Advocacy and social justice work at theOntario Teachers’ Federation takes many forms.
Three ETFO Programs Devoted to Women’s Leadership Development (Equity and Women's Services)
ETFO is committed to working toward a more just and equitable society, and has a particular commitment to supporting women’s participation and leadership in the union. This is constitutionally mandated; ETFO’s constitution guarantees positions for women on the Executive (five of 14 positions), and that programs for women will be provided with funding (6 percent of ETFO’s annual budget) allocated for this purpose. ETFO’s women’s programs offer direct services to women members through courses, workshops, awards, and publications. Funding is also available for partnerships with provincial and local organizations and to support groups that advance the status of women and women’s issues in society.
While ETFO offers a wide variety of programs for its women members (see the Fall 2011 issue of Voicefor a complete listing), the three programs outlined below are distinctive in that they are multi-session, providing an opportunity for women members to learn together over the course of a year. Members complete these programs with new knowledge and skills. The relationships developed over the course of a year with other participants and presenters also provide them with a supportive network as they move forward.
REFLECTIONS ON PRACTICE INSTITUTE
The Reflections on Practice Institute (ROP) is a face-to-face and online community of women teacher action research ers and facilitators, and is now in its eighth year. Each year, 30 women ETFO members have the opportunity to learn about reflective inquiry, action research, professional activism and leadership, and to expand their research skills. The institute has three sessions: a four-day training session in the summer; a two-day training session in the fall; and another two-day training session in the spring. Participants attend the three sessions, engage in online chats, conduct an action research project, and prepare and share a report of their findings. ROP has an interactive online space where teams of critical thinkers work with facilitators to produce their action research studies. These studies are then written, published, and presented on the website for new participants to use as models.
Participants in Reflections on Practice Institute speak of the transformational aspect of the program on their practice and their new self-identification as action researchers. Many are surprised to discover that their work has unanticipated benefits and that these benefits continue after the research itself has ended: lasting changes in classroom practice, a stronger professional voice and increased confidence, and a greater leadership role in their schools and locals. For more information, contact Anne Rodrigue: firstname.lastname@example.org
LEADERS FOR TOMORROW
While women continue to be underrepresented in proportion to the membership in IITFO leadership position s, the representation of women from designated groups (Aboriginal, people with disabilities, lesbian/ bisexual/transgender and/or racialized) is even lower. Leaders for Tomorrow (L4T) is an intensive, year-long leadership development program for ETFO women members who self-identify as belonging to any of these groups. Participants engage in a variety of workshops and experiences related to leadership roles with in ETFO and in the broader community, over the course of four sessions throughout the school year. The course is designed to enhance leadership skills in an inclusive, anti racist/anti-oppression framework. Participants in L4T explore issues of identity and privilege as women from designated groups, and develop inclusive leadership styles within an anti-racist/anti-oppression framework that acknowledges and respects differences.
Skills development components include an exploration of presentation styles, public speaking, resume writing and interview preparation. Participants are encouraged to access and participate in leadership opportunities both within ETFO and in outside organizations, and to create and implement a three-year leadership plan. Leaders for Tomorrow is in its eighth year of operation and has engaged between 20 and 25 members each year. Many “graduates” of L4T now serve in elected positions on ETFO provincial and local executives and committees.
For more information, contact Kalpana Makan, email@example.com
Visions is a new program in 2011-2012, designed to provide women members in their first five years of IITFO membership with the knowledge and motivation to engage more deeply in ETFO, the broader labour movement, and opportunities for activism. Participants meet on three weekends during the school year, and involve themselves in local union activities between sessions. This first year, 15 women members from nine different locals are participating in Visions. Nine participants are occasional teachers. ETFO leaders from the local and provincial levels share their personal journeys and experiences of union leader ship, as do members who exercise union leadership while working In the classroom,and ETFO staff members. Participants note the wealth of opportunities for involvement, the diverse paths to leadership, and the dedication and pride shown by all these women leaders. The structures and procedures of ETFO, including how Annual Meeting works and how the budget is constructed, are demystified.
In sessions focusing on activism, participants attend labour and community events (this year, the Ontario Federation of Labour International Women’s Day breakfast), and meet activists from other unions and community groups.
Communications skills are also a focus, so workshops on effective presentations, rules of order, and chairing a meet ing are part of the Visions program. Finally, participants write and deliver a short speech, receiving feedback from peers and staff. For more information, contact Kelly Hayes, firstname.lastname@example.org