BlackLivesMatter. No Time for Silence.

#BlackLivesMatter

The current events in the United States and around the world can feel unsettling and confusing. The topic of white privilege and systemic racism has me reflecting on my own practice and what I can do to advocate for change.  As an educator, I can influence the curriculum I teacher, the perspective which I address in my lessons and how I treat my students. One thing I cannot do is stay silent. 

Students, even in an at-home learning environment due to the Pandemic may have questions. What are the protests about? Why are people saying #BlackLivesMatter? Protests are generally used to advocate for change. What change is being advocated for? Why is there violence?

Brief History. Black Lives Matter (BLM for short) is an international activist group. They originated in the African-American community. They are against violence and systemic racism toward black people. The movement began in 2013 with the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter on social media, after the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the death of Trayvon Martin. They became famous for their street demonstrations, following the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner. The earlier sparked riots and unrest in Ferguson, Missouri. The latter sparked protests all over the United States. Since the Ferguson protests, participants of Black Lives Matter have demonstrated against other African-Americans’ deaths, like Freddie Gray, Sandra Bland, Laquan McDonald, Philando Castile and Alton Sterling. Source: https://kids.kiddle.co/Black_Lives_Matter

Black Lives Matter (BLM) is an international activist movement, originating in the African-American community, that campaigns against violence and systemic racism towards black people. BLM regularly holds protests speaking out against police killings of black people, and broader issues such as racial profiling, police brutality, and racial inequality in the United States criminal justice system. While some may argue that all lives matter, it does not feel like we are applying that belief to our African-American neighbours, friends, and community members. https://libwww.freelibrary.org/explore/topic/black-lives-matter

Teacher and Parent Resources:

Google Drive folder with MANY teaching resources on #AntiRacism and materials from #BLM. This is curated by a variety of teachers for students K-12 and beyond. https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/1LGslwJwhXvpVnDgw0uC-n794l6EGzpuH

Resources Related to Anti-Black Racism (source:http://etfo.ca/BuildingAJustSociety/anti-blackracism/pages/anti-blackracism.aspx)

  • United Nations Website: International Decade for People of African Descent. This site features resources and materials that include historical information, relevant UN documents and videos that may be age-appropriate for upper elementary grades.
  • ETFO’s 365 Black Canadian Curriculum. This curriculum is part of a compilation of equity resources for elementary educators that support Black Canadian history in Ontario schools on a daily basis.
  • ETFO’s Black Canadian Calendar. The individuals represented on the calendar offer a glimpse into the historical and contemporary political and societal realities faced by Black Canadians. It is both a celebration and acknowledgement of a fraction of the contributions and impact Black Canadians have had to help shape Canada to be the nation it is today.
  • Black History Month – February. Black History Month exists to remind us all of the rich contributions within our society from people of African and Caribbean decent, and of their ongoing struggle for equity and social justice. ETFO encourages the focus on Black history all year as an integral part of learning about Canadian history and current issues. The web page features resources, events and helpful websites in support of teaching and learning about African Canadian issues.

Lesson plans: As an extension to Re-Think, Re-Connect, Re-Imagine (White Privilege Booklet) which is available through Shop ETFO, lesson plans have been developed for the primary, junior and intermediate grades. : A variety of engaging lessons that align with the four sections of the booklet – Myself, My Classroom, My School and My Community are free to members.

Download ETFO’s Re-Think, Re-Connect, Re-Imagine resource:    PDF​ |Word​

Suggested Lesson Idea?

  1. Find a quote or poem which resonates with you about one of the Guiding Principles above.  Share the quote in the “comments” of this post
  2. Consider using ART to spread a message of peace, unity and love by using some of the ideas and themes below.

VISUALIZING CONCEPTS TURNING IMPORTANT Ideas Into Art!

