APRIL 2018 ISSUE
MAGAZINE of the Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association
HARNESSING MOMENTUM AND BUILDING STRENGTH
AGM 2018 HIGHLIGHTS
THE DIFFERENCE ONE TEACHER CAN MAKE
FOR STUDENTS STRUGGLING WITH MENTAL HEALTH ISSUES
AMERICA’S TEACHERS TAKING A STAND EDUCATION REFORM IN NOVA SCOTIA
Action taken on violence in the classroom Medication, medical emergencies, and you Indigenous education and pedagogy
CO N T E N T S/A P R 2018
INBOX 4 PRESIDENT’S MESSAGE 5
6 CALENDAR/INDEX 7 EVENTS 9
13 POLITICAL LEADERS SPEAK AT THE OECTA AGM By Adam Lemieux 14 THE STRANGER ON A BRIDGE AGM speaker Mark Henick talks mental health By Mark Tagliaferri 17
A FEW STEPS TOWARD SAFETY
A TEACHABLE MOMENT
MY TLLP EXPERIENCE
Pressure from teachers leading to action on violence in the classroom By Adam Lemieux Fed up with deteriorating conditions, America’s teachers have drawn a line and ignited a movement By Adam Lemieux A model for teacher-led professional development By Vickie Moorgate
TEACHERS AID 22 TEACHER ADVISOR Medication and medical emergencies By Joe Pece 23 CATHOLIC CONNECTION Once when I was drowning By Shannon Hogan 24 INSIGHT Perfectly imbalanced By Michelle Despault 26
Legal developments in the world of work By Charlene Theodore
PEOPLE WORTH WATCHING 27 LIVING MY PASSIONS IN GHANA By Lisa Earle 28 INDIGENOUS EDUCATION AND PEDAGOGY Perspectives from OECTA’s First Nations, Métis, and Inuit Workgroup By Dale Lane, Mireille Lapointe and Tammy Webster
THE INCREDIBLE IMPORTANCE OF IMPROVEMENT By Anthony Carabache
32 THE PRINCIPALS OF MANAGEMENT Nova Scotia, Bill 72, and the language of education reform By Mark Tagliaferri
34 FOR WHAT IT’S WORTH Ring, ring goes the bell: popular music and education By Gian Marcon
PRESIDENT’S MESSAGE I hope you have all returned from the March Break and a blessed Easter season feeling refreshed, rejuvenated, and ready for the final stretch of the school year. I am sure you are proud of the progress your students have made since September. Your Association is marking some accomplishments, too. First, I want to thank everyone who took part in our Annual General Meeting. It was a remarkably successful event – we even completed the entire agenda, for the first time in OECTA history! In this issue of the magazine, you will find details on the resolutions passed, guest speakers, award winners, and more. I am confident that we all left the meeting feeling unified and invigorated, ready to take on whatever challenges the next year will bring. The AGM weekend kicked off with the announcement that the Association has reached an important settlement with the government. As you may recall, following the expiration of our 2012-14 collective agreement, school boards across the province chose to extend what was known as the “statutory freeze period,” meaning that teachers who were eligible to move on the salary grid on September 1, 2014 did not actually do so until the 97th day of the school year. Grievances were filed in every school board, and after a favourable arbitration decision was issued in Waterloo, we began negotiating with the government on a settlement that would provide compensation for all OECTA members who were affected by the freeze. After some incredibly hard work by the General Secretary and OECTA staff, we are pleased to report that eligible members will soon receive a onetime payment of $2,000. Check your personal email or the Members’ Area at catholicteachers.ca for more information on the settlement and what it means for you. Unfortunately, there are also some dark clouds overhead. For example, you may hear rumours that our grievance settlement is somehow interfering with the negotiations that the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario is undertaking to determine “remedy” from the government, as a result of the constitutional challenge of Bill 115, which imposed a collective agreement on them and other unions in 2012. I want to be very clear that the two issues are not connected in any way. The Association has carried out our duty to represent the best interests of our members, and we trust that ETFO leaders will soon be able to do the same. Another area of concern is the future of publicly funded Catholic education. Over the past few months, you may have seen a number of news stories and opinion pieces appearing in media. You may also have seen billboards sprouting up around the province, promoting organizations that have launched a legal challenge against publicly funded Catholic education in Ontario. I want to assure you that the Provincial Executive and the OECTA Provincial Office are monitoring these issues and are prepared with a variety of strategies to respond. First and foremost, we will be stepping up our efforts to tell the stories of the amazing work Catholic teachers do every day. We will also be providing research and messages that can be used to counter some of the incorrect claims made by opponents of Catholic education. I hope you will take advantage of these resources, and speak to your family, friends, and neighbours about the importance of standing up for our treasured system of education. This is yet another reason to make sure you get involved in the provincial election, which is fast approaching. Although we continue to receive assurances from all of the major political parties that they fully appreciate the value of publicly funded Catholic education, we must remain vigilant about electing representatives who will advocate on our behalf. At the same time, we need to pay attention to the other issues on the political agenda, in the education sector and beyond. The political landscape has changed considerably with the election of Doug Ford as Leader of the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario. While we have much cause for celebration, this is no time for complacency.
Michelle Despault Editor Adam Lemieux Mark Tagliaferri Associate Editors Cynthia Bifolchi Writer/Researcher Fernanda Monteiro Production Anna Anezyris Advertising EDITORIAL BOARD Liz Stuart President Warren Grafton First Vice-President Marshall Jarvis General Secretary David Church 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, Toronto, ON M4T 2Y8 PHONE 416-925-2493 TOLL-FREE 1-800-268-7230 FAX 416-925-7764 catholicteachers.ca Publication Mail Agreement No. 0040062510 Account No. 0001681016
Cover: Toronto Secondary Unit delegates at AGM 2018.
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UP FRONT JOIN A PROVINCIAL COMMITTEE
OECTA standing committees provide opportunities for teachers to contribute their expertise and creativity, and to develop new interests, while serving the needs of Association members. Applications for membership on 2018-19 committees will be accepted online at catholicteachers.ca until May 1. Committee appointments are made by the Provincial Executive and take effect July 1. For a full list of committees, their mandates, and members, visit the Leadership Opportunities section, under For Your Career, at catholicteachers.ca. APPLY FOR A BURSARY
A maximum bursary of up to $1,000 may be awarded to an individual member. Members who are currently in pre-degree categories, and who are taking undergraduate courses, shall be given priority as applicants. Members who wish to pursue post-graduate studies or professional development activities as part of lifelong learning are also eligible for a bursary. Visit catholicteachers.ca by May 1 to learn more and apply. INSPIRE FINANCIAL LEARNING
Check out the new user interface and resources available on the inspirefinanciallearning.ca website. This OTF initiative provides teachers with effective tools and strategies to help their students navigate the complex world of personal finances. The site has both new and revised lesson plans, as well as interactive tools, useful links, and articles. The redesigned search engine points the user to the grade level, subject area, and resource needed.
OTF’S SPRING CONNECTS PROGRAM
OTF Connects invites teachers to learn, share, and collaborate with colleagues from across the province through rich, relevant professional learning opportunities. Teachers leave each session with immediately useful ideas for their classrooms. The program is accessible online, with easy-to-use webinar technology. Check out the lineup of spring webinars at https://bit.ly/2IJsPf5 REGISTER FOR A SUMMER AQ COURSE
Registration for summer AQ courses is now open. Summer courses will run from July 3 to July 27. Visit catholicteachers.ca in the For Your Career section for a full list of course offerings and links to register. Registration closes June 1. CLAIM YOUR SCHOOL SUPPLIES TAX CREDIT
In response to lobbying by the Canadian Teachers’ Federation, the federal government introduced a refundable tax credit, allowing eligible teachers to claim a 15 per cent credit on up to $1,000 in supply purchases every year. Visit the Canada Revenue Agency website at https://bit.ly/2EznRz1 to learn more about eligibility and find out how to claim the credit.
GET YOUR HEAD OUT OF YOUR APPS SECOND ANNUAL CONFERENCE
Calling all tech rookies! If you are interested in learning how to integrate tech the smart way, consider attending our second annual tech conference. The conference will run July 5 and 6 and is open to all K-12 teachers. Let your unit president know if you are interested in attending. REELABILITIES LAUNCHES NEW RESOURCE FOR ONTARIO TEACHERS
On April 3, the ReelEducation program launched. The program brings films about differently abled persons into Ontario classrooms and homes. ReelEducation allows teachers to download lesson plans and activities that are paired with 11 films from around the world to help students from Kindergarten to Grade 12 learn about, and be exposed to, different cultures. The program was created by ReelAbilities Film Festival: Toronto (RAFFTO), the largest festival in Canada dedicated to showcasing Deaf and Disability cultures. This year’s festival will take place from May 30 to June 4. To learn more about the resource, and to download the content, visit toronto.reelabilities.org.
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INDEX 2018 ONTARIO PROVINCIAL BUDGET
By Mark Tagliaferri 1
Foundational Leadership Training Program
Summer AQ Course Registration Opens
Day of Pink
18-19 East - Collective Bargaining Regional 22
All told, the budget spending plan is $158.5 billion. Highlights of the 300-pluspage budget document include:
Day of Mourning
Northwest - Collective Bargaining Regional Mother’s Day
14-15 GTA - Collective Bargaining Regional 21
22-23 Southwest - Collective Bargaining Regional
It was fairly obvious that with an election scheduled for June 7, this year’s budget also serves as a Liberal campaign platform. In stark contrast to the “efficiencies” Progressive Conservative leader Doug Ford promises to find, the 2018 budget offers a robust spending plan and casts a wide net across a range of social programs.
23-24 Northeast - Collective Bargaining Regional
On March 28, Finance Minister Charles Sousa rose in the Ontario legislature to deliver the Liberal government’s 2018 provincial budget. In the days leading up to the release, most of the media coverage centred on the Liberal’s decision to table a deficit budget. Having balanced the books in 2017, the Liberals projected to run a 2018-19 deficit of roughly one per cent of GDP ($6.7 billion), and if elected would continue to run deficit budgets for each of the next five years.
