PROMOTE THE VOTE
THE IMPORTANCE OF EXERCISING YOUR DEMOCRATIC RIGHT
THE NEW WORLD OF WORK
A CHANCE TO BRING LABOUR LAW INTO THE 21ST CENTURY
SAYING YES, FEELING NO
AGREEING FOR THE WRONG REASONS IS RISKY BUSINESS
Streaming Report Misses Mark Cambodia Trip Inspires Students Learning About #WhatTeachersDo
OECTAâ€™s recently implemented modular AQ courses are an effective way to enhance your professional development. Modular learning lets you take a course one module (or section) at a time - that means a smaller time commitment and less workload. You can complete just one module as professional development, or take them all within two years to receive a full AQ credit...the choice is yours.
Modular courses available: n
(Students) Assessment and Evaluation Integration of Information and Computer Technology in instruction / Part 1 Reading / Part 1 Religious Education / Part 2 You must have completed Part 1 to enroll Teaching Students with Communication Needs (Autism Spectrum Disorders)
Modules run continuously through an AQ session. Take 1, 2, 3 or 4 modules this Summer. For more information and to register, visit
Regist er no w www.oecta.on.ca
CONTENTS JUNE 2015
PROMOTE THE VOTE
THE NEW WORLD OF WORK
OECTA’s new campaign acknowledges teachers and celebrates their work. By Victoria Hunt If you don’t exercise your voting muscles, they risk atrophying. By Christopher Lombardo Ontario’s Changing Workplace Review is a chance to bring labour law into the 21st century. By Adam Lemieux
TEACHERS AID 13
We can all obtain great value from the Ontario Catholic Graduate Expectations. By Anthony Carabache
Agreeing for all the wrong reasons can be hazardous to your health. By Doug McCarthy If faced with strike action, members must understand their obligations. By Joe Pece We all have a role to play in promoting a safe and healthy workplace. By Charlene Theodore
PEOPLE WORTH WATCHING
WRESTLING WITH SUCCESS
BETH ROBERTSON AND HER PJS
Champion wrestler Jessie MacDonald looks ahead to the 2016 Olympics. By Jill Tham OECTA member Beth Robertson is an inspiring advocate for peace and justice. By Christopher Lombardo
CAMBODIA TRIP TRANSFORMS STUDENTS
STREAMING REPORT MISSES THE MARK
Trip for students promotes solidarity and furthers social justice education. By Shaun Connolly The existing policy has problems, but the roots of inequality run much deeper. By Adam Lemieux
JUNE 2015 |
Janine Druery Editor Christopher Lombardo Associate Editor Adam Lemieux Writer/Researcher Fernanda Monteiro Production /Advertising EDITORIAL BOARD
Thanks to the efforts of tens of thousands of OECTA members who voted “Yes” in our April strike vote, the Association’s Provincial Bargaining Team returned to the bargaining table with more leverage than ever before in our struggle to negotiate the best possible agreement on your behalf. As you have been made aware through the many bulletins and updates sent to you since we began talks months ago, the new two-tier process is proving lengthy and complicated. Through this majority vote, OECTA members are pushing back, not only against the provincial government’s austerity agenda, but also against school boards that want to claw back gains in members’ working conditions and professional recognition achieved over decades. The current negotiations potentially represent nothing less than a great divide in the history of teacher unionism and professionalism in this province. The strong strike mandate is an essential component in OECTA’s bargaining strategy. With negotiations proving to be extremely difficult, the Association may very well need to make use of this mandate early in the next school year. With this in mind, all members should be turning their attention to the ways in which job action would affect their classrooms and their private lives. It’s highly probable that the Association will need to take strike action in the fall if we do not make progress at the bargaining table. How that will unfold — whether work-to-rule or a full withdrawal of services — will be determined as circumstances demand. But members must be aware that it will not be business as usual, based on the strategic decisions of the Association. As a result, you should not be making plans for your classroom and extra-curricular activities that would have to be cancelled in the fall. And, with a full withdrawal of services a possibility — even though one we would hope to avoid — members should look to their personal affairs to prepare for that eventuality. Make no mistake, OECTA is facing opponents at the table, both the trustees and the provincial government, determined to extort damaging concessions from our collective agreements. With the support you demonstrated April 23-24, we are determined to do everything in our power to stop them.
James Ryan President Ann Hawkins First Vice-President Marshall Jarvis General Secretary David Church Deputy General Secretary Pat McKeown Executive Resource Assistant
@OECTA is published five times during the school year. Opinions and ideas expressed in @OECTA are not necessarily those of the Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association. @OECTA is a member of the Canadian Educational Press Association, and the Canadian Association of Labour Media. Return undelivered Canadian addresses to: Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association, 65 St. Clair Avenue East, Toronto, ON M4T 2Y8 PHONE 416-925-2493 TOLL-FREE 1-800-268-7230 FAX 416-925-7764 www.oecta.on.ca Publication Mail Agreement No. 0040062510 Account No. 0001681016
James Ryan Follow me @OECTAPrez 4
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READ MY WEEKLY BLOG www.oecta.on.ca
Cover photo: © wallnarez / Shutterstock.com
@OECTA REGISTER FOR AQ MODULES AND COURSES
2015 OECTA CHRISTMAS CARD CHOSEN
Undertake a great professional learning opportunity with OECTA and register now for summer AQ courses (to be held July 6-31). There is a $150 subsidy available for most specialist courses. OTF and all of the affiliates have decided to cease promoting any further Ministry of Education initiatives, including AQ subsidies. As of May 1, no further AQ subsidies will be provided through OECTA. For more information, visit OECTA’s website and access the ‘Courses’ tab.
