A positive outcome of the current provincial government’s first year in office has been increased public engagement by ETFO members around education-related issues.
Representative Council February 11-12, 2015 Just over 100 delegates and 35 Union School participants attended Representative Council in February. Delegates welcomed guest speaker Cathy Crowe, a Toronto street nurse and advocate for eradicating homelessness. Crowe spoke of the need to put homelessness on the federal election agenda. She shared compelling evidence that the loss of a national housing program in Canada two decades ago has contributed to increased homelessness and related chronic health issues. She explained that families and children are the fastest growing groups at risk if “de-housing” policies continue. Crowe shared a documentary where children spoke of their experiences with homelessness and how the government and communities can help. A display of photographs showing homelessness by Toronto photographer Nir Bareket further emphasized the importance of Crowe’s message. President Sam Hammond spoke of ETFO’s commitment to support the election of a federal government that will support strong public services and social justice and equity issues central to ETFO’s objectives. Hammond also reported that the central list for teachers and occasional teachers is finalized and bargaining has begun. He explained that central bargaining for DECEs, PSPs and ESPs is not yet underway because there is lack of agreement on whether supervision should be bargained centrally or locally. ETFO believes supervision should be on the central list and the matter has been referred to the Ontario Labour Relations Board for a decision. He recognized the eagerness of teacher and occasional teacher locals to begin their own bargaining on or after February 23 and pledged provincial support for local bargaining under the School Boards Collective Bargaining Act, 2014. General Secretary Victoria Réaume announced that the Executive has approved a public relations campaign that will focus on building broad public support among parents and communities. She also shared the ways in which ETFO is strengthening its internal processes and creating and modifying programs to respond to the evolving needs of members and locals. Delegates debated a number of motions that included funding for local collective bargaining, resources for parents, the content of ETFO’s all-member survey and timelines for active membership in ETFO.
Connected Communities Online Learning The Connected Communities project is composed of a series of online professional learning sessions with a team of teacher experts. The sessions are designed to support teaching and learning in mathematics and technology-enabled learning. Funded by the Ontario Ministry of Education, online sessions have taken the form of webcasts, webinars and online communities of practice. The project began with a schedule of nine webinars, run by members for members, during the month of November 2014. Webinar topics included developing rich problem-solving, communication, getting comfortable with mathematics, using technology across the curriculum, gamification, Google docs and apps, 21st-century learners, iPads/iPods and media for learning. Over 650 members attended the webinars. Currently, several online communities of practice are allowing members to delve more deeply into all of the webinar topics in either a technology-focused or a math-focused community. The ratio of the online communities is 2/3 technology-focused and 1/3 math-focused, based on Ministry funding parameters.
ICT Conferences: Technology for Teachers ETFO offered two Ministry-funded Information Communication Technology (ICT) Conferences in November 2014 and January 2015 involving close to 300 participants and 25 presenters, all members of ETFO. The conferences provided workshops covering diverse applications of ICT that enhance student learning, integrate with or supplement the Ontario Curriculum, and improve/enhance teacher workload management or program delivery. Both conferences opened with a keynote by filmmaker Michelle Derosier who spoke about using technology to create social change. A second keynote by lawyer Robyn White gave a refresher on the importance of practising caution when communicating electronically. The Friday sessions included a variety of “ICT Project”-based presentations demonstrating how new technologies can be integrated into instructional programs or professional learning. Saturday workshops were held in the computer labs at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education and provided participants with hands-on learning on topics that included Minecraft, iPads, coding, Smart boards, Google drive, website creation and digital citizenship.
Spirit Horse Aboriginal/Arts Initiative Tours in Southern Ontario An Aboriginal learning initiative built around Roseneath Theatre’s award-winning production of Spirit Horse will tour southern Ontario from March 30 to June 5, 2015. An earlier production of the play toured northern Ontario in 2010 accompanied by professional development in the arts. The play will reach junior/intermediate students in 23 local public school boards, as well as First Nations schools. Presented by ETFO with funding from the Ontario Ministry of Education, the tour will extend southward from Huntsville, and from Cornwall to Sarnia to Windsor in nominated schools and most faculties of education. Spirit Horse, adapted by Ojibway playwright Drew Hayden Taylor, is a play about two First Nations youth who are caught between two worlds – the traditional ways and the modern ways of the city. It is a powerful learning experience about stereotyping and racism. ETFO professional development/learning will build an understanding of First Nations, Métis and Inuit (FNMI) cultural and historical perspectives through online and face-to-face professional learning and will provide junior/intermediate educators with curriculum resources to infuse FNMI learning in their classrooms. For more information, visit the website after March 1, 2015 at www.spirithorse.ca.
ETFO Online Book Clubs ETFO Online Book Clubs provide an opportunity for members to come together to build on their professional knowledge and classroom practice. ETFO Online Book Clubs are structured as four weekly online sessions, approximately two hours in length and feature small group sizes. Participants are expected to log in for an hour or two each week, read postings and engage in online threaded discussion, sharing ideas, experiences and artifacts. Starting March 2015, ETFO is running a series of four online book clubs related to four popular ETFO resources: Primarily Play: Engaging Primary Learners through Play; Primary ETFO Arts; Thinking It Through: Teaching and Learning in the Kindergarten Classroom and Social Justice Begins with Me. For the schedule of offerings and registration information, please see the ETFO website.
This government may not care about the long-term consequences of their cuts to public education, but educators are very aware that what we are fighting for today will have an impact on generations of students to come. We take this responsibility very seriously.