In the spring of 2005, I read Teaching for Deep Understanding: Towards the Ontario Curriculum that We Need. By the time I had ﬁnished the book, I was inspired to write and facilitate a professional book study for the Junior staff at Armitage Village Public School in Newmarket, where I am the divisional lead teacher and literacy special education resource teacher.
Persons with Disabilities: The Minority of Everyone
You may not have a disability now but you will probably have one eventually. That makes persons with disabilities “the minority of everyone,” says David Lepofsky.
Lepofsky, a lawyer and activist, was the keynote speaker at ETFO’s annual leadership conference. He has a master of laws from Harvard and holds two honorary doctorates. For many years he has been a leader of the Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee, now the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) Alliance. The group waged a decade-long campaign for laws to improve accessibility for persons with disabilities. He is also blind.
Lepofsky argued that the human-created environment creates disabilities. To illustrate his argument he told the story of a power blackout that occurred in the midst of a court case he was involved in. He said that before the blackout those in the courtroom might have noticed one person with a disability, “with an earphone or bumpy notes [i.e., notes written in Braille].” However, when the power failed “there was only one person who could proceed” – the person with the bumpy notes. “The change in the in human environment had created a disability for the rest of those in the room.”
As an activist, Lepofsky has spearheaded moves to make the created environment less disabling. He has twice sued the Toronto Transit Com- mission to force it to announce station stops, the first time on subway routes and again to get announcements on buses and streetcars.
Lepofsky pointed out that changes that help persons with disabilities help everyone. For example, the announcement of station stops on the transit system helps those who don’t know the system, those who can’t read, and those who can’t see their stop because buses are crowded. “The world is full of barriers and many of them are dumb,” Lepofsky said. “They don’t help anyone.” Citing electronic kiosks, inaccessible websites, and new electronic payment cards, he said, “New barriers continue to be created.” He urged his audience to ensure that their students are exposed, at least once during their school careers, to lessons that help them understand the importance of accessibility.
For more information please visit the website, aodaalliance.org.
Arts-focused professional learning
This fall, ETFO and the Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association have collaborated on two professional learning projects focused on the arts. Students in grades 3 to 8 in 33 communities in northern Ontario saw the play Spirit Horse. It was adapted from the successful Irish play, Tir Na N’Og,by celebrated Ojibway playwright Drew Hayden Taylor. First Nations actors star in this story about two Aboriginal youths caught between their traditional ways and contemporary urban culture. The play serves as a catalyst for professional learning in drama, dance, music, and visual arts. To follow the progress of the tour and read a blog with student responses visit SpiritHorse.ca. In southern Ontario, the two federations offered a six- part professional learning series based on the book ETFO Arts:Introducing Visual Arts, Drama, Dance, and Music in the Junior Grades. The two initiatives were funded by the Ontario Ministry of Education.
Building Better Schools outlines ETFO’s education agenda for the 2011 Ontario provincial election. By releasing the document ETFO hopes to raise the profile of education in the next provincial election, and get parents and the public thinking and talking about what’s needed to make Ontario schools the best they can be. ETFO’s proposals focus on more meaningful student assessment, greater access to specialist teachers, small classes for all elementary students, more resources for special needs students, and greater focus on equal opportunity and inclusion. The document is available on our website, etfo.ca.
Representative Council brings together presidents and executive members of ETFO locals three times a year to discuss policies and issues facing the federation. The meeting is chaired by the first vice-president, Susan Swackhammer. Those attending the October meeting received updates on the provincial consultations relating to the proposed wage free a common benefits plan for all ETFO members.
Early childhood educators took their place in Ontario kindergartens this fall as the new Early Learning Program began. Designated early childhood educators (DECEs) in eight Ontario school boards are now mem- bers of ETFO. The new members shown here are with the Toronto Catholic District School Board. They attended an introductory session at provincial office designed to acquaint them with ETFO and their new rights and responsibilities as union members.
ETFO’s WorldTeachers’ Day poster featured kindergarten teacher Cindy Lum and her students at Lord Dufferin Public School in Toronto.
A wonderful opportunity presented itself a couple of years ago when I applied to take part in Project Overseas. This is an excellent professional learning opportunity where teachers can learn and teach at the same time, while they help to build a global professional learning community.