A big shout out to OECTA member Roy Ketcheson of St. Xavier High School in Ottawa, who is the winner of the 2015 OECTA Christmas card contest. Ketcheson has been a visual art teacher at the OCSB for 17 years. He has a background in advertising and graphic design and has freelanced for such publications as the Ottawa Citizen. His winning entry will be used as OECTA’s card this year and featured on the December 2015 cover of @OECTA magazine.
SIGN UP FOR RELIGIOUS EDUCATION COURSES IN ITALY
OECTA provides financial assistance for teachers taking undergraduate courses that lead to a first degree, post-graduate courses and professional development. Three post-graduate scholarships — two religious education fellowships and one labour studies fellowship of up to $10,000 each — are available. Individual bursaries for study in any subject are valued up to $1,000. Programs and courses must be taken between July 1, 2015 and June 30, 2016. Applications are available at www.oecta.on.ca in the Members’ Centre under Career Development.
Visit the land of canals, great food and beautiful cathedrals. There is still time to register for OECTA’s Religious Education Courses, July 2-11, in Rome, Assisi and Montecatini. The trip costs $2995 plus AQ course fees. Contact course director Urszula Cybulko for more information at email@example.com or visit www.oecta.on.ca (under the ‘Courses’ tab). MINISTRY RESOURCE TRANSLATIONS
The ministry has been working to support parent communities with information about the curriculum, and has now translated the parent resources into a number of different languages. Parent resources are now available in Arabic, Chinese Simplified, Chinese Traditional, Farsi, Polish, Punjabi and Urdu. These resources can be accessed from the parent section of the eduction ministry’s website (www.edu.on.ca/eng/parents).
COMMUNICATIONS AWARD WINNERS ANNOUNCED
OECTA units are a talented lot. This was reflected in the winning submissions to OECTA’s Communication Awards for 2014-2015. The award program celebrates achievement among OECTA units for their communication projects, websites and publications. Congratulations to the following award recipients: 1. Catholic Connection: Kenora Unit, Serving in the Love of Christ 2. Public Relations/Media Relations: York Unit, ETA Vaughan Women’s Shelter “Adopt a Family” 3. Publication: London Unit, The Exchange, Spring 2014 4. Website: Halton Elementary Unit, www.haltonoecta.ca 5. Most Improved Publication/Website: Toronto Elementary Unit, www.tect.org TRADE PLACES AND TEACH IN AUSTRALIA
Do you want to trade places for a year with a teacher in an Australian Catholic school? You can, as part of an exchange program organized by the Canadian Education Exchange Foundation (CEEF), a non-profit organization that provides national and international exchange programs and services for teachers and educators. Visit the Teaching Opportunities section under Career Development in the Members’ Centre at www.oecta.on.ca for more information. To register, contact Carol Wilkins, Teacher Exchange Coordinator, via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or phone at 705-739-7596.
GET SCHOLARSHIPS, FELLOWSHIPS AND BURSARIES
HIGHLIGHTS Provincial Bargaining
U PDATE On April 23-24, members of the OECTA provided their union with a strong strike mandate of 94.2%. Bargaining is ongoing but it will be a struggle to get the employer side of the provincial bargaining table (comprised of representatives from the government and the Ontario Catholic School Trustees’ Association) to move forward in a positive fashion. Our intent is to attempt to resolve outstanding issues but we are prepared to impose sanctions if the employer refuses to change its position.
What does this mean for you?
It’s important to recognize September may not begin normally. To prepare, you should consider notifying your financial institution and make arrangements with an advisor to discuss mortgage payments, loans, leases or other considerations. It may even be prudent to set up an emergency bank account or line of credit to weather a strike, and to defer major purchases, vacations or repair projects. It is very important that Members should monitor updates on the OECTA site as well as email blasts. You can access bargaining updates, FAQs and videos in the Provincial Bargaining Updates section of the Members’ Centre on the OECTA website (www.oecta.ca). You will need an OECTA membership number to log in and access this information. Given the confidential nature of negotiations, updates are posted in a secure location for members only. The next rounds of provincial bargaining are June 4-6 and June 24-26. If you have any questions or concerns about the process, please don’t hesitate to contact your local bargaining unit president.
SIGN OF THE TIMES By Adam Lemieux 30%
Percentage of Canadians aged 36 and over who strongly agree that government should make sure everyone has a decent standard of living
Percentage of Canadians aged 35 and under who strongly agree that government should make sure everyone has a decent standard of living
Percentage of Canadians aged 36 and over who think their provincial government should spend more on K-12 education
Percentage of Canadians aged 35 and under who think their provincial government should spend more on K-12 education Percentage of Canadians who participated in at least one form of political activity last year
Percentage of eligible Canadians who voted in the 2011 federal election
Percentage of eligible Ontarians who voted in the 2011 federal election
Percentage of Canadians aged 65-74 who voted in the 2011 federal election
Percentage of Canadians aged 18-24 who voted in the 2011 federal election
Approximate annual government spending per citizen aged 65 and over
Approximate annual government spending per citizen aged 45 and under
Percentage of the federal Universal Child Care Benefit going to families with older children and/or no child care expenses
Percentage of families that will qualify for the federal Family Tax Cut (income splitting)
PHOTO: © Juan Pablo Rada / Shutterstock.com
CALENDAR JUNE Canadian Environment Week May 31 to June 6 Ontario Mathematics Olympiad June 5-6 World Day Against Child Labour June 12 Last Day of School June 17 - Secondary classes end (exams run until June 26) June 25 - Elementary classes end JULY Educating for the Common Good Conference July 8-9 Canadian Teachers’ Federation AGM July 17-18 Education International 7th World Congress July 21-26 AUGUST Ontario Teachers’ Federation Annual Meeting August 25-26 SEPTEMBER First Day of School September 8 International Literacy Day September 8 OCTOBER World Teachers’ Day October 5 Beginning Teachers Conference October 16-17 When Faith Meets Pedagogy Conference October 22-24
ION S I V E R R E UND
Sources: Broadbent Institute, Elections Canada, Generation Squeeze, Parliamentary Budget Officer, Samara Canada Adam Lemieux is the Writer/Researcher in the Communications and Government Relations departments at OECTA Provincial Office.
