There have been ups and downs this year. Still, I can honestly say that having the opportunity to see my students each day, even if it’s only the top half of their face, makes me appreciate that I have the most incredible job in the world. Our children have done well considering the challenges faced as a result of COVID-19, but they still crave games together, working together, and collaborating in their work. They are behind academically, yet educators understand the critical role schools play in protecting our children’s mental health. That is as much of a priority to us as physical safety.
Even though I have just 23 students, we cramped into a portable with less than 2 feet between desks. Furthermore, I have a student who is not required to wear a mask and cannot use sanitizer. These sorts of exemptions are challenging to manage as I worry about other students and my own family getting sick. Additionally, occasional teachers are also understandably reluctant to accept jobs that further increase their risk, resulting in added stress to my colleagues who must fill in if I need to be absent or am ill.
As I begin yet another science unit, I try to find ways to make students' experiences interactive. It is nearly impossible to develop these activities due to the need to adhere to our current safety protocols. Educator workload has increased while student engagement has become more challenging without the "hands-on" learning opportunities that often hook students into the curriculum.
Group work is non-existent. Students are rarely able to discuss in small groups, solve a problem with their peers, or simply have an opportunity to ask for help from an elbow partner. When I conference with small groups of students, I am only allowed two at a time while ensuring physical distancing, which is less than half of what a typical small group would have looked like before the COVID-19 pandemic. What used to take me a day now takes me two, meaning less time to individualized instruction for my students.
I keep reminding myself that “this too shall end,” but I just wish we had seen some support from our Minister of Education. School staff have been finding out from a press conference that we will be moving to online learning with two days’ notice. There is a lack of support and follow-through for the many promises made by this government. Whether it’s asymptomatic testing, more public health nurses or more custodial hours for a school, educators face constant uphill battles resulting from situations outside of our classrooms, all of which make it more challenging to do our jobs.
Despite these challenges, my students are resilient and will look back on this year as a blip. My colleagues are amazing and dedicated. I am so proud to be an educator and consider myself lucky to be working with such an amazing group of people.
Teaching during the Pandemic is simply not business as usual. As part of an on-going effort to share what teaching is actually like on the front lines, ETFO Waterloo asked members to share their experiences and are excited to present our "Teaching during the Pandemic: Stories from the Front of the Classroom" series to you. This submission is from local educator Martin.
Distance learning has pushed my workload higher than ever. Everything must be done upfront and uploaded before my lessons can begin.
As a result, our teaching style has regressed and does not currently reflect best practice or sound pedagogy. It’s impossible to create or facilitate exploration of topics in the same way due to limited resources and reliance on a screen. Everything is content-driven, which is only suiting some of my learners.
The technology is woefully inadequate for what we need to do our jobs. Classroom meetings crash or lag daily. Online activities require at least five minutes of troubleshooting before we can commence. Teachers are usually staring at a screen of black-out boxes, unable to respond to non-verbal cues that are tremendously helpful in understanding each students’ progress. Engaging and interactive remote learning requires technology that costs more than this government’s $250 Chromebook.
Students regularly miss meetings or quickly log off after a teacher completes the lesson or instructions. They simply vanish and, as a result, will often fail to complete assignments due to the inability of the educator to provide ongoing or timely feedback. We must follow a trauma-informed approach while the mode of learning itself is only exacerbating trauma due to resulting massive gaps in a student’s learning. We cannot allow remote learning to become a norm.
My students have expressed their dislike and apathy towards distance learning. Some have openly said they’d rather be at school. Our most vulnerable students struggle more than ever, and attendance issues have doubled in many of our classes. Distance learning does not help these students succeed, and I feel helpless as there is nothing I can do to solve this problem. These students, many with complex learning needs, will move to the next grade, but I cannot confidently tell you what their future holds.
Ultimately I feel like distance learning is a cobbled-together, make-it-up-as-you-go-along mess. If forced to do this again next year, I will reconsider my position as an educator.
Martin B. is an ETFO Waterloo member teaching within the WRDSB. We thank him for sharing his story!
If you are an ETFO Waterloo member and would like to share your story, please click here.
Teaching during the Pandemic is simply not business as usual. As part of an on-going effort to share what teaching is actually like on the front lines, ETFO Waterloo asked members to share their experiences and are excited to present our "Teaching during the Pandemic: Stories from the Front of the Classroom" series to you. Our first submission is from local educator Justine.
This year has been challenging.
Teaching during a pandemic is not as easy as simply putting on a face mask or shield and continuing to teach in the same manner as years before. I can honestly say that my workload is exponentially higher due to having to rework all regular teaching strategies to be “Covid-friendly” ensuring physical distancing, limited shared supplies, all while implementing a brand new Math Curriculum. Add to this the stress of keeping the Google classroom up-to-date in the event of what’s happening right now.
It is so frustrating to hear the Minister of Education and Premier talk in the media about how safe our schools are during the pandemic. I do not feel safe in the classroom, at least not with class sizes where they are at currently. Prior to the Winter Break, I was exposed to three separate confirmed COVID-19 cases. As a result, I began my holidays anxiously waiting on baited breathe to receive further information from the Region of Waterloo Public Health about my family’s next step. I did not receive a phone call from public health until a week after exposure. As part of the contact tracing process, I was asked by Public Health if I was able to maintain 6 feet distance from others while in school. I laughed, that is impossible.
