hearts, he is genuinely a 30
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racist, misogynist, bigoted, sexual predator, or whether this was all “locker room talk” and political opportunism, remains to be seen. But it’s almost beside the point, because he said those things. All of them. His call to jail a political opponent was surpassed only by his attacks against a “gold star” military family, which was surpassed only by his refusal to accept the fundamental tenets of American democracy, which was surpassed only by his calls for the assassination of the first female presidential nominee of a major party, which was surpassed only by etc., etc., etc. In this sense, he normalized insanity – the sheer craziness of any one statement, which would certainly scupper most nominees’ chances, was diluted in the ocean of crazy into which he waded further and further each day. He is an aberration. But is he only an aberration? To say that “nothing stuck to Donald Trump” is to sidestep an important point: his millions of supporters simply didn’t care. Why? It’s easy to dismiss Trump voters as either “deplorables” with fringe attitudes, or marginalized people who are struggling in the new economy, or both. But the data suggest otherwise. In a study of primary exit polling, data guru Nate Silver found that the median household income of Trump supporters was $72,000, well above the national average of $56,000, and $11,000 higher, on average, than Clinton voters. Exit polling from election night shows that the only economic category Clinton won was from those who earn less than $50,000/year. In every economic category from $50,000/year up, Trump won a majority of support. How is it possible that so many mainstream, middle-class Americans became passengers in Donald Trump’s joyride? Part of the answer is found in a deep-rooted notion of American history. Long before Trump, and even before American Independence, there existed a pervasive fear that outside forces were destroying society. As early as the mid-1600s, Puritans in Massachusetts Bay wrote thousands of pages, and spoke hundreds of hours of sermons, hysterically lamenting the imminent fall of their “city upon a hill.” In many ways, this rhetorical tradition – what historians call “declension” – has weaved its way throughout the history of American religion and politics. Almost always, declension rhetoric blames a combination of physical and abstract forces, often framed in racial terms: for Puritans, it was Native Americans and a loss of religiosity; in the early 1800s, it was African Americans and “luxury;” today, for Trump supporters, it is immigrants and terrorism. A nation in peril needs a saviour.
On election night, it became evident that for many white, working-class Americans, the rhetoric of declension is all too real. By 2044, for the first time in US history, whites will represent a minority of voting citizens. The demographics of neighborhoods across America are changing rapidly. White Americans are becoming conscious of their whiteness in ways we have not seen for quite some time. In recent years, countless studies have noted a sharp rise in what political science-types call “white identity politics.” This is not overt racism. Although selfidentified white nationalists and other “alt-right” groups certainly found a home in the Trump camp, it is too simplistic to paint all Trump supporters with this brush. Instead, white identity politics is better understood as a desire of everyday white Americans to protect perceived collective interests, as their dominance as a political bloc recedes. This feeling of a mythic white America that’s somehow slipping away was a common refrain at Trump rallies, summed up by a Trump supporter in Wisconsin: “Where did my country go?” For these voters, Trump appeared to offer the antidote: make American great again. In many respects, white identity politics helps to explain a significant portion of Trump support. One recent survey found that: (1) white identity is strongest in neighborhoods with the fastest growing non-white populations; and (2) a sense of “strong white identity” significantly correlated to support for Donald Trump. Moreover, these neighborhoods tend to be working class, and comprised of citizens who do not have a post-secondary degree. This group voted for Donald Trump in astonishing numbers. In fact, 67 per cent of white Americans without a college degree voted for Donald Trump. This is the single biggest jump in any demographic group: 14 per cent higher than 2012. As one article notes, “America’s growing ethnic diversity is creating a politicized form of white identity.” Although white identity politics tied people to Trump, it is still only part of the equation. Over the past few decades, the Republican Party has weaponized the rhetoric of white identity, which Donald Trump deployed. Understanding this allows us to take a longer view – to connect the passengers to the driver, and the driver to the car. Starting in the 1950s, elements of the Republican Party began to revolt against the party centre, courting white southerners, with their deep wellspring of conservative, antigovernment sentiment. Over the next halfcentury, a host of think tanks, pundits, and magazines, from Phyllis Schlafly to William F. Buckley Jr., slowly influenced and defined the conservative
ILLUSTRATION: @ Roy Ketcheson
position. Needing support, and realizing these citizens could be effectively mobilized, the Republican Party has gradually increased their reliance on these people, and with them, white identity politics, to win votes. Viewed this way, Donald Trump represents both a unique aberration and a logical extension – the Republican ticket’s reliance on the rhetoric of white identity politics has marched steadily in one direction: Ronald Regan aDan Quayle a George W. Bush a Sarah Palin a Donald Trump. Having hitched its wagon to white identity politics, the Republican Party and its vulgar nominee exploited the realities of shifting demographics. Trump’s despicable comments merely pulled back the curtain, and laid bare this evolving relationship between the Republican Party and its voting base. Trump’s passengers have been conditioned over the past 50 years to increasingly think about politics in the frame of white declension. As one commentator put it, while many of us took Trump’s comments literally, but not seriously, Trump supporters were more apt to take his comments seriously, but not literally. We have, in Canada, remained largely inoculated from this dynamic. Our multi-party system tends to emit centrifugal forces, spreading voting blocs across the political spectrum. But we are not immune; in the last federal election, the Conservative Party tried to win votes by pushing the so-called “niqab debate,” and proposing a hotline for reporting “barbaric cultural practices.” The day after the US election, Conservative MP Kellie Leitch sent out a fundraising email, praising Trump’s victory and further promoting her idea to screen immigrants for “anti-Canadian values.” These are tactics ripped straight from the playbook of white identity politics. They have thus far fallen on deaf ears, or been explicitly rejected. We should be proud of this. But we must also be vigilant. Canadian exceptionalism is not a guarantee. America has plunged itself into the anxieties of uncertainty; the long-term consequences of an emboldened Republican Congress, conservative Supreme Court, and reckless president, are difficult to fathom. Hard-fought rights are now in jeopardy. It wasn’t supposed to be this way, Madam President. But ultimately, Trump held his dogwhistle up to a megaphone, and too many Americans didn’t seem to care. In fact, they celebrated it. Trump became an outlet for the millions of (overwhelmingly white) Americans who felt their country slipping away. So while Trump may be an aberration, his election isn’t. In the end, the Republican Party packed the car, and handed over the keys to President Trump. They have crashed into the White House, and we are all left to survey the wreckage. Mark Tagliaferri is Writer/Researcher in the Communications and Government Relations departments at the OECTA Provincial Office.
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Published on Dec 12, 2016