Second edition of the WHEN YOU SPEAK FOR CHILDREN booklet is coming soon... oecta.on.ca
#WhatTeachersDo OECTA’s new campaign acknowledges teachers and celebrates the work they do every day. By Victoria Hunt
OECTA’s current campaign, “#WhatTeachersDo,” is an extension of our long-standing Speak for Children campaign. First developed in 2002, Speak for Children encouraged members, parents and the public to keep children’s needs central to decision making. Ads, videos and the research booklet, “When you speak for children…” have all been developed to support the campaign. Things evolve and change. And so has Speak for Children. We all want our students to realize their full potential. Ensuring they have every opportunity to do so is dependent on parents and the public understanding the critical role that teachers play in the education system. Such awareness will become more important if the employer negotiating team continues its attack on teacher professionalism in collective bargaining.
Ontario teachers are highly qualified and recognized as being among the best in the world. OECTA wants to acknowledge and celebrate the work you do, and we want you to celebrate it too! We all know there is far more to teaching than showing up at school and delivering the curriculum. Teaching is about opening minds, sharing a passion for learning and inspiring tomorrow’s leaders. For the campaign to succeed, we need you to participate and share stories about what you do, both in and out of the classroom, to prepare your students for the future. Tweet out some of your stories using the hashtag #WhatTeachersDo. A website dedicated to this campaign is being developed where your stories can be shared. New ads are also being created. Here is a sample:
HELP STUDENTS REALIZE THEIR POTENTIAL There’s more to teaching than people realize. Of course we follow a curriculum. But every student is unique. To make a difference we listen, we learn and we lead. Is it a job? Not even close. It’s our life’s work. Find out more about what teachers do.
WhatTeachersDo.ca oecta.on.ca Victoria Hunt is the Department Head for the Government Relations Department at OECTA Provincial Office.
JUNE 2015 |
PROMOTE THE VOTE
If you don’t exercise your voting muscles, they risk atrophying.
By Christopher Lombardo
To paraphrase Franklin Delano Roosevelt, nobody will deprive us of the right to vote except ourselves — by not voting. And it seems like we’re not voting in droves. Voter participation throughout the West is in steep decline, G7 parliamentary election turnout has plummeted to around 60 per cent and Canada isn’t faring that well. What’s more, declines are particularly pronounced among youth. York University professor Dennis Pilon is author of Wrestling with Democracy: Voting Systems as Politics in the Twentieth Century West. He says that usually as people become more entrenched and stabilized in life, they begin to participate in the electoral process. According to Pilon, “The cohort that should have arrived has not arrived in same numbers as previous generations.” This has political implications, because as Pilon notes, youth are to the left of every other group. Younger vs. Older Canadians
According to the Comparative Provincial Elections Project (CPEP), more young Canadians are keen on seeing higher spending on health and education than older Canadians. Also, concern about green issues doesn’t exactly cut across demographic lines. As pollster Nik Nanos recently told the CBC, “If you're a younger Canadian, you're twice as likely to say that the environment is a top national issue of concern.” And such issues aren’t being championed, as the Harper government has followed an antithetical cost-cutting, oil sandscentred ethos. According to University of Toronto professor Dr. Lawrence LeDuc, whose area of interest is Canadian and comparative political behaviour, “Turnout among the over 65 generation has hardly declined at all, and in Canada it is often near 80 per cent in federal elections. Turnout among the under 35 cohort in contrast is typically below 30 per cent.” LeDuc says that Conservative support seems to be increasingly strong among older voters. And the party in turn, is directing its appeal there. That means youth, many of whom already ILLUSTRATION: Roy Ketcheson
Roy Ketcheson has been a visual art teacher at the OCSB for 17 years and is currently working at St. Francis Xavier High School in Ottawa. Ketcheson has a background in advertising and graphic design and has freelanced for such publications as the Ottawa Citizen.
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“It’s important to exercise our democratic franchise as governments bank on apathy to maintain the status quo.” feel that “politics is not particularly relevant to them,” are being excluded, reinforcing their indifference in a feedback loop. York’s Professor Pilon says that nonvoters (the bulk of which are younger), “feel like they don’t know enough to participate,” when relative to other groups this is actually not the case. Feelings of Indifference
Many of us, regardless of age, are indifferent to politics. Samara Canada is a charity dedicated to reconnecting citizens to politics; and they have their work cut out for them. According to the group’s Democracy 360 report, nearly 40 per cent of us haven’t had a political conversation in the past year! Samara also says only about a third of us believe politics affects our lives on a daily basis. It’s important to exercise our democratic franchise as governments bank on such apathy to maintain the status quo. “Governing parties will not generally support electoral reform, they prefer the system that elected them,” says Professor LeDuc. “Also, they generally aren't all that interested in increasing turnout, although they will never admit to this. But they heavily target ‘known’ voters, and this increasingly means older voters in Canada.” And Canada’s population skews older. According to Economic and Social Development Canada, in 2011, the median age in Canada was nearly 40 (meaning that half of the population was older than that and half was younger). In 1971, it was 26. Getting the Message Out
However, youth (and the disinterested/disenfranchised) can definitely make a difference at the ballot box, especially in tooclose-to-call elections like the 2015 federal election. Before the signs are planted, the doorbells are rung and the speeches are made, there is ample opportunity for OECTA members to get out and get involved before concerns turn to more seasonal diversions: they can help choose a local candidate and back them on the hustings. Political parties of all persuasions can certainly use volunteers to get the message out — not just partisan ones but the underlying message that the electoral process itself is important.