  • CHOOSE BLM PRINCIPLE (below)
  • WRITE WHAT THE PRINCIPLE MEANS TO YOU IN YOUR OWN WORDS (reflection)
  • CHOOSE AN ABSTRACT OPTION (lines, colours, shapes, words) (see examples)
  • CHOOSE A REALISTIC OPTION (person, object, hand, etc.)
  • SKETCH A DRAFT USING ONE OR BOTH OF YOUR DESIGNS (FROM STEPS #3 and #4)
source: https://blacklivesmatteratschool.com/teaching-materials/
Source: https://blacklivesmatteratschool.com/teaching-materials/
Source: https://blacklivesmatteratschool.com/teaching-materials/
Source: https://blacklivesmatteratschool.com/student-crativity-challenge/

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The Strength Based IEP – let it work for the Gifted Learner

The IEP for the Gifted Learner

IMG_8531As a teacher for Gifted and Enriched students, I have spent many hours working with teachers, parents and learners on developing Individual Education Plans (IEP) for Gifted and Enriched learners. The IEP has a clear purpose and its process for development is not a difficult one to grasp. Regardless of school, district, or even country,  the IEP has similar characteristics: To identify the learner’s strengths and weaknesses,  to set measurable goals and objectives, to identify the tools and resources (including people) needed, to identify the strategies needed to achieve the goals and finally, as a team, to commit. Yes, there are subtle differences in language from district to district (modification, accommodation), but the overall purpose and gist of the IEP remain the same: To set our students up for success by ensuring they are getting a fair chance at learning.

It should be easy then. However, with Gifted learners, there is much debate and discussion about the IEP.  In my school district, we use both group testing (all students in Grade Four are given the CCAT test) followed by Individual testing (WISC-IV) and students usually score within the 95th to 99th percentile on these tests in a variety of areas, including overall IQ. Only a very very small portion of children or adults would score in this range (1-2% of the population). This alone should sound the alarm bells. These students are not in the norm and SHOULD NOT be receiving the same programming as the rest. We would say no different for students who are scoring at the other end of the scale and require significant modifications in their learning. Further, just like within the general population of learners, these students are just as likely to present with a Disability.  Sometimes, the gap between the two areas is quite wide…sometimes debilitatingly so.

Strength-Based Goals:

Many students who are Gifted may not display obvious areas of “Need”. There is no use in searching for areas of weakness simply so you can put it on the form.  CREATE the goal from there overall strength.  On the other hand, many students who are identified Gifted in one area, may struggle greatly in another area or may have significant learning disabilities.  It is important that the student’s IEP sets goals that are also non-academic, such as social skills, organizational skills and personal and intrapersonal skills, which are often a struggle for Gifted learners.

Student-Driven IEP and the PORTFOLIO:

IMG_8446In another post, I shared some strategies on how to involve the students in the IEP process, Here, I emphasis the following and share examples from my own class:

1) Ask for Student Input when developing the IEP. Of course, this would depend on the age group and how you structure the questions and interviews. Around the second week of school, I handed out the IEP’s to the students and had them go through and add, edit, and comment on each of the sections.  Most of them had neither seen or heard of the “IEP” before so it took a bit of time to explain the terms (accommodations, modification, strategies, methods).

2) Meet with the students individually and go through the IEP’s with them explaining how and why this document came to be.  Help them understand their own identification and what they need to best succeed.

During the first month of school students did research on their own exceptionality. Many of the students wrote blogs about what it means to be “Gifted” or as they often see it, “Labelled”. Set aside time for students to continually develop and alter their own programs. Don’t let this be a “one-off” lesson. Build this into a weekly plan. Build it around their Learning Skills.

We did this every week with tea.  We tried to discuss one area of need or learning skill. What does it mean to be responsible? How much independence should students have at what age? What is fair and equal when it comes to learning? How do we advocate and ask for feedback?

4) Provide an organized system for students to view and edit their IEP’s as needed.  Of course, since some parts of this document may be highly confidential, the template would need to be altered.

5) When updating the IEP’s every term, send home the “working copy” along with the formal copy to allow the parents and families to see how much student input is valued

This IEP development strategy takes a lot of trust and relationship-building to work. Students need to feel safe and free to express their honest feelings and advocate for themselves. One student said to me after reading his IEP (prior to his input), said, “Wow, I sound like an anti-social nerd that has no friends”.

Here are a few case examples created by Beth Carey and Zoe Branigan-Pipe (although there are many many many more, since the IEP should reflect each individual child). These examples are only meant to provide a starting point to help when creating a “Gifted” IEP.


Student Profile/Achievement: Student has strong academics in all area’s (All 95% or above); in the 99th percentile of testing. Motivated to learn and always seeking out opportunities, rarely feeling challenged by the school. Proficient in reading (more than 3 grades above) and proficient in Math and Science. Strong abilities in Music and Languages.

Annual Goal: Students will use higher-order thinking skills to enrich the depth and breadth of grade-level learning expectations.

