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DECEMBER 2019 ISSUE

MAGAZINE of the Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association

Wisdom ove r Waste

y t i n u m n m o i o t C isola r e v o

IN THIS ISSUE:

Knowledg ignoranecover e Service over domination Peace o injusti ver ce

Advice for navigating the digital world Student Vote: 1.2 million voices and growing Social media: a tool for activism and advocacy A message to Catholic teachers from Cardinal Thomas Collins


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CO N T E NT S/D EC 2019

22

INBOX 4 PRESIDENT’S MESSAGE 5

UP FRONT

6 CALENDAR / EVENTS

10

FEATURES 10

1.2 MILLION CANADIAN STUDENTS PARTICIPATED IN STUDENT VOTE

CANADA 2019 By Dan Allen

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A MESSAGE TO CATHOLIC TEACHERS

By Cardinal Thomas Collins

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SOCIAL MEDIA: A TOOL FOR ACTIVISM AND ADVOCACY

How social media can be harnessed to bring about positive social change

By Cynthia Bifolchi

TEACHERS’ AID

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16

INSIGHT

The gift of being present By Michelle Despault 19

CATHOLIC CONNECTION

Silent night By Shannon Hogan 20

TEACHER ADVISOR

Realistic advice for navigating the digital world By Joe Pece 22

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MONEY MATTERS

The credit card trap By Kevin Zhang

VIEWPOINT 24

NEW HOME, NEW CHRISTMAS MEMORIES

By Cynthia Bifolchi 26

THE CREATED CRISIS OF THE CELLPHONE BAN

By Anthony Perrotta

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FOR WHAT IT’S WORTH

It’s about time By Gian Marcon

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INBOX

PRESIDENT’S MESSAGE It has been a whirlwind across the education sector since the Ford government introduced its sweeping changes to Ontario’s world-renowned publicly funded education system last March. While the government has been busy promoting its “historic investments” in education, we have been working tirelessly to protect the future of publicly funded education in Ontario. Rarely have teachers, administrators, parents, and students been so united in protest. But despite our protestations, the government insists on moving forward with its attack on education, unwilling to make progress. This is why we were left with no choice but to ask our members for a strike mandate in November. While staff at our Provincial Office worked overtime to field questions and provide support, members across the province took to the electronic polls on November 12 and 13 to express solidarity and empower the Association with a sweeping 97.1 per cent strike mandate. As OECTA President, I am grateful for, and proud of, the action our members have taken to protest cuts to education and support the Association’s ongoing efforts at the provincial bargaining table. The result of our strike vote is no small feat. Together, we illustrated OECTA’s strength in numbers and our steadfast determination to stand up for teachers’ rights and student learning. We are a diverse and united collective, and our resolve speaks volumes. Solidarity may be our great strength, but it is the teachings of our faith that inspire us to work tirelessly to better the lives of our fellow members, the students that we teach, and the communities in which we live. This is part of our calling as Catholic teachers. In the words of the OECTA prayer, may we “choose knowledge over ignorance, wisdom over waste, peace over injustice, community over isolation, and service over domination.” As we wade through these difficult times together, there is perhaps no better time than the Christmas season to pause and reflect on the significance of our prayer and what it means to be a Catholic teacher.

Michelle Despault Editor Adam Lemieux Mark Tagliaferri Associate Editors Cynthia Bifolchi Contributing Writer Fernanda Monteiro Production Anna Anezyris Advertising

EDITORIAL BOARD Liz Stuart President Barb Dobrowolski First Vice-President David Church General Secretary Mary Lachapelle Deputy General Secretary Carley Desjardins Communications Specialist/ Writer Catholic Teacher is published five times during the school year. Opinions and ideas expressed in Catholic Teacher are not necessarily those of the Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association.

I ask that you keep your fellow members in your hearts as you celebrate the love of God and rejoice in the birth of Jesus Christ this Christmas season. And may you enjoy the wonder of this season with your loved ones.

Catholic Teacher is a member of the Canadian Educational Press Association, and the Canadian Association of Labour Media.

Merry Christmas!

Return undelivered Canadian addresses to: Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association, 65 St. Clair Avenue East, Suite 400 Toronto, ON M4T 2Y8

God bless,

PHONE 416-925-2493 TOLL-FREE 1-800-268-7230 FAX 416-925-7764 catholicteachers.ca

WE WANT TO HEAR FROM YOU If you would like to connect with us to share your thoughts, ideas, or concerns, please reach out to us at communications@catholicteachers.ca.

Publication Mail Agreement No. 0040062510 Account No. 0001681016

There is no voice more important than a member’s voice. 4 CATHOLIC TEACHER | DECEMBER 2019

Cover: Image from the OECTA Christmas card.


INBOX

UP FRONT AGM 2020 The Association’s Annual General Meeting (AGM) will take place March 14 to 16, 2020, at the Westin Habour Castle Hotel in Toronto. If you would like to attend as a delegate for your unit, please contact your local unit as soon as possible. The Resolutions and Nominations booklet will be made available in the Members’ Area of catholicteachers.ca prior to AGM. This booklet includes all proposed policy, procedural, and by-law changes to be debated at this year’s meeting. Since all Provincial Executive positions were elected for a two-year term last year, there will be no elections this year. Contact your local unit office to find out when local meetings are happening, so you can provide input regarding the AGM resolutions.

RECOGNIZING MEMBER ENGAGEMENT Did your unit engage members in an awareness campaign around education cuts, or make a concerted effort to communicate about an important local issue?

OECTA’s Member Engagement Awards program honours achievement among OECTA units for their unique and innovative approach in engaging members, and helping to spread the good news about our amazing teachers and our Catholic education system. The program is an opportunity for units to share their best and most effective member engagement practices. Visit catholicteachers.ca in the For Your Benefit section for more information and to apply.

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 6 and close March 31. Visit teachingawards.ca for more information. SEARCHING FOR YOUNG AUTHORS OECTA is once again proud sponsor of the annual Young Authors Awards/Prix Jeunes Écrivains. The awards celebrate the writing talents of students who submit short stories, poems, non-fiction 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 3.

Join us at the Westin Harbour Castle Hotel, Toronto, from March 14 to 16, 2020.