Christopher Lombardo is the Communications Assistant in the Communications Department at OECTA Provincial Office.
JUNE 2015 |
THE NEW WORLD OF WORK Ontario’s Changing Workplace Review is a chance to bring labour law into the 21st century. By Adam Lemieux
As has been discussed in these pages over the past several months, structural and attitudinal shifts are profoundly altering Ontario’s economy and labour market. With global competition increasing, service sector employment on the rise, and employers seeking greater flexibility, at least one-fifth of Ontario’s workers are now in a “precarious” employment relationship. These jobs are often part-time and/or temporary. Schedules are unpredictable and can be changed at a moment’s notice. Employees earn low wages and have no union, benefits or pension. Sometimes, they are not even defined as employees, but rather “interns” or “independent contractors.” Some features of the modern labour market are not contemplated in existing law. In other cases, standards that should apply are not being thoroughly enforced. It is usually up to individual employees to make complaints to the Ministry of Labour, but people are reluctant to make these complaints because they desperately need the work and fear reprisal by employers. When individuals are labelled as selfish or unrealistic for demanding the most basic standards of safety and stability, there emerges a dangerous environment in which employees expect to be treated poorly, allowing employers to act with impunity. And it is not just for-profit businesses that are taking advantage; schools, hospitals, charities and other non-profit organizations are also guilty of promoting this new normal.
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Changing Workplace Review The evidence on the evolving world of work has become so overwhelming that the Ontario government has launched the Changing Workplace Review, which will examine ways to bring the Labour Relations Act and Employment Standards Act up to date. The Minister of Labour
“With so many Ontarians unable to find decent, secure work, there is a growing anti-union, anti-public sector sentiment.”
has appointed two special advisors, both of whom currently practice arbitration and mediation: C. Michael Mitchell, a former labour lawyer, and John C. Murray, a former justice of the Ontario Superior Court. According to the terms of reference, these advisors will “lead public engagement with Ontarians” and issue a report within the next 16 months. The intention is to build on the “central principles” of the existing legislative framework while updating
it to “reflect the realities of Ontario’s current economy.” Official public consultations should begin soon, but some groups have already come forward with recommendations. For example, the Workers’ Action Centre and Parkdale Community Legal Services in Toronto have released a report that suggests, among many other things: broadening the definition of employee; removing differential treatment in pay and working conditions for different classifications of workers; and developing an expanded, proactive system of enforcement to ensure compliance. The recommendations are based on legal analyses as well as testimonials from individuals who are struggling to make ends meet and maintain dignity in the modern economy. Getting Involved
As the review proceeds, union members should certainly be paying attention and participating where possible. We should stand in solidarity with any worker who does not have the power to demand better conditions from their employer, using our collective strength to improve quality of life for all Ontarians. There are also more personal considerations. With so many Ontarians unable to find decent, secure work, there is a growing anti-union, antipublic sector sentiment. Rather than making conditions better for everyone,
PHOTO: © Lculig / Shutterstock.com
some commentators and politicians aim to divide citizens and create a race to the bottom, saying it is unfair for public sector employees, such as teachers, to receive “entitlements” that others in the labour market can only dream of. This affects the attitudes of the employer and the public during bargaining. Increased unionization rates would address many of the problems in today’s workplaces. As the Supreme Court of Canada has recently affirmed, it is only by acting together that employees can strengthen their bargaining power and meaningfully pursue their workplace goals. However, it really should not be necessary for unions to make sure that Ontario’s workers are treated with respect. While there might be legitimate economic forces driving some of the changes, we have all been far too complacent about the effects on our quality of life. The Changing Workplace Review is an opportunity for Ontarians to make abundantly clear that decency should be the law of the land. Full stop.
Adam Lemieux is the Writer/Researcher in the Communications and Government Relations departments at OECTA Provincial Office.
JUNE 2015 |
E B D L U O YOU C T U O G N MISSI . . . 0 0 0 , 0 7 ON $1 s Q A A T C E O HELP YOU . E R E H T GET rses u o c Q A OECTA es can l u d o m and A4! o t t e g help yo u
teachers. l l a o t are open s e s r u o C
MODULE COURSE REGISTRATION &
SUMMER July 6 to July 31, 2015 .
Registration remains open until Mid-June .
Math Subsidy cancelled as of May 1
Potential | JUNE 2015 loss of salary over 30-year teaching career at A3.