Learning expectation: Student will use divergent thinking skills during classroom learning activities, independent activities and home learning; Student will use convergent thinking skills (bringing together a range of ideas and resources to support a central topic or idea); Student will use critical thinking and questioning skills to enhance the depth of thinking

Teaching strategy: Provide opportunities for the student to learn what it means to think divergently (research/inquiry project, TedX videos..); Provide a schedule/contract for the student (allow, encourage accountability, growth); Support student’s ability to ask questions to/with peers and teachers that encourage others to think deeper about a topic, especially one that focuses on current, local and global issues; Encourage home learning opportunities (use of Khan Academy for skill mastery, use of a blog, community activism – writing and co-created blogs); Encourage and demonstrate the use of mind mapping

Assessment: Student will demonstrate a variety ways to express a skill, concept or idea that is presented to the whole class and will add 2 items in the portfolio each month (self-evaluation); During formal assessments, the student  will provide more than one answer, with justification – even when there is a question with a specific answer; Teacher will provide a comment/feedback to the student during scheduled teacher conference;  Student will bring home a portfolio for parent feedback; Allow students to share the answer orally


Student Profile/Achievement: 

Student consistently exceeds grade expectations in literacy-based subjects and has demonstrated strong verbal abilities and expression (99%tile in oral language abilities and verbal comprehension)

Annual GoalStudents will further develop higher-level oral communication skills.

Learning Expectation: Student will use real-world topics (shared through portfolio and monitored with the teacher) and current events to apply verbal/oral language tools as a way to share and demonstrate learning; Student will investigate, listen  and analyze podcasts of interest (one per month); Student will use oral language to demonstrate learning, discuss ideas and brainstorm using inquiry-based strategies


Student Profile/Achievement: 

Student excels at reading, both fiction (in particular Fantasy Genre)  and non-fiction. Tests indicate strong perceptual reasoning, processing speed and working memory.  The student will read as often as possible and enjoys discussing or debating the content.  The student demonstrates strong comprehension skills and can recall information and facts with ease.

Annual Goal: Students will develop analytical skills in reading using more challenging literature; Student will apply reading strengths to increasing writing (finding new vocabulary and structures)

Learning Expectation: Student will analyze texts by identifying many elements that give the text depth or meaning and will maintain a blog or journal of these elements;  Student will be able to draw a conclusion about the author’s work through in-depth analysis, ongoing discussions and comparisons and will maintain a blog or journal of these elements


Student Profile/Achievement: 

The student writes descriptively and uses figurative language expertly as well as above grade level vocabulary and grammar. Report card grades reflect exceptional written assessment. Gifted Assessment report indicates the student is in the very superior range in all cognitive areas.

Annual Learning Goal: Student will write in a variety of genres using a blog format and will submit at least 4 publications throughout the year to a pre-approved magazine or blog (provide a real-world opportunity); Student will pick 10 new vocabulary words per week and keep a journal of new words.

Learning Expectations: Student  will use poetry and prose to write essays, narratives, and poems and will include figurative language; Student will keep a poetry journal updated weekly; Students will communicate to a wider audience and use reflective and communication skills to respond to others in writing


Student Profile/Achievement: 

The student demonstrates strong abilities in mathematical reasoning, computation and problem-solving. The student has strong processing and working memory skills. Gifted Testing and Report Card grades are consistent in demonstrating that student exceeds above grade level in all mathematical subjects which require modification in the depth and breadth of the content.

Annual Learning Goal: Student will complete several projects related to Math (timelines and content determined in a co-created portfolio); Student will complete a self-monitored Math course (using MOOC, or COURSERA); Student will create a Math Blog that highlights interesting Math problems and discoveries that impact the world around him/her

Learning Expectations: Student will blog weekly about math-related content; Student will be self-directed in his/her math learning by seeking out problems and investigations that related to a specific area (as determined by student and teacher)


 Student Profile/Achievement: 

The student is disorganized at school and home and frequently does not turn in homework and classroom assignments. The student is easily distracted and has trouble staying on task for more than 10 minutes. The student is easily disengaged at school and often complains of being bored. The student has low processing skills and working memory and needs specific accommodations.