Can’t attend in person? No problem. Select portions of the event will be livestreamed in the Members’ Area at catholicteachers.ca

Or follow the action on social media, using the hashtag #OECTAAGM20

@OECTA

@OECTAProv

@catholic_teachers

DECEMBER 2019 | CATHOLIC TEACHER 5


INBOX

CALENDAR

EVENTS

J A N UA R Y

DECEMBER

RECOGNIZING INNOVATION AND EXCELLENCE IN CATHOLIC EDUCATION 1

Advent begins

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International Day of Persons with Disabilities

6 National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women 10

International Human Rights Day

23 to Jan 5

Christmas Break Provincial Office closure

6

Epiphany

27

Lunar New Year

25

Family Literacy Day

27 International Day of Commemoration in Memory of Victims of the Holocaust

F E B R UA R Y

BLACK HISTORY MONTH

6-7 Winter Council of Presidents meeting

Each year, the Catholic Education Foundation of Ontario (CEFO) recognizes outstanding examples of Catholic schools, students, and leaders who are demonstrating our values. Michael Monk Award

The Association co-sponsors the Michael Monk Award, which honours a school that has displayed a sustained commitment to student engagement and the implementation of innovative programs to improve student learning. This year’s recipient was St. Francis Xavier High School in Gloucester (Ottawa Unit), for their project, “A Path of Reconciliation: The Outdoor Stations of the Cross for Indigenous Social Justice in Canada.” The project is an adapted and unique version of the Stations of the Cross, complete with original Indigenous student artwork, prayers, and video reflections, facilitating an engagement with, and awareness of, Indigenous experiences of suffering in Canada. As people progress through the Stations of the Cross, which recount the suffering of Jesus, they are invited to pray and reflect upon the suffering of Canada’s Indigenous peoples. The project is led by chaplaincy leader Tony Adams and resource teacher Ashley Baine, with assistance from technology teacher Kyle Blakey and his students. A key part of the project involves the creation of an outdoor walking path on school grounds. The $4,000 cash prize from the Michael Monk Award will be used to purchase required signage and materials needed to complete the walkway, which is expected by Wednesday, February 26, in time for the start of Lent. Michael Carty Award

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1 Billion Rising

Eight other Catholic schools across the province received the Michael Carty Award, which recognizes initiatives to improve, develop, and enhance aspects of Catholic education that contribute to the whole person. This year’s recipients include:

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Family Day

St. Augustine Catholic School (Ottawa) – “Tower Garden Program”

20 World Day of Social Justice 28

Pink Shirt Day

Bishop MacDonnell CHS (Guelph) – “Student Wellness Leadership Group” Bishop Alexander Carter CSS (Hanmer) – “Inspiring and Developing Christian Leaders” Durham Catholic District School Board – “Inter-school Student Leadership Summit and Social Action Project: We are Hope for the World” St. Theresa CS (Calander) – “Catholic Leadership Team”

YOUNG AUTHORS AWARDS

St. Pius X CHS (Ottawa) – “Community Outreach Experiential Education Through Religious Education”

School deadline: February 3

St. Mother Teresa CS (Courtice) – “Team Twenty-One (21st Century Skills)”

Unit deadline: February 18 Provincial deadline: March 11 Winners announced: June 4 or 5 (at Spring Council of Presidents meeting)

St. Edmund Campion CSS (Brampton) – “Stuebenville Catholic Youth Speaker Tour”

Awards are given annually, with applications accepted in the spring. For more details, visit cefontario.ca.


OECTA MEMBER RECOGNIZED FOR LABOUR ACTIVISM Every year since 1984, the Ontario Federation of Labour (OFL) has inducted five trade unionists into the OFL Honour Roll. One of this year’s inductees was Brian Hogan, former President of the OECTA Windsor-Essex Secondary Unit and current President of the Windsor and District Labour Council. The prestigious recognition acknowledges the significant contributions of individual OFL members to the life and growth of the trade union movement in Ontario. It is also intended to inspire current and future activists to dedicate themselves to the labour movement and the broader fight for progressive social change.

an Brian Hog

Additionally, at this year’s Labour Day parade in Windsor, Brian was announced as the recipient of the Charles E. Brooks Labour Community Service Award. This annual award – presented by the United Way of Windsor-Essex County, in partnership with the Windsor and District Labour Council – honours a trade unionist who has demonstrated outstanding contributions in the area of voluntary community service.

The Association is very proud to have one of our own recognized by our peers in the labour movement. Congratulations, Brian!

OUR PROFESSION, OUR VOICE

CATHOLIC TEACHERS IN THE COMMUNITY

In November, almost a dozen staff from a variety of departments at the OECTA Provincial Office attended the annual National Staff Meeting organized by the Canadian Teachers’ Federation.

As part of our commitment to making our world a better place, both at home and abroad, the Association gives financial donations throughout the year to a variety of causes.

The theme for this year’s conference was, “Our Profession, Our Voice.” It featured many workshops and keynote speakers that reflected upon the challenges our profession faces and the need for a collective response. Participants heard keynote addresses from Dr. Joel Westheimer, Research Chair in Democracy and Education at the University of Ottawa, who discussed the impact of standardization on public perceptions of the teaching profession. They also heard from Dr. Carol Campbell, Associate Professor of Leadership and Educational Change at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, University of Toronto, who spoke on supporting the teaching profession in times of adversity and austerity. Participants also attended workshops and departmental sessions – learning from, and engaging with, their colleagues from affiliates across the country. Association staff were well represented at the meeting. Mark Tagliaferri from the Communications department delivered a popular module in the Idea Marketplace on OECTA’s #KnowMore campaign. Bruno Muzzi from the Bargaining and Contract Services (BCS) department was a featured panelist, discussing how lessons from the past can help inform the challenges teachers in many provinces are currently facing with Conservative governments. Also, building on work originally presented at OECTA’s Fempower conference, Katrina Wheaton from BCS and Michelle Despault from the Communications department delivered an insightful workshop examining the disparity between women employed in the education sector versus those in leadership positions.

Some of these are smaller donations to local, provincial, and national charities, particularly those working on Catholic education, Indigenous education, anti-poverty initiatives, and other social justice projects. Examples of regular recipients include Catholic Missions in Canada, the Canadian Council on Refugees, L’Arche Daybreak, and the Ontario Health Coalition. We also make larger donations to help with natural disasters or other emergency situations. For example, this year the Association provided funds to help victims of Cyclone Idai in Mozambique, and to support members of Workers United in their protracted job action against the Rainforest Café in Niagara Falls. All of these contributions are discussed and approved by the OECTA Provincial Executive. They are in addition to the partnerships developed through our labour federations and government relations activities, our support of the Lieutenant Governor’s Indigenous Summer Reading Camps, the contributions made through the Educational Aid program, and the remarkable efforts undertaken every day by local Catholic teachers and OECTA units.