A ROADMAP FOR LEARNING
Obtaining value from the Ontario Catholic Graduate Expectations By Anthony Carabache
Teachers around the world have been looking to find a roadmap for the 21st century. Students of the Catholic school system in Ontario have been exposed to the Ontario Catholic Graduate Expectations for almost two decades, and the effect of these expectations have been measured in a study conducted by the University of Toronto’s Ontario Institute for Studies in Education. Commissioned by the Institute for Catholic Education, the study provides data that supports the need to continue promoting OCGEs. The expectations have been beautifully crafted. Rooted in Christ’s teachings, they are so easily interpreted and overarching that people of all Christian denominations can reflect on their application with ease. What comprises a perfect skill set for 21st century learners? Take a look at the Ontario Catholic Graduate Expectations (www.iceont.ca) and you will come to realize that we’ve been sitting on the perfect roadmap for close to 20 years. This is reflected in the descriptions and graphic below: 1. The Discerning Believer
Catholics are encouraged to reflect, to question and to reform our beliefs and our faith. But in doing so, we are called into action, which is the key element of discernment. Only when we take action for a just cause can we call ourselves ‘‘Discerning Believers.’’ Reflection without action is not discernment; it is simply reflection. One could compare it to a popular social media campaign that gains no real-world traction. Until there are tangible, measurable results that come from a course of action, there can be no real change. 2. The Effective Communicator
Communication skills are vital for future graduates. Looking at the graphic (#2 below), you will notice that the ears are quite exaggerated to show how important a role listening plays in communication. Now more than ever, we need people who are honest and clear about their ideas, and who integrate their faith in the use of arts, media and technology.
3. The Creative and Holistic Thinker
Creativity always tops the list of skills needed for 2030 and beyond. It’s when we add the beauty of holistic thinking that we solve problems in an innovative and responsible way. This thinker cannot be trapped within one subject area; it is important to integrate all parts of the whole. 4. A Self-Directed, Responsible, Life-Long Learner Our future depends on the above more for the sake of balance and a higher standard of living for us all. This is every educator’s dream. 5. The Collaborative Contributor
It has become the mantra for educators to call on our schools to provide increasing opportunities for collaboration. Yet, time and time again they fail to provide the ‘‘how-to’’ of collaboration — especially for the youngest members of our society. What does it mean to be interdependent, to think critically and to not only work to your own potential but to help those around you reach theirs? Contributions made to the growth of the team are just as important to the growth of the project. 6. A Caring Family Member
Words like compassion and love are only effective when they are bound by respect. Intimacy and love are bound to value and honour within the family context. Unity, strength and honour bind the family together and that strength feeds the community in the light of our God-given gifts. What a beautiful and critically important principle. 7. A Responsible Citizen
When we look at some of the horrible things that appear online, it’s hard not to panic. But cyber-bullying, harassment, defamation and degradation can all be lessened if we embrace the basic principles of accountability, equality, democracy, peace and justice. I realize that it may not be trendy to use faith as a “Top 10” article, but this one is so beautiful and positive that it is hard to overlook. Anthony Carabache is a Secretariat member in the Professional Development Department at OECTA Provincial Office.
PHOTO: © marekuliasz / Shutterstock.com
SAYING YES, FEELING NO Agreeing for all the wrong reasons can be hazardous to your health.
By Doug McCarthy
There was a time in my life when I believed that to improve and be successful, it was important to say “yes” to every significant challenge, opportunity and request. The thinking was that self-improvement and advancement were only available to those who made things happen in life. Even today, some self-improvement gurus put greater emphasis on grabbing hold of all opportunities and only giving a token nod to a balanced lifestyle. The outcome can be high stress levels caused by long to-do lists and a calendar crammed with deadlines and obligations.
• Does saying “no” sound too harsh or direct? Giving qualified answers, such as “I don't know if I should,” can be misinterpreted. Explanations can end up in a discussion that ends with you saying “yes.” Saying the word “no” is very clear!
According to an article by the Mayo Clinic (mayoclinic.org), the answer for stress relief may be as simple as saying “no.” If we are inclined to say “yes” when we are feeling “no,” we must give ourselves time to examine our motives and determine what is really best.
• Is our health suffering because we are overcommitted? If so, then no one benefits, and our self-improvement and advancement goals are in jeopardy.
Here are some questions we can ask as part of that examination:
If we say “yes” and feel “no,” we should avoid responding right away. We have to give ourselves time to think, to sort things out, or to get advice from others. Once we have done so, we can be honest with ourselves and in our response to others.
• Are we saying “yes” because we want to please others? In her book, The Tyranny of Niceness, Evelyn Sommers writes: “Saying ‘yes’ to something when you would prefer to say ‘no’ means that you are complying with the wishes of others with some cost to your integrity.” As a result, not only do we feel the stress of having taken on another task, we experience an eroding of our sense of self.
Of course, self-examination must also be applied if the reverse happens: If we say “no,” and feel “yes.” The wisdom comes from understanding what is best for us at this time and in this place.
• Do we avoid saying “no” because it might seem selfish? If we already have a reasonable list of commitments, it is better to leave ourselves with the time and energy to honour existing obligations.
Doug McCarthy is a retired OECTA member and principal, and currently a member of OECTA’s Speakers’ Bureau.
JUNE 2015 |
WHAT HAPPENS TO STRIKEBREAKERS? If faced with strike action, members must understand their obligations – and what happens if they evade them.
