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OTF Supports Teachers and Students (OTF Report)

Rian McLaughlin

Advocacy and social justice work at theOntario Teachers’ Federation takes many forms. OTF has a long-standing interest in supporting teachers and students notonly across the province but also nationally and internationally. Each year, OTF funds a number of projects that specifically assist women and girls. As an affiliate of the Canadian Teachers’ Federation, OTF has participated in several of CTF’s women’s bursary and network projects across India, Southeast Asia, and Sierra Leone. OTF joins many of our sister federations in Canada to provide this type of ongoing support.

OTF also supports numerous individual international projects that provide school fees and supplies for girls’ education and ongoing financial support to those who wish to become teachers. As well, OTF continues to support many projects that assist abused children in various countries. In a future column, I will highlight some of these special projects and the work of the OTF International Assistance Committee.

Here at home, OTF is engaging members from all affiliates in its social justice work. Recently, OTF established a professional learning community to discuss and research issues related to equity and inclusion. Teams established at face- to-face meetings are now working online sharing their personal and professional experiences related to racism, sexism, and homophobia. Each team has chosen one area of these broad topics for its focus. Over the next several months they will be creating lessons, mini units, workshops, or presentations to share with students, colleagues, and their school communities. As well, there will be scheduled online sessions where all teamstogether will probe topics such as power and privilege in society. They hopeto enhance awareness and stimulate commitment to creating classrooms and schools where fairness and belonging are priorities. Nancy Hutcheson, a member of the Waterloo Region ETFO local, is the project manager. She is enthusiastic about the potential of this online learning environment and the extensions to the work that has already been done on preventing bullying.

SAFE @ SCHOOL

In my column in the December 2009 issue ofVoice,I talked about theSafe@Schoolbullying prevention project that OTF and its partners, COPA and the Ministry of Education, had spearheaded. There is good news to share! Phase 2 of the project,ChangeOurWorld,which focuses on inclusion — specifically addressing issues of homophobia, racism, and gender — is now complete. Kits are being distributed to all publicly funded schools across the province! The kit was originally intended for distribution to secondary schools only. However my lobbying through OTF, lobbying by our ETFO local presidents, and support from the deans of the faculties of education had results. Modifications were made to the materials to meet the needs of all elementary students, and the ministry has extended the funding. The kits are also available in French for our FSL and FI teachers!

As the school year begins to wind down, watch for information on OTF’sWorld Teachers’ Day appreciation events and the Word on the Street Festivalby visitingotffeo.on.ca.

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