DECEMBER 2019 | CATHOLIC TEACHER 7


EVENTS OFL “POWER OF MANY” CONVENTION

After a tough year-and-a-half under the Ford government, the labour movement had an opportunity to regroup and recharge in November at the biennial convention of the Ontario Federation of Labour (OFL). The Association brought a strong delegation to meet with fellow labour activists, discuss hot-button issues, and set the direction for the Federation for the next two years. Among the highlights of the week was the election of the new OFL Executive. After an incredible four years, during which he made great strides in stabilizing the OFL and winning gains for workers, Chris Buckley has stepped down as President. Replacing him will be Patty Coates of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation, who becomes the first woman to hold that position in the history of the Federation. Joining her will be Ahmad Gaied of the United Food and Commercial Workers, who was acclaimed as Secretary-Treasurer, and Janice Folk-Dawson of the Canadian Union of Public Employees, who was elected as Executive Vice-President. As has become our custom, Catholic teachers made our voices heard at the microphones throughout the week. OECTA delegates spoke on a range of issues, including child care, violence against women, mental health, and access to clean water. The Association was also honoured to see two OECTA activists receive well deserved awards: Michelle Blais received the Solidarity and Pride award for her efforts on behalf of the 2SLGBTQI+ community, and Brian Hogan, former President of the Windsor -Essex Secondary Unit, was named to the OFL Honour Roll. There were several displays of solidarity between delegates and members of teacher and education worker unions, including a convention-wide #RedForEd day. It was made clear that if the government continues to attack publicly funded education, they will have to deal with the entire force of Ontario’s labour movement. While there was some spirited debate about the OFL Action Plan, in the end delegates came away united and inspired. The Federation has been charged with fostering and coordinating a sustained opposition to the Ford government and its slash-and -burn, anti-worker agenda, including mass mobilization of workers across the province. Catholic teachers value our role in this important movement, and we look forward to working with our friends and allies in local communities and across the province.

Michelle Blais (right) with OECTA President Liz Stuart

8 CATHOLIC TEACHER | DECEMBER 2019


1.2 MILLION CANADIAN STUDENTS PARTICIPATE IN STUDENT VOTE CANADA 2019 By Dan Allen

Nearly 1.2 million elementary and secondary school students participated in Student Vote Canada 2019, coinciding with the 2019 federal election. After learning about the electoral process, researching the parties and platforms, and debating Canada’s future, students cast their ballots for the official candidates running in their school’s riding. Same as the adults, students elected a Liberal minority government and the Conservatives won the popular vote. However, in the Student Vote, the NDP formed official opposition. “We are thrilled with the turnout for Student Vote Canada 2019,” says Taylor Gunn, President and CEO of CIVIX Canada. “Compared to 2015, the number of participating schools grew by 22 per

cent and an additional 275,000 students cast a ballot.” Participation in Ontario also grew significantly; more than 450,000 Ontario students cast ballots for the official candidates in their federal riding. Of these students, 121,573 of them were from Ontario Catholic schools. Wellington Catholic District School Board had the best turnout in the province, with 19 out of 22 schools reporting election results. Other special mentions include Superior North Catholic DSB, Peterborough Victoria Northumberland and Clarington Catholic DSB, and Thunder Bay Catholic DSB. Notably, St. Mary’s Catholic Secondary School in Kitchener, from the Waterloo Catholic District School Board, was

10 CATHOLIC TEACHER | DECEMBER 2019

ranked fifth among all participating schools nationwide with more than 1,660 total ballots cast. “We are grateful for all the teachers that dedicated time and energy to cultivating the next generation of voters. We estimate that more than 2,000 OECTA members were part of Student Vote Canada 2019 from more than 900 schools,” added Taylor Gunn. “We’d like to thank all of the OECTA members that acted as ambassadors and helped drive participation locally.” Many teachers remarked that it was the best Student Vote program to date and they were amazed by the engagement of their students. “Student Vote Canada 2019 was by far the best organized and most informative


FEATURE

and useful curriculum-linked activity I have used in my more than 10 years of teaching,” says Brennan Caverhill, Grade 5/6 teacher at Bishop Macdonell Catholic Elementary School in Toronto. “The entire school community was engaged in our project, from students, to teachers, administration, parents, and even our local candidates! My students were so hooked, and many even attended debates and polling stations outside of school hours. Parents commented that kids encouraged their parents to vote, and helped the whole family become more engaged in our democracy as a result of the program. I always look forward to municipal, provincial, and federal elections because I know CIVIX will provide excellent resources to engage my students in real-world learning.” At the same time of the federal election, 5,000 kilometres south, CIVIX also facilitated 75,000 students casting a “Voto Estudiantil” ballot for the regional and municipal elections in Colombia. The project took place in the cities of Bogotá, Buenaventura, Cali, Cartagena, and Medellin. Student Vote, Voto Estudiantil, and all other CIVIX civic education projects would not be possible without the support of the many great OECTA teachers who have provided their engagement and support over the years. Dan Allen is Director of Content for CIVIX.

STUDENT VOTE is a program of CIVIX. CIVIX is a non-partisan registered Canadian charity dedicated to strengthening democracy through citizenship education among school-aged youth. Student Vote Canada 2019 was made possible by Elections Canada. Elections Canada is an independent, non-partisan agency that reports directly to Parliament. The full breakdown of Student Vote election results can be found at: studentvote.ca/canada/results/

DECEMBER 2019 | CATHOLIC TEACHER 11


FEATURE

A MESSAGE TO CATHOLIC TEACHERS At Christmas we express our joy at the coming of God into this world two thousand years ago in a personal and physical way, when the Word became flesh and dwelt among us: Jesus the Christ, God and man. So that we might come to God, God came to us. It is because of this great gift of God’s presence in an earthly way that we mark this festival by sharing gifts with one another. In the way in which this divine generosity was expressed we see a basic characteristic of our Christian faith: the Word became flesh. In the Incarnation, which is what we celebrate at Christmas, we recognize that our faith is not an abstract ideology, or a set of admired but inoperative ideals, but an incarnate reality lived in practice amid the struggles of this earthly world; it affects every dimension of our lives. Our faith shapes how we live. It is not a spiritual fashion accessory. Our faith leads us to an encounter with God in Jesus Christ, whom we recognize and celebrate in that babe at Bethlehem, and in the young man growing in human wisdom and grace in the Holy Family, and in the healer and preacher of the Kingdom of God, and in the crucified Saviour who offered his life generously in the face of evil, and in Our Risen Lord who now rules our lives. As Christians, and certainly as Catholic teachers, we need to be guided in all that we do by the vision of God’s plan for us on earth revealed in Jesus Christ, whom we now encounter in the Gospels and other Sacred Scriptures, in the Sacraments, in prayer, and in the living teaching of the Church which He established. The most important way we encounter Christ is the Mass, which He left for us so that he could come amongst us now as intensely as he did in Bethlehem, though in a sacramental way. Every Mass is a Christmas: Christ’s Mass. Come let us adore him, and pray that our lives may be aligned with the Lord whom we receive in Holy Communion. Because we are His disciples, we are freed from the illusions of this world, and from slavery to the passing trends which go against God’s will as revealed in Christ. Christmas is revolutionary; no banal secular festival, it calls each of us to a profound conversion of heart. Repent, for the Kingdom of God is at hand. Jesus came at Bethlehem to proclaim that, and He still does. Cardinal Thomas Collins Archbishop of Toronto