By Joe Pece
OECTA members provided their union with a strike mandate of 94.2% during a province-wide strike vote at the end of April. Ideally, this strong mandate will provide the leverage our Provincial Bargaining Team requires at the central bargaining table. However, the employer side of the table, has not always taken the collective resolve of our membership seriously. This means at some point we may have to take some form of strike action. OECTA’s activities are guided by the approximately 50,000 members of the Association who are represented by more than 600 voting delegates at OECTA’s Annual General Meeting. At the AGM, amendments can be made to the constitution, by-laws, policies and procedures contained in the OECTA Handbook. The changes that are made each year, like the April strike vote, are democratically enacted by majority rule. Violations of a work-to-rule, or crossing a picket line when there is a full withdrawal of services, is called strikebreaking. OECTA policies (as contained in the 2014-15 Handbook) outline the following definitions of strikebreakers: • 3.52 That during a strike, all members of the bargaining unit(s) on strike join in the strike approved by the majority or be subject to a complaint under 4.136 to 4.151 for failing to do so. • 3.53 That during a strike, no member participate in banned activities as
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determined by the bargaining unit executive(s). • 3.54 That a member participating in a banned activity be subject to a complaint under 4.136 to 4.151. • 3.55 That upon receiving a report of one or more members not participating in legal strike actions, a bargaining unit executive investigate the report and file a complaint under 4.136 to 4.151 if the report is verified. Picket Line Attendance
Non-attendance on a picket line is not strikebreaking; in this event, a member is not paid strike pay for the days absent from picket duties. Picket captains are charged with the responsibility of maintaining proper records of picket line attendance. A report of a strikebreaker will be forwarded to the appropriate bargaining unit president. Bargaining unit presidents will attempt to change the strikebreaker’s behaviour. The bargaining unit president will forward any strikebreaker report(s) to the attention of the General Secretary. According to our discipline procedure, upon receipt of a written statement of complaint, the General Secretary will carry out an investigation into the complaint. OECTA respects the principles of due process and natural justice in investigating alleged violations of our Handbook. Where the complaint is not dismissed, the General Secretary
will attempt to mediate a settlement between the affected parties (here, the local bargaining unit and the alleged strikebreaker). Failing a mediated settlement, the General Secretary will forward the complaint to the chairperson of the discipline board, who will appoint a three-member panel to conduct a hearing. Taking Action
If the panel finds that the accused member is in breach of the constitution, by-laws, policies or procedures of the Association, the panel may decide to take no action or it may decide to take some or all of the following actions: reprimand the member; impose a fine not to exceed $2,000; suspend the member’s membership privileges; and/ or publish the decision of the panel, in whole or in part. As a member of a union, it is essential that you understand the importance of the OECTA Handbook and adhere to your responsibilities in order to reinforce the strength of the collective. It is also imperative that we stand strong and united in our actions in order to achieve the best possible outcome for all of our members.
Joe Pece is the Department Head for the Counselling and Member Services Department at OECTA Provincial Office.
INCREASING WORKPLACE SAFETY We all have a role to play in promoting a safe and healthy workplace. By Charlene Theodore
By the time this is read, we will have already commemorated the National Day of Mourning, in remembrance of, and out of respect for, workers who have died, been injured or contracted a serious illness while on the job.
In 2013, when statistics were last available, there were 902 workplace deaths in Canada, most in the construction and transportation sectors. That is two lives lost every day at work. That doesn’t include accidents and illnesses that aren’t reported due to workers’ fear of taking time off or their inability to navigate the WSIB claims process.
In the education sector, teachers are most vulnerable to mental illness or injuries due to bending, lifting or falls at work. Let’s all commit to honouring the memories of those 902 people by doing all we can to increase workplace safety. Whether that’s through the ballot box or your local health and safety committees, everyone has a role to play in making workplaces safer for all. Charlene Theodore is in-house Legal Counsel at OECTA Provincial Office.
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While this day of remembrance is now observed in over 80 countries, you will be proud to know it is the fruit of the Canadian labour movement — launched by the Canadian Labour Congress.
PEOPLE WORTH WATCHING
WRESTLING WITH SUCCESS Champion wrestler Jessie MacDonald looks ahead to the 2016 Olympics. By Jill Tham
Most of us had at least one teacher who encouraged us to reach our potential. Jessie MacDonald, a French teacher with the Niagara Catholic District School Board and Freestyle World Wrestling Champion, certainly remembers hers. “One of my favourite teachers in high school was starting up a wrestling team,” says MacDonald. “My best friend wanted to join and I went with her. I remember crying to the teacher that I didn’t want to compete and I was going to be the team manager. He said I had to wrestle in one tournament and if I didn’t like it I could be the manager. I won that tournament and just kept going.” Her commitment has continued to this day. Before a full day of teaching, MacDonald does 60 to 90 minutes of cardio or circuit training. After work, she heads to Brock University to train on the mats. This training is followed by a third workout. In order to keep on top of her training and work obligations, MacDonald has to stay structured. “I sit down on Saturdays and focus on my lesson planning,” she says. “If I wasn’t so organized, I would be stressed.”
MacDonald says she started wrestling late. “Many people I wrestle against have been training since they were four years old,” she says. “For some of them, wrestling is their livelihood. If they win, their country takes care of them and that means they are out to kill.” In a sport where one wrong move or foot placement can cost you the match, MacDonald hopes they play fair, and she remains composed in the ring through the hair pulling and biting. “It’s a mental game too,” she adds. MacDonald’s wrestling career consists of highs and lows. In 2012, she narrowly missed qualifying for the Olympic Games by a loss in overtime. She overcame the disappointment by winning gold at the 2012 World Championships, making her one of only three women in Canada to have won a world wrestling title. MacDonald attributes her success to good teachers. “Having a coach I liked really helped,” she says. “I wanted to make him happy. He wasn’t the most experienced, but he put in so much time — he went the extra mile.”
Her experience with her former coach shaped her belief in the positive influence teachers can have on their students. “I believe that if there is one student you inspire, then your whole career was worth it,” says MacDonald. Eye on the Olympics
At the Pan American Championships last July, MacDonald dislocated her arm, requiring surgery to reattach the ligaments and then extensive therapy. “I am disappointed I will not be going to the Pan American Games this year, but the Olympics has been a dream of mine forever,” she says. The ability to overcome adversity she has demonstrated throughout her career will be an asset as she begins preparations for the Olympics in Rio in 2016. Rest assured, OECTA will be cheering on MacDonald as she strives for the one title that means the most to her — Olympian. Jill Tham is a member of the Niagara Elementary Unit. When she is not shuffling her children to and from their extra-curricular activities, she moonlights as a freelance writer.
