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MAGAZINE of the Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association



PLUS: Challenges Faced by Black Students OTPP: Securing Your Future

CO N T E N T S/OC T2019








Campaign entering new phase as school year begins By Adam Lemieux



Education updates By Mark Tagliaferri



Others are taking notice as the Ontario government weakens the foundations of publicly funded education By Mark Tagliaferri



The Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan By Chris Cowley


TEACHERS’ AID 19 INSIGHT The audacity of hope By Michelle Despault 20 TEACHER ADVISOR Minding your mental health By Joe Pece 21 PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT Responding to the mosaic By Brenda Golden 22 PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT Media literacy in the “deepfake” era By Anthony Perrotta




Understanding the challenges faced by Black youth in our schools

By Karen Ebanks

VIEWPOINT 29 AT THE EQAO, “A” IS NOT FOR APPLE By Anthony Carabache 30 FOR WHAT IT’S WORTH Two tickets to paradise By Gian Marcon



PRESIDENT’S MESSAGE Welcome back! The start of a new school year marks a fresh start for teachers and students; a time of transition and positive momentum. But, as we all know, the start of some years can be more challenging than others. This is one of them. With Ontario’s publicly funded education system in tumult, the sense of disruption that accompanied the education cuts announced last March trickled its way into new realities this September. Increased class sizes resulting in the elimination of teaching positions and program offerings has overshadowed the start of this new school year. Stories of classes so large students are left standing. Combined grades and stacked classes at secondary to manage the loss of teaching positions. We warned this would happen. We protested together at Queen’s Park. And we’re not going to stop. Teachers are the frontline professionals who ensure Ontario’s world-class education system is just that. But when teachers don’t feel respected for the work that we do, and when students feel their education is being used for political activity, the integrity of teacher-working and student-learning conditions is jeopardized. That’s basic math. Through our #KnowMore campaign, the Association has been working extensively to dispel the smoke and mirrors. The campaign uses data, research, and testimonials to educate the public and MPPs about the success of Ontario’s publicly funded education system, the need for further investment, and the reality of education cuts. Our multi-faceted digital campaign has been particularly successful in achieving this end. Since last fall, we have been running a digital ally-building campaign that is continuing its impact under the #KnowMore brand. More than 1.4 million Ontarians have seen our digital ads, and more than 80,000 individuals have provided the Association with their email address, so that we can continue to engage them on important education issues. Our nimble campaign has focused on targeting diverse communities and audiences, and is frequently updated in response to current events. I encourage you to help us in our efforts by sharing our message as broadly as possible and directing people to knowmore.ca. The Association’s strategic efforts exceed the realm of public relations. At the bargaining table, the Provincial Bargaining Team has been working tirelessly to waylay the government’s education reforms. And, as you know from the September 19 Provincial Bargaining Update, the Association has filed a complaint against the government with the Ontario Labour Relations Board, with respect to the government’s amendment to class size regulations. In our complaint, the Association asserts that the government is in violation of the “statutory freeze” provisions under the School Boards Collective Bargaining Act and the Ontario Labour Relations Act, which say that unless certain conditions have been met, the terms of the collective agreement cannot be changed while bargaining is ongoing. This year is shaping up to be one for the books. As we reflect on the history of our Association, it is no surprise that Catholic teachers refuse to shy away from standing up for teachers and students. It’s who we are. It’s what we do. As President of this Association, I can assure you that we will continue to work tirelessly and devotedly on your behalf regardless of what the Ford government throws our way. I wish you the best as you take on the challenges of this school year. We are in this together. God bless,

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

Michelle Despault Editor Adam Lemieux Mark Tagliaferri Associate Editors Cynthia Bifolchi Writer/Researcher 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. Catholic Teacher is a member of the Canadian Educational Press Association, and the Canadian Association of Labour Media. Return undelivered Canadian addresses to: Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association, 65 St. Clair Avenue East, Suite 400 Toronto, ON M4T 2Y8 PHONE 416-925-2493 TOLL-FREE 1-800-268-7230 FAX 416-925-7764 catholicteachers.ca Publication Mail Agreement No. 0040062510 Account No. 0001681016

There is no voice more important than a member’s voice.


Cover: Image from OECTA’s #KnowMore campaign.


UP FRONT MAKE A DIFFERENCE WITH PROJECT OVERSEAS Want a chance to travel and make a difference for teacher colleagues in other countries? Every summer, the Association, through the Canadian Teachers’ Federation, sends elementary and secondary teachers to developing countries to provide in-service training. Locations are usually in Africa or the Caribbean. Basic travel and living expenses are covered for participants. The deadline for applications is November 1, for placements in summer 2020. Application forms and program information are available at catholicteachers.ca in the For Your Career section, under Leadership Opportunities. LEADERSHIP TRAINING PROGRAM FOR 2019-20 OECTA will offer the Specialized Program in the 2019-20 school year. The prerequisite for participation is either completion of the Foundational Program or having served one or more years as an OECTA release officer. Participants who have completed the Foundational Program or Specialized Program(s) will be invited by email to apply. The selection of participants will again be a joint process between the unit executives and the Provincial Office. The online application process for the Specialized Program will open in November. The four days of training are scheduled for February 20 and 21 and May 13 and 14, 2020 at the Sheraton Airport Hotel, Toronto. Information about OECTA’s Leadership Training Program can be found in the For Your Career section at catholicteachers.ca.

20TH ANNUAL IMAGINENATIVE FILM + MEDIA ARTS FESTIVAL Each year, imagineNATIVE presents a selection of film, video, audio, digital media, and exhibitions, each created by Indigenous artists from Canada and around the world, in addition to a series of panels and workshops. The festival will run October 22 to 27, in Toronto. Visit imaginenative.org/box-office for ticket information, and follow them on social media @imagineNATIVE, and use the hashtag #iN20 on social media. TEACH FOR CAF OVERSEAS SCHOOLS The Canadian Armed Forces is hiring Canadian teachers with current certifications for their two overseas schools. They are looking for elementary and secondary teachers to teach Kindergarten to Grade 12 in the Netherlands, and Grades 1 to 8 in Belgium. Assignments are for two years. For more information visit cafconnection.ca/cem/teacherrecruitment. The Application period closes November 1.



Applications are being accepted by the Provincial Executive for active or retired OECTA members.

AGM 2020


Deadline AGM 2020

OECTA’s 2020 Annual General Meeting (AGM) will take place March 14 to 16 at the Westin Harbour Castle hotel, in downtown Toronto. If you would like to be considered as a delegate for your unit, please contact your local unit as soon as possible.

Friday, November 15, 2019 (Selection will take place early December)


From 5:00 p.m. on Friday, March 13 to 5:00 p.m. on Monday, March 16

The Association accepts resolutions submitted by local units and provincial committees for consideration and debate at AGM. Resolutions seek to amend the policies, procedures, and by-laws of the Association. They are fundamental to our democracy – those that are carried become part of the OECTA Handbook, which dictates the priorities and actions of the Association.


If you have an idea for a resolution, please speak with your local unit. The deadline for submitting AGM resolutions is December 5.

You will receive a confirmation email once your application has been received. Please contact agm@catholicteachers.ca if you have any questions.


Westin Harbour Castle Hotel, Toronto

To work under the direction of the provincial staff in order to assist the Annual General Meeting in conducting its business. Tellers will be assigned duties throughout the meeting, including supporting delegates using electronic voting devices during special votes.