DECEMBER 2019 | CATHOLIC TEACHER 13


FEATURE

SOCIAL MEDIA: A TOOL FOR ACTIVISM AND ADVOCACY How social media can be harnessed to bring about positive social change By Cynthia Bifolchi

On social media, we see dedicated hashtags, campaigns, and posts going “viral” – but can any of this actually bring about real change? Can sharing our thoughts on an issue, or joining or creating a social media campaign, actually make a difference? The short answer is yes. Social media has massive potential as a tool for activism and advocacy. Platforms like Twitter and Facebook are “worlds” in and of themselves, populated with real people, or “digital citizens,” and each platform is a space of discussion, debate, and information sharing – in real time. Social media is also free. Providing there is access to a device and the internet, anyone can use it. There is also the option to pay for targeted advertising within each platform, so organizations and individuals can strategically harness them to reach large numbers of people quickly. So there is an “audience” and the supporting technology. Now what? Well, on these platforms, people can share their unfiltered stories and experiences. Opinions on news and current affairs are disseminated locally, nationally, and globally. Users can learn about issues and causes, and decide to add their voice. Grassroots campaigns can build large followings. People can speak out against governments and public policy. Social media has also broken down the “barrier” between the public and elected officials, so people can engage with them and call them out. This all adds up to influence, and in turn, power. Where that exists, so too does the possibility of social disruption and change. Let’s take a look at some examples:

#BlackLivesMatter

The Black Lives Matter movement is a powerful example of how social media activism can be a precursor to real-world action. It began in 2013 following the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the murder of Black teenager Trayvon Martin. Three Black organizers – Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors, and Opal Tometi – used social media as a platform to create #BlackLivesMatter, which they describe as a “Black-centered political will and movement building project.” Six years on, the 14 CATHOLIC TEACHER | DECEMBER 2019

movement continues to grow, and in that time, it has raised awareness around Black issues, mobilized supporters, and been an integral part of campaigns to change legislation.

#WhyIStayed

When a video of US sportsperson Ray Rice hitting his nowwife, Janay Rice, went viral in 2014, many people on social media questioned why she stayed with him. In response, Beverly Gooden, a survivor of domestic violence, shared her own experience with the hashtag #WhyIStayed, to highlight the complexity of these situations, and how too often public discourse blames the victim. Her action inspired over 200,000 people to take to Twitter to share their stories of domestic violence. This gave survivors an opportunity to dispel misconceptions and stereotypes around domestic violence, and opened up a hitherto non-existent space of dialogue, awareness, and action.

#FridaysForFuture

Social media has played a huge part in the global climate strike movement. The #FridaysForFurture movement started in 2018 when Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg began to spend every Friday in front of the Swedish parliament to demand climate action. Thanks to social media, within a year the movement had spread throughout the world. This culminated in the Global Climate Strike, which saw millions of students and supporters from more than 150 countries take part in the largest climate strike in world history. The sustained advocacy on this issue is a testament to the incredible potential of social media activism to demand political action and impact public policy decisions.


#RallyForEducation

Here in Ontario, we are seeing social media activism come into play to protect publicly funded education. Teachers, education workers, parents, students, unions, and all who want to protect our world-class education system are taking to social media to call out the Ford government’s cuts. People are using social media to bring awareness to issues like overcrowded classrooms and cancelled courses, and to counter government misinformation and Conservative spin. Social media has also served as a tool to mobilize. A great example of this was the Rally for Education last April, when tens of thousands of Ontarians came together to protest the government’s cuts to education. Cross-platform sharing in the lead-up played a significant role in spreading information about the issues at play and encouraging people to get out and make their voices heard. As the examples show, for social media activism to make a real change, it has to move beyond the hashtag. Platforms like Twitter and Facebook are incredibly powerful in that they can create and incubate movements online that spill onto the streets. Cynthia Bifolchi is Social Media Assistant in the Communications and Government Relations departments at the OECTA Provincial Office.

A new social media “how to” guide is available at catholicteachers.ca. Learn how to create an account, join the conversation, and engage effectively.

DECEMBER 2019 | CATHOLIC TEACHER 15


TEACHERS’ AID

THE GIFT OF BEING PRESENT By Michelle Despault

W

e were putting up our Christmas decorations the other day, and, of course, the inevitable topic of Christmas presents came up. My son rattled off his exhaustive list of Lego and Pokémon, before the conversation turned to what I might like. My automatic response, as always, was “nothing.” Truly, I do not need anything. But as the day wore on and I thought about it some more, I discovered there is actually something I wish for this year. What I wish for this Christmas is less! I came upon this passage in Shauna Neiquist’s book, Present over Perfect, which perfectly sums up how I have been feeling: “I want less of everything. Less stuff. Less rushing. Less proving and pushing. Less hustle. Less snapping at my kids so that they’ll get themselves into the car faster so we can go buy more stuff that we’re going to throw away. Less consumption. Less feeling like my mind is fragmented and my stomach is bloated and my life is out of control.” These days, life feels like a constant stream of responsibilities, worries, activities, and chores that literally keep me busy from 6 a.m. to midnight, seven days a week. When people ask me how I am doing, and the automatic response is always, “Busy” – the efficiency of the single word says it all. And with the holidays it only gets worse. I recently tried to make a coffee date with a friend, and I am pleased to say that our schedules will allow us to connect in February! I realize that this life is completely my own creation – and I worked very hard to cultivate it over the years. I also realize that I am addicted to the hustle, to being busy. This is another concept Shauna brings up in her book: the idea that even if we wanted to slow down, we cannot; that our being busy is like a drug that keeps us going. We are hooked. Even if I dropped one obligation, I would likely soon fill the void with another. If I find myself one evening with nothing scheduled, I will find some chore or other activity to fill the time. Downtime or stillness are a dream, in more ways than one.

16 CATHOLIC TEACHER | DECEMBER 2019

So this Christmas, I also wish for more! More stillness. More being in-the-moment. More giving of my undivided attention to others. More single-tasking instead of multi-tasking. More present. Being present

What exactly does it mean to be present? Essentially, it is when we are able to transcend thoughts of the past or the future, and only focus on the present moment. As humans, we tend to live predominantly in a state of worry (thinking about the past) or fear (thinking about the future). We cannot change the past, and we cannot predict or control the future, despite all our best efforts, and yet we allow these worries and fears to control our emotional responses and drive our actions. We often think we are being present as we are listening to someone talk or watching a TV show, but in reality there are thoughts and judgments swirling in our brains, and we analyze what is being said or what we are seeing. To be present, or to live “in the now,” as Eckhart Tolle put it in his book, The Power of Now, means to still the mind and observe without judgment – accepting everything as it is in that exact moment. But how do we shut off that incessant voice in our heads, the one that analyzes and criticizes everything? It may seem counterintuitive, but sitting in silence and meditating is the ticket. When I first started to meditate, the volume of thoughts I had, and speed with which my mind jumped from one to another, was actually shocking. With patience and practice, it has gotten better over time, but like any “practice”’ it is something you need to undertake consistently. And admittedly, it is something that I rarely find time (or better stated, make time) for in my day. The greatest gift