Annual Learning Goals Student will complete class assignments on a timeline co-created with teacher and parent; Student will maintain an organized desk, binder (could be an online shared binder) and “to-do” list, to be checked weekly by teacher

Learning Expectations: Student will use technology tools to aid with scheduling (online calendar, online portfolio such as Onenote, Evernote, Google Drive (and can share with the teacher and parent); Students self-organize and  will use to-do lists each day; Student will “check-in” with the teacher each day to guide on-task work and self-monitor how much he/she has completed; Student will keep a portfolio that includes timelines, lists and checklists and will have this monitored by the teacher; Student will use his/her device to take pictures of assignment outlines, homework board, etc


 Student Profile/Achievement: 

The student demonstrates strong leadership skills through on-going involvement in student leadership, clubs, and extracurricular activities. The student demonstrates a strong stance toward social justice including a desire to work in the political arena.

Annual Learning Goals: Student will lead at least TWO events, club or organizations throughout the school year (school-based, online or community-based); Student will maintain at a leadership blog (choice of topic)

Learning Expectations: Student will read a book about leadership development and will share the overall learning, thought and reflections of the book on his or her blog; Student will register the School as a “We Act School” and be the communication link for the school and will complete the on-line follow up focusing on local and global initiatives.


 Student Profile/Achievement: 

The student has a superb memory for facts and detailed information and has an intense focus on the area of interest.  Whatever the class is working on is of no interest to the student.  He/She seems disengaged from school and does not follow classroom routines. The student is unaware of social conventions and lacks social insight.  The Student can be disruptive in class.  Testing demonstrates student is proficient in all areas of WISC IV.  The student does not see the need to demonstrate this.

Annual Learning Goals:  the Student will demonstrate knowledge in all areas of the curriculum through a variety of self-chosen ways; Student will share knowledge of his/her interest with class and engage in conversations about his/her topic; Student will develop a working knowledge of social conventions and social insights.

Learning Expectations: Student will conference with the teacher to decide on ways to demonstrate knowledge of topics covered in class; Student will develop an organization and communication tool to share with teacher and parent; Student will share the topic of interest with class or school through oral or visual presentations, blogs, small group lessons etc.: Student will learn a good variety of social norms and how to understand specific social situations and feel comfortable in those situations


 Student Profile/Achievement: 

IPRC – Statement of Strengths and Needs indicate that areas of need include: Peer interaction, leadership, additional opportunities to negotiate her own learning outcomes; more stimulation and motivation from peers with similar abilities and interests.

Annual Goal: Student will become more self-aware of her needs as a gifted learner

Learning Expectation/Objective: Student will strengthen social-emotional skills within a variety of context and with a variety of people: Student will participate actively in opportunities to work in groups with like-minded peers; Student will participate in explicit relationship-building opportunities using whole group circles and class meeting: Student will use blended learning tools, blogs, e-portfolio and ongoing communication with each other and with parents.

 

 

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Great Educators to follow on Twitter

My class and I compiled this great list of active educators who use Twitter to share and dialogue. This is especially useful right now, during these isolation days. I am super proud to have an online network. People really are the best resource. Especially those who are willing to share and support each other. These are the folks who keep education moving forward.

Continue reading Great Educators to follow on Twitter

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Offline & Offscreen Games (flexible, varied ages and abilities)

In the last month or so (Covid-19 days), I have spoken to a number of students and families who are looking for some learning activities which are flexible (kids can play with their siblings), age-appropriate and off-screen. The following games are a shortlist (I’ll add some more later) of what I have used in the classroom (enrichment program) as well as at home with my own kids.

I am a proponent of game-based learning, I have spent the past year learning how to use off-line games as a way to engage my students in social and collaborative learning activities. Each of these games can be differentiated depending on the age or ability of the learner. I love games that are naturally designed for universal learning and teaching.  Learners can go as deep and complex as they wish, or keep it simple.

