November 25 is the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. In our homes, on our streets, and even in our schools, girls and women are more likely to find themselves the targets of violence. Half of all women in Canada have experienced at least one incident of physical or sexual violence since the age of 16.1 Furthermore, each year 362 000 children witness incidents of domestic violence.2
As educators, we have the unique opportunity help end violence against women. Whether it is by teaching our students how to resolve conflicts through nonviolent means, addressing incidents of violence head-on, or by empowering our girls to reach their full potential while teaching all our students to stand together as allies, teachers play an important role.
Consider exploring some of these resources as part of your planning. The first is a resource for educators that address sexual violence in a variety of age-appropriate ways. The second offers examples of women leaders who are working for social change. And finally, the third is a fact sheet about violence against women in Canada.
Drawing the Line on Sexual Violence: dtl.whiteribbon.ca/for-educators
Women Change Makers: etfovoice.ca/women
Canadian Women’s Foundation: www.canadianwomen.org/facts-about-violence
1The Violence Against Women Survey, Statistics Canada, 1993. Although more up-to-date data would be preferable, no recent Statistics Canada survey has asked women about their lifetime experience of violence. Available: http://www23.statcan.gc.ca/imdb/p2SV.pl?Function=getSurvey&SDDS=3896&Item_Id=1712.
2 Behind Closed Doors: The Impact of Domestic Violence on Children, Joint report by UNICEF, The Body Shop International, and the Secretariat for the United Nations Secretary-General’s Study on Violence Against Children, 2006, p. Available: http://www.unicef.org/protection/files/BehindClosedDoors.pdf
Halloween is just around the corner, which for some brings memories of dress-up parades, costume competitions, and classroom parties. As with each of our school traditions, however, it’s valuable to revisit our practices to ensure that they are both equitable and inclusive.
Our personal experiences may or may not reflect the values and realities of our students. WRDSB Equity and Inclusion Officer Deepa Ahluwalia reminds us that “not all families will celebrate and participate in Halloween, for many reasons including cultural, religious, socioeconomic and personal reasons.”
As public educators, we have a responsibility to ensure that we plan activities that feel inclusive of all our students. In doing so, consider the following recommendations:
- Plan activities that allow for and value multiple options for participation (i.e. wearing orange and black or Autumn colours, other themes beyond ghouls and ghosts) but do not require students to be segregated from their peers.
- Avoid competitions that privilege those of greater economic means and disadvantaged families who may not have the resources to dress their children in costumes.
- Communicate expectations that costumes should be respectful of others. Deepa Ahluwalia adds “if something is representative of a person’s culture or religious beliefs, then it should not be worn as another person’s costume.”
- Honour families and children who may choose not to participate in certain activities by clearly communicating your plans and limiting the time devoted to Halloween specific tasks. Build in equally valued alternatives (ex. relating to careers, book characters, etc.).
Reviewing our practices through an equity lens doesn’t devalue our personal beliefs or past traditions but rather seeks to acknowledge a range of experiences. By doing so, our lessons and planned activities evolve to include perspectives we may not have previously considered. ETFO is an equity-seeking organization and it’s through this type of reflection that we can promote diversity and foster respect not just at Halloween, but all year long.
As we welcome a new group of students into our classrooms, we return to some familiar September traditions. Whether it's playing name games, using icebreaker activities, creating class agreements, or teaching the procedures that will soon become our daily routines, there are some lessons that need to be taught and retaught at the beginning of each school year.
The same is true when it comes to messages of inclusion and acceptance. September is a great time to revisit the posters on our walls. While these visual symbols are valuable, they are so much stronger when we take the time to explicitly refer to them.
Last Spring, members received a locally developed Positive Space resource for teachers and students. It's an important symbol that tells staff, students, and their families that they are valued and welcome in our schools and in each and every classroom.
It is also a handy teacher resource filled with ideas, dates, and quick tips to help acknowledge and empower LGBTQ2+ members of our classroom and school communities.
Here are some suggestions on how to use it!
Step #1: Take it down and then put it back up with your students!
Symbols speak loudest when they are acknowledged. Take a few minutes to put the poster on the wall of your classroom and get your students to help. Talk about why you are putting it up and what it means.
Sample conversation starters could include:
- What do you think the rainbow check mark represents?
- Why do we want our classroom to be a safe and positive space?
- What are some of the ways that each of us is different? And why are our differences so valuable?
- What connections can you make to this poster?
Step #2: Read the teacher tips.
The second half of the poster is meant for educators. It’s a reminder about important dates, provides suggestions for inclusive language, offers a framework for teaching how to stand up against acts of bullying, and much more. Don’t feel pressure to use it all at once. Pick one thing off the list and get started today!
Step #3: Talk about it! Share about it!
Share what you are doing with the resource poster. Ask your colleagues about their own experiences and best classroom inclusion strategies. Post your ideas and pictures to share with others. Tag @etfowaterloo or user the hashtags #etfowr and #ETFOPink on Instagram and Twitter.
Do you have questions? Do you need more posters? Contact Ryan Wettlaufer, ETFO-WR Equity Rep. and Equity and Social Justice Chair
I hope all ETFO Waterloo members enjoyed some down time this summer and have had a great first day as we welcome the 2018-19 school year!
It has been an eventful summer for education, as you are aware, and today ETFO announced it has filed an injunction against the government to address the repeal of the 2015 Health & Physical Ed curriculum as well as the anonymous reporting line or “snitch line”.
The actions of the Ford government with respect to education have so far been irresponsible, but ETFO is committed, both locally and provincially, to supporting members in using their professional judgement to ensure that the Ontario Human Rights Code is upheld and all staff & students & their families are able to feel welcome, represented, and respected at school. The WRDSB is one of over 30 school boards that has publicly expressed support for the 2015 curriculum, with trustees formally asking the Ministry to leave it in place. Existing WRDSB policies and procedures also support all of the things that are absent from the old or “revised” curriculum. Members should not fear to teach health as they always have for those reasons. Watch for continued information coming on this as things progress.
Announcements about consultations in other areas, including math, have also been made. ETFO will continue to advocate for members and for the government to respect the expertise that exists in all of the stakeholders' groups.
Locally we have been and continue to meet with MPPs to ensure that they understand the reality of our education system and the fact that adequate funding continues to be the issue most in need of attention.
It’s sure to be an interesting year as we head towards the expiration of our current contract at the end of August 2019. Here’s hoping it’s memorable mores for the good things and the right reasons. Whatever may come, we will have the strength and support of each other to get us through.
We have limited spots available on several of our local ETFO-Waterloo Committees! Joining a committee is a great way to get more involved in your union and meet and network with like-minded people.
If you are interested in joining a committee, please email Joanne Threndyle your name, school and committee you are interested in, by Monday, September 17th. Remaining committee spots will be filled on a first come, first served basis.
You can find out more information about our committees in the secure area of our website under the “ABOUT” tab.
The following committees have one or more spots available for members: Archival/Historical, Arts, Constitution, Elections/Nominations, Environmental, FSL, Girl’s Conference, Lifetime of Reading, Men’s Issues, New Members, Political Action/Public Relations, Status of Women and Wellness.
What is Pride Month?
June is a month to celebrate diversity and its triumph over hate and intolerance. It’s a month to acknowledge the discrimination that members of the rainbow community have experienced as part of Canada’s history and to recognize that today, there are still barriers that must be overcome. Pride Month is a time to recognize our accomplishments as a society and recommit to building a brighter, more just future.
Why should I celebrate Pride Month in my classroom?
Our classrooms are full of diversity. We teach students who identify or will one day identify as members of the LGBTQ2+ community. Our students’ families include members of the rainbow community. We have colleagues who are part of this community. Each of these individuals deserves to be represented in our teaching. The love, acceptance and respect that we model in our classrooms will become the world in which we live.
What can I do?
There are many options. Pick an idea or two and get started!
- Take a walk to your site’s flag pole. Notice the Pride Flag that has been raised. Teach a lesson under it. Read a book under it. Eat your lunch under it. Show your support under it.
- Talk about the rainbow flag and the diversity it represents. Discuss all the ways that each of us is different and how diversity makes us stronger. Acknowledge that our society sometimes makes things more challenging for people with certain differences.
- Point out your ETFO-WR LGBTQ2+ Resource Poster. Put it up as a class. Discuss why every member of your class community deserves to be celebrated and supported. Use the strategies suggested on the poster.
- Read your favourite rainbow picture book. Invite students to share their connections. Try reading: The Family Book or It’s Okay to Be Different by Todd Parr or 10 000 Dresses by Marcus Ewert.
- Read Jake’s Progress (Le cheminement de Jake) from ETFO’s More Than a Play resource.
- Make a plan to stand up to acts of homophobia, transphobia, and other acts of bullying. Role play what to say and how to help.
ETFO-WR Equity Pinterest Board
ETFO-WR LGBTQ2+ Resource Poster
Take a Stand Resource Posters
Ramadan: May 15 - June 14, 2018
Ramadan is the ninth month in the Islamic calendar and for people who are Muslim, it is a time of prayer, kindness, charity, and forgiveness. For many Muslims, fasting from sunrise to sunset is also an important part of Ramadan.
It is essential that we show empathy and support for our students and colleagues who take on the challenge of fasting during the month of Ramadan. We want our schools and classrooms to be safe spaces for all.
Here are a few things that, as teachers, we might consider:
Not all children who are Muslim will fast
Some children may fast during the daylight hours, while others will fast for only a portion of the day, and many children do not fast at all. Choices about how and when to fast are made by individuals and families based on many factors, including age and health. It is important not to make assumptions but rather respect the decisions of individual students and families.
People who are Muslim do not expect non-Muslims to fast and many of our Muslim students will prefer to follow the regular nutrition break routine in their classrooms and then outside for recess. However, lunchtime can be one of the more difficult parts of the day for those who are fasting. Providing the option of an alternative space, with books, iPads, and Chromebooks may help some fasting students pass the time more easily.
It goes without saying that strenuous physical activity will be more difficult for those that are not eating and drinking during the day. We should keep this in mind when planning lessons for Phys. Ed., Dance, etc. Offering an alternative activity that has fewer physical demands is appropriate. Keep in mind that students might feel comfortable participating in an activity one day but need a different plan the next class, depending on how they are feeling.
After School Events and Fast Breaking
Fast-breaking happens each evening at sundown. It is an important time for families to share a meal together. Ending school events, such as concerts or graduation ceremonies, early in the evening so that families can get home in time for fast-breaking will better allow Muslim families to attend. Families also wake up very early in the morning to eat before the sun rises. If our students seem more tired than usual, this may be why.
Learning more about Ramadan
We value diversity in our classrooms and at our worksites. Ramadan provides another opportunity for us to share our differences and makes connections between our shared values. When doing so, however, we should be careful that we are not always placing the responsibility to be educators on the members of minority groups. While many of our Muslim students are happy to share about their experiences, being required to do so over and over again can become an undesired burden. As teachers, we can help by educating ourselves, teaching about what we know, and then be leaving space for others to share, if they choose.