I tell my son all the time that the greatest gift we can give someone is our love. And the best way to show our love to others is being truly present with them. Present with no


INSIGHT

judgments or worries infiltrating our thoughts. No doing dishes while at the same time inquiring about how our loved one’s day went. No glancing at our cellphone while sitting at the dinner table. Actually giving our undivided attention and focus to the people with whom we are engaging. However, being present is not just a gift we give to others. It is also a gift we give ourselves. Taking the time to eat lunch without simultaneously typing on the computer means we can truly enjoy our food. We may even notice new or different tastes and flavours. Walking without checking our social feeds means we may notice new places, or previously unnoticed details in familiar places we have seen many times over. Being present engages and enhances our senses. It calms our mind and promotes serenity and wonder. And it is a foundation of self-care. You cannot simultaneously be present in the moment while worrying about what you just said to someone or fretting about what is to come.

This holiday season I am looking forward to the smell of cookies baking in the oven and noticing every unique snowflake that falls on my son’s nose. I cannot wait to see the Christmas windows at Hudson’s Bay and scope out every unique and intricate detail. I will relish the pungent scent of the Douglas fir Christmas tree that will hit me as soon as I walk in the front door. And I will savour every smile and look of surprise on my son’s face as he continues to discover the magic of Christmas. I wish this for myself, and I wish this (or your version of it) for all of you. Michelle Despault is Director of Communications at the OECTA Provincial Office.


OECTA’S PROVINCIAL LTD PLAN What you need to know about cancelling your long-term disability coverage Most members are in a highly vulnerable financial position when they are confronted with a loss of income during a lengthy or permanent disability. The OECTA provincial long-term disability (LTD) insurance plan provides a safety net that will replace a percentage of your salary and provide pension plan protection if you are unable to work because of an illness or injury. This being said, it is possible to terminate your LTD coverage, in which case you will no longer have premiums deducted from your pay. Three scenarios

There are three scenarios in which you might be able to cancel your LTD insurance: 1) You are eligible for a 60 per cent unreduced service pension,

or will be within the latter of either: the next 110 working days, or the expiration of your sick leave credits. • To qualify for an unreduced pension you must have the “85 factor,” meaning your age and years of qualifying service add up to 85. • To qualify for a 60 per cent unreduced pension, you must meet the above criteria with 30 years of credited service. 2) You have reached the end of the month in which you turned 65, or you will reach the end of the month in which you will turn 65 within the latter of either: the next 110 working days, or the expiration of your sick leave credits. 3) Your retirement date is within the next 110 working days,

and you have notified both the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan and your school board.

the date of your retirement, and you the have the right to make a claim if you become disabled prior to this date. If approved, LTD benefits would be payable until: you recover, you become eligible for a 60 per cent unreduced service pension, or you reach the end of the month following your 65th birthday (as long as you were not receiving Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan benefits). You might have sound reasons for cancelling your LTD coverage and discontinuing your premium payments, but you should carefully consider your options. You likely do not want to be in a situation where you are unable to work and are not receiving sufficient income. Also note that coverage cannot be cancelled retroactively. If you wish to terminate your LTD coverage, you should complete an Application for Coverage Termination. Submit the completed application to your local OECTA unit office at least two months prior to the desired cancellation date to ensure the board stops deducting LTD premiums on time. Be sure to include the required supporting documentation. Your LTD benefits plan is sponsored by OECTA Provincial and administered by the Ontario Teachers Insurance Plan (OTIP). Please do not call your school board for assistance; direct any questions to your local OECTA unit office. What is OTIP?

The Ontario Teachers Insurance Plan (OTIP) is a not-for-profit insurance advocate that is part of the education community. OTIP is governed, led, and inspired by the four education affiliates and their local leaders. OTIP’s products and services include a full range of group and individual insurance from your group benefit plans and long-term disability coverage to individual insurance products such as your home and auto coverage.

Eligible until retirement

You should know that you are not required to terminate your LTD coverage simply because you have notified your board of your intention to retire. You are still eligible for coverage up to 18 CATHOLIC TEACHER | DECEMBER 2019

n The information for this article was provided by the Ontario Teachers Insurance Plan. To learn more, visit www.otip.com.


TEACHERS’ AID

Silent Night …

CATHOLIC CONNECTION

By Shannon Hogan

The thing that always moves me when I see a depiction of the Nativity of Jesus is the sense of silence these images evoke. It reminds us that the sacred, the holy, are moments that occur in smallness and silence.

That a birth in a barn two thousand years ago could still, to this day, remind us of who we are and who we are called to be is without doubt a declaration of the divine, and its entrance into our tiny and mostly unremarkable human history. It is a story of God’s choice to enter our world in the most vulnerable of states, as an infant, completely dependent on the world for his very existence. In our current cultural understanding of power and greatness, this image of the infancy of the Almighty stands in most profound contrast to the current zeitgeist of dominance and cruelty as the path to power. Our faith, in this moment in history, has become the most countercultural act imaginable. We are coming to understand

the true nature of strength. As St. Paul says, “In Christ my weakness is made strong.” It is only in our openness to God’s will, rather than an obsessive pursuit of our own “importance,” that grace can permeate our souls, our lives, our actions, and our world. Our faith is the continuance of the choice, like that of God, to enter and remain in the world in full understanding of our ultimate vulnerability, and our complete dependence on the God of our lives. We are, in essence, a living, breathing nativity – a sign to those around us that we are aware of who we are and who we are called to be, and that our total dependence on God is our greatest strength.

Shannon Hogan is a member of the Counselling and Member Services department at the OECTA Provincial Office.

DECEMBER 2019 | CATHOLIC TEACHER 19


TEACHERS’ AID

REALISTIC ADVICE FOR NAVIGATING THE DIGITAL WORLD By Joe Pece

A

s personal mobile devices and electronic communication become ever-present, teachers need to learn how to use them appropriately. There are a variety of opportunities and challenges when it comes to communicating with students and parents, gathering materials for the classroom, or integrating technology into your teaching practice. As an Association, we want to help fellow teachers harness the power of the internet and digital tools while maintaining privacy, professionalism, and work/life balance. To this end, the OECTA Counselling and Member Services department has produced a new guide for members: Appropriate and Professional Use of Electronic Communication,