Idiom Addict. A family favourite and can be played with a variety of ages. Some of the idioms are very difficult and need to be unpacked and discussed.  A great opportunity to talk about culture and vocabulary.  I enjoy using this game when working with my ESL groups.  https://www.amazon.ca/The-Good-Game-Company-B07GKHJX46/dp/B07GKHJX46 

 


Source: https://costastaliadoros.files.wordpress.com/2012/02/dixit-cards.jpg

Dixit Board Game – This is our favourite game. I wrote about it in another post. “Dixit, a Game for Everyone” 

Board Game (highly recommended for Gifted, enriched and students with strong language, vocabulary and creative thinking skills.) Dixit is a game with very simple mechanics and rules but a lot of depth, strategy, creativity, and variety. Each player has a hand of cards with amazing artwork http://www.thefamilygamers.com/classic-reviews-dixit/

 

 

 


Source: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/729844106/yushino-is-scrabble-with-numbers-0

Number Scrabble: This is much harder than it looks. At first, my small groups did not like this game. But as we got into it, students began to challenge one another with more complex calculations.

https://www.instructables.com/id/Number-Scrabble-The-Game-aka-Math-Scrabble/

 

“Number Scrabble” (or “Math Scrabble”) is a game based on normal Scrabble, but you make equations instead of words. The letter tiles used in Scrabble are replaced with numbers and operators. 


Quiddler Card Game. This game can be individualized and played with a variety of ages and levels. I play this card game often with my ESL students. It is a family favourite. Great for vocabulary practice (all ages) “Using special cards, Quiddler draws on one’s ability to combine letters into words. The challenge is to arrange your entire hand into words. Draw and discard in turn. https://www.mastermindtoys.com/8532-Quiddler-Game.aspx?gclid=Cj0KCQjw-r71BRDuARIsAB7i_QNXIBsrD4JleqygAKAL7xYEpDCLBD0GHG-Mla8tgCLORE8A_A1yBWIaAsdZEALw_wcB

 


Source: greatcardgame.com

 

The World Game: I love using this game to discuss world data. We often have our computer open to look up facts and check the information on the cards. I have played this game with children and adults and there is always a discussion and something new to learn. 

https://greatcardgame.com/ Learn about the continents, flags, location, capital cities & basic facts of every country in the world. A truly fun and educational game for all ages. Kids love it.

 

 

 


Source: https://www.educationalinsights.com

After Words: LINK In this fast-paced, vocabulary-building game, players must name a word that matches 1 of their category cards AND begins with the letter in play

 

 

 

 

 

 


Quicktionary Card Game – This is a fun game to make at home. I have had students make it, using different levels of difficulty, topics, letters, and blends. 

From: http://therathole.ca/quicktionary/ ” The game consists of 102 cards, divided into 3 types. The yellow cards give a category, for example, “a word associated with science” or “an item found in an office”. The blue cards place a limit on the word itself, for example, “has exactly one syllable” or “has more consonants than vowels”. Finally, the red cards add a specific letter or letter combination, like, “cannot contain the letter R” or “contains the letters CH”. Once 3 cards are laid out, one of each colour, the goal is to be the first person to call out a word that fits all the conditions. There are no turns, everyone plays at the same time. And I do mean everyone plays; there is no “judge”, the players as a whole determine whether or not a word is correct. In the games we played, this led to many interesting situations, like counting letters on fingers, writing down words to determine consonant to vowel ratios, and at one point, a non-player googling “foods that start with A”.

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Dixit: A Game for Everyone (Language, Thinking and Abstract Learning Skills)

Developing Language Skills and Higher-Order Thinking – A game for everyone. 

This is a fun family-friendly game that can be adapted to use with a variety of age groups, literacy levels and cultural differences. 

 


Dixit is a fantasy association game. The game contains large playing sized cards each with different images. The fantasy and story-telling images are extremely detailed and provide room for interpretation and abstract thinking.  Children and adults alike enjoy reading the cards and finding creative ways to interpret the meaning and symbols. 

At home, I play this with my family (ages 16, 17, 20 and adults). I also have an ELL student living with us who loves using this game to learn vocabulary. He uses a translater to help him express his ideas.

As an educator, I play this with my students as a guided language lesson. We dig into higher-order thinking skills, comprehension, symbolism and abstract thinking. We use the pictures to discuss elements of a story as well as point of view and perspective.  I dug through the curriculum (Ontario) for examples of higher-level language skills which can be practiced when using this tool. 

 

From: https://samblanco.com/2013/10/22/dixit 

Picture Comprehension/Abstract Thinking – Understanding the content of the picture and being able to think abstractly about associations that may be made with that picture is a required skill for the game. For some learners, I focus on the “clues” they give by narrowing the possible choices they can use. For example, if I have a student that loves movies, all clues must relate to movie titles.

Describing Pictures/Expressive Language/Intraverbal Conversation – After all cards have been displayed, players discuss which card they believe is the correct choice for the clue. They must be able to provide their reasons for the choice they have made.