Jessie MacDonald (right) takes on Carol Huynh at the Canadian Olympic Trials in Winnipeg, December 17, 2011
PEOPLE WORTH WATCHING
BETH ROBERTSON AND HER PJS OECTA member Beth Robertson is an inspiring advocate for peace and justice. Beth Robertson
By Christopher Lombardo
“No Justice, No Peace!” is a popular protest refrain. For Beth Robertson and her dedicated students at St. Thomas Aquinas Secondary School in Oakville, those two concepts unite in their Peace and Justice Club. The club got its start because Robertson, the school’s Canadian and World Studies department head, says she “has always done justice-oriented projects” in her class that “reflect the Catholic Graduate Expectations.” And the club has exceeded all expectations. Robertson, who grew up in Dresden (Chatham-Kent) and is a member of OECTA’s Halton Secondary Unit, started the club in 2003. Back then, there were only 35 kids; it’s since blossomed into a membership 200-strong at this, the Halton Region’s second smallest high school. At any given meeting, the Peace and Justice Club, or “PJs” as they are known, will routinely pack the cafeteria Friday after school (when many other students would sooner be home lounging around in their PJs). “Every single cent we make goes to charity,” says Robertson, who adds that students pay a $40 fee to join, which gives them a T-shirt and snacks at every meeting. “If you feed them they will come,” she jokes, but ultimately it’s about feeding those in need in their latest outreach. The students’ desire to help out locally involves aiding Kerr Street Ministries, an Oakville community and social services program that offers hot meals to low income people. According to Robertson, “the kids really like hands-on work and getting out and doing things for the community.” For Kerr Street, this involves buying groceries and cooking meals for 90 people in need.
speaking to the group), with Robertson giving final approval. The PJs have different volunteer themes as their focus depending on the year, sometimes spotlighting Catholic charities, sometimes secular, but each with a social justice mandate. The students generally favour projects connected to the community, she says, such as fundraising to help the Oakville Trafalgar Memorial Hospital’s eating disorder clinic or youth mental health programs. Grandparents’ Dinner
The PJs are also very involved in the Oomama grandparents’ dinner, which has been run every year for the last four years. The charity raises awareness about the HIV/AIDS epidemic ravaging sub-Saharan Africa and its effects on grandparents who are left looking after orphaned grandchildren. The grandparents’ dinner event is “one of her favourites” and students are encouraged to bring in their grandparents or residents from a nearby seniors’ homes to hear the African grandmothers share their compelling stories. But Robertson’s commitment to the community doesn’t end there. The extremely dynamic teacher (a Eucharistic minister and dragon boater who’s coached 30 soccer teams as well as a girls’ hockey team that toured Europe in 2010) also volunteers for a variety of causes, including Big Brothers/Sisters and the Terry Fox Run. The one closest to her heart is the Halton Walk for ALS (the “love of her life,” husband Tim, with whom she raised three children, was diagnosed with ALS in 2004). And the PJs are front and centre, attending rallies and conducting letter-writing campaigns; they’re Robertson’s “pride and joy,” outside of her family and teaching.
Walking the Walk
The community has acknowledged the club’s outstanding efforts: they were recipients of the Oakville Community Spirit Youth Award in 2012 and the YMCA Group Peace Medallion in 2013.
Every year they go on a Lenten retreat, which involves a chaplain liturgy as well as student workshops to which different NGOs are invited.
Under Robertson’s guidance, the group is poised to do even more good in years to come.
Robertson likes to remind her students: “The reason they’re there is that Jesus was out walking the walk…[not just talking the talk] and “that’s what they are called to do.”
The kids have a lot of input; they research and ask questions of their preferred charities (who must commit to meeting and
Christopher Lombardo is the Communications Assistant in the Communications Department at OECTA Provincial Office.
JUNE 2015 |
CAMBODIA TRIP TRANSFORMS STUDENTS Dedicated OECTA members organize a trip for students to promote solidarity and further social justice education. By Shaun Connolly
In January, teachers and students from St. Thomas Aquinas Secondary School in Brampton embarked on a life-changing trip to Cambodia. This was the sixth annual Solidarity Trip for the Aquinas Solidarity Awareness Program (ASAP). In previous years ASAP went to Nicaragua and Bolivia and engaged in similar solidarity-building. Five teachers and 15 students travelled to Odong Community in Kep (the smallest province of Cambodia, with a population of 40,000+ people) to help build latrines and flood gates that will serve local homes and schools. The students and staff partnered with two NGOs, Equitable Cambodia and Developing World Connections, and worked with local community members to establish an irrigation system that will help with food security. Volunteering at the worksite was an incredible experience for the students as they were able to dig, lay bricks, and mix concrete with their newfound friends from Kep. 20
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More than simply a charitable work project trip, Aquinas Solidarity trips focus on learning as the primary goal. While in Cambodia, students were exposed to many educational moments that they will never forget. They visited the Genocide Memorial Centre, also known as the Killing Fields. While there, they were given insight into what the death camps looked like when Pol Pot, who led the Khmer Rouge movement from 1975 to 1979, inflicted a systematic extermination of up to three million people. The students also visited the Cambodian Landmine Museum in Siem Reap. This is where Aki Ra, a former Khmer Rouge child soldier, now showcases all of the heroic work he and his partners are carrying out. Aki Ra goes into the jungle to find and deactivate land mines left from the Vietnam War. According to museum statistics, Aki Ra has deactivated about 50,000 land mines. The students were in awe of the courageous and fearless attitude displayed by Aki Ra and his team.