Social Media, and Online Educational Services. The guide provides practical, up-to-date information and tips on email, text messaging, social media, internet browsing, online educational services, e-learning, copyright, and cyberbullying. It was not so long ago that the Association’s advice would have been to avoid the online world at all costs, and the truth is we still deal with many cases in which teachers find themselves in compromising situations, or are accused of using digital tools in an unprofessional manner. Thus, while the guide aims to be positive and encouraging, it also includes a number of cautions and suggestions for protecting your professional reputation. It is important for all teachers to understand that misuse of electronic communication and digital tools could have serious consequences, including investigation and possible discipline by your employer, the Ontario College of Teachers, the Children’s Aid Society, or even the police. The Supreme Court of Canada has ruled that even off-duty conduct could be relevant to your suitability to teach. Another increasing concern is privacy. While many of us have become used to publicizing a great deal of personal information, and modern technology gives us the ability to capture and share images and video with ease, teachers have a special interest in protecting your information and maintaining appropriate boundaries. You also have a duty to ensure you are not disclosing more than is necessary about your students. Two tools in particular – social media and online educational services – have experienced rapid growth in recent years. Many teachers are using them effectively, while others might still have questions and concerns. The guide will help you avoid some common pitfalls, while also pointing you to ways to engage in a constructive manner. The guide can be downloaded from catholicteachers.ca, and a limited number of print copies will be available in schools. As always, questions about specific issues in your classroom, school, or school board can be directed to your local OECTA unit or the Counselling and Member Services department at the OECTA Provincial Office.

20 CATHOLIC TEACHER | DECEMBER 2019


TEACHER ADVISOR

Online Educational Services The following is an excerpt from Appropriate and Professional Use of Electronic Communication, Social Media, and Online Educational Services: A Guide for Members. There are a variety of websites, software, or apps that can enhance your teaching practice, including in the areas of assessment, evaluation, reporting, or communication. However, teachers must be sure to maintain proper boundaries, respect students’ privacy rights, and protect against excessive workload.

• As with social media, you should seek consent from students or their parents/guardians before posting any photographs. It is best to err on the side of caution and avoid posting identifiable photos of students altogether. • To protect yourself, consult with the school or school board about which websites, software, or applications have been approved for use in your classroom.

The Association recommends the following guidelines:

Many of the popular online educational services fail to meet the Association’s guidelines. You should examine and test any tool before you use it in your classroom.

• Communication between teachers and parents or students should only take place via software or applications sanctioned by the school board or the Ministry of Education – teachers should never use personal devices or accounts.

If you choose to use an online service, the Association recommends Desire2Learn’s Virtual Learning Environment, which has been licensed by the Ministry of Education for every publicly funded school board in Ontario.

• Communication with parents should only be done during the instructional day.

• The tool supports pedagogical documentation, so you can review and evaluate students’ work, and provide feedback to students and parents.

• Teachers must always abide by the Ontario College of Teachers’ Ethical Standards for the Teaching Profession. The focus of any communication should be on the assessment/ evaluation/report being communicated, not personal communication. • All matters and materials electronically communicated are bound by the Municipal Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act, which states that unless explicit consent is given, all information is to be kept confidential. • There is no expectation for a teacher to constantly check software or applications for notifications of new communications. (If you believe you are being instructed otherwise, contact your local OECTA unit.) • If you are sharing announcements and general information through a third party application, you should ensure it is a one-way communication. If ongoing communication is required, then use of email and phone to set up an appointment is the best course of action. Privacy is a key consideration when selecting any software or app.

• Students’ information is kept secure and private. • The Ministry of Education has already purchased these licenses – the Association’s position is that school boards should not be spending additional resources on other services. • For more information, see d2l.com/k-12/ontario/ For more information about how to integrate technology into your teaching practice effectively, check out OECTA’s wide range of professional development programs at catholicteachers.ca. Joe Pece is Department Head of the Counselling and Member Services department at the OECTA Provincial Office.

• You must take reasonable steps to protect students’ personal information, including their work, progress reports, and evaluations. • You must ensure the online educational services you use do not improperly collect, use, and disclose personal information.

DECEMBER 2019 | CATHOLIC TEACHER 21


MONEY MATTERS

THE CREDIT CARD TRAP By Kevin Zhang

“The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is a slave to the lender.” Proverbs 22:7 Contrary to what many aristocrats of old believed, Proverbs 22:7 is not about granting them divine right to rule over the peasants working in the fields. It is a statement about the nature of debt – one that many Canadians would do well to remember today. In 2019, the Canadian debt-to-income ratio reached a new alltime high of 1.77:1. In other words, for every dollar of income earned, Canadians owe almost two times as much. In 1990, this ratio was 0.83:1. How we got here is part of a complex web of socio-economic variables that economists can spend a lifetime analyzing. But I am not interested in how we got here. As someone far wiser than I once remarked, “Inopportune questioning can confuse without enlightening.” Instead, what I aim to do with this column is provide observations on the most common debt traps people fall into, and offer some advice about how to avoid them. Credit cards

Credit cards are not a modern marvel. They are, however, the biggest curse to have been inflicted upon millions of unsuspecting consumers. This is not to say that credit cards are inherently bad; but much like alcohol, we are all susceptible to becoming victims of human nature. Here are some sobering statistics. According to TransUnion’s Q2 2019 industry insight report, the average Canadian is carrying $4,236 in credit card debt. Based on a 2016 survey conducted by the Canadian Bankers’ Association:

• Only 58 per cent of Canadians said they pay their balance in full every month • Six per cent said they pay it in full “most months” • Twenty per cent said they pay “a lot more than minimum” • Sixteen per cent said they are paying “minimum or less”

This is a staggering amount of people paying an average of 20 per cent APR (annual percentage rate) on their credit card debts. Even if you pay your credit card(s) on time, studies have repeatedly proven that credit cards lead us to spend more

22 CATHOLIC TEACHER | DECEMBER 2019

money than we would have if we only used cash. This is because credit cards reduce the emotional and physical frictions of spending money. Much of modern e-commerce growth is entirely driven by eliminating as much friction as possible between us and the products we want. Amazon Prime’s one-click, buy-it-now button, and free same-day shipping, are the pinnacle of those efforts. Feel the pain!

According to researchers at Stanford and MIT, putting a $20 bill on the checkout counter triggers the pain centres of our brain. Tapping/swiping a credit card does not. What we need is to start feeling the pain of spending money again. This pain was crucial in regulating our spending behaviours and kept us out of financial troubles. Credit cards have insidiously anesthetized us, to our collective detriment. I will not go so far as to tell you to cut up your cards and start putting cash in labelled jars. For most of us, there is no returning to an age before credit cards became a necessity of modern life. For example, when was the last time you were able to purchase an airplane ticket with cash? However, there are things we can do to limit the impact on our long-term finances. Credit cards are best used for fixed recurring charges (e.g., cellphone, internet, Netflix, etc.). Since this is money you have already budgeted to spend every month, how you pay it is not relevant. With a good cashback credit card, it is also a great way to reduce the costs of those recurring charges. For daily purchases that are impulsive in nature, you should exclusively use cash. Do not keep your credit card with you in your wallet everyday. Budget how much money you are willing to spend before you leave the house, and take no more than that, in cash, with you. This puts a hard cap on the amount of money you can spend, unlike having a credit card with you, which can act as a bottomless money pit. “Thawing” period for online purchases

I once stumbled across a rather extreme method of curbing impulse-spending on the internet.


This person put their credit card in an opaque Ziploc bag and froze it into a block of ice. When they wanted to buy something online, they took the credit card out of the freezer to thaw it. By the time the ice had melted, they found they did not want the product anymore. If you find yourself needing to do this, it would be easier to cut up the cards and call it a day. But the principle is sound. The most effective antidote to impulsiveness is time. Here is a simple routine to follow: if you come across something on the internet that you “really” want, but you had not previously planned to buy it, do not immediately add it to your shopping cart. Instead, bookmark the page into your “impulse shopping” folder. Once every two or three weeks, revisit all the items in your impulse shopping folder. What you might find is that not only will you forget why you “really” wanted half the things on that list, but also, if you were to buy that entire list now, you would be confronted with an uncomfortably large total at check-out. The reason most people get into trouble with credit cards is rarely the result of making one unnecessary $10,000 purchase. It is a thousand unnecessary $10 purchases you do not remember making. Up next… In the next issue, we will take a look into the world of car loans, and how to avoid the most common traps people fall into when purchasing a vehicle. Kevin Zhang is Internal Audit Accountant in the Finance department at the OECTA Provincial Office. He is a Chartered Professional Accountant (CPA) and holds a BA in Economics from Wilfred Laurier University.

DECEMBER 2019 | CATHOLIC TEACHER 23


VIEWPOINT

NEW HOME, NEW CHRISTMAS MEMORIES By Cynthia Bifolchi

I

have lived in Toronto for almost three years now, but this year will be the first Christmas Day I will spend away from home. It’s funny: I call my apartment “home,” but never Toronto. Ireland is, after all, where I was “born and bred and buttered.” (I have never in my life used that phrase in Ireland, but since moving to Canada my Irishness seems to have turbocharged. Sometimes I feel the urge to chat to people on public transport about soft mornings and foggy dews, and say things like, “Begorrah and begosh!”) However, after spending a full Christmas in Canada, this idea of home may very well change. Who knows how I will feel once January rolls around? Home and Christmas are very much intertwined. All my enduring memories of Christmas are in Ireland. For example, way before “The Voice” came along, my best friend and I would sit out on the street and sing Christmas carols to each other. This was one of our favourite things about the season. We would take turns performing and then grade one another’s performance. We were discerning judges. Marks would be dropped for lack of enthusiasm, fluffed lines, or if any

24 CATHOLIC TEACHER | DECEMBER 2019

accompanying dance moves were lacklustre. It still makes me laugh whenever I think about it. Another memory that often springs to mind is the first and last time I made a Christmas pudding. Puddings are a Big Deal in Ireland. Just like those fruity iced Christmas cakes, no one really likes them, but it just would not be right were one not lying around somewhere on Christmas Day, with a massive jug of custard beside it. No one had ever made a pudding in my household, mainly because they take serious effort. The general opinion is only the hardiest of souls would take on such a tough job, especially when you can pick up a decent one in the supermarket. I was not deterred; in fact, this only added to my enthusiasm. My head was turned by the drama that surrounded making a pudding from scratch, and I anticipated all the kudos that were for sure going to come my way. Financially, it ruined me. The alcohol alone took a big chunk out of my budget, and why did it have to have so many expensive nuts? I learned a harsh lesson that day about the price of pecans. I also learned I could be very patient; the


pudding took eight hours to make. As per the instructions, I wrapped the pudding in baking parchment and began the arduous process of steam cooking it over hot water. The water seemed to evaporate every five minutes, so I dutifully stood over the hob and topped it up. I was well aware my life would not have been worth living if I burnt the saucepan. Over those eight hours the pudding and I developed a fond rapport, and as I wrapped it up to store it for Christmas I felt proud of it, and myself. I am also proud to say, to this day I have never tasted a pudding so good. Then there are the traditions. The Chinese meal on Christmas Eve. My sister and I opening bags of kettle crisps and sobbing through the “Harry Potter” films. The goofy messages I demand we write on each other’s gift tags. Now, I am making new festive memories in Canada. Last year, my husband and I went to St. Jacobs for the town’s “Sparkles” festival, which takes place every November. We spent the day pottering around quaint shops, chatting to lots of lovely people in the street over hot chocolate and marshmallows, and listening to carol singers. We both agreed Ontario is beautiful all year round, but feels particularly special at Christmas time. We also went to a performance of Handel’s “Messiah,” at Massey Hall in Toronto. I wore a tinselly Christmas jumper and teared up throughout the performance. It was lovely. At one point, I paused and looked around at the families enjoying the performance, and it struck me that this may very well be their special Christmas tradition. In that moment, I felt privileged to share it with them. Then there are the Irish traditions that are now Canadian traditions too: the tins of Danish butter cookies on the kitchen counter from November onward, the tree dressed and lit on December 1 (albeit now with Canadian decorations, like mini snowshoes and hockey sticks!), and the evening carol ceremony at our local church. While writing this reflection, it has struck me that home does not have to be just one place. I am lucky I can call Ireland and Canada my homes. I have also realized we are not allocated a fixed number of memories or traditions. If we jump in with our whole heart – and a Danish butter cookie or two! – the possibilities are endless. Cynthia Bifolchi is Social Media Assistant in the Communications and Government Relations departments at the OECTA Provincial Office.

DECEMBER 2019 | CATHOLIC TEACHER 25


VIEWPOINT

THE CREATED CRISIS OF THE CELLPHONE BAN Why we need to focus on the viability of meaningful cellphone use By Anthony Perrotta

As a classroom teacher and parent of two young children, it is frustrating to see the Ontario government’s constant attacks on our publicly funded education system. Working to create a sense of gloom and the illusion that our world-class education system is broken, the public relations machine headed by Minister of Education Stephen Lecce (my own MPP) is a masterclass in the power of messaging, and how video-enriched social media can shape new meaning. One recent “crisis” addressed by the government is cellphone use in schools. Acting like the Avengers coming together to defeat the intergalactic villain Thanos, the government has celebrated their “ban” on cellphone use in schools as a true transformation in improving student learning. Through their lens, the presence of cellphones in schools must mean learning has not been happening. This is in stark contrast to the inspiring work teachers are doing across the province, and the viability of technology, such as cellphones, as an enabler of transformational and tech-enabled learning. As educators are well aware, school districts across the province did not wait for a government-led ban to create a framework for cellphone use in schools. Policies for personal devices focus not on the language of “banning,” but the viability of meaningful use. The provincial ban came into effect on November 1, but really, nothing much has changed. Instructional use has always been the focus, and teachers have used our professional discretion to ensure smartphone culture is not a hindrance.