While it isn’t always explicit, I spent time documenting (after working w the skills learning associated with the game

  • Comprehension
  • Abstract Thinking
  • Expressive Language
  • Verbal Language
  • Interpersonal and social skills
  • Use of critical and creative thinking skills and/or processes. 
  • Communicating and conveying of meaning through various forms
  • Transfer of knowledge and skills (e.g., concepts, strategies, processes) to new contexts
  • Real, purposeful talk
  • analyze texts and images in order to evaluate how effectively they communicate ideas, opinions, themes, or experiences
  • use appropriate words, phrases, and terminology from the full range of vocabulary, including inclusive and non-discriminatory language, and a range of stylistic devices, to communicate their meaning 
  • develop and explain interpretations of increasingly complex or difficult texts using stated and implied ideas from the texts to support their interpretations
  • analyze a variety of text forms and explain how their particular characteristics help communicate meaning, 
  • identify various elements of style – including metaphor, and symbolism – and explain how they help communicate meaning and enhance the effectiveness 
  • regularly use vivid and/or figurative language and innovative expressions
  • develop and explain interpretations of increasingly complex or difficult texts using stated and implied ideas from the texts to support their interpretations 
  • use vivid and/or figurative language and innovative expressions in their writing

Resources:

https://teachinggamesefl.com/2017/08/24/how-to-use-dixit-in-the-classroom/

https://www.teachershouseshop.com/archives/1230

http://c-raine.com/2013/11/12/dixit-storytelling-cards-inspire-esl-class/

https://samblanco.com/2013/10/22/dixit/

Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J6UlbxeDE0w

https://samblanco.com/2013/10/22/dixit/

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Head to the ONLINE Library – Learn a new language

The Hamilton Public Library has been my saving grace during this isolation period (due to Covid-19 spread). Fortunately, I have been working with the library through my job and partnerships between the HWDSB Enrichment and Innovation Centre and the HPL and have benefited greatly (especially now).

 

While my favourite tool is the Libby App (I can download dozens of books), my family and I have agreed to all learn a new language using the HPL provided a license for Mango Language. We spend about one hour per day going through the lessons (I’ve chosen Japanese).

  1. Go to: HPL ONLINE (found on the sidebar)

2.  It will be hard not to explore all of the options found on the HPL online, but I would start by going to the “Reference/Research” section. Here, you can find many tools, including “Mango Languages”. This is where we have been for the last two weeks. There are more than 70 languages to choose from.

 

 

 

As a teacher, I hope that my students access this tool as there are so many benefits to knowing another language. When this isolation period is over, I plan to organize” language clubs” (like a book club) where we can learn a new language together.

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Why I Strike.