Plight of Children
This visit made the students want to learn more about the war and do something to help the primary school behind the museum, which is also run by Aki Ra. At that school, children who have been maimed or seriously injured by landmines are given the chance to have a full education. Some of these children have been abandoned, and Aki Ra and his museum have housed and educated them for several years. The students were amazed by the genuine spirit of solidarity and generosity displayed by those involved with the school and the museum. In the final days of the trip the group visited a very poor urban community in the capital city of Phnom Penh. This community, which smells of waste, consists of unsteady homes built on stilts. The municipal government wants to displace the community in order to promote higher land values in that area of the city, but has not offered any alternative arrangements or assistance to these struggling families. The students visited, toured and talked with community members to hear more about their plight. Life Experience
What the participants learned and experienced on this trip was, according to one student, worth “a thousand textbooks.” Another student described it as “life-changing, fun, emotional, challenging and invigorating.”
(opposite page) OECTA members Rachel Sinasac and Shaun Connolly, Aquinas students Bridgette Kennedy and Jessica MacNeil observing a game of “Stella, Ella, Ola” with local school children in Odong, Cambodia
The learning and sharing continues for these students as this group still meets weekly to plan how to put what they learned on the trip into to some sort of action plan.
(above) The Aquinas Solidarity Awareness Program (ASAP) group photo after completing their work project in Kep, Cambodia
“I’m so grateful to have this opportunity as a student and I will never forget what I learned in Cambodia,” said another student.
(below) OECTA member Shaun Connolly and Aquinas student Momo Sakudo placing concrete pipe for an irrigation project in Kep, Cambodia
The teachers involved in organizing this comprehensive program are proud of the work they’ve done. Social justice and solidarity-building are at the very heart of unionism. In these challenging times of bargaining, strike votes and nervous uncertainty, programs like this can serve as a refreshing reminder of how much OECTA teachers truly dedicate themselves to student learning and social justice education.
Shaun Connolly is a Teacher-Librarian and staff representative at St. Thomas Aquinas in Brampton and a member of the Dufferin-Peel Secondary Unit. He is a member of the provincial Educational Aid Committee and Chair of the DPSU Disaster Relief Committee.
OECTA MEMBERS ON THE SOLIDARITY TRIP: Shaun Connolly: Trip leader, staff rep, Chair of the DPSU Disaster Relief Committee, Educational Aid Committee member (Provincial), six-time Provincial AGM delegate Dario Vrbanek: Trip facilitator, staff rep, DPSU Disaster Relief Committee member, 2015 Provincial AGM delegate Rachel Sinasac: Trip facilitator Jenn Pouw: Trip facilitator, DPSU Councillor, 10-time Provincial AGM delegate Sean Russell: Trip facilitator, 2015 Provincial AGM observer
STREAMING REPORT MISSES THE MARK The existing policy has problems, but the roots of inequality run much deeper. By Adam Lemieux
People for Education, an influential advocacy group, has published a report criticizing Ontario’s policy of having students choose between applied and academic courses for various subjects, beginning in Grade 9. The report argues that the policy exacerbates inequalities in our schools, because students from low-income neighbourhoods, and/or those who have scored poorly on EQAO tests in elementary school, are much more likely to take applied courses than their wealthier and/or higher-achieving classmates. Furthermore, students in applied courses are less likely to graduate and rarely go on to post-secondary education. Nobody is in favour of a publicly funded education system that expects students from challenging socio-economic backgrounds to aspire to or achieve less, and there are sound pedagogical reasons to question how the system currently operates. For example, the People for Education report shows sample questions from academic and applied geography courses which indicate that students in some applied courses are not being afforded the opportunity to explore political debates or engage in “critical citizenship.” Considering the importance of the education system for fostering a healthy democratic society, this is a troubling issue that is worthy of discussion. Meeting Students’ Needs
However, other aspects of the report miss the mark. As years of talk about individualization and differentiated instruction should have taught us, there is nothing inherently wrong with tailoring the educational experience to meet the needs and interests of individual students. And the overall tone of the report risks perpetuating a dangerous social construct that sees skilled trades and other non-academic pursuits as less valuable or prestigious. There is also the issue of services and supports. As the People for Education report acknowledges, only 20 per cent of schools with Grades 7 and 8 have a guidance counsellor, and many of
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these work part time. If students are not mixing-and-matching courses as expected, or if they are failing to appreciate the ramifications of their choices, we need to help them make informed course-selections that are in their long-term interests. Similarly, we should consider how provincial funding that is meant to be targeted toward at-risk students, such as the Learning Opportunities Grant, is actually being spent. In many cases, school boards are using these funds to plug gaps in their local budgets rather than investing in teachers or other classroom services. Fundamental Issues
Even if we delay streaming decisions, refine course content, or do away with the current policy altogether, the social and psychological stresses of poverty will continue to weigh heavily on students, affecting their ability to concentrate and succeed at school. We would be much better served by addressing the fundamental issues related to inequality in our communities, pushing for policies and programs such as early childhood education and care, an adequate living wage, and schoolbased community hubs that integrate social services into students’ daily lives. Given that we interact directly with students every day, OECTA members are well-positioned to offer comments and recommendations on how to improve the existing policy. Unfortunately, we were not consulted for this study. By going straight to school principals, this report continues a troubling trend that undermines teachers’ knowledge and professional judgement. Had we been asked, we would have encouraged People for Education not to miss the forest for the trees.
Adam Lemieux is the Writer/Researcher in the Communications and Government Relations departments at OECTA Provincial Office.