Teachers know that being in-class is the best place for our students. However, we definitely don’t have the best tools, we received no training on distance-learning, and we just keep being expected to take on more and more and more. We follow the health and safety guidelines but the basics of class size and classroom ventilation have not been addressed by our government. My school’s ventilation has not been changed in decades and the “additional funding” provided by the government did little to address this concern on the frontlines. We are stressed but expected to continue on with a smile on our faces.
After the break, I began teaching my students online during one of the busiest months for teachers. I was expected to continue to fulfill the expectations of the curriculum, assess my students learning, and complete my report cards as if we’re not in the middle of a global pandemic. I wasn’t trained to teach online but I have been making the best of the situation. Parents are agitated, students are overwhelmed, teachers are overwhelmed and all we get is a pat on the back from the government. Online learning is chaotic, everyone is doing their best however it is near impossible to keep track of students, where they’re at, and helping when necessary.
It’s time for the government to actually address the concerns of actual teachers and stop playing games with our students’ futures.
Justine S. is an ETFO Waterloo member teaching within the WRDSB. We thank her for sharing her story!
If you are an ETFO Waterloo member and would like to share your story, please click here.
February is Black History Month
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.
This series by Unilearnal offers a video for each day of Black History Month. In each video a member of Canada's Black community offers their own experiences and perspective before sharing about an important figure in Canadian Black history.
Google used search trends to identify and celebrate important moments and individuals in American history. Despite a U.S. focus, this video montage highlights the pervasive and amazing contributions that Black community members make to our society.
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 than their male counterparts 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 to 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 addresses sexual violence in a variety of age appropriate ways. The second offers examples of women leaders who are working for social change. The third is a fact sheet about violence against women in Canada. And finally, the fourth is ETFO’s Anti-Violence Resource Page.
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
ETFO Anti-Violence Resources https://www.etfo.ca/BuildingAJustSociety/WomensIssues/pages/anti-violence.aspx
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
ETFO Statement on Anti-Black Racism
June 1, 2020
The Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario stands in solidarity with communities in Canada and the United States protesting the murder of George Floyd in Minnesota and the suspicious death of Regis Korchinski-Paquet in Toronto when police were called to her home for assistance. ETFO recognizes the multiple and systemic ways that anti-Black racism is reproduced and enacted every day including through targeted policing, in our public education system, health care system and in many other institutions.
ETFO is deeply concerned about the ongoing systemic and individual forms of anti-Black racism in our communities and beyond.
It is a fatal destructive force in our society and local communities, affecting students, adults and families here in Ontario. While individual acts of anti-Black racism occur daily, systemic anti-Black racism within institutions oppresses entire Black populations on an ongoing basis.
Education systems are not immune. In the past two years, several school boards have come under intense scrutiny for allowing and perpetrating anti-Black racism in their practices. We need to hold school boards, and the provincial government, accountable to existing anti-Black racism policies and push for more such policies to be introduced.
ETFO is committed to working with its educators to stop anti-Black racism and teach ways to unlearn it. From our ground-breaking workshops on white privilege introduced several years ago to our continuing professional resources in response to the United Nations International Decade for People of African Descent, ETFO has called its members to action to fight anti-Black racism.
As a union dedicated to equity and social justice, our goal is to empower educators with the tools and resources they need to make schools and classrooms welcoming and inclusive. Addressing and challenging anti-Black racism and supporting Black students and others demands our dedicated efforts if we are to help shape a society where the human rights of every individual are respected.
ETFO extends its deepest condolences to the families of Regis Korchinski-Paquet and George Floyd and those of others who have felt the impact of police violence and anti-Black racism.
Bonjour! Teaching FSL through distance learning has unique challenges.
Did you know that the WRDSB has Google Groups for Elementary French, Core French, and French Immersion teachers? They are a great place to find resources from our consultant, Wanda West. They are also an easy location where you can post questions, share resources, and connect with fellow French teachers in our board.
To find and join any of these groups, be logged in from your @wrdsb.ca account, then go to Google Groups and in the top search bar, search for "WRDSB Elementary French," "Elementary Core French," or "Elementary French Immersion." Click the blue join button to request access and wait to be accepted.
Nous sommes tous unis!
Our local office will be closed during the shutdown.
However, the Waterloo Released Team will be working remotely from home and will be checking messages throughout office hours.
It is strongly recommended that email be used for contacting us - if there is a need for a telephone conversation it can be initiated via email first. This will help ensure that messages are not missed and members get responses in a timely manner.
- President - Greg Weiler [email protected]
- Vice President - Joanne Threndyle [email protected]
- Vice President - Ali Lyon [email protected]
- Vice President - Jeff Pelich [email protected]
- Administrative Assistant - Amanda Drewett [email protected]
Due to increasing concerns regarding the spread of COVID-19, the ETFO provincial office will be closed starting 4:00 p.m. Friday, March 20, 2020 and will re-open 8:00 a.m. Monday, April 6, 2020. ETFO staff will be working from home during this period.
Members with work-related questions or concerns are asked to leave a message by calling 416-962-3836 or 1-888-838-3836. The general mailbox will be checked daily by staff and every effort will be made to return member calls on the same day.
The Emergency Legal Assistance system will be operational during this period to respond to critical calls only.
Thank you for your patience and understanding during this time.