31 to Jun 1
Specialized Leadership Training Program
Right to Strike Month
Summer AQ Course Registration Closes
12-14 GSN Workshop 14-15 Spring Council of Presidents Meeting
• Free preschool for kids aged two-and-a-half and up, starting in 2020. • The program cost is expected to be roughly $2.2 billion, over three years. • The Liberals claim that the average family with one child will save $17,000 in total preschool costs. • The government also plans to add 100,000 new child care spaces, and provide before- and after-school programs in most elementary schools. New Drug and Dental Care Plan
• The Ontario Drug and Dental Program will reimburse up to 80 per cent of eligible expenses for those without other coverage. • The plan will cover $400 per person, $600 per couple, and $700 for a family of four. • The program will take effect in the summer of 2019, and will cost the province roughly $800 million over its first two years. Hospitals and Mental Health
• Nearly $19 billion over the next decade for hospital construction and renovations. • $2.4 billion for redevelopment of Toronto’s SickKids hospital, and a $1.8 billion project at the Ottawa Hospital.
• More than $2 billion, over four years, to provide “better and faster” mental health services. • Part of the money will go toward increasing access to free psychotherapy, mental health supports for high schools, and a promise to create a new fund to support LGBTQ and other under-served communities. Support for Seniors
• Under the Seniors’ Healthy Home Program, those aged 75 and over will receive up to $750 per year to offset home maintenance and other costs. • The plan will cost more than $1 billion, over three years, starting in 2019-20. • The province will expand OHIP+, which currently serves those under 25 years old, to make prescription drugs free for people aged 65 and over at a cost of about $1 billion over three years. Public Education
• Overall increase to the education budget of $625 million over last year, or a 2.6 per cent increase. • The government will invest $300 million into special education, over three years ($72 million in 2018-19), to hire 600 professional staff (including psychologists, speech and language pathologists, and social workers), with an aim to eliminate wait lists for children awaiting assessment. • $46 million for the 2018-19 school year to hire an additional 450 full-time-equivalent guidance teachers for Grades 7 and 8. • An investment of $10 million for demographic and growth adjustments to the Language Grant to support English Language Learners. • As part of the government’s Comprehensive Mental Health and Addictions Strategy, the government will invest $24.5 million in 2018-19, growing to $49.5 million in 2019-20. This funding will be used to provide: approximately 180 mental health workers in secondary schools for 2018-19, and 400 in 2019-20; embed Social Emotional Learning throughout the refreshed curriculum; and enhance training for teachers and other school staff on mental health literacy. • In response to OECTA’s repeated calls to increase the cap on the Special Incidence Portion of the Special Education Grant, which has been frozen since 1998, the government will invest $30 million to hire 500 additional education assistants to support students with exceptionally high needs. Mark Tagliaferri is Communications Specialist in the Communications department at the OECTA Provincial Office.
EVENTS MENTAL HEALTH AND WELLNESS REGIONAL WORKSHOPS This past February and March, staff from the Counselling and Member Services and Professional Development departments teamed up to provide regional workshops on the topic of Mental Health and Wellness. Over 250 members took in five regional sessions. Along with the personal narratives of the various keynote speakers, the workshops provided information regarding the prevalence of mental illness, the role of members in dealing with mental health issues, issues surrounding the accommodation of members facing mental illness, and resources available in various regions that provide support in creating healthy work environments. Participants took part in mindfulness exercises, and reviewed case studies related to the topics being discussed. In addition, information was provided regarding the various resources and projects that will be undertaken through OECTA’s PD Network.
OECTA REACHES GRIEVANCE SETTLEMENT WITH GOVERNMENT ON GRID MOVEMENT ISSUE In March, the Association reached an agreement with the government to settle all grievances filed due to the delay of grid movement during the 2014-15 school year. The agreement includes a one-time payment of $2,000, to be made to any teacher, including those who were in long-term occasional assignments, whose salary grid movement was delayed until the 97th day of the 2014-15 school year. Payments will be prorated based on full-time equivalency status during that time period. If your movement on the salary grid was delayed in 201415 and you are still employed by the same school board, no action is necessary. If you are employed by a different school board, you must contact both your previous employer and your previous local OECTA unit/bargaining unit, and advise them of your eligibility by May 1. Members who were on grid in 2014-15 but have since left the profession are also eligible for the payment. Each unit is currently finalizing the process for determining eligibility. Once eligibility is established, you will be notified by your unit. We appreciate your patience during this period. APRIL 2018 | CATHOLIC TEACHER 7
EVENTS POLITICAL ACTION SEMINAR With the provincial election looming large on the horizon, the Association brought together teacher-activists from across the province for our 2018 Political Action Seminar. The event kicked off with Cheryl Fullerton and Peter McDonald, staff members from the OECTA Government Relations department, providing an overview of the key things for teachers to know as we head into the election season. The main message was that, with recent changes to the Election Finances Act, it will be incredibly important for individual teachers to get engaged with the issues and help elect candidates who will promote publicly funded Catholic education and the common good. Participants then had the opportunity to talk directly with members of provincial parliament at an informal social event. The next day began with a highly informative education panel, featuring Minister of Education Indira Naidoo-Harris, New Democratic Party (NDP) Education Critic Peggy Sattler, and Progressive Conservative (PC) Education Critic Lorne Coe. First, each speaker was given an opportunity outline their party’s vision for education. • Minister Naidoo-Harris said the government is “on track” with its plans to build strong learning environments where every student can reach their full potential. She talked about recent improvements in graduation rates and investments in rural students, as well as ongoing efforts to modernize curriculum and assessment. • Ms. Sattler talked about the “epidemics” of violence in the classroom and school closures, and said that an NDP government would undertake a complete re-examination of the education funding formula. • Mr. Coe spoke passionately about the need for major investments in the area of mental health. He also called for more “concrete steps” to improve math scores. • All of the panellists reiterated their party’s continued support for publicly funded Catholic education. They also agreed on the need to consult and collaborate with teachers on any changes in the education system.
The panellists then fielded some questions from attendees. • On the issue of violence in the classroom, Minister Naidoo- Harris pointed to recent actions the government has taken, and said the door is open for further discussions. Ms. Sattler said the Association’s recommendations provide an excellent roadmap, especially in the need to ensure that incidents are reported, tracked, and monitored properly. Mr. Coe referred to previous discussions that he has had with OECTA President Liz Stuart, about the need for professional supports, as well as accountability to ensure that funds are spent appropriately. • With regard to new initiatives, everyone acknowledged the need to consult with teachers and pay attention to proper sequencing and implementation. • Perhaps the biggest point of difference was on the question of standardized testing. Minister Naidoo-Harris and Mr. Coe acknowledged that it is a complex issue, but generally defended the role of EQAO in giving insights into the education system. Ms. Sattler, however, promised that an NDP government would eliminate the current EQAO testing regime and implement a random sampling model. The event wrapped with some stimulating presentations. Greg Lyle of Innovative Research brought participants up to speed on the latest polling numbers. While these trends are constantly shifting, Mr. Lyle used his expertise to identify a few themes that might define this election. Then, Taylor Gunn of CIVIX talked about his organization’s Student Vote program, which many teachers use to educate their students about democracy and political engagement. Mr. Gunn cited statistics indicating that the program is successful not only in helping teachers and students, but also in raising political awareness among parents and other family members. He also noted that students can be quite prophetic – over the past few years, Student Vote results have foreshadowed surprise election outcomes that even pollsters did not predict, like NDP leader Rachel Notley winning in the last provincial election in Alberta. Among the many takeaways from the seminar, participants learned that we should all be watching closely when the students cast their ballots in the spring.
COLLECTIVE BARGAINING SURVEY 2018 As a member, your input helps to inform the Association’s bargaining priorities. In February, all members were invited to participate in the 2018 Collective Bargaining Survey. Responses to the survey will be used to determine the priorities for the next round of provincial bargaining, which is scheduled to begin in spring 2019. All survey responses have now been collected, and are being analyzed by the Collective Bargaining department at the Provincial Office. Be sure to check your email for future updates on the collective bargaining process.
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HIGHLIGHTS AND RESOLUTIONS green!
A Year of Firsts
AGM2018 represented a number of firsts for the Association.
The Association has made a concerted effort over the years to reduce the environmental impact of our provincial operations. This was clearly evident at AGM2018. The provision of WiFi encouraged participants to bring their own electronic devices, and access meeting materials via the website or the OECTA AGM app. The app was a welcome addition for participants, as it allowed users to cross-reference the meeting agenda with associated materials and speaker bios. It also provided interactive maps and a social platform for participants to post photos and messages about their AGM experience. Additional emphasis was placed on using reusable products (like water bottles and cups) and recycling. Throughout all of our provincial operations, the Association continues to look for ways to reduce waste and lessen our environmental footprint.
It was the first time the Association offered WiFi in the meeting room, allowing participants to go paperless. Attendees were able to access all meeting materials online through the Association’s website, or via the inaugural OECTA AGM app. Members who were not able to attend in person were able to catch some of the action through segments that were livestreamed – also a first for the Association. There were 56 resolutions submitted for the AGM to consider and all 56 were dealt with, making this the first time the entire AGM agenda was completed. (Typically, the meeting ends or loses quorum before all resolutions and scheduled items can be dealt with.) The process was aided this year by the fact that there was no debate on the member fee – another first. AGM 2017 dealt extensively with the Association’s fee and put a structure in place to allow for inflationary increases and a fiveyear budget projection, providing stability for the organization and eliminating the need to revisit the fee every year. Overall, the meeting ran smoothly, either on-time or ahead of schedule. Debate was civil, speakers were engaging, and the business of the Association was dealt with in a positive and professional manner.
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The resolutions submitted to AGM each year for consideration and debate seek to amend the policies, procedures, and by-laws of the Association. Action directives are also submitted, which look to establish some priorities for the Association in terms of lobbying and advocacy efforts. Resolutions are submitted by various local bargaining units and committees in fall, and are made available for each member to review in advance of the AGM. This year, there were 56 resolutions submitted. Here is how they broke down: TYPE
16 action directives
Many of the resolutions submitted sought to clarify or tighten language around policies and procedures that already exist in the Handbook. A number of by-law additions were passed that help to further refine the Association’s Discipline and Appeals process. A few of the more notable resolutions that were carried include: • Calling on the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan to oppose investment in for-profit water companies whose operations limit access to clean and affordable drinking water to local communities. • Lobbying the Ministry of Education to create a standardized electronic Ontario Student Record that would allow student information to flow more quickly and easily when a student transfers between schools. • Studying and reporting back to the fall Council of Presidents meeting on the factors contributing to the increasing number of unfilled teacher absences across the province. Resolutions that are carried are reflected in the Association Handbook. A list of all resolutions submitted and carried can be found at catholicteachers.ca in the Members’ Area, in the Member Resource section, under AGM.