    Zoe Branigan-Pipe – 2013
    Zoe Branigan and Sheri Selway (1980)
    I am an ETFO teacher in Ontario. I strike because I am committed to equity and social justice, not just in schools, but in life. I am proud to be part of the Ontario Teacher’s Federation (ETFO)  whose mandate is to ensure that all people have access to fair, safe and quality learning and working environments. As an educator (I can’t help it) I see this as a teachable moment for the thousands of citizens – children and adults alike – that we must never stay silent to injustices. As educators, it is our job to teach our citizens to work toward a world where all people have opportunities to learn, strive, be healthy and have joy in our professions, communities and family life. The Education sector must continue to move forward in silencing inequities, racism, gender bias,  and to voice our support for inclusivity of LGBTQ members and students and promote greater participation of First Nations, Métis and Inuit.
    “Canada’s labour movement has a long history of improving workers’ everyday lives. We fought for and won many of the rights enjoyed by all workers today – minimum wages, overtime pay, workplace safety standards, maternity and parental leave, vacation pay, and protection from discrimination and harassment” (https://canadianlabour.ca/uncategorized/why-unions-history-labour-canada/
    My first real memory of participating in a protest was when I was 12 years old. But of course, there were many before (and many after). It was 1984, a few weeks before Christmas. About 1,500 workers at the six Eatons stores across Ontario walked out, including Hamilton. Like many nights before, I remember staying up late, making signs, pamphlets, stickers, posters and of course hanging out with all the other kids my age while the parents organized, collaborated and discussed the events for the next day (or next initiative).   I remember how cold it was on that November day and yet it didn’t seem to deter the thousands of folks who showed up stormed inside Eaton’s to show support for the workers. We chanted “Boycott Eatons” and walked right into the department store in full solidarity with the workers (mostly women at the time).  According to union organizer Sue Grange, about 80 percent of the striking workers were women and faced a huge discrepancy in pay, poor work conditions and job insecurity. (source:https://www.tvo.org/article/when-strikers-stormed-eatons-flagship-department-store)
    My family was evicted twice during Urban Renewal initiatives. “City building” created roads and apartment buildings, but didn’t much care about low-income renters! This eventually carved the path for being advocates for safe and affordable communities.  I also remember the 1005 Local Stelco Strike. This is hard to forget as it was a 125-day walk-out with 12,500 striking workers at Stelco’s Hilton Works in Hamilton. And of course, I also spent a lot of time walking the picket line with my family.  My parents were (and still are)  strong activists which are how I remember my childhood – attending protests, marches, rallies and many many committee meetings (often held at our house).  I have never missed marching in the Labour Day Parade. From an early age I was exposed to “the Federation of Women Teachers Associations of Ontario” (FWTAO) which represented women teachers for over 75 years. It seemed like our house was filled with people working (volunteering) tirelessly to ameliorate one cause or another. Full ashtrays, good music playing in the background and close friends finding ways to make a difference. Throughout my years in Hamilton, I was exposed to central American Solidarity Human Rights groups, Tools for Peace (human hights, social justice) The Hamiton and Area Affirmative Action Coalition, HAAAC and worked with the O.F.L. (This group advocated for equal pay and non-traditional jobs).  My family was evicted twice during Urban Renewal initiatives. “City building” created roads and apartment buildings, but didn’t much care about low-income renters! This eventually carved the path for being advocates for safe and affordable communities.  When I was growing up in Hamilton, a student at HWDSB, men and women teachers were in separate unions, although I think they worked together. Eventually, they officially joined together to form ETFO.  Since my mother was part of the Union executive at that time, I know there were many meetings. My mom recalls, “ I remember that some women were uncertain of joining together and that men would “take over”, and not advocate for women’s issues or rights. Over the years teachers worked within the larger labour community for “No to Violence against Women”, better maternity benefits, affirmative action etc. Teachers advocated and fought for smaller class sizes, help for struggling students and fought continually against cutbacks to education.  Better working conditions are better learning conditions.   WHY PROTEST?:
    • My experience as a teacher of 42 Students http://pipedreams-education.ca/2015/09/23/why-we-protest-class-of-42-students-my-story/comment-page-1/
    • Looking beyond the Present http://pipedreams-education.ca/2013/01/08/why-do-i-protest-i-am-looking-beyond-the-present/
    Did you know?
    • 1872, when the Toronto Typographical Union demanded a nine-hour workday from the city’s publishers. Employers refused, and the printers walked off the job on March 25, 1872 (source:https://canadianlabour.ca/uncategorized/why-unions-history-labour-canada/
    • The first teachers’ labour union to be formed was the Federation of Women Teachers’ Associations of Ontario (FWTAO) in 1918  (source: Barbara Richter, It’s Elementary: A brief history of Ontario’s public elementary teachers and their federations, 2006, 4.)
    • May 15, 1919, workers in various trades wanted fair wages: much like workers today, they just wanted to earn enough to be able to support their families in the changing economy. They walked off the job and marched into the streets of Winnipeg, leading to one of the biggest labour actions Canada has ever seen. (source:https://canadianlabour.ca/uncategorized/why-unions-history-labour-canada/
    • 1944 was perhaps one of the most significant years for teachers’ unions in Ontario. It was the year that Ontario Premier George Drew created the Teaching Profession Act. (source: Barbara Richter, It’s Elementary: A brief history of Ontario’s public elementary teachers and their federations, 2006, 4.)
    • In 1951, when the Equal Pay Act was passed by the government, that men and women were paid the same salary for equal qualifications and responsibilities – This was five years after teachers had endorsed the concept, the Ontario government passed the Fair Remuneration for Female Employees Act, legislating equal pay. http://www.etfo.ca/AboutETFO/History/Documents/It’s%20Elementary%20-%202018%20Edition.pdf, pg 63)
    • 1971: Unions fought for the rights of women to have paid Maternity Benefits
    • Similar to the events of 1973, when Education Minister Tom Wells introduced Bills 274 and 275Bill 115 gives the Education Minister the exclusive authority to prