Black History should be celebrated throughout the year. The contributions of Black Canadians, as well as the perspectives of all people of African descent, are relevant each and every day. Nevertheless, February offers us the opportunity to recommit to building our knowledge of Black History in Canada, to refocus our efforts on including Black Canadian voices in our classrooms, and it gives us the chance to re-imagine our role in building a society that is more equitable and more just.
As you take advantage of these Black History Month offerings, please consider how these resources might also be integrated as part of your existing program during other months of the year.
This page includes PDF versions of this year’s Black History Month poster as well as posters from the past. It also features links to a variety of other websites that contain useful resources.
Another ETFO Provincial Resource, this page includes a calendar of Black Canadians (past and present) who have made valuable contributions to our country. There are links to lesson plans for primary, junior, and intermediate levels. The provided worksheets are available in English as well as in French.
Historica Canada's Education Guide is a downloadable PDF that offers a timeline of Canadian Black History. It provides valuable content knowledge as well as helpful suggestions for educators.
This is a virtual encyclopedia that includes links to and pictures of primary source documents. The Canadian Encyclopedia offers excellent information and collections related to Black History. It is also available in both English and French.
Last week, our Progressive Conservative government continued their attack on our public services by making sweeping changes to autism funding and policy. Lisa MacLeod, Minister of Community and Social Services, joined her parliamentary assistant and Kitchener-South Hespeler MPP Amy Fee to announce that they were making changes which would eliminate the 23,000-child long waitlist within 18-months.
However, with the change came the most controversial decisions - “giving funding directly to families instead of to regional agencies, with up to $140,000 (regardless of their needs and depending on what age they enter the program) to spend on their choice treatment for children from the age of two until their 18th birthday.”
Treatment can cost families upwards of $80,000 so those with the highest needs will run out of money very quickly. As a result of the changes, MPP Fee’s chief of staff Bruce McIntosh resigned his position immediately saying ”I just think it’s wrong. It’s harmful.” As well, this announcement leaves local programs in chaos as they determine the next steps. Kidsability will lose 20% of its base funding.
ETFO has long been a supporter of the Ontario Autism Coalition’s call for more better funding for people diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. We know these students - they are in our classrooms and each of our WRDSB schools has a story to share. We know the positive impact these interventions can have on our students.
What can you do?
- As a staff, support the Kidsability campaign and wear blue on Mondays to raise awareness for autism and fight back against these changes.
- Call MPP Amy Fee (519-650-9413) or Minister Lisa MacLeod (416-325-5225)
- Write a letter to our local newspapers sharing your concerns.
- Watch Twitter and Facebook for other online actions you can take to share your concerns.
- PC's new autism plan doesn't go far enough to help families in need
- Primer: Applied Behaviour Analysis, the therapy at the heart of Ontario's autism controversy
- Ontario overhauls autism program to attempt to eliminate the wait list
- Parents rally to protest provincial reforms to autism supports
- 'We worry how we will go on': Local family devastated by changes
On January 23, representatives from ETFO attended two meetings called by the government as part of an education sector "consultation on the GSNs (Grants for Student Needs) and savings opportunities."
Government representatives claimed that Ontario currently has one of the lowest student to teacher ratios for class size. They questioned the correlation between smaller class sizes and student achievement. They indicated the government wants to analyze different options around class size. Two examples raised were examining the value of class size caps as opposed to class size averages and whether lowering the class average in Kindergarten, but having only one adult in the classroom, would be more "efficient". Unions were advised that the Ministry has heard some school board representatives claim implementing hard caps on class sizes and maintaining Kindergarten classrooms that include both a teacher and a Designated Early Childhood Educator are expensive and difficult to manage.
Ontario’s experience with class size caps of 20 students for Grades 1 to 3 has demonstrated that teachers have more time to spend with each student and provide for more meaningful learning environments. The latest research strongly supports the notion that class size is an important determinant of student outcomes. Currently, primary grades are funded for an average class size of 20 and secondary grades for a class size average of 22. By comparison, funding for grades 4 to 8 supports a class size average of 24.5. These grades have the largest class sizes in the system, often more than 30 students in a class.
It's time to stand together in telling our local MPP's that small classes are essential to providing a world-class education to our local students!
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.
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.
Nominations for the ETFO Waterloo Contract Teacher Executive and Annual Meeting Delegates NOW OPEN!
For nominated candidates, please visit the Federation Election Page at https://www.etfowr.ca/federation_elections.