Tesa Fiddler Talks Indigenous Education at the AGM’s Human Rights Caucus
“We have to disrupt teacher pedagogy.” This is the message that teacher and activist, Tesa Fiddler, delivered to attendees at OECTA’s 2018 Annual General Meeting Human Rights Caucus. Tesa, an Anishinaabe Kwe from Muskrat Dam in Ontario, spoke movingly about the importance of Indigenous education, and how it relates to social justice and equity education. Throughout her talk, she weaved together various aspects of Indigenous history with her own teaching and life experiences. According to Tesa, making Indigenous education relatable is key to effectively delivering Indigenous education content. “Ceremony for Indigenous people was outlawed,” she told attendees. “I tell students: how many of your family members go to church? What if church was illegal? What if we had to sneak out in the night to pray to God? That puts it into context for them.” Indigenous education is new for many teachers, and there is certainly a well -documented fear that teachers will make a mistake, or unintentionally offend Indigenous students. But as Tesa reminded the crowd, we all need to start somewhere: “I call it reconciliACTION– because reconciliation is nothing without action.”
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AGM AWARDS 2018
OECTA’s past presidents, along with the Provincial Executive and more than 800 guests, attended the Annual Dinner, where six individuals were honoured for their contributions to the Association, Catholic education, the teaching profession, and the labour movement. The recipients are pictured with OECTA President Liz Stuart and General Secretary Marshall Jarvis.
LIFE MEMBERSHIP AWARDS
LIFE MEMBERSHIP AWARDS
Life memberships are granted to former active members who have given distinguished service at the provincial level or for their local unit. These members have devoted their professional lives with generosity and dedication to the service of Catholic education in Ontario.
BRIAN HOGAN MIKE POZIHUN GEORGE SARANCHUK DEAN SPENCE
BRIAN HOGAN – former staff representative, local unit executive member, President of the Windsor-Essex Secondary Unit, and member of numerous provincial committees.
MIKE POZIHUN – former Thunder Bay Secondary Unit Chief Negotiator, First Vice-President, and President.
THE MARION TYRELL MEMORIAL AWARD OF MERIT
The Marion Tyrell Memorial Award of Merit honours an OECTA member who has made an outstanding contribution to education in Catholic schools or to the Association.
GEORGE SARANCHUK – former Niagara Unit President, provincial committee member, and member of the Provincial Executive, including one term as OECTA President.
PEARSE SHANNON MEMORIAL ASSOCIATION SERVICE AWARD
The Pearse Shannon Memorial Association Service Award honours a current or past OECTA president or bargaining unit president who has made an outstanding contribution to the Association.
THE MARION TYRELL MEMORIAL AWARD OF MERIT
DEAN SPENCE – former Peterborough, Victoria, Northumberland, and Clarington (PVNC) Teacher Welfare Officer, Grievance Officer, and Unit President.
PEARSE SHANNON MEMORIAL ASSOCIATION SERVICE AWARD
– former member of the Dufferin-Peel Secondary Unit executive, holding a variety of positions, as well as a member of the Provincial Executive, including one term as OECTA President.
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– former PVNC staff representative, local unit executive member, and Unit President, as well as Chair of numerous committees at the local and provincial levels.
POLITICAL LEADERS SPEAK AT THE OECTA AGM By Adam Lemieux
In a provincial election year, it the Association’s usual practice to invite the leaders of the major political parties to address delegates at the AGM about their plans for the education sector and the province as a whole. With an election scheduled for June 7, this year’s meeting served as a timely opportunity for the parties to test their campaign messaging and proposals. Ontario New Democratic Party (NDP)
Calling public education the “beating heart and soul” of society, NDP Leader Andrea Horwath thanked Catholic teachers for instilling a “love of learning” in students, and standing together as an Association for a better Ontario. She also laid the groundwork for the NDP’s election campaign messaging, in which the party will urge Ontarians to choose “change for the better.” Ms. Horwath promised that the NDP would make fundamental changes to the education funding formula, address violence and mental health issues, support lifelong learning, deal with the school repair backlog, and encourage the development of community hubs. She also said an NDP government would make major investments in mental health supports, including creating a standalone ministry. The highlight of the speech was Ms. Horwath’s commitment that an NDP government would eliminate the current EQAO testing regime, although it must be noted that she was less clear on what would replace it – the idea seems to be that teachers will be consulted on the development of a random sampling model. Liberal Party of Ontario
Premier Kathleen Wynne told delegates that she believes the role of government is to listen and support, and she expressed her desire to continue working with teachers to build the best possible schools. She thanked Catholic teachers for instilling lessons for life in our students, and helping to develop active, contributing citizens. She also firmly reiterated the government’s support for publicly funded Catholic education. Premier Wynne outlined the recent announcements to manage violence in classrooms that developed out of the Provincial Working Group on Health and Safety, and noted the government’s commitment to do a better job of streamlining
and sequencing new education initiatives. She did stress that the curriculum review will continue, as part of the government’s effort to serve the needs of the whole child. Speaking of the government’s broader agenda, Premier Wynne pointed to actions on child care, post-secondary tuition, workplace standards, and the minimum wage, and said that the Ontario Liberal Party will go into the election talking primarily about fighting for Ontarians. When questioned on the NDP’s position on standardized testing, she responded that the Liberals do not intend to get rid of EQAO. Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario (PC)
An invitation was extended to, and initially accepted by, the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario. But these plans, along with the entire political landscape of the province, were thrown into disarray when Patrick Brown resigned as party leader, in the wake of serious allegations of sexual misconduct. The PCs were shaken by internal strife and consumed with a hastily arranged campaign to elect a new leader, with the final votes being counted over the same weekend as our meeting. With all of this going on, it was not possible for the party to send a representative who could speak with authority on the party’s plans for the election and beyond. However, in keeping with the efforts the party has made over the past few years to develop more constructive dialogue with teachers and the labour community, a letter was sent by PC Education Critic Lorne Coe, talking about his respect for the contributions of Catholic teachers to values-based education, and the party’s desire to make major investments in mental health, while collaborating with teachers on any changes to the education system. We will see how these attitudes and positions hold up under the new party leader, Doug Ford, who has promised a more populist leadership style to go along with significant cuts to the provincial budget. Adam Lemieux is Communications Specialist in the Communications department at the OECTA Provincial Office.
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THE STRANGER ON A BRIDGE AGM speaker Mark Henick talks mental health By Mark Tagliaferri
The choice is simple: do you want to be a bystander, or would you rather be someone who gets involved – the kind of person who “has someone’s back”? For many, this is an abstract philosophical question; but for Mark Henick, this year’s AGM Human Rights Speaker, the question is quite literal. Henick is the Principal and CEO of Strategic Mental Health Solutions, a consulting firm that specializes in helping organizations to think more critically about mental health, and about how to maximize mental health in workplaces and everyday life. In his address to AGM delegates, Mark made it clear that although he has earned a number of credentials in the field of mental health, his unique perspective was forged mainly through his own experience. In a powerful and moving talk, Mark recounted his life’s story and the lessons he has learned. He spoke about how, growing up in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, he often tried to escape his troubled family life, punctuated by abuse, by seeking refuge in his local Catholic church. It was there where he met a teacher, Father Errol, who ultimately would help Mark to understand that one cannot run from their past, but instead must confront it. Unfortunately for Mark, his realization of this lesson came later, as an adult; as a teenager, he struggled to control his chaotic surroundings. As Mark explained to AGM delegates, change is the number one fear in most people’s lives – a lesson he learned firsthand when he entered high school. During this time, while trying to cope with family issues and adjusting to high school, Mark’s insecurities began to manifest themselves. One day, after a particularly nasty fight with his father, Mark arrived to school late for a test. With 10 minutes left and having run out of answers to give, Mark began doodling on his test paper. After collecting his test, Mark’s teacher saw what he had been doodling: he had been depicting various ways to kill himself. Mark was sent to the guidance counsellor, Donnie, who used the limited means at his disposal to try to help Mark work through his issues, and referred Mark to a hospital where he could speak to a psychologist. Mark felt an overwhelming sense of guilt and shame for having to seek help. Mental illness, he reminded delegates, is a powerful social taboo. 14 CATHOLIC TEACHER | APRIL 2018
Then, one day at school, things reached a tipping point: angry and frustrated, Mark held a knife to his throat and tried to kill himself. Upon hearing the news, the school’s administrators chose not to call the police because, as Mark speculates, they did not want to have public discussions of mental health. Thus began a terrible cycle. Mark would be hospitalized, return to school without being properly treated, get bullied as “crazy” by his peers, attempt suicide, and be re-hospitalized. The only bright spots during this period was the compassion of his math teacher, Monique, as well as another teacher, Karen, who visited him every day. AGM delegates sat riveted as Mark tried to explain his state of mind at the time. He was exhausted. He likened it to having “road rage” every moment of every day. He did not want to burden people any longer. This time would be different – this time he would end things for good. So, one day in 2002, around midnight, Mark Henick stepped onto a bridge. He climbed over the railing, preparing to jump. Then he heard a voice from behind him. “Doesn’t look like you’re doing too good,” the stranger said. For the next while, the stranger simply talked to Mark, asking him about his family and friends. “He wasn’t trying to ‘fix’ me,” Mark explained to the AGM crowd. “He never called me selfish. Depression is a liar – it’s the worst kind of liar, because it convinces you that it is you.” As the stranger continued to make conversation, Mark glanced around to find that police had arrived and a group had amassed. In that moment, he heard a different voice. Someone in the group standing off to the side shouted, “JUST JUMP, YOU COWARD!” As he recounted this to delegates, Mark broke from his story to offer an aside: “The world is full of people like that. It’s easier to be the guy in the crowd.” But for a split second that night, Mark listened to that guy on the sidelines. He took a deep breath. And let go of the railing. Almost as quickly as he felt himself fall forward, Mark felt something even more powerful: the arm of the stranger wrapped around his torso, pulling him in. Holding him in place. Talking to him, saying, “You’re going to be okay.”
Speaker Mark Henick at the AGM 2018, on Monday, March 12
After the ordeal, Mark was loaded into an ambulance – again. He was hospitalized – again. He was discharged – again. The doctor’s notepad simply read: “Same old story.” But this time, it was not. As he lay in his hospital bed, Mark could not shake the contrasting image: that guy on the sidelines watching the spectacle, and the stranger on the bridge who got involved. In that moment, Mark realized that we all have a choice of who we want to be. Mark was careful to note to delegates that mental illness cannot simply be wished away. Progress, he admits, is and will always be uneven. But we can each still strive to be that stranger on a bridge – to become active and involved in making a positive impact on people’s lives. Mark has lived this advice. He began to tell his story, in an attempt to break down the stigma associated with mental illness. He delivered a TED Talk that garnered more than four million views. He served as Ontario president of the Canadian Mental Health Association, a member of the Board of Directors for the Mental Health Commission of Canada, and a
national spokesperson for the Faces of Mental Illness campaign. And 15 years after that night on the bridge, he was even able to locate the stranger, with whom he has become friends. Through his experience, Mark came to a second realization: almost all of the people who positively impacted his life – Father Errol, Donnie, Monique, Karen (and even his wife, Rebekah) – are teachers. Mark explained to delegates that, ultimately, the choice of which person we want to be is especially important for teachers, as teachers all have the chance to leave impactful memories on their students. “Remember,” Mark said as he finished his address, “every time you walk into a classroom, never doubt the impact you have. Each of you has it within your power to be someone’s ‘stranger on a bridge.’” Mark Tagliaferri is Communications Specialist in the Communications department at the OECTA Provincial Office.
APRIL 2018 | CATHOLIC TEACHER 15
A FEW STEPS TOWARD SAFETY
Pressure from teachers leading to action on violence in the classroom By Adam Lemieux
After years of advocacy by the Association and others, we are finally making progress toward solutions to redress violence in the classroom. Over the past year, OECTA representatives have been taking part in the Provincial Working Group on Health and Safety, an initiative that brings together the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Labour, trustees, teachers, and other stakeholders to collaborate on a plan to make schools safer for all students and staff. The first product of the work group’s efforts was unveiled in March, as the Ministry of Labour released a new document, Workplace Violence in School Boards: A Guide to the Law. The guide lays out some common definitions and procedures that all school boards should already be following, and gives direction on actions that should be taken for the 2018-19 school year. Although this is only a first step, it is clear that the problems and solutions identified in OECTA’s survey and recommendations have made a real difference. A few of the highlights are detailed below. Comprehensive school board plans
One of the overarching themes of the Association’s work on this issue has been the need to standardize definitions and procedures. Within and across school boards, there have been widely varying ideas of what constitutes a violent incident, and what should be done when an incident occurs. In response, the new guide gives everyone a full understanding of the requirements under the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA). It is also provides direction for school boards on implementing comprehensive plans for the 2018-19 school year. Every school board will be required to develop a workplace violence policy and program, which will include: measures and procedures to control risks of workplace violence; measures and procedures for summoning immediate assistance when workplace violence occurs, or is likely to occur; measures and procedures for workers to report incidents of workplace violence; and details of how the school board will investigate and deal with incidents or complaints of workplace violence. The plan is to be posted in an area where everyone can see it, and to be reviewed at least annually. Information on student history
Another major concern identified by the Association is the need for school staff to be aware of a student’s history and other factors that might indicate a risk of violent behaviour. The new guide makes clear that school boards and supervisors have an obligation under the OHSA to provide workers “with information, including personal information, related to a risk of workplace violence from a person with a history of violent behaviour, if the worker can be expected to encounter that person in the course of their work and the risk of workplace violence is likely to expose the worker to physical injury.”
The guide presents templates of forms that school boards can use to provide this information, although boards are also permitted to develop their own versions. The information disclosed will include not only the risks a student might pose, but also the measures and procedures a worker should follow (e.g., in a Student Safety Plan) to protect themselves. To ensure student privacy, it is recommended that the forms be kept in a central location, in a secure container. Staff considered at risk of workplace violence should be granted access by school administration. Common reporting tools
The problem of violence in the classroom has been allowed to persist and grow in large part because of inconsistencies in reporting and data tracking. There has been reluctance among administrators to acknowledge the problem and deal with it in a transparent manner. One of the more troubling results from the OECTA survey was the overwhelming evidence that members have not been made aware of the procedures for reporting violent incidents. Even more disturbing is that almost 25 per cent of respondents said they have been actively dissuaded by their principal from filling out the appropriate forms following a violent incident. The government will be requiring all school boards to implement a common online reporting tool for the 2018-19 school year. This will standardize the process, making it easier for teachers and other staff to report incidents, and easier for everyone to track data and make informed decisions. Over time, we hope that this will lead to a shift in school culture, where incidents of violence are dealt with openly, and where the government has the requisite evidence to implement adequate supports and services to meet student needs. A good start
Teachers should be proud of the way we have raised public awareness about this crucial issue, and stood together to insist on meaningful action. But this is just the beginning. In Safer Schools for All, OECTA’s book of recommendations, we advocated not only for new policies and procedures, but also for significant investments in training, programs, and professional supports, as well as vigilance from the government in holding school boards to account. The Association will be paying close attention to whether boards are fully implementing the requirements of the new guide, while at the same time continuing to work with the provincial working group on further improvements. And as we look to the provincial election and beyond, we remain as committed as ever to keeping school safety at the top of the political agenda. Adam Lemieux is Communications Specialist in the Communications department at the OECTA Provincial Office.
APRIL 2018 | CATHOLIC TEACHER 17
A TEACHABLE MOMENT
Fed up with deteriorating conditions, America’s teachers have drawn a line and ignited a movement By Adam Lemieux
A two-week strike by teachers in West Virginia has galvanized the profession and shone a bright light on the problems in American education. The consequences of underfunding, overcrowding, and a lack of respect for teachers as professionals have all come to a head, with startling and inspiring results. The job actions are serving to draw attention to the incompatibility between conservative economics and strong public services, and also to highlight the capacity for teachers to be at the forefront of the movement for workers’ rights and the common good. The tipping point
Teachers in West Virginia are among the lowest-paid in the United States, with an average annual wage of just over $42,000. Until this year, they had not received a raise in a decade. But in a state that has been hit hard by the decline of the coal industry, and has some of the lowest taxes in the country, teachers have consistently run up against claims that there is no money in the government’s coffers to increase their compensation. It all became too much to take when the state instituted new health insurance premiums that increased contributions for some teachers by hundreds of dollars per month. Although teachers were also offered a one per cent raise, this would not have been enough to offset the new costs. Another instigating factor was the introduction of a program called Go365. As part of the initiative, teachers enrolled in West Virginia’s Public Employees Insurance Agency were going to be required to use an app that tracked health goals and assessments, and awarded points for achievement. Those who reached their targets would receive incentives such as gift cards and fitness equipment (which the Internal Revenue Agency warned would count as taxable income), while those who failed to earn enough points would see their premiums and deductibles increase. Governor Jim Justice responded to concerns by requesting that the
agency drop the penalties, but teachers were incensed by the invasiveness and paternalism of the proposed program. Originally, the teachers planned to undertake rolling strikes. But latent frustration was reaching a boil, and they decided, as one organizer put it, “To go all in.” At the end of February, more than 15,000 teachers, from all of West Virginia’s 55 counties, left their classrooms and flooded the state capitol. Even when one of the unions reached a tentative agreement with the government, teachers remained committed to seizing the moment. Most opted to continue on an illegal “wildcat” strike. In the end, they won a five per cent raise and a pause on the increases to their health insurance costs. Spreading like wildfire
The job action in West Virginia took a while to gain media attention, but other teachers were certainly attuned. In Arizona, where the publicly funded education system has been devastated by cuts since the 2008 recession, teachers began donning red t-shirts and sharing on social media under the hashtag #REDForED. In late March, with thousands gathered at the state legislature, they outlined their demands: a 20 per cent pay increase, substantial investments in education, and no new tax cuts until education funding in Arizona matches the national average. In Kentucky, teachers have gained confidence in pushing back against changes to the state’s pension plan, which is being converted from a defined benefit model to what is known as a “hybrid cash balance plan,” with no changes to cost-of-living adjustments until the plan is 90 per cent funded. While Governor Matt Bevin went on radio to call them “ignorant” and “selfish,” thousands of teachers poured into the streets, calling on legislators to fulfil their obligations and raise the necessary taxes
to sufficiently fund the plan. Then, after state senators sneakily passed the bill by attaching it to legislation covering sewage services, teachers followed the example set by their brave colleagues in West Virginia by shutting down every public school in the state following the Easter weekend. Kentucky’s teachers were joined by teachers and other state employees in Oklahoma, who have been organizing since early March to insist that the state government invest $3.3 billion over the next three years in school funding, benefits, and pay increases for public employees. Lawmakers had hoped to avert a job action by passing legislation that met some of the demands, but this was unsatisfactory. Repeated cuts have meant that many schools in the state now operate only four days per week, and when adjusted for inflation, teacher salaries have declined dramatically over the past 10 years. Teachers have told stories of paying thousands of dollars out of their own pockets to provide supplies for their classrooms, and taking on side jobs after hours and on weekends to make ends meet. At the time of writing, the teachers have not returned to their classrooms. They remain gathered outside the state legislature, shouting for the country and the world to hear, “We’re not going to take it anymore!” Shoestring budgets
The situations in these states are part of a broad crisis in education south of the border. US schools turn out thousands of remarkable graduates every year, but they seem to do it almost in spite of themselves. On funding, testing, and now, horrifyingly, even gun control, US policies are wildly out of step with what we would consider accepted norms and best practices. For example, per-pupil spending in the United States is actually quite high by international standards, but there are great inequities within and across states. Moreover, there has been a nationwide trend of education budgets stagnating after the 2008 recession. The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development reports that between 2010 and 2014, while the US economy grew steadily and the student population increased by one per cent, school spending decreased by three per cent. This has meant low pay for teachers, and myriad other shortages. It should be no surprise, then, that all states are facing dramatic teacher shortages, as they struggle to attract and retain qualified professionals. Post-secondary graduates in the US are saddled with student debt and an uncertain future, and they are not keen to train for a profession where they will almost assuredly be overworked and underpaid. According to a 2016 report by the Learning Policy Institute, teacher education enrolment in the United States dropped by 35 per cent between 2009 and 2014, and nearly eight per cent of the teaching workforce leaves the profession every year, the majority before retirement age. This has led to a growing number of teachers being hired with emergency or temporary credentials. The problems are so pronounced that teachers are finding some unlikely allies in their fight. In West Virginia, superintendents joined in the marches, urging lawmakers to help them fill vacancies with qualified teachers by significantly increasing pay. In Oklahoma, the boards of the two largest school districts passed resolutions supporting “any steps necessary to improve
conditions for our teachers – including a districtwide suspension of classes.” Perhaps the most insidious aspect of the crisis has been American lawmakers’ habit of pitting teachers against their fellow citizens. In West Virginia, Republicans tried to block raises for teachers by saying that the money would have to come out of the Medicaid budget, which provides health coverage for low-income adults, children, pregnant women, the elderly, and people with disabilities. In Arizona, teachers have demanded that the government stop giving away tax breaks and depleting the state budget, but the governor has argued that these measures are necessary to aid groups such as veterans, who enjoy great reverence among the general public. Successive rounds of tax cuts in Oklahoma have opened up an annual budget shortfall of $1.5 billion, and their notoriously low taxes on oil and gas production are a big part of the reason why the state struggles to fund education and other public services. But teachers have found that they risk being cast as the greedy ones for demanding that the oil barons pay their fair share. They have resorted to pleading with the government to permit and tax certain types of gambling, to raise the funds necessary to pay teachers, fix crumbling schools, and buy textbooks. A new model
These issues have been widely recognized, but until now teachers have felt powerless to act. Somewhat paradoxically, the recent job actions have served to illuminate not the strength of the US labour movement, but the weakness. Teachers have the secondhighest unionization rate of any occupation, but it is still under 35 per cent. In some states, there is no statute governing collective bargaining for teachers. And in many states, strikes by teachers or other public employees are completely prohibited. These strictures help to explain why teachers have been acting largely outside the auspices of their unions. Organizing in Arizona has been done primarily through an invitation-only Facebook group, which amassed more than 30,000 members in a little over two weeks. In Kentucky, teachers have used sick days to attend the rallies, and they have been careful to refer to their action as a “walkout,” rather than a strike. But it is clear that something has changed. With the US now governed almost entirely by conservative lawmakers, who are determined to actively undermine public services and workers’ rights, teachers have reached a breaking point. Along the way, they are setting a model for collective action in the face of austerity and labour market precarity: solidarity, firm demands, and perseverance. This will become especially important with the US Supreme Court set to hand down a decision in the near future that will likely further inhibit unions’ ability to collect dues and carry out political activity (see this month’s Legal Briefs section for more details). As one Oklahoma teacher told Bloomberg News, “Right now, we’ve got a lot of momentum. We’re not just walking out for ourselves anymore – we’re walking for everybody.” Adam Lemieux is Communications Specialist in the Communications department at the OECTA Provincial Office.
APRIL 2018 | CATHOLIC TEACHER 19
MY TLLP EXPERIENCE A model for teacher-led professional development
By Vickie Morgado
The Teacher Learning and Leadership Program (TLLP) is an annual projectbased professional learning opportunity for experienced classroom teachers. The program funds proposals from classroom teachers seeking peer leadership roles in curriculum, instructional practice, or supporting other teachers. As part of the 2016-17 project year, I was part of a team of educators who worked on a TLLP project to discover how STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math), coding, and makerspace (a collaborative work space inside a school, library, or other facility for making, learning, exploring, and sharing that uses high-tech to notech tools), could be used with students. Our project Our project focused on a K-8 school in Mississauga. We examined how STEAM, coding, and makerspace could be used to enhance the curriculum for students, through a lens of inquiry and equity for all. Our goal was to provide learning experiences based on student interests that developed critical thinking, creativity, and collaboration skills, while forming real world connections. Throughout the year, the team worked with our teacher librarian and other staff to transform our library into a “learning commons.” We held in-class workshops for students, and with the help of a parent volunteer we expanded our Coding Club and introduced students to Google CS First, a resource offering free coding courses, which can be implemented by teachers who have no prior computer science experience. What we learned
From the project, we gained a better understanding of how to meaningfully integrate coding into a variety of curriculum areas. We learned that student engagement can be increased through the use of a makerspace, coding,
and STEAM-based lessons that are designed to draw on the interests of students. We also learned that providing differentiated instruction and student choice can lead to greater student success. Through this experience, we found that working with students in a co-learning space is critical to modern pedagogy, and can help to promote successful learning opportunities in today’s classrooms. Collaboration is also key: we found that in order to build capacity, teachers need to be given time to work together – and that building relationships and partnerships with community members and organizations contributes to further success. On a practical level, we learned how to use a variety of new tools, including Makey Makey, Sphero, and 3D printing. Impact on our teaching
The TLLP journey has been one of the best professional development opportunities I have experienced as a teacher. It allowed our team to work collaboratively within the school community in grade-level teams. In addition, it saw the transformation of a library into a learning commons. One of the best aspects of the TLLP program is that it is teacher-driven professional development. It allows teachers to identify an area of interest, and then gives us the supports to explore that interest through professional learning opportunities. Additionally, one of the highlights of being part of the TLLP journey is the opportunity to network and learn about other amazing TLLP projects at the annual summit. For example, I connected with fellow teacher Michael Leonard, who did his TLLP project on Google Expeditions. Michael was instrumental in helping me get my own Google Expedition up and running in my classroom.
TLLP as a model for PD
The success of the TLLP program had me wondering how this type of a model could be incorporated into our school system. TLLP researchers found that, “Based on our analyses of a sample of… projects, the majority of TLLP teacher leaders report improvement in their knowledge and understanding (95 per cent), teaching practices (90 per cent) and technological skills (50 per cent).” I firmly believe that professional development that is modelled on TLLP would provide successful learning opportunities. The TLLP is a PD model that values teacher voice, is differentiated, and provides autonomy, time to collaborate, as well as opportunity for risk-taking and growth. The TLLP is most successful in this respect because it places value and trust in teacher-leaders, and ultimately results in benefits for the entire system. If you want to check out other TLLP projects, visit teachontario.ca. For more information on TLLP, or to apply for upcoming opportunities, visit otffeo.on.ca Vickie Morgado is a Grade 3 teacher from the Dufferin-Peel Elementary Unit.
APRIL 2018 | CATHOLIC TEACHER 21
MEDICATION AND MEDICAL EMERGENCIES By Joe Pece
By September 2018, school boards will be required to develop plans for students with asthma, diabetes, epilepsy, and/or risk of anaphylaxis. There has also been a great deal of recent media attention on the growing opioid crisis in Ontario, and the possibility of having naloxone kits available in schools and administered by teachers. Given these developments, I thought it timely to restate the Association’s position on the provision of life-saving medical care by teachers. Duty of care
Teachers, along with other school staff and administration, as well as board staff, have a “duty of care,” which is a legal obligation to protect students from reasonably foreseeable risks of injury or harm. All can be held liable if they fail to meet this duty. The liability comes in acting without proper care, which can be a result of action or inaction, depending on the circumstances. In the case of a student who needs medication, for example, ensuring that the student receives the medication falls under this duty of care. School administration and the student’s teacher share the responsibility in different ways. If a student requires medical care in order to attend school, the principal must ensure that the required medical care is available and that appropriate procedures are put in place. Teachers, however, are required to ensure that the procedures put in place are adhered to, and that reasonable steps are taken to ensure the safety of students under their charge. The “standard of care,” or the degree of prudence or caution required, is that of a careful or prudent parent, and also would vary depending on the circumstances. Emergency situations
In an emergency situation, it is a legal requirement for teachers to provide 22 CATHOLIC TEACHER | APRIL 2018
reasonable safety procedures. Regulation 298 of the Education Act requires teachers to ensure that all reasonable safety procedures are carried out in courses and activities for which the teacher is responsible. In 2006, Sabrina’s Law made teachers responsible for the administration of an Epi-pen if a student is experiencing a severe allergic reaction. A teacher might be the subject of a criminal investigation if the failure or refusal to administer an Epi-pen is considered criminally negligent, or amounts to a failure to provide the necessities of life. Collective agreements may have provisions limiting a member’s responsibility for performing medical procedures of any sort, but in an emergency situation the member may have to administer the Epi-pen because of the life threatening nature of anaphylaxis. Also, since 2015, Ryan’s Law has required all school boards to have an asthma policy in place to support students with asthma. In response to an emergency situation, teachers should use their professional judgment to determine the best course of action, be it calling 911, calling the office, administering an Epi-pen, or contacting the designated first aid provider in the school. Uncertain territory
Although these legal requirements are in place, we are wary of placing any additional expectations on teachers to respond to medical issues. Teachers are trained to teach – we are not health care providers. The Association has made it very clear that teachers should not be required to dispense medication to their students, or undertake activities that fall in the realm of medical care. This is even stipulated in some local collective agreements. Indeed, it is the job of school administration to establish procedures to meet the needs of students that do not rely primarily on the classroom teacher. When it comes to the administration of
naloxone or insulin, or other medical procedures such as blood testing, it can be difficult for you to know precisely when and how to take action, even if you have received some training. Without explicit legal protection, there is simply too much risk that you will be held liable should something go wrong. You also need to consider the safety and well-being of all of the other students in your classroom. There are several local collective agreements clearly stipulating that no teacher shall be required to carry out procedures such as feeding or toileting. But regardless of whether this language is in your local collective agreement, you are advised not to perform these types of activities on your students. In addition to the liability issues should something go wrong, the physical contact required to provide these types of medical and physical procedures also puts teachers at risk of allegations of inappropriate touching and/or charges of professional misconduct at the Ontario College of Teachers. When in doubt, seek help
The Association is committed to minimizing the risks to teachers who might be involved in the oversight, administration, or maintenance of medical procedures. If school administration requests that you administer medication or any medical procedures, you should respectfully decline. If an administrator is directing you, ask for the direction in writing and contact your local OECTA unit office or the OECTA Provincial Office. The Association can provide advice and direction depending on the particular situation and the local circumstances. While we all want to protect our students from harm, it is important that we also take care of ourselves. Joe Pece is Department Head in the Counselling and Member Services department at the OECTA Provincial Office.
ONCE WHEN I WAS DROWNING By Shannon Hogan
PHOTO: @Lapina / Shutterstock.com
Once when I was drowning I held on long enough To say the Act of Contrition. If today I were drowning I wonder what I would do I can’t remember the Act of Contrition And, besides, I’m not nearly the sinner I used to be…when I was eight and a half years old. AL PITTMAN
I was introduced to the poetry of Al Pittman many years ago, while spending time on Fogo Island in Newfoundland. During this Lenten and Easter season, while reflecting on the themes of sin, death, and resurrection, this poem made its way to the front and centre of my reflection. I was reminded of the days of my childhood faith, when we were always cognizant of the shortness of life and the length of eternity. The lens of our entire little lives was that of a loving Jesus, and obedience to the teachings of the Church; they applied deliberately and succinctly to everything we ate, said, thought, and did. Our very young existence was framed completely by tenets of Roman Catholic teaching and observance. One hot summer Friday, when my brother and I were at an amusement park riding the Ferris wheel and “dodgem” cars, we took a few minutes to have lunch before resuming our rides. Everybody knows that hot dogs are best when they are cooked on a grill and eaten outside. As we were adherents to that dictum, we ate accordingly. But
when we were half way through the best hot dog ever, my brother remembered that it was Friday – we were eating meat on a Friday. While for most millennials, the gravity of this situation would not connect with anything in their experience of the Church or its teachings, we were convinced that we were on the fast track to eternal damnation. Of course, it did not stop us from finishing our hot dogs. After all, we were kids, we were hungry, and the damage had already been done. But on the ride from Detroit back to Windsor, we sat side by side, each of us facing our doom, repeating the Act of Contrition, just in case God struck us down on the way home. My childhood memories are punctuated by instances like this, when in the most innocent of actions, we slid into the abyss of the possibility of eternal damnation. For those looking in from the outside, unaccustomed to growing up in a familial culture that was bound up entirely in the faith and identity of Roman Catholicism, it may seem miraculous that we grew up with a healthy sense of who we are, and where
we are grounded. However, in my humble opinion, we did! Our parents were “thinking” Catholics, who created a balance between the letter of the law and the innocence of childhood. There was never a dismissal of the law, simply a deeper understanding of how God would view our involuntary excursions into the dark side. The ethos of my childhood left one enduring thought, which I have to this day: God is indeed ever-present in the most mundane and inconsequential moments of my daily life. While I may not be the sinner I was as a child, there is a part of me that thinks God rejoices when, every once in a while, I get a hot dog, cooked on the grill, and eaten outside. And if it is Friday, I always take a moment, wink out of the corner of my eye, and say in my heart to the God of my life, “Want a bite?” Shannon Hogan is a member of the Counselling and Member Services department at the OECTA Provincial Office.
APRIL 2018 | CATHOLIC TEACHER 23
By Michelle Despault
In the last issue of Catholic Teacher, my colleague Gian Marcon wrote about the misnomer of a “work-life balance.” This topic is near and dear to my heart, as it is something I have struggled with throughout my adult life. Like many, I am extremely busy – not only with responsibilities to my work and family, but also with many other pursuits and interests. I struggle to fit in everything I “need” to do, and constantly feel that I am not able to do the things I “want” to do. In the past, thinking about my schedule and my ever-increasing “to-do” list left me feeling anxious and disempowered. There were just never enough hours in a day, and often the time I spent on something lacked quality. Like many others, I was never able to find that elusive “balance” that everyone talks about – that was, until I stopped looking for it! Here are some of the insights and activities that I have drawn upon to help me find the right “fit” in my life. The illusion of balance
One day, when lamenting the lack of balance in my life with a friend whom I respected (and admired for her ability to truly love her life), she said something both simple and profound: “Balance doesn’t exist.” She went on to explain that trying to find balance in our lives is like chasing a unicorn, and our inability to find it is what drives us crazy. She told me to stop trying and just embrace what is. Only once we embrace how messy, imperfect, and unbalanced our lives are, can we make peace with our schedules. I had never really stopped to think about how trying to create “balance” in my life (between the things I felt I had to do, and those I wanted to do) was magnifying an internal conflict and placing undue emphasis on competition and scarcity. So, I went to work on reframing my context to one of acceptance, harmony, and completeness. I accepted the things that I could not readily change in my life, while looking for ways to maximize my experience of those things that bring me joy. And I recognized that however this looks from day to day, is simply how it looks on that day – no need for judgment. Timing is everything
To address my feelings of there being “not enough time,” I sought clarity on exactly how I spend my time. I started timing every activity I undertook. It turns out that my 15-minute shower actually takes me 30 minutes, when I factor in all the
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little things I do before and after, like getting undressed, towelling off, and putting on face cream. The 30 minutes that I typically allocated to returning emails in the evening more often than not was really an hour, or longer. Once I was clear on how much time it actually took me to do things, I got to work on blocking a calendar and scheduling everything in. And if there were things I wanted to do that I had previously found especially easy to put off until another time, I became intentional about finding even a few minutes in my scheduling for them. A matter of priority
This exercise did not uncover hours of excess time; in fact, it was often the opposite. What it did, however, was force me to examine my priorities. I heard a great quote from psychologist Dr. Tom Barrett: “When people tell me they have no time for something, they are not stating a fact, but a priority.” I really took this to heart. I often say how my health and wellbeing is a priority for me, and yet I almost never go to the gym. If this was truly a priority, I would need to start scheduling it in and be intentional (if not excited) about going. If not, I need to stop stressing over it, and just accept that other things in my life are a bigger priority in that moment. When I finally make peace with the fact that this is not of primary importance in my life, I can realize that the world is not conspiring to keep me from the gym, and that I am actively making choices in my life based on my priorities – which alleviates a great deal of frustration and resentment. It can be a hard pill to swallow to admit that some things are priorities over others. There can be a great deal of angst associated with wishing things were different. But nothing is set in stone – our priorities will ebb and flow alongside everything else in our lives. In determining my priorities, I found it very helpful to use a “productivity planner.” The planner helps me to focus my energies on my top priorities for the day, and forces me to me identify the one item that, if I got it done, would enable me to feel accomplished that day. Coming to terms with what is accomplishable for me in a day, intentionally making choices about my time, and setting small daily attainable goals has really put me back in control.
Quality over quantity
If I was going to crack down on how much time I spent on activities, I needed to make sure that the time I was spending was the best it could be. Being more focused when returning emails was the easy part; the bigger issue was ensuring that time spent with my family and friends, or engaging in selfcare, was meaningful and replenishing. My solution was
mindfulness and meditation. I have stopped multi-tasking my life, and now fully focus on what I am doing and who I am with. These days, when I am with my son, I am fully present with him, and not also doing dishes. When I am having coffee with friends, I am not checking my phone every two minutes. I have also incorporated 20 minutes of meditation or quiet time every day. Most days, I fit this in by listening to a guided meditation while travelling to work. Even five minutes a day can make a huge difference. The Five Minute Journal outlines a short practice that can be undertaken every morning to help with mindfulness and positive focus. These practices are making a noticeable difference in my life – I am much calmer and more settled, and the constant mind chatter and worrying has diminished. As my friend also reminded me, we become mentally and physically exhausted not so much because of the actual time we spend on something, but rather because of the amount of time we spend thinking and stressing about it. Letting go
We all have the same 24 hours in each day. But we get to exercise some measure of choice over how we spend those hours. My life is far from perfect, and there are still many areas where I am working to determine the right “fit,” but overall I see this less as a struggle and more as a dance, where I am learning to take the lead. I am gaining peace with what is and what is not, and when something clearly does not work, I try something different, or I simply let it go.
Michelle Despault is Director in the Communications department at the OECTA Provincial Office.
Balance doesn’t exist.
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LEGAL DEVELOPMENTS IN THE WORLD OF WORK By Charlene Theodore
There have been a number of interesting legal developments around the world that pertain to labour. Let us take a quick tour of some of the highlights.
as a good example of a third option to criminal and civil trials for sexual harassment. In an interview with Canadian Lawyer, Ms. Walden advised:
Student interns and sexual harassment
In criminal trials, the process is about the offender, punishment, deterrence and rehabilitation, while civil trials are expensive and include the risk of cost consequences. Human rights tribunals are more directed by the applicant and headed by those with “special expertise” in sexual harassment and harassment and poisoned work environments… The purpose of the tribunal is not punishment of the perpetrator but putting the victim back into the same place as had the discriminatory acts not occurred.
A 15-year-old Ontario student has been awarded $75,000 in damages from the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal. The teen, who interned at a tattoo parlour, made a claim under the provisions of the Human Rights Code that pertain to discrimination in employment due to sex or gender. The identity of the applicant and respondent are subject to a publication ban. The student claimed that during her internship she was sexually harassed, as well as verbally and sexually assaulted. The student was represented by the Human Rights Legal Support Centre. Her lawyer, Beth Walden, described the case
US teachers’ unions
The United States Supreme Court has agreed to re-open an issue that divided the court and the labour movement in 2016: Do public sector unions like the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers have the ability to charge fees to non-members for collective bargaining? The issue was first raised in the 2016 case of Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association. In that case, lawyers representing the union argued that, where membership was not mandatory, it was appropriate to collect dues from employees who were not members of the union, but who still reaped the benefits of collective bargaining. The nine-member Supreme Court was absent one judge, after the death of Justice Scalia. The eight-member panel was deadlocked, and so no precedent was set. Now that President Trump has appointed a new Supreme Court Justice, Neil Gorsuch, this decision will likely be decided by a narrow margin. Korean public sector unions
PHOTO: @Doidam 10 / Shutterstock.com
The Korean Government Employees’ Union was recognized by the state as a legal entity for the first time in its nine-year history. South Korea’s Ministry of Employment and Labor announced that it had accredited the union on March 29, after the union’s sixth request was submitted on March 26. The accreditation brings with it legal protections, including collective bargaining and guarantees on full-time union activities. The Korean Teachers and Education Workers Union has yet to receive legal accreditation. Charlene Theodore is In-House Legal Counsel at the OECTA Provincial Office.
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PEOPLE WORTH WATCHING
LIVING MY PASSIONS IN GHANA By Lisa Earle
Spending New Year’s Eve in Ghana, Africa, was one of the best decisions I have ever made in my life. After completing my Master’s degree in Australia, adventuring and traveling became a passion of mine; but, I often felt that I could do more. Every day, Catholic teachers have the opportunity to provide students with rich learning opportunities; but we also have the chance to give back to others beyond our classrooms and borders. In the past, I tried to organize volunteer opportunities with larger groups, but for various reasons these often fell through. I realized that if I wanted to pursue my passion, I could not wait for others to make it happen. I did not think twice: I booked a solo trip. I had been in contact with the organization, Teach on the Beach, which was very happy to hear I would be in Busua, Ghana over the Christmas break. I then shared my upcoming trip plans with my Grade 7 class and colleagues at St. Luke Catholic School in Waterloo. It was amazing to see how eager the school community was to help. My students held a bake sale during a school fundraising event, and staff and students contributed school supplies for me to bring to Ghana. The entire operation took on a life of its own. Benjamin and William, the team leaders at Teach on the Beach, work every day to enrich the lives of children in that region. They educate and provide accommodation to help children with basic necessities, which many of the students do not receive at home. While in Ghana, I participated in after school activities with children from the local village, helping them to write letters to my students in Canada. We also watched world news and discussed local and global issues of relevance, such as poverty, sanitization, tourism, and equality. The students were enthusiastic, eager to learn, and welcoming. In the short time I was there, I was never treated like a tourist; I felt like family. I have made lasting friendships and connections that continue to grow.
When my final night in Ghana arrived, we celebrated with singing, bongos, and friends. The following morning, before saying goodbye, Benjamin and William invited me to a special place for breakfast. We walked through an especially poor part of the community, until we arrived at a woman’s house as she was grinding food to prepare FuFu and Palm Nut Soup, which we shared together. It was truly an honor. As I think back on my time in Ghana, I have come to realize that although the poverty in which people live is evident, the friendships I formed revealed the richness of the culture, traditions, and relationships shared by the people of Busua. It was a positive emotional experience, which left my heart bursting with universal love, and strengthened my belief in equal education for all. I will be returning to Busua this summer to continue my faith journey. When I returned to Canada, my students could see the raw emotion as I described my adventures. They could probably sense that I had changed as a person and as a teacher. I joked that, in some ways, it was almost more of a culture shock returning to Canada, having to adjust to the fast-paced lifestyle and relative abundance of academic and environmental resources that we often take for granted. Thinking about these differences, I quickly came to realize that being angry or making comparisons in lifestyle was unhelpful; instead, I try to focus on bringing awareness to these issues, and by trying to make changes in my own life, and the lives of my students. Only through this can we really impact our world. Overall, my experience with Teach on the Beach enriched my personal and professional development; it exceeded my expectations in every possible way. My hope is that my experience has inspired my students to take risks, think openly and globally, realize the power of love and gratitude, and to always be a lifelong learner. I have since accepted a position to be part of the Teach on the Beach team as a Canadian Representative. If you are interested in learning more, you can contact me personally at lisa.earle@ wcdsb.ca, or visit teachonthebeach.org. Lisa Earle is an intermediate teacher with the Waterloo Catholic District School Board, and a Teach on the Beach team member.
APRIL 2018 | CATHOLIC TEACHER 27
PEOPLE WORTH WATCHING
INDIGENOUS EDUCATION AND PEDAGOGY
Perspectives from OECTA’s First Nations, Métis, and Inuit Work Group The OECTA First Nations, Métis, and Inuit Work Group was formed in the summer of 2017. The group, which is made up of members who self-identify as Indigenous, will advise the Provincial Executive on ways to support and address issues specific to Indigenous teachers, students, and curriculum. Below are some introductions and thoughts from three members of the group, outlining their perspectives on the importance of Indigenous education and pedagogy, and their experience as an Indigenous educator.
Boozhoo, Aaniin. Migizinini N’dizhnikaaz. Makwa N’doodem. Thunder Bay N’dojeba. Greetings, Hello. My name given to me by an Elder is Migizinini, which translates to Eagleman in Ojibwe. I am from the Bear Clan, and am from Thunder Bay. When I was a student I remember Mr. Larry Grace always looking out for my sister and me. If I ever had a problem, Mr. Grace always made me feel like he cared, like he was looking out for my best interests. When I was thinking about trying to get into education, Mr. Grace was my inspiration. I wanted to be like Mr. Grace. Every student should feel that they have at least one teacher who truly cares about them and their wellbeing. I wanted to be that teacher. Indigenous education is important because we owe it to our children and Indigenous students to provide places and opportunities where they can be successful. If we want to build strong and healthy relationships between Indigenous and nonIndigenous people, we have to include education. I think the biggest barrier to Indigenous education is changing the existing thought of, “Why is this important?” As teachers, I believe we understand the importance, but I feel that many in the public do not see the value of including Indigenous education in our schools. They might see it as an unnecessary change to education, when nothing could be further from the truth. Miigwech, Dale Lane
Aaniin: Anishinaabekwe indow. Mireille LaPointe nindizhinikaaz zhaaganaashiimong. Manoominike Ogitchida indigoo ojibwemong. Waawaashkeshi indoodem.
Hello: I am Anishinaabe. My name is Mireille Lapointe. My Anishinaabe name is Manoominike Ogichidaa, my clan is Deer. I love learning, sharing, and discussing. I have always been a teacher. That is what I remember. About thirty years ago, I had the opportunity to join a gathering of Indigenous people in Lethbridge, Alberta. It was there that I learned about semaa (tobacco), the sacred medicines, and the Sweat Lodge, where I was given a vision helping me to understand my relationship with the Earth, and her relationship with me. This knowledge had to be shared in some way with my students. At the time, Native Studies was part of the curriculum; however, it was not taught in most schools. Luckily, my principal at St. John was receptive to my idea of teaching Native Studies, so with funds and support, we made it happen. As I have learned and continue to learn about Indigenous pedagogy, including its teachings, I have implemented these as part of my daily interactions with my students, and in all my relationships. In 2008, at a Defenders of the Land gathering in Winnipeg, I met one of my role models: Elizabeth Penashue. As an Innu from Nitassinan (Labrador), she explained how she
was encouraging people to join her on the Meshkanu (search Meshkanu on Vimeo for more information), a walk on the land, to know and reconnect with the land. We cannot love or understand without having established a relationship – this is what I learned from her. Our cultures, languages, and worldviews are rooted in this place we call Turtle Island, and contain within them knowledge and understanding critical to our world today. For some, this is trite repetition, but for me this is debwewin (truth), and why I am in class with young people who one day will be decision-makers. Difference does not mean better or worse. It means different. We have different worldviews – they can be complementary, and together we can light the Eight Fire. It is time.
Kwey. My name is Tammy Webster and my home community is Kitigan Zibi.
I grew up as the daughter of a school teacher. For many years, I lived the challenges of a teacher’s daughter, observing the extra hours devoted to the profession. I was adamant that I was not going to repeat the same fate. However, over time, I eventually realized that education was a natural fit, perhaps because of teaching being a lived experience, or perhaps I just knew what was involved. Within my first year as a teacher, I divulged my Algonquin identity more publicly and began to utilize a pedagogy that was comfortable and innate. Over time, terminology was beginning to make its way around the teaching profession, and before long the term that was coined was “Aboriginal pedagogy.” Not only did I witness a revitalization of Indigenous pedagogy and content, but also I quickly learned about decolonizing education. Indigenous pedagogy and Indigenous content
is the first step to decolonizing an education system. In my experiences growing up as a green-eyed, fair-skinned Indigenous woman, I knew that my image was not reflected in the school system. It was not reflected in what I was teaching in the classroom either. This lack of representation drove me to more research, more reading, and more use of my classroom as a testing ground. What I began to notice was that most of my classroom practices were good for all students. Over time, I began to realize that many “innovators” in education were employing Indigenous pedagogy, or ways of knowing, but only applying them for certain students or in certain contexts. However, I felt and still feel that Indigenous pedagogy and our lifelong learning models that are steeped in tradition are an exceptional decolonized model – they are good for all students, and even better for our Indigenous students. By employing Indigenous pedagogy and a decolonized model of education, Indigenous students will be able to close those achievements gaps, increase their accomplishments in the various data measures, and make a difference for future generations. The most significant barrier is the colonized school system. The school system has needed to repeatedly address marginalized populations through documents such as the Equity Action Plan, or to provide direction that supports all educators (whether professional or not) in ensuring that our children have a safe and inclusive space. Since the current system is rooted in a colonized history, it is a difficult system to disrupt and amend, but I feel that through Indigenous education, pedagogy, and ways of knowing, the school system will change for future generations. This school system will be good for all students – present and future.
THE INCREDIBLE IMPORTANCE OF IMPROVEMENT By Anthony Carabache
If you read the first article in this series, “The Fallacy of Innovation,” you hopefully came away with a better understanding of the differences between innovation and improvement. In part two, I am going to shed light on the importance of improvement, and how it can enhance, what I call, your QOLC: Quality Of Life in the Classroom index. Before you consider using any technology in the classroom, you must ask yourself a very important question: “What can I do more efficiently?” To answer that, you have to ask another question: “Where do I lose time?” In other words, what aspects of life in the classroom take you away from expectation, instruction, and conversation? What takes away from your QOLC? Expectations drive your classroom management routines, which translate into clear understandings of how each day unfolds. Instruction is the catalyst for learning that pushes students into an open stance, one that is inquisitive and inspired. Conversation is where the teacher learns most about their students, and opens up students’ minds and thought processes. (I would also argue that conversations are the single most powerful method for assessment and evaluation.) This is incredibly powerful! So ask yourself: which aspect of your teaching day could use a little boost to engage in expectation, instruction, or conversation? Where could your QOLC be enhanced? An opportunity to reclaim the first 15 minutes of your day
Some of your students need support with organization, and the first 15-20 minutes of your day are often lost to the triage of re-issuing lost forms and finding unfinished or missing work. No doubt, this throws your routines into disorder. Though supporting these students seems predictable, the effect of doing
so creates stress, burns precious time, disrupts routine, and diminishes your QOLC. So I am going to suggest a solution.
Phase 1: Teacher Practice Consider creating an online space to place two, and only two, categories of items: A. Homework B. Forms & Communications Tool: Blog or Virtual Learning Environments such as Brightspace, Blogger, or Hepara (find out what your school board has purchased license for). Learning the Tool: Ask somebody on staff who may have
experience to show you how or contact the school board resource/consultant responsible for technology in the classroom. Be sure to keep your request simple and straightforward. “At this point in time, I wish to create an online space for homework, forms and communications, that’s all.”
Timeframe: Three to 10 Months (Begin in September/October). Build in plenty of time to learn, to fail, and to retry. One school year may seem like a long time, but change takes time.
Phase 2: Student Practice Tool: Consider the native organization software inside of each Google, Apple, Amazon, or Windows device. Also consider that they all can be voice-activated. For example, a student may be taught to say, “Hey Siri, remind me to bring my permission form to school tomorrow morning at 7:30 a.m.” (If you have a device with a personal assistant such a Siri, Google, Alexa, or Cortana, try it now, but be sure the assistants are active in your settings.) A student may also ask their virtual assistant to take a note, convert miles to kilometers, or do straightforward calculations. Timeframe:
Three to 10 Months (Begin in September/October).
Lifelong learners deserve learner benefits too
In a previous life, I coached 14U volleyball and basketball, and was blessed enough to win city-wide and provincial championships. Before my teaching career, I was also a swim instructor for the City of Toronto. In both of these roles, I always told my student -athletes that speed, power, accuracy, and vision only came with
practice. I always warned them at the beginning of each season that practice is not glamorous, and sometimes would not be fun. There would be great days and terrible ones. I also promised each athlete that if they trusted that they would improve with practice; they would enjoy their success often and everywhere – and they did! The bottom line is that improvement requires practice, practice takes time; and time needs patience toward others, and most importantly toward ourselves. The problem today is that the idea of practice and the concept of time have become so passé that we never afford ourselves the necessity of patience, which is bound by definition to the necessity of time. Your challenge lies in asking yourself what exactly you would like to improve. Once you have identified that, then do one of the most unnatural things a teacher can do: give yourself time and patience. Always keep this mantra on your mind: “I am a life-long learner, and I deserve learner benefits too.” We hope you can join us for OECTA’s second annual technology conference: “Get Your Head out of Your Apps 2!: The Importance of Improvement and the Fallacy of Innovation,” on July 5 and 6, 2018. Ask your local unit for more information, or visit catholicteachers.ca.
Anthony Carabache is a member of the Professional Development department at the OECTA Provincial Office.
MENTAL HEALTH AWARENESS: Classroom Strategies This webinar will explore how greater awareness and understanding of mental health challenges will assist teachers in better understanding and responding to their students. The session will also provide helpful strategies for how teachers can support students who may be struggling with mental health challenges.
Thursday May 17 4:30 to 6:00 p.m. Grades 7-12 Facilitated by: Wendy Stanyon
APRIL 2018 | CATHOLIC TEACHER 31
THE PRINCIPALS OF MANAGEMENT Nova Scotia, Bill 72, and the language of education reform By Mark Tagliaferri
“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other word would smell as sweet.” This popular quote from Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet speaks to a certain flexibility of language – a notion that the specific words we use to name something are largely insignificant. To Juliet, Romeo is Romeo, regardless of whether he is called Montague or Capulet. Well, with all due respect to those in Fair Verona, they never met Zach Churchill. Mr. Churchill, Nova Scotia’s Minister of Education, was the prime mover in the province’s recent passage of Bill 72, the Education Reform Act. The legislation is
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a radical restructuring of the education sector – an omnibus act that bundled together complex labour issues with matters of teaching and governance, and attempted to deal with them all in one broad stroke. The legislation was widely panned by stakeholders and citizens alike. Partly because of this, it was rammed through the legislature at warp speed – going from introduction, to committee, to royal assent in just nine days. To ensure political cover before introducing such sweeping changes, the government commissioned a report from Avis Glaze. Well known in Ontario education circles, in the 1990s Dr. Glaze was part of the five-person team that produced the Royal Commission on Learning, which
among other things recommended establishing province-wide standardized testing (the present-day EQAO), as well as a regulatory body for discipline (the present-day Ontario College of Teachers). At that time, Dr. Glaze and her team took two years to study and report on the Ontario education landscape. Nova Scotia gave her three months. The ambitious timeline suggests that the government already knew the conclusions it wanted Dr. Glaze to reach. And she obliged. The Nova Scotia report, Raise the Bar, reproduced many of the “greatest hits” from Ontario, including recommendations for standardized testing and a regulatory body for discipline.
Of particular note is recommendation number eight, which encouraged the government to: “Remove principals and vice-principals from the Nova Scotia Teachers Union (NSTU) and [move them] into a new professional association.” Dr. Glaze argued that by pulling administrators out of NSTU, the province could establish a “coherent management -educator model.” To justify this recommendation, the report cited Joanne Robinson of the Ontario Principals’ Council, who offered her recollection on the “positive impact” that resulted in Ontario, after Mike Harris pulled administrators out of teachers unions. Quoting Robinson, the report claimed that, in Ontario, “The level of collaboration and unified voice among elementary and secondary [teachers], as well as principals and vice-principals has created a culture of trust and mutual respect that we could never have anticipated.” Many in Ontario would likely beg to differ. However, beyond the dubious rationale, something even more disturbing and dangerous emerged when this recommendation was translated into Bill 72. Taking Dr. Glaze’s recommendation to its logical conclusion, the government decided to explicitly place administrators within a newly defined legal category, as “managers.” Defenders of this decision were quick to note that the “essence” of what administrators do will stay the same – it is simply the name used to describe them that changed. And as the Bard might say, what’s in a name? Quite a lot, it turns out. The words governments choose to employ when framing legislation open a window, sometimes unintentionally, into the ideologies that motivate policy decisions. Looking at Bill 72, the change in language - from “principals” to “managers” - may seem minor; however, it reveals a concerted effort to impose a corporate-style mentality onto public education in Nova Scotia. And Joanne Robinson’s recollections notwithstanding, Ontarians know the consequences of imposing the management-educator model endorsed by the likes of Dr. Glaze. Prior to being removed from teachers unions by Mike Harris in the mid-1990s, Ontario administrators had long served as teacher-leaders, both within schools and in their respective teacher affiliates. Whether in classrooms or at bargaining tables, everyone in the school community worked toward a common goal. However, by pulling administrators out of the union, the Harris government created an education hierarchy that fundamentally altered the relationship between teachers and administrators. Collegiality and collaboration turned to suspicion and distrust, as teachers could no longer be sure that administrators – who were now beholden to school boards – had students’ or teachers’ best interests at heart. The result was an unprecedented number of disputes within schools, and an erosion of staff relations that has never fully recovered.
often enter education with an eye toward becoming administrators as quickly as possible. As a result, those who become administrators often have less in-class teaching experience, as well as less of a robust understanding of the daily realities of education, than used to be the case. Unfortunately, the decline of the teacherprincipal has seen the rise of the principal-bureaucrat. There have been philosophical implications, as well. At a basic level, anyone who hopes to move into a leadership role should not be forced to choose between that and their union. More to the point, integral to the Harris government’s agenda in Ontario was the desire to impose a managerial class that was seen to exist “above” teachers. Not only did this create a wedge between teachers and administrators, but also it devalued the teaching profession in the eyes of the general public, many of whom came to regard teachers as somehow “lesser than” managers. Most problematic of all is that hiding behind the language of “managers” is an attack on the very principles of labour solidarity. Quite simply, pulling administrators out of the teachers union is tantamount to union-busting. Beyond this, it inhibits the ability for education workers to present a truly unified front during labour disputes, as administrators are legally required to keep schools open during job actions. Not only does this requirement pit administrators against teachers, but also – and more insidiously – it opens the door to the potential for scab labour. Although this may not be front-of-mind today for Zach Churchill, it is one more step along the path toward corporatization and anti-unionism. Sadly, policy discourse has become dominated by the language, metaphors, and logic of business: we have seen this in Ontario where concepts like “accountability,” “measurement,” and “efficiencies” have become central to education discussions. Now, we are seeing this again in Nova Scotia with Bill 72. There are rumblings that Saskatchewan may follow suit. None of this is to the good. The Harris government’s decision in the 1990s to remove administrators from the union, and impose the language and structure of management, further promoted the reconceptualization of schools as corporations. At the time, Ontario’s then-Minister of Education, John Snobelen, admitted that he hoped to “invent a crisis,” so as to transform “education into a real customer- and client-focused service.” Zach Churchill has not been so brazen, but the result might yet be the same. Even in the face of seemingly innocuous changes, we may one day find ourselves with an education system that is public only in name. Mark Tagliaferri is Communications Specialist in the Communications department at the OECTA Provincial Office.
At a practical level, imposing a management model in education has resulted in a greater number of inexperienced educators moving into leadership roles. Today, in Ontario, individuals APRIL 2018 | CATHOLIC TEACHER 33
FOR WHAT IT’S WORTH
RING, RING GOES THE BELL: POPULAR MUSIC AND EDUCATION By Gian Marcon
Trying to teach me knowledge / That I know I’ll never use. RAY DAVIES
A couple of columns ago, while reflecting on the passing of Tom Petty, I referenced the use of song lyrics in the English classroom as an effective complement to the curriculum. The responses to the column spawned an interesting discussion on the power of popular music to enhance the respective learning and working experiences of students and teachers. The sharing of these varied experiences and perspectives caused me reflect further about the intersection of education and popular music. More specifically, I began to focus on the depiction of school/education in popular music lyrics. It soon occurred to me that much of the musical catalogue that I was able to recall presented the education system quite negatively. This observation is not particularly surprising, if one accepts the premise that the music teenagers listen to conveys and reflects the resistance to the societal institutions that they encounter. With this in mind, savvy music executives have accordingly produced music about education that resonates with young people in the “system” and which, in part, mirrors their attitudes about school. A quick survey of the medium reveals that as far back as Chuck Berry’s “School Days,” wherein the narrator of the song awaits the final school bell so that he can “finally lay his burden down,” school has been viewed as a repressive environment. I suspect that this perspective still resonates as much with current high school students as it did with those who attended classes back in the 1950s. Historically, with a few notable exceptions, school and education have not been represented very positively in popular music. In fact, school has all too often been portrayed as an irrelevant
waste of time, a repressive purveyor of useless information. For example, in his song “No Surrender,” Bruce Springsteen wrote, “We learned more from a three minute record than we ever learned in school.” In “Kodachrome,” Paul Simon sang, “When I think back on all the crap I learned in high school, it’s a wonder I can think at all.” We can also think of Alice Cooper’s “School’s Out,” Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick in the Wall,” Brownsville Station’s “Smokin’ in the Boys’ Room,” Eminem’s “Brain Damage,” and the scathing “Don’t Stay in School” by Boyinaband. All reinforce perceptions that the education system stifles the individual and is hopelessly out of touch. When looking for a counterpoint to the apparent preponderance of negative depictions of school in popular music, one encounters some islands of positivity, such as Nas’ “I Can,” James Brown’s “Stay in School,” Bruno Mars’ “Education Song,” and, of course, Lulu’s “To Sir with Love.” But these songs do not seem to resonate in the same way that their negative counterparts do. With their over-optimism, they somehow seem preachy and naïve by comparison. As educators, we should not be surprised that young people may be more apt to gravitate toward a mindset that is rebellious and critical of societal institutions – including the education system – rather than one that promotes their intrinsic value. But what are we to do, when we are tasked with fostering a positive educational environment for our students? As always, it is best to engage things head on. We bring it to the forefront and discuss various perspectives – positive and negative – while facilitating opportunities for our communities to reflect on their experiences and realities in a balanced, safe, and structured forum. In this respect, the classroom is the ideal place to confront and discuss how students perceive their education and, if possible, to introduce popular music as a vehicle to both illustrate and incubate ideas and developing perspectives.
PHOTO: @tomertu / Shutterstock.com
In my experience, these opportunities present themselves organically, and lend themselves to those teachable moments that we are always prepared to embrace. There are ample opportunities for creative teachers to facilitate student learning while, as Tom Petty puts it, they are “learning to fly.” In this way, the employment of appropriately curated popular music can be a tool to motivate, enhance, and acknowledge the experiences of our students. Gian Marcon is a member of the Bargaining and Contract Services department at the OECTA Provincial Office.
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