World Teachers’ Day


World Mental Health Day

14 Thanksgiving 17

International Day for the Eradication of Poverty


Treaties Recognition Week Media Literacy Week


7-8 Fall Council of Presidents Meeting 11

Remembrance Day

15-21 Bullying Awareness and Prevention Week 20

Universal Children’s Day


24-29 Ontario Federation of Labour Biennial Convention 25

International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women


International Day of Persons with Disabilities

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

Human Rights Day

EVENTS EDUCATORS AND THEIR UNIONS TAKING THE LEAD Education International (EI) is the world’s largest sectoral organization of unions, representing more than 40 million trade union members, in 391 organizations, in 179 countries and territories. The quadrennial EI World Congress was held this summer in Bangkok, Thailand. As a member of the Canadian Teachers’ Federation, OECTA was in attendance, with President Liz Stuart and First Vice-President Barb Dobrowolski serving as delegates, and General Secretary David Church and former General Secretary Marshall Jarvis participating as attendees. Like our Annual General Meeting, the EI World Congress determines the polices, principles of action, programs, and budget of the organization, as well as elects the President and Executive Board. President Stuart had the rare and distinct honour of speaking to a resolution put forward at the Congress on eliminating discrimination, and advancing the rights of women and children. The resolution noted that in 2020 there will be only 10 years remaining to reach the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, and asserted that these goals cannot be attained without great improvement in the economic empowerment and protection of women and girls. Progress in advancing the rights of women and girls around the world has been slow and unequal. There is also a danger of regression in some areas, as we are witnessing an assault on the rights of workers, social justice, and human rights. The resolution outlined that women and children disproportionately bear the brunt of these assaults through attacks on their freedoms and by facing increasing discrimination and violence in schools, workplaces, homes, and in public. President Stuart spoke passionately about how, if we want to reach our goals, we must address the barriers that keep women from participation and leadership. She also noted the unique relevance that education in general, and education unions in particular, have on this issue.

HEALTH & SAFETY REGIONALS East – October 7-8 GTA – October 28-27 Southwest – November 12-13 Northwest – TBD Northeast – November 18-19

Liz Stuart, President of OECTA, speaking at the EI World Congress last summer in Bangkok, Thailand.

LIZ STUART ELECTED VICE-PRESIDENT OF CTF OECTA was proud to endorse President Liz Stuart for the position of Canadian Teachers’ Federation (CTF) Vice-President. She was acclaimed, along with four other Vice-Presidents and a new President. With the CTF General Secretary, they will form the CTF Executive for 2019-20. As a strong and committed advocate for teachers and the labour movement, Liz brings to her new role a breadth of experience through her existing work with CTF, the Canadian Labour Congress, and the Ontario Federation of Labour. She is known for building consensus among CTF affiliates, and is especially committed to the organization’s goal of pushing back against the infiltration of private interests in public education. Founded in 1920, CTF is the national voice for the teaching profession. As the national alliance of provincial and territorial teacher organizations, CTF represents over 273,000 elementary and secondary school teachers across Canada. CTF is also a member of Education International, the global body of national education organizations in 179 countries and territories.

WOMEN DELIVER PUBLIC EDUCATION In June, a delegation of Association members joined President Liz Stuart, Past-President Ann Hawkins, and First Vice-President Barb Dobrowolski, at the Canadian Teachers’ Federation’s (CTF) Women’s Symposium, in Vancouver. The conference, titled “Women Deliver Public Education,” provided attendees with a valuable opportunity to come together to share experiences and foster dialogue around women in leadership positions in teacher organizations. Attendees took part in a range of timely workshops, spanning topics like the reality of women’s leadership in unions; making space for equity; and promoting harassment-free and womenpositive work spaces. The event also saw the launch of femleadfem.ca, an online resource created by CTF for women who want advice and support around women’s leadership in education, union engagement, and civic engagement within their community. According to Statistics Canada, 74 per cent of teachers are women. However, the number of women in leadership roles in education does not reflect this. Women-powered events like the CTF Women’s Symposium – and OECTA’s own Fempower! conference – are crucial in creating space for women leaders, and driving increased participation. Recognizing this need, CTF passed a resolution at its 2019 Annual General Meeting designating two Vice-President seats for women, beginning in 2020. Forward – and together – we march!

Tesa Fiddler (centre), with Past-President Ann Hawkins (left) and President Liz Stuart (right).

TESA FIDDLER RECEIVES OUTSTANDING INDIGENOUS EDUCATOR AWARD Tesa Fiddler, a member of the OECTA Thunder Bay Elementary Unit, was recognized this past July by the Canadian Teachers’ Federation for her outstanding work in the area of Indigenous education. For 20 years, Tesa has worked to ensure culturally relevant, safe, and appropriate learning spaces for Indigenous students, establishing connections with Indigenous communities in an effort to enhance student learning. Some of Tesa’s efforts have focused on improving children’s mental health, supporting teacher professional development, and building better relationships between the education system and Indigenous families. Tesa’s role as a teacher and support person extends well beyond the classroom. She is also a member of the Parent Council for the Children’s Centre Thunder Bay, which serves as an advisory and advocacy group. She is on the Neegahneewin Council, which is the Indigenous Advisory Council for Confederation College in Thunder Bay, and she has served for 10 years on the Aboriginal Headstart program. Tesa is also a member of OECTA’s First Nations, Métis, and Inuit Work Group.

CATHOLIC TEACHERS NAMED OTF FELLOWS Congratulations to former OECTA First Vice-President Warren Grafton, and Joe Pece, Department Head of OECTA’s Counselling and Member Services department, for having been named Fellows of the Ontario Teachers’ Federation (OTF). The fellowships were created in 1962 to commemorate the 20th anniversary of OTF; they are awarded every year in recognition of nominees’ service to OTF and the teaching profession.



KNOW MORE ABOUT #KNOWMORE Campaign entering new phase as school year begins By Adam Lemieux

The Ford government’s cuts to education will have a profound impact on teachers’ working conditions and students’ learning conditions. As part of our mandate to advocate for members and the publicly funded education system, OECTA has been active in trying to offer evidence-based perspectives, raise awareness among the public, and put pressure on the government to rethink their decisions. Our efforts have taken a variety of forms, including written submissions to the government, comments and appearances in news media, social media engagement, and co-ordinated initiatives with other teacher and education worker unions, such as the Rally for Education and #RedForEd Fridays. In addition, last year we launched a large-scale public relations initiative called #KnowMore. It is unlike anything OECTA has undertaken before. With the school year underway, it seems a good time to provide an update to members about the campaign, including how it works and what you can do to help.

#KnowMore? One of the most frustrating things about the Ford government’s approach to education has been how they have tried to mislead Ontarians. They have portrayed an incomplete picture of the province’s financial situation, as a way of justifying massive cuts to public services. They have also grossly misrepresented the evidence about student achievement, in order to undermine teachers and lay the groundwork for education reform. And when they have introduced cuts, they have pretended they are making Why

investments, while trying to downplay any negative consequences in the classroom. Our campaign aims to set the record straight. Using the voices and images of real teachers, students, and parents, we are helping the public understand what is really happening in classrooms across the province. We are also combatting the government’s misinformation with research and data on issues such as education funding, class sizes, student achievement, and e-learning. We are also asking Ontarians to take action, by calling or sending a letter to their local MPP, or posting or sharing our materials on social media. And we are collecting contact information, so we can continue to engage with our supporters about emerging issues. The goal is to establish Catholic teachers as a credible, trusted source of information, and to help foster a sustained opposition to the Ford government’s education agenda. #KnowMore is focused not so much at OECTA members or existing allies, most of whom already understand what the government is doing, appreciate the consequences, and can be counted on to speak up. We also are not trying to persuade that minority of people who are firmly committed to the Ford agenda and can never be expected to support teachers or publicly funded education. Instead, we are speaking mainly to the large group of people in the middle – those family members, neighbours, colleagues, and friends, some of whom might even have voted for Ford, who know something is not right about what the government is doing, but who need more information and encouragement to get involved. Digital first

You might have spied some #KnowMore billboards or transit shelter ads in your local area. Or you might have seen our sponsorship of TVO’s “The Agenda,” a nightly public affairs program that appeals to a small but influential group of politically engaged Ontarians. However, #KnowMore is first and foremost a digital campaign, relying on social media and other forms of online engagement. Focusing on digital communications has several advantages. First, it enables us to target our messages to people we think would be interested in hearing our perspectives and might be persuaded to take some action. With our identified audience in mind, we are able to test messaging and quickly adapt to changing situations. When the government makes an announcement or the Minister of Education tries to fool the public with another mistruth, we can craft content that immediately responds and clarifies the issues for the public.


How can you help?

The #KnowMore campaign is based on our belief that the government should be listening to teachers and other experts about what our publicly funded education system needs. The more voices we have from teachers, education workers, students, and parents, the better. Because of the way our targeted advertising works, it is possible you might not be too familiar with the campaign. However, there are many ways for you to engage with #KnowMore and share with your networks.

Digital methods also make it easy to motivate our audience to become active supporters. A billboard can direct people to a website, but most are not likely to take up the action right away, and few can be relied on to follow up later. In contrast, digital ads are delivered to people who are already online, and it takes only a click or a swipe for them to navigate from the ad to our website. We are also able to collect contact information from supporters, so we can continue engaging with them and offering new ways to take action. Finally, in part because of its targeted nature, digital advertising is cost effective. Television, radio, and billboards are highly visible and reach broad audiences, but they come with hefty price tags. As an organization with a relatively small membership, collective bargaining ongoing, and two-and-a-half years of the Ford government still ahead of us, we must be sure we can sustain our efforts over the long haul. Having an impact

The data indicate that our efforts are yielding real results. As of mid-September: • Our #KnowMore ads have been seen more than 8 million times. • There have been more than 130,000 visitors to knowmore.ca. • More than 80,000 supporters have signed up to receive further information and calls to action. • Ontarians have sent more than 26,000 letters to local MPPs, the Premier, and the Minister of Education. The rates at which people are watching our videos, clicking our emails, and spending time on our website are all much higher than industry standard, meaning people are engaged with the content and interested to hear more from OECTA. The ultimate measure of success would be for the government to reverse the cuts to publicly funded education. However, short of this, we can at least say that we have made Ontarians aware of the issues, and made sure our political leaders know their constituents are not impressed.

• Like the OECTA Facebook page and follow us on Twitter (@OECTAProv) or Instagram (@catholic_teachers). • Send stories about the real impact of the government’s cuts in your classroom or school to communications@ catholicteachers.ca, or share them on social media using the hashtag #KnowMore. • Contact your local OECTA unit for a lawn sign. • Visit knowmore.ca to find more information, access our shareable images and videos, and contact your local MPP, the Premier, and/or the Minister of Education.

Adam Lemieux is Communications Specialist in the Communications department at the OECTA Provincial Office.





ver the summer months, teachers engage in a variety of activities, from professional development to enjoying some well-deserved rest. Officially, the government of Ontario is also off and typically returns the week after Labour Day. This year, the Ford Conservative government plans to extend its summer recess until October 28, one week after the federal election (the longest recess in 25 years). Although the government was not sitting in the legislature, they were still quite active, especially with respect to education. In case you missed the goings-on, below is a rundown of some important education news coming out of Queen’s Park. New Minister, new message?

The tenure of Lisa Thompson as Minister of Education was a tumultuous one, which saw the Huron-Bruce MPP frequently butting heads with education advocates, as well as making bizarre public statements to justify the government’s controversial education changes. Given this, it was not surprising that the education file got a new minister when the government announced a major cabinet shuffle on June 20. Stepping into the role was Stephen Lecce, MPP from KingVaughn. At 32 years old, Minister Lecce became the youngest education minister in Ontario’s history. Although Lecce’s appointment was somewhat of a surprise, observers pointed to his role working in communications for former Prime Minister Stephen Harper as a signal the government wanted to change its public tone on education, especially with bargaining underway. Early results have been mixed. Minister Lecce has certainly been a more effective communicator than his predecessor, and he did reach out to union leaders to hold conversations soon after his appointment – though his claim this was “unprecedented” is inaccurate. While he has largely avoided major gaffes, several of his public comments – specifically around class size and “good faith” bargaining – have been problematic, both in content and timing, as has his penchant for misrepresenting some of the facts surrounding the government’s education policy and the realities of publicly funded education in Ontario. 10 CATHOLIC TEACHER | OCTOBER 2019

The new, old HPE curriculum

The health and physical education (HPE) curriculum, colloquially known as “sex-ed,” became a flashpoint early in the Ford government’s tenure. In August 2018, the Premier repealed the 2015 version of the HPE curriculum introduced by the previous Liberal government. Many saw this as a purely political move: the Premier had relied on support from extreme social conservatives to win leadership of the Progressive Conservative party, promising to “repeal and replace sex-ed” once he got into office. The decision to repeal was widely condemned by education stakeholders, health experts, and the general public, all of whom highlighted the need for a curriculum that reflects modern realities. Insisting that “parents would finally have a voice,” the Premier indicated that curriculum updates would be made based on results of a province-wide education consultation, launched in September 2018. At time of writing, the results have still not been released. In the year since repealing the HPE curriculum, the government faced public protests, a Charter challenge, and complaints before the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal. Finally, in late August, the government rolled out its revised HPE curriculum. People were quick to note that, other than some tinkering around the edges, the curriculum was nearly identical to the 2015 version. This led many to wonder if changes could have been made without the intervening year of chaos and confusion.

“Back-to-basics” math

Class size confusion

Since their election, the Ford Conservative government has often pointed to student math achievement as a weakness in Ontario’s publicly funded education system. In particular, the government has singled-out “Discovery Math” as the main culprit, alleging that students no longer have a grasp on basic math fundamentals. There has been considerable discussion about the veracity of the government’s claims. Beyond the fact there is no such thing as “Discovery Math” in the curriculum, OECTA and others have also pointed out that although EQAO test scores for Grade 6 math have declined by five per cent over the past 15 years, in all other categories math scores have increased by a combined 46 per cent during that time. And according to national and international assessments, Ontario continues to be one of the strongest performing jurisdictions in math. Recent research from EQAO – the government’s own testing agency – concluded that students’ foundational math knowledge is strong, but that more work might be needed to help them apply their knowledge to problem solving and critical thinking. Nevertheless, in August the government outlined a new math strategy. The government will provide $200 million over four years — $55 million for this school year — with the goal of improving math instruction in Ontario schools. Although Minister Lecce billed this as the first multi -year math strategy, others noted that many aspects of the Conservatives’ plan mirror the multi-year, multi-pronged Renewed Math Strategy introduced by the Liberals in 2016, with one notable exception: the Liberals committed $20 million more, over the same period.

Teacher testing

As part of the announcement on math, Minister Lecce indicated the government would move forward with plans for a math proficiency test for pre-service teachers. As justification, he said a proficiency test for teacher-candidates will improve student performance, and pointed to research allegedly showing that “onethird of educators… were having challenges passing their math test.” In reality, Minister Lecce is misrepresenting research from the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, which examined pre-service teacher-candidates before they began their Master of Education program. The study concluded that about one third of pre-service teacher-candidates score at or below 70 per cent in math. No corresponding test was conducted after they completed their Master of Education degree program. Furthermore, recent research from EQAO has directly contradicted Minister Lecce’s comments on the impact of proficiency tests. In a review of nearly 100 research studies from around the world, EQAO concluded that teacher testing has little-to-no relationship to student achievement.

In March, then-Minister of Education Lisa Thompson sparked controversy by introducing major changes to average class sizes in Ontario. The government announced that over four years, average class sizes in the secondary panel would increase by six students, from 22 to 28. In addition, the average class size in Grades 4 to 8 would increase by one student. The government would achieve these increases through attrition – that is, by not replacing teachers who retired or left the profession. Education stakeholders were quick to point out these changes would result in the loss of thousands of teaching positions, thousands of course options being lost, and class sizes ballooning to more than 40 students in some cases. In late August, while OECTA was at the bargaining table, the new Minister of Education Stephen Lecce held a press conference in which he appeared to walk-back the government’s March announcement. During his remarks, the minister indicated the high school class size average would be 22.5 students for this year, and insisted the government always planned to fund Grades 9 to 12 at a class size average of “22 plus attrition” for the 2019-20 school year. However, after review, it became evident Minister Lecce was misrepresenting the facts. Every statement the government made since announcing class size changes in March indicated that secondary schools would be funded at an average class size of 28 students, to be implemented over four years through attrition. School boards had already started implementing the government’s plan by not replacing retiring teachers, which resulted in courses and programs being cancelled, course selection being limited, teachers being reduced from full-time to long-term occasional status, and jobs being lost. Since the government was not providing additional monies, nothing would change with respect to staffing. The announcement amounted to little more than a desperate attempt by the government to reframe their cuts in a positive light. Mark Tagliaferri is Communications Specialist in the Communications department at the OECTA Provincial Office.



OPEN FOR (EDU)BUSINESS Others are taking notice as the Ontario government weakens the foundations of publicly funded education By Mark Tagliaferri


f a picture says a thousand words, you could write a novel – or at least a short story – about three images, all of which appeared in September within a few days of each other.

The first two were paid advertisements for Blyth Academy, a private education company based in Toronto, with 11 locations in Ontario and several more abroad. One of the images, a fullpage ad in the Globe and Mail, shows a stack of textbooks with course titles printed on their spines: media studies, blockchain technology, visual arts, and physics, among others. Above the image is the pitch: “Blyth Academy, offering the electives you want, & the small class sizes you need” (emphasis theirs). The second Blyth image surfaced a few days later on Instagram. In the ad, a distraught-looking student holds up an oversized sheet of paper, titled “2019/2020 High School Schedule.” Noticeably, his schedule for periods three and four (“Challenge and Change in Society” and “Calculus and Vectors”) is greyedout, with CANCELLED scrawled in large bolded font. Beneath the image, a question: “Are you missing electives this semester? Don’t fall behind because of cancelled classes!” It is hard to fault Blyth for their opportunism. Clearly, the company is responding to something in the current political climate. They are not alone. A few weeks before Blyth launched their ad campaign, news broke that an American lobbying firm was setting up shop in Ontario. The mission of TeachON, an arm of the US-based Teach Coalition, is to convince the government to provide public funding for private schools. A quick glance at their website highlights three “initiatives” – better understood as areas of strategic focus where they see room to attack publicly funded education: STEM as preparation for the job market, school safety, and supports for students with special education needs. In the wake of TeachON and Blyth’s media blitz, a number of people took to social media to express outrage at these private education groups. News outlets contacted the Association, asking if we thought these companies were “strategizing to denigrate publicly funded education.”


While such sentiment is understandable, it somewhat misses the point. These companies are not leading the charge to destroy publicly funded education. Instead, they are attempting to capitalize on what they see as an opportunity to profit – responding to a government that has systematically undermined publicly funded education and opened a space for private companies to offer market-based solutions. Since taking office, the Ford Conservative government has employed different tactics to destabilize our world-class system of publicly funded education. Some of their efforts have been rhetorical, such as their repeated attempts to characterize our education system as being in crisis. Nearly every government announcement attempts to frame publicly funded education in a negative way: student math achievement is abysmal; “sex-ed” is indoctrinating students; cell phones are ruining the educational experience. It makes no difference that none of these statements are true; repeating them enough times makes it so, and the narrative creates the pretense for their devastating changes. Even the announcement that high school graduation rates had reached their highest level in the province’s history was tempered by Minister of Education Stephen Lecce, who felt compelled to express serious concerns with students’ “continued challenges in core competencies.” Of course, the rhetorical attacks pale in comparison to the tangible impact of the government’s reckless cuts. From increasing class sizes to removing vital supports for at-risk students, the government is causing unnecessary chaos in Ontario classrooms. We are seeing the consequences: courses and programs have been cancelled and course selection has been limited, leaving some students in classes of 40 or more, and others unable to obtain the credits necessary to graduate. Teachers have been reduced from full-time to long-term occasional status and jobs have been lost. There is an increase in “stacked classes,” in some cases combining three grades into one class. And this is only the beginning. As a recent review by the non-partisan Financial Accountability Office made clear, the situation will certainly only get worse.

Against this backdrop of chaos and cuts, it is little wonder why private education companies feel the time is right to push for profit. Throughout all of this, the government has trained its sights on teachers and their unions as a source of blame. Actions such as the anti-teacher snitch lines, reforming the College of Teachers to end self-regulation, and proposing a Parents’ Bill of Rights are all thinly veiled attempts to vilify teachers, undermine their professionalism, and drive a wedge between teachers, parents, and students. And as collective bargaining unfolds, the government has made several ill-advised and ill-timed comments that have threatened to pre-empt negotiations. Nearly 25 years ago, John Snobelen wanted to “invent a crisis in education” – today’s crisis has been entirely manufactured by the Ford Conservative government.

Against this backdrop of chaos and cuts, it is little wonder why private education companies feel the time is right to push for profit. Taking their cue from the government, these companies drape themselves in the language of modernization and smaller class sizes – exploiting gaps the government has created, by promising to fill the gaps in students’ schedules. With mandatory e-learning on the horizon, tech companies will be lining up to fulfil Minister Lecce’s request to “reform the outdated education system” – words eerily similar to those of Rupert Murdoch, who in 2010 described education as “a $500 billion sector… waiting desperately to be transformed.” All of this will come at a cost, well beyond dollars and cents. We know the path toward privatization widens social and economic inequalities. And we know society benefits from a strong publicly funded education system, one that creates a level playing field, where all students have the resources and opportunity to thrive. Ideally, we would look to the government to protect and promote these vital public services. What we find instead is a third image from September. In it, Minister of Education Stephen Lecce is smiling and hailing an “historic day” as he opens Niagara University – a US-based, forprofit, private school. Cutting ribbons with one hand, cutting funding with the other. When questioned, the government insisted it is “firmly committed to strengthening and defending our publicly funded education system.” They will continue to say things like this. But a picture says a thousand words, and actions speak volumes. Mark Tagliaferri is Communications Specialist in the Communications department at the OECTA Provincial Office.

ILLUSTRATION: @nuvolanevicata / Shutterstock.com



SECURING YOUR FUTURE The Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan By Chris Cowley


ne of the great advantages of choosing the teaching profession is the ability to retire with dignity. A strong pension plan is something generations of teachers before us fought and advocated for; OECTA continues to champion this cause today. This article will provide you with a brief update on the funding status of the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan (OTPP or the Plan), and touch on the successes and headwinds our pension faces as we enter the 2019-20 school year.

value of our pension plan is achieved not through teacher and government contributions, but through the financial returns the Plan realizes on its global network of assets. This is why the health of the global economy is an important part of investment success. As with any investment portfolio, our pension is not immune to the effects of equity and bond markets, global trade, and consumer spending. Precautions are taken to insulate against these risks, but global economic uncertainty can and will take a toll.

It is no secret that our pension plan has had great financial success. In its 2018 annual report, OTPP recorded a $10 billion surplus for the year. The plan has a funded status of 104 per cent, meaning that based on current actuarial assumptions there are sufficient assets to pay pensions at least seventy years into the future. According to the most recent mid-year report, released in August, OTPP now has over $200 billion in assets under management. This is an incredible milestone considering that in 1990 the Plan was valued at $18.5 billion.

Finally, good governance has been a hallmark of OTPP. Pensions from around the world look to our plan as the paramount example of a governance model that not only works, but thrives. The foundation of this governance model is the co-operation between the Plan sponsors (the Ontario Teachers’ Federation [OTF] and the province of Ontario), as well as the 11-member OTPP board, which sets overall Plan direction, and OTPP management, who execute day-to-day Plan operations.