This is not to say issues do not exist. They do. Teachers across this diverse province are aware of the challenges in our classrooms when it comes to students and their cellphones, just as there are broader issues with the integration of technology. In many ways, we are fighting a losing battle, as parents and caregivers purchase the phones or plans their children use. This is not to blame

26 CATHOLIC TEACHER | DECEMBER 2019

parents for how students use their smartphones in school, but to acknowledge that such a dependency on a palm-sized device is either learned or enabled behaviour. Again, the focus must not be on banning, but rather on using technology in meaningful ways. Within this context, teachers can work to integrate students’ cellphones in the classroom with meaning, and with the goal to empower student voice. As a Communications Technology teacher, I have worked vigorously in the classroom to shape learning opportunities where students leverage personal mobile devices to grow as self-regulating learners. Students begin each course of study with a short Twitter-friendly video, shot on their cellphones, about who they are. The goal is to shape culturally responsive classrooms, where students use technology as a way to share their stories and understand the personal narratives of their peers. Importantly, this also lends itself to self-regulation as not merely knowing and adjusting behaviour around cellphone use, but also allowing the possibility to reflect on learning and one’s self. As such, as shaped by the Ministry of Education’s All About Me portfolio (Kindergarten to Grade 6) and Individual Pathways Plan (Grades 7 to 12) frameworks, technology such as cellphones can be used to document and enrich learning in transformational ways. After all, today’s cellphone is not the brick-sized artifact of the 1980s, but rather a computer capable of incredible tasks. From taking and editing video, or blogging from the palm of their hands, students can create, curate, and connect in ways that truly transcend the traditional classroom experience. In the end, when it comes to any form of technology integration, the notion of enabling and supporting is the most critical factor. Rather than promoting a ban, the government should be speaking to the transformational work being done across the province, and consulting with teachers to learn how the Ministry of Education can support it. Let us build and sustain public confidence, not destroy it. In this regard, language matters. Instead of using “ban,” let us focus on “empower.” Anthony Perrotta is a teacher with the Toronto Secondary Unit. He uses popular film as a tool to foster classroom dialogue on Catholic values and media literacy.


FOR WHAT IT’S WORTH

VIEWPOINT

IT’S ABOUT TIME By Gian Marcon

On September 30, the state of California passed into law Senate Bill 206, the Fair Pay to Play Act. The law bans all post-secondary institutions in the state affiliated with the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) from preventing student-athletes from receiving compensation from advertisers for the use of their names, images, and likenesses. As Governor Gavin Newsom signed Senate Bill 206 into law, he referred to it as the “beginning of a national movement.” Soon after, politicians in Illinois, New York, and Florida introduced bills allowing endorsement deals for college athletes, and national politicians signaled they would push for similar legislation in Congress. This legislation finally began the process of addressing a system in which student-athletes have been denied access to the more than $1 billion in revenue generated annually by the NCAA. However, when I initially heard of the proposals, my reaction was decidedly reserved, because I fully expected the NCAA to bankroll a crack team of elite litigators to mount a rigorous and lengthy defence of its interests. The NCAA had long ago appointed itself as the “defender of amateurism,” in a disingenuous attempt to portray itself as a magnanimous entity that provided countless opportunities and status to student-athletes. Of course, it has always been the case that the returns received by member universities and colleges, in exchange for the services provided by the athletes, is ridiculously disproportionate to what the schools offer in scholarships, incidental costs, and the like. It came as no small surprise then, when two months after Bill 206 was enacted in California, the NCAA announced it would allow college athletes to receive compensation. While the NCAA did not provide a timeline for implementing the change, the body that regulates all US college athletics said its decision followed input over the past few months from “current and former student-athletes, coaches, presidents, and faculty.” In essence, the NCAA felt the heat and pivoted accordingly. So there is some cause for cautious optimism, as the NCAA stumbles toward a fairer system for student-athletes. Still, it must be acknowledged that this modest advance does not go nearly far enough, nor does it address existing, inherent inequalities between athletes. While the NCAA’s compliance with the latest legislation certainly has the potential to benefit elite athletes in high profile sports like basketball and football, it does nothing for the vast majority of college athletes who participate in sports that do not afford their participants the same opportunities as their more renowned classmates. This discrepancy exists within sports as well; for example, an offensive lineman – a key position on every football team – is unlikely to convert his status into the same monetary rewards as a much more visible and marketed quarterback receives. For me, the solution has always involved granting studentathletes the ability to unionize. This would have the potential to establish a baseline wage, health insurance, workplace safety

standards, and other rights for the workforce that enables the NCAA to earn the huge profits it amasses year after year. The vast majority of NCAA student-athletes never earn a penny for their efforts, yet they risk injury, miss classes, and sacrifice much of the college experience that their classmates enjoy. A limited few of these student-athletes will become professional athletes, and fewer still will have substantive careers in their respective sports, but these successes are the exception. NCAA sports, especially men’s football and basketball, are goldmines for university administrators, yet the studentathletes who provide the actual product remain unpaid. When the NCAA was founded by US President Theodore Roosevelt in 1905, the institution was committed to the idea of not providing salaries to student-athletes or coaches. However, coaches were long ago exempted from this policy, and many of them now earn millions of dollars per year. It is past time for athletes to be afforded the same opportunities to profit from their labour. We have a similar situation closer to home, where the Canadian Hockey League (CHL) is facing a class-action lawsuit involving former players. Currently, the 15- to 20-year-olds who play major junior hockey in towns and cities across the country receive compensation only in the form of room and board during the season, and a limited scholarship program to pursue postsecondary education if their professional sporting dreams do not pan out. While even the most successful CHL teams are less profitable than the average NCAA schools, they do operate as businesses, generating revenue from ticket sales, concessions, and merchandise. The lawsuit alleges that players should therefore be treated as employees who are entitled to basic employment standards, including the minimum wage. Unfortunately, while the lawsuit is winding its way through the courts, political leaders are continuing to line up against the rights of the workers. Premier Doug Ford has already ruled out forcing junior hockey teams in Ontario to follow the Employment Standards Act. Unionization would afford some level of protection and representation, but plans for the creation of a Canadian Hockey League Players’ Association stalled several years ago, after what some players described as efforts by team owners to undermine and intimidate the organizers. What we really need is a fundamental shift in how society thinks about the rights of young athletes. In this light, the NCAA’s compliance with the recently passed legislation could serve as the thin edge of the wedge, leading to a future in which basic labour standards are incorporated into the student-athlete experience, with or without union representation. As attitudes and laws change, perhaps we can finally make the old cliché about student-athletes leaving the game “both broke and limping” a thing of the past. Gian Marcon is a member of the Bargaining and Contract Services department at the OECTA Provincial Office.

DECEMBER 2019 | CATHOLIC TEACHER 27


Profile for @OECTA

Catholic Teacher Magazine  

December 2019 Issue

Catholic Teacher Magazine  

December 2019 Issue

Profile for oecta