It is important to remember how we got to this $200 billion milestone: through decades of prudent investing, solid returns, and good governance.

Sponsors’ role

The Plan has investment teams in Toronto, London, and Hong Kong, providing a launch pad to invest worldwide. The Plan’s portfolio includes investments in infrastructure, real estate (through Cadillac Fairview), retail, and emerging market nations. This diversity of investment is key to prudent investing. Solid investment returns have been the cornerstone of OTPP’s success since its inception. In fact, the vast majority of the

Together, OTF – through its Executive and Governors – and the provincial government ensure the plan remains appropriately funded to pay pension benefits. The sponsors jointly decide: the contribution rate (paid by working teachers, and matched by the government and designated employers); the benefits members will receive, including inflation protection; and how to address any funding shortfall or apply any surplus. Board’s role

An 11-member board, appointed by OTF and the government, oversees the management of the pension plan. Board members are required to act independently of both the plan sponsors and management, and to make decisions in the best interests of all plan beneficiaries (i.e. teachers). Management’s role

Management of the pension plan has three main responsibilities: • Invest Plan assets to help pay pensions • Administer the Plan and pay pension benefits to members and their survivors • Report and advise on the Plan’s funding status and regulatory requirements 160 Front St Toronto: New tower being built by Cadillac Fairview, will serve as new headquarters for OTPP and Toronto Dominion Bank. It will be one of the most eco-friendly office towers in North America.


Based on data from the OTPP 2018 Annual Report

Management sets long-term investment and service strategies that take into account member demographics as well as economic, investment, and market risks. This system is called a Jointly Sponsored Pension Plan (JSPP). It allows for involvement and direction from the partners, while maintaining the integrity of investment decisions within the expertise of Plan management. Our pension model has become the envy of the world. In 1990, when OTPP became a jointly sponsored plan, it was the only one in Canada. Today, JSPPs are the dominant pension arrangement in Canada’s public sector. OECTA and the OTPP

OTF Governors representing the four teacher unions in Ontario are elected at each affiliate’s annual meeting. We serve as your voice with regard to pension issues. We are tasked not only with ensuring a teachers’ voice at the table, but also with ensuring that OTPP invests in assets that meet our members’ standards and ethical expectations. It is within this ethical investing lens that OECTA’s OTF Governors have become clear leaders within OTF. Through our leadership, OTF has challenged Plan management on issues and investments that have not met our ethical standards as teachers. With the support of the OECTA Provincial Executive, we will continue to lead the way on this issue. As

the Association’s OTF Table Officer, I am proud to work with this dedicated group. The road ahead

I could fill this entire magazine with pension information. Thankfully for you, the Catholic Teacher editorial board will not let me. But I want you to know that with another school year underway, the Plan is there, in the background, working to ensure your pension is there when you retire. This is not to downplay the challenges we currently face, or those on the horizon: uncertain trade policies from the United States, stubborn bond markets, and Brexit, to name a few. Protecting the Plan’s surplus must remain a top priority. With thousands of employees working on your behalf, you can be sure that OTPP continues to search the world for investment-grade opportunities that will provide returns and pay you a pension for life. Despite uncertain economic times, the partners have built an incredible system that needs to be promoted and protected. As the son of two retired teachers, and as an OTF Governor, I understand the importance to all members of having a secure retirement. Whether you retire in 20 days or 20 years, your pension will be waiting for you. You earned it! Chris Cowley is Second Vice-President of the Ontario Teachers’ Federation and OTF Table Officer on the OECTA Provincial Executive.




THE AUDACITY OF HOPE By Michelle Despault

As I was chatting with my friend Julie the other day, the subject of potential job action in education came up. She is a teacher and so is her spouse; she is understandably concerned about what this school year might hold. Now, I have no crystal ball. Working at the OECTA Provincial Office does not give me the ability to predict what may transpire at the bargaining table, or afford me any greater insight into the next ridiculous thing this government might do or say. But what I did tell her was that I believed everything would eventually work itself out.

within us, we know new possibilities will emerge and we will sense what we need to do to improve any situation.

The look of disbelief on her face said it all. I could tell she thought I was being naïve and unrealistic, to say the least. How could I possibly say this? Clearly, all evidence is pointing in another direction – the Ford government cannot be trusted to do the right thing. Do I not understand the financial implications a job disruption would have?

I can understand Julie’s dismay. I have felt an increase in negativity and cynicism in the news media, on social media, and in public sentiment, especially since the election of Donald Trump in 2016. Sowing the seeds of division and “otherness” appears to be in vogue these days. Cynicism and fear seem to be winning, creating a crisis of hope and trust in our society.

Of course, I am acutely aware of the potential impact. My husband is a teacher, so I too have been setting aside funds to offset any potential lost income in our household. I also follow the news and daily developments in education. But I realized in that moment that what separated us was not a matter of knowledge or understanding – it came down to hope. While Julie was mired in fear and cynicism, I had hope. When I say “hope,” I do not mean the anxious kind of feeling we have come to associate with the word. In fact, hope is not passive at all; it is not about waiting and praying for things to change. Hope is a positive force. It is generated from our heart, not our brains. Hope is not dependant on the physical evidence we see or hear. It comes from the belief that we are always being guided and cared for. Whatever obstacles might be placed in our path, there is always another way around and forward. As Deepak Chopra says, when our sense of hope flows from

“Hope is like a thread leading out of the maze. It doesn’t get us out, but it is our connection to freedom. And if we follow the thread we can find our way out and feel the joy of liberation,” say Chopra. The more we nurture hope within us, the more we will have eyes to see things differently and seize opportunities that come our way, or see the possible good in future events, especially when those events are potentially negative.

Research substantiates this point. The 2019 Edelman Trust Barometer survey shows a global crisis of trust, with measures of trust in institutions and each other plummeting around the world. For Canada specifically, the survey found that more than 50 per cent of respondents feel our societal institutions and structures are failing them, and only

34 percent believe they and their families will be better off five years from now. Without trust, we lash out at one another. As Mark Manson, author of Everything is F*cked, A Book About Hope said in an interview on CBC Radio, “A lot of what we experience as political polarization, outrage culture, a lot of the stuff that’s going on in the media – I think a lot of that is a kind of side effect of these problems of hope.” Manson went on to say that people are confused, and so they latch on to simplistic narratives to give their lives meaning. His antidote: hope. When we become more hopeful and we let hope be our guide, we are less susceptible to the trap of cynicism. Hope will help prevent us from being influenced by the negative thoughts that can immediately spring to mind in any situation. So, how do we become more hopeful? We recognize that no outcome is set in stone, and there are always alternative pathways forward. Good can come even from negative situations. We take a step back and see the bigger picture – the forest, not just the trees. And for me, I take five deep breaths and call on my mantra: “This too shall pass.” Michelle Despault is Director of Communications at the OECTA Provincial Office.

“Hope” is the thing with feathers That perches in the soul And sings the tune without the words And never stops at all. EMILY DICKINSON





The Public Health Agency of Canada defines mental health as: “The capacity of each and all of us to feel, think, and act in ways that enhance our ability to enjoy life and deal with the challenges we face. It is a positive sense of emotional and spiritual well-being that respects the importance of culture, equity, social justice, interconnections, and personal dignity.” Our mental health influences how we think and feel about ourselves, others, and the world around us. It affects how we interpret events, and can dictate the degree to which we are able to manage life’s difficulties and challenges. Promoting positive mental health among teachers has become a more prominent issue in recent years. Because we work with children and young people, we are subject to close and constant scrutiny. What teachers do and say is thoroughly examined by administration, parents, and the public – not to mention the additional focus on educators as a result of the current government’s efforts to cast doubt on our professionalism. When you factor in the increasing levels of violence and harassment teachers are experiencing in classrooms, it is not surprising that teachers report facing a great deal of stress on their mental and emotional health. In fact, 48 per cent of OECTA’s long-term disability claims are for mental health issues.

Assistance Programs (EFAPs), are there to help. These programs, which are funded by the employer, are designed to serve employees as a well-being resource, supporting them through everyday issues and concerns. EAP services are usually available to the employee, as well as their spouse and/or dependants, if applicable. It is important to note that EAP services are confidential. These programs will not share your information with your employer. These services vary among school boards. For example, EAP counselling services are often limited to six or eight sessions free of charge. They usually offer counselling in the areas of family, marriage/divorce, financial, legal, depression/grief, alcohol/drugs, anger, and stress management. You may consider accessing these services if you or a family member are on a waitlist to see a psychologist or psychiatrist. In addition, OECTA ELHT Benefits also provides coverage. You should also be aware of resources available within your community, which may provide potential support options, if needed. The following websites are very useful: • Ontario Teachers’ Insurance Plan: feelingbetternow. com/otip/

To manage stress in our workplaces, we must view mental health as a continuum, ranging from healthy, to mild disruption, to moderate disruption, to severe disruption. While it might be possible to manage your mental wellness with self-care and social supports during healthy times and mild disruptions, times of moderate and severe disruptions usually require professional care.

• Centre for Addiction and Mental Health: camh.ca

Regardless of your level of need, Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs), sometimes called Employee & Family

Good mental health is an important component of a wellbalanced life. If mental health issues are affecting you at work or at home, assistance is just a phone call away.

• Canadian Mental Health Association - Ontario: ontario.cmha.ca • Canadian Mental Health Association: cmha.ca • OECTA Provincial: catholicteachers.ca

OECTA can help you obtain support through your EAP, and will be able to answer questions regarding access to short-term sick leave, long-term disability (LTD), and workplace accommodations. By recognizing and addressing problems early, you can usually prevent more serious issues from developing. Advice is always available through your local OECTA unit or the Counselling and Member Services department at the OECTA Provincial Office. Never be afraid to ask for help. Remember that you are not alone. Call the OECTA Provincial Office at 1-800-268-7230 and ask to speak to a member of the Counselling and Member Services department Joe Pece is Department Head of the Counselling and Member Services department at the OECTA Provincial Office.





Classrooms are like kaleidoscopes. Just as with each turn of the kaleidoscope a new and intricate pattern forms, so too do our classrooms change with each turn of events or behaviour – sometimes in an instant. It is not only the teacher’s hand that maneuvers the kaleidoscope; with so many students in our classrooms, numerous hands have the ability to shift the scope. When the kaleidoscope turns and the patterns in our classrooms change, teachers may need to respond. And when we are in the midst of teaching, this can be far from simple. We have all been there. As we deliver a lesson, we also gauge learning, differentiate instruction, monitor the student who is more quiet than usual, answer a call from the main office, supervise the proper use of school tablets, use body language to deter two chatty students from continuing their side conversation, prepare students to transition to the next segment of the task, and manage the many other moving parts in the classroom.

PHOTO: @Constantine Pankin / Shutterstock.com

Then, without warning, the kaleidoscope shifts at the hand of a student who poses a behavioural challenge. What do we do? We respond consciously and thoughtfully. We assess the severity of the situation, the disruption to learning, the student’s typical behaviour, the frequency of misbehavior, and other variables specific to that class at that time. We rely on the school’s discipline policy and practices, the behavioural plan and other studentspecific plans, and consider factors in the student’s life outside of the classroom. We will likely use non-verbal cues that have become part of our repertoire. These include repositioning ourselves in

the classroom, using a particular gesture or look, or perhaps pausing. We may rely on a common cue to get the attention of the class. We may have a quick and quiet conversation with the student to offer positive reengagement options and clarify next steps. This might be the interval at which we craft an informal contract, or it might be the juncture at which we realize it is time to explore interventions beyond the classroom. As we formulate and carry out our response to the student, we also formulate a strategy for transitioning back to the lesson, all the while empowering students’ self-regulation. The kaleidoscope is not ours to control, but sometimes we assert our authority, go to our repertoire of skills and strategies, and maneuver the kaleidoscope in such a way that the pieces of the mosaic fall where they should, so we can continue cultivating autonomous learners with enduring values. We continue on with the confidence and knowledge that we are prepared and can handle whatever next turn the kaleidoscope brings, and we continue to appreciate the ever-changing mosaic that is our classroom. Brenda Golden is First Vice-President of the Dufferin-Peel Secondary Unit.





When I entered Grade 9 in 1994, I did not face the turbulent waters of social media. I was not readily able to access videos online, nor did I have access to the internet at home. In fact, it was not until I was entering Grade 11 that I was able to access anything “.com” with any sort of ease. Things are much different today. We require a refined and nuanced understanding of the fact that students are interacting in a different world to the one many educators experienced when they were young. As a secondary Communications Technology teacher, with a background in film and new media production, I have a deep interest in all things media literacy. Well before becoming a teacher, I found myself on a journey to spread the message about the importance of media literacy as a mode to shape cultural understanding and critical conversation. My goal over the course of my 15 years of teaching has been to transform learning and perception. Communications Technology is more than a course about logo design, video montages, or school calendars; it is grounded in anthropology, semiotics, and genre – and thus, culture. The “communications” must be the focus, and the “technology” the enabler of deep thinking and doing. Students must be challenged creatively, but it is important to understand that, to be creative, you must be critical and responsive. As social media continues to evolve, so too does the need for ongoing media literacy education. With that in mind, let us look at “deepfakes,” a relatively recent form of “fake news.” Deepfakes are video or audio that have been altered, but can look or sound like the real thing. Sure, video could always be altered in terms of flow, but the deepfake is about the altering of the visual image itself. As the inception of these “deepfakes” comes at a critical socio-political time, it is imperative to understand we are at a cultural crossroads where the “truth” in video is now disposable.

For resources on how to explore the reality of deepfake videos in your classroom, visit aperrotta.com

A good example is the recent viral video deepfake of actor Bill Hader transforming into Tom Cruise while being interviewed by David Letterman. So seamless was the alteration that people on social media responded with pure horror. Though comedic, this deepfake is a stark reminder that we have entered a new world where the sacredness of video no longer exists. This time the deepfake was used for comedic effect, but what happens when it is used for political propaganda? Our students are living in a new world where “reality” can be created. Ultimately, deepfakes could represent a threat to democracy. This phenomenon highlights the ever more pressing need for education that promotes critical media literacy. By nurturing students to be critical thinkers, we help them to realize the Catholic graduate expectation of the responsible citizen. We must dive deeper into “fake culture” and intentionally provide students with opportunities to practice research skills to expand their understanding between fact and fiction. As we enter new and uncharted territory of video production and mass consumption, I advantageously take this opportunity to reassert that all things media must not live in the shadows of the curricular experience. Like all forms of literacy, media is very much part of our lives and the lives of our students. We need to understand and embrace media literacy as a critical literacy through transferable skills that speak to today’s world. This rings especially true when we take into account the realities of our students and the digitized world they live in.

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.


Long-term disability (LTD) insurance provides a safety net that will replace a percentage of your salary and provide pension protection should you be unable to work because of an illness or injury. The OECTA LTD plan recognizes that most members are in a highly vulnerable financial position should they be confronted with a loss of income during a lengthy or permanent disability. Of course, to receive the benefits of LTD coverage, members of the plan must pay premiums. It might be tempting to cease your premium payments when, for example, you take a leave of absence. However, such a decision could leave you unprotected if you suffer an illness or injury. If you choose to maintain your LTD coverage and you become disabled while on leave, you are eligible to apply for LTD benefits. There will be no break in your coverage and you will not be subject to a pre-existing condition clause upon your return to work.

However, if you choose to discontinue your LTD coverage while you are on leave, you will not be eligible for LTD benefits. Moreover, although you will be reinstated in the plan upon your return to work, you will be subject to a pre-existing condition clause if you become disabled within 12 months from the date of reinstatement – you will not be covered for a disability arising from an illness or injury for which you obtained medical care during the 90-day period before you became reinsured. To illustrate the point, let us consider two possible scenarios for a fictional member, Tracey. 1. Tracey is diagnosed with cancer during

her leave of absence. While undergoing cancer treatment, her leave of absence ends and she is unable to return to work. As Tracey maintained her LTD coverage during her leave, she is eligible to apply for LTD benefits. The benefits, payable on or after the date her leave is scheduled



to end, will help her replace her income while she is unable to work. 2. Tracey is diagnosed with cancer during her leave of absence. Tracey did not maintain her LTD coverage during her leave, so she is not eligible to apply for LTD benefits to help her replace her income if she is unable to return to work. If Tracey returns to work after her leave of ends, her LTD coverage will be automatically reinstated, but if she has to discontinue work less than one year from her reinstatement of insurance date, her benefits will be subject to a preexisting condition clause. She can apply for LTD, but if it is determined that her medical condition is pre-existing, her LTD application will be declined.

You never know if or when you might need LTD coverage. You should carefully consider your options before deciding to discontinue your participation in the plan.

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



SPEAKING TRUTH TO POWER Understanding the challenges faced by Black youth in our schools By Karen Ebanks

I am honoured to sit on OECTA’s first-ever Diversity Advisory Board, along with Jennifer Bieniek, Sharon Giroux, and Walt Chaisson, as well as OECTA Councillor Diana Corazza and Deputy General Secretary Mary Lachapelle. In one of our many progressive discussions, it was suggested that we include more articles in Catholic Teacher that speak directly to the groups OECTA is committed to engaging with on a deeper level. Since I sit on the advisory board representing members of colour, I could not miss an opportunity to tell about the inspiring Hairstory. Hairstory is a ground-breaking project that shares and analyzes the experience of Black youth in Ontario’s care systems. This project began in 2012, through the Ontario Child Advocate, as a discussion on hair- and skin-care for Black youth in care, and found that their caregivers were not meeting many of their needs. This turned into a broader conversation about identity. What makes Hairstory unique is that it unfolds exclusively through the eyes of our Black youth, 130 of whom participated in the ARTS (A Right to Speak) Forum in 2016. Conversations were synthesized and findings presented in a comprehensive report released in 2019, titled Hairstory: ROOTED - A Firm Foundation for the Future of Black Youth in Ontario’s Systems of Care. Every teacher in Ontario who has ever taught Black students – whether the young people were in Ontario’s care systems or not – must watch this documentary and read this report. The lessons are far-reaching. We may find it a tough read, but to move forward as truly inclusive educators, committed to teaching all of our students, this work is necessary. The Hairstory documentary and full report can be found at hairstory.ca. The documentary permits Black and Indigenous youth to speak directly to us, in their own voices. The report amplifies these voices and conversations. The report is divided into eight sections: Culture, Identity, and Spirituality; Family and Parenting/Child Welfare; Education and Employment; Immigration; Black Youth with Disabilities; Mental Health; Social Services; and Youth Justice. When exploring the contents of the report, no section is larger than Education and Employment, which to my mind speaks to the largest area of opportunity and impact on the lives of Black youth.


Below is just a snippet of what the young people had to say. I challenge each and every Catholic teacher to focus on at least one aspect, start a conversation with a fellow teacher, analyze what you see happening in your local school or board, and step onto the path toward change. Accountability from various groups, including teacher unions, for promoting the well-being of Black youth, is included among the recommendations. I was deeply honoured to attend the official launch of Hairstory with OECTA President Liz Stuart, and I lament the fact that the position of the Ontario Child Advocate has been eliminated as part of the Ford government’s budget cuts.

We are concerned that bias and negative stereotypes about Black children and youth held by teachers and others in the education system limit our chances for success in school. We are often labelled as being troubled children and disproportionately targeted for school discipline.

We want our teachers to believe in us and invest time in us. We want educators to express to us the same passion, belief in our abilities, and encouragement they would any other student.

We challenge our teachers to see us as individuals not just as ‘another Black kid.’ Do not judge us by our actions or the actions of our peers; rather, try to understand the circumstances of our lives that affect our behavior.

We feel over-surveilled by teachers. Displays of justifiable anger or defensive reactions on our part to acts of antiBlack racism can get us suspended or expelled from school.

I trusted nobody at school because the teachers were all the same. Always implying my dreams, hopes, and desires were unreachable, suppressing by abilities, motivation, and determination. Everyone deserves a fair chance. We can’t say what everyone will do with their chance at life, but having an equal opportunity to be successful in life matters.

IT IS TIME FOR US TO BE TRANSPARENT Contribution from an ARTS Forum participant Excerpted from Hairstory: Rooted “It is time for us to be transparent. Take away the ignorance; take away the fear of hurting others because kids are already being hurt. Children are already facing adversity. Racism exists and I am Black. A system that automatically designates my people and those of a darker skin tone as inferior is the system I’m trying to navigate. To teachers I would say, “Check your privilege”. Take note of the Black kids you are teaching and in charge of. Take note of the Black kids you teach in history class who hear that their history stems from slavery while the rich history of Africa and the Moors who travelled the oceans and crossed seas long before Columbus did is ignored. I would say bring up the topic of anti-Black oppression and not speak of it as something that happened in “19–whatever” because that implies that it was a problem of the past and minimizes the fact that it is the reality of today. Words have power and to take that away perpetuates a system built on, and continues to benefit from, the silence of the oppressed, the silence of Black people. I would say that this is not a “Black peoples” problem. “White” people or other people who benefit from having privilege, need to be taught from a young age–from the institutions in which they’re learning—that the oppression of others is not okay, that ignorance is dangerous, that Black people are not suspicious and that Black people are not to be feared. All children should be taught not to swallow the distorted and biased beliefs that are fed to them and so easily observed everywhere. Education in Canada has taught me the resilience of Black peoples, which comes from breaking free of the literal shackles of slavery. Yet, education in Canada does not provide a space to speak of the mental illness and physical trauma encoded into our DNA from anti-Black oppression in the past and present. Let’s remove the stigma and negativity associated with being Black. Let’s recognize that Black boys and girls are not a problem and teach them in a way that equips them for future and present– day success. School has always been my refuge and learning came easy to me. I understand that education is a key to unlock doors and help bypass obstacles I face. This is what I tell myself and I’m fortunate to have not become a negative statistic. Even if I had authority figures put limits on me, I would not let that affect my performance or how I react. But for the kids who already struggle it’s not the same. To build on what I said at the listening table, I would say, let’s stop whispering about racism, specifically anti-Black racism and discrimination. Let’s create a dialogue, let’s create schools where educated students know the consequences of racism and little Black boys and girls are united in brotherhood, where inequality is not tolerated, where people can speak up for justice for oppressed minorities, for Black people, where Black youth and Black people can assume their power and achieve success by their own hands.”



RECOMMENDATIONS The following recommendations are from the Education and Employment section of the Hairstory report. 1. Public education programs to eliminate cultural

8. Accountability from schools, school boards, the Ontario

stereotypes about Black youth.

Ministry of Education, teachers unions, and provincial oversight commissions for teachers in the form of policies and practices to address discriminatory or racist actions, promote the well-being of Black students, and improve the safety and success of Black students in school.

2. More books by Black authors in the school curriculum and

to purchase those books directly from Black authors and Black owned businesses.

3. Black history to be part of the curriculum from elementary

9. Safe spaces in school to meet with other Black youth and

4. Improved curriculum in faculties of education so educators

10. A mechanism in schools or the school board to file reports

5. Curriculum that includes lesson plans about holistic

11. More supports to help Black youth transition from

to post-secondary school for all students.

are better prepared to work with Black students.

healthcare, cultural teachings and drumming specific to Black peoples and for this curriculum to be taught by respected Black Elders in the community.

6. More Black educators and administrators in schools. 7. Advocates within schools to work specifically with Black


opportunities for peer mentorship.

and address the complaints of Black students.

elementary to middle school, to high school, and post- secondary education.

12. Curriculum that covers the life experiences of Black

LGBTQ2S+ young people for all students.

13. Anti-Black racism curriculum in schools to counter the

stereotypes and biased beliefs that lead to the promotion of hate and bullying of Black youth.

14. School curriculum that explores the intersectionality of

Blackness with trauma, racism, stereotypes, living in poverty and other factors that contribute to the stigmatizing of Black youth, the criminalizing of our behaviour and the formation of a negative identity.

15. Government to educate employers and provide incentives

to create “first jobs” for socially marginalized or racialized youth, including Black youth.

16. Guidance counsellors and teachers to provide

individualized support and strategies to Black students to achieve their goals as opposed to dissuading them based on their personal judgements of what is best for the student.

17. The Ministry of Education, school boards, principals, and

teachers to focus policies and practice on strategies that keep Black youth in school instead of resorting to suspensions and expulsions.

Liz Stuart, President of OECTA and Karen Ebanks, member of OECTA’s Diverstity Advisory Board at the launch of Hairstory.


Karen Ebanks is a secondary teacher at St. Elizabeth Catholic High School. She is a member of the OECTA York Unit and sits on OECTA’s Diversity Advisory Board.


AT THE EQAO, A IS NOT FOR APPLE By Anthony Carabache

PHOTO: @Tyler Olson / Shutterstock.com

The “A” in EQAO is not for “apple” or “Association.” In fact, the “A” in EQAO does not even stand for “assessment.” No, the “A” in EQAO stands for “accountability.” It is the Education Quality and Accountability Office (herein referred to as the Office), and the “A” represents a check-up on the students, schools, parents, teachers, principals, and superintendents in Ontario’s publicly funded education system. It has always stood for that, and it continues to do so today. In my role at the OECTA Provincial Office, I often sit across the table from Office executives and hear statements like, “This is what your members are asking for,” or, “Your teachers want us to provide more data, more information, and more opportunities to work with EQAO findings.” I have to admit, when I hear these words, I am often caught off guard, even dumbfounded. Sometimes I find myself believing it. Could it be true? Has the Office become a part of our teaching culture? Do our teachers really want more of it? It is truly hard to believe, but just in case it is true, I want to remind readers that the Office was established under Premier Mike Harris in 1996, to ensure accountability between schools, school boards, and the public. Teacher unions fervently objected, but the Office was put into law and its existence is something we have had to live with for close to 23 years. As time has passed, both teaching and assessment have evolved. Pedagogies such as differentiation of instruction and assessment, Growing Success, project-based learning, the integration of technology, student-voice, and inquiry-based learning have changed how we approach assessment as a profession. Unfortunately, the Office did not change its assessment practices along the way. Why? Remember that “A” I mentioned earlier? Assessment was never in their purview. Never. Predictably, when you change the approach to learning, but fail to change your assessment strategies, something has to give. I can tell you this: it is not the learning, because that is

still happening at all levels. It is how the learning is witnessed, recorded, noted, or assessed. Simply put, the Office does not have the infrastructure to witness learning in our schools, yet it is desperate to do so. It amazes me to see the Office attempt to capture in a mere three days what thousands of teachers capture during the school year. And they do it in the most stress-laden manner, using testing methods that might be contradictory, but that run counter to the efforts needed for deep and diverse assessments. It is a funny thing, but I remind myself quite often that the Office can be paralleled to a car’s oil dipstick. Oil, while essential to a car’s operation, is useless without rubber, gas, doors, seats, steering wheel… you get the point. It is but one meagre measure, one snapshot in time, with very little relevance to the whole picture. No, the “A” in EQAO does not stand for “assessment,” but know this: the Office desperately wants it to. Anthony Carabache is a member of the Professional Development department at the OECTA Provincial Office.





If you believe in forever, then life is just a one-night stand. If there’s a rock and roll heaven, well you know they’ve got a hell of a band. THE RIGHTEOUS BROTHERS (1974)

I was not planning for this column to be another reflection about a deceased rock star, let alone two deceased rock stars. But that changed with the passing of two rock icons from the 1970s and 80s within two days of each other. On September 13, I heard of Eddie Money’s passing after listening to “Take Me Home Tonight” on the radio; and when I read of Ric Ocasek’s death on September 15, I was determined to ensure these two legends got the attention they deserved. While few would suggest either of them created music that was especially deep or thought provoking, everyone agrees their tunes are unabashedly catchy and a lot of fun. The blending of 70s guitars with 80s synthesizers produced songs that were as typical of the era, as were the whimsical videos that accompanied them. I love the sing-along factor of hits like “My Best Friends Girl,” “Baby Hold On,” “You Might Think,” and “Two Tickets to Paradise” – infectious songs with an uncanny capacity to “earworm” their way into each of our heads. It is not surprising that since receiving the news of their untimely departures, I have found myself humming, whistling, and singing snippets from some classic releases found in The Cars and Eddie Money catalogues. Lately, when I turn on the radio and hear a beloved song from the distant past, I invariably get an uneasy feeling in anticipation of the song’s ending and the disc jockey coming on afterward to comment on the passing of another 30 CATHOLIC TEACHER | OCTOBER 2019

legendary singer. And while I feel a commensurate sense of relief when no such announcement is made, it nevertheless causes me to reflect upon the frequency with which those that have contributed to the soundtrack of our lives are leaving us. The Cars were at the forefront in merging guitar-oriented rock with the new synthesizer-oriented pop that flourished in the early 1980s. I bought their eponymously titled first album on Yonge Street in the summer of 1978, while my best friend Ed bought the cassette tape so that we could listen to it in the car on the way home – we were two serious 18-year-old music nerds! Their music was described by some contemporary critics as a combination of punk minimalism, new wave, and power pop – a complicated melange to say the least. For me and Ed, however, it was a lot more basic than that. We agreed that any attempt to analyze or categorize their music in this way only seemed to detract from the pure joy and feeling it evoked. As for Ric Ocasek, his stoic frontman persona, black suits,

projected aloofness, and gaunt, lanky looks contrasted with the showy, uberextroverted frontmen of the era. For us it was all a part of what contributed to his appeal. Eddie Money was different, too. His herky-jerky movements, husky voice, unconventional looks, and self-effacing videos made him appealing to a wide audience, who saw him as a regular guy who had somehow made it. If a guy like Eddie Money could make it, there was hope for everyone. Whether he was awkwardly dancing though performances with Ronnie Spector – whose career he helped revive – or as he bopped his way through his last big hit, “I Think I’m In Love,” Eddie was always a straight ahead rock and roller. He eschewed the teased hair, the spandex, and the glitter, for a look that revealed and exposed him to his audience. In past columns, I have related the power of music and lyrics as effective tools for enhancing curriculum and social consciousness. Tom Petty, Bob Dylan, Smokey Robinson, Bruce Springsteen, and Marvin Gaye have all featured. Ric Ocasek and Eddie Money rarely come up in such examinations, but although their lyrics are rarely cited as examples of the poetry of rock and roll, their melodies bypass the intellect, enter our hearts, and get us moving with smiles on our faces. It is for these reasons that Ric Ocasek and Eddie Money deserve recognition on any list of iconic singer-songwriters. And if indeed there is a “Rock and Roll Heaven,” I know these two guys are already jamming with the icons that arrived before them. Gian Marcon is a member of the Bargaining and Contract Services department at the OECTA Provincial Office.

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Catholic Teacher Magazine - October 2019 Issue  

Catholic Teacher Magazine - October 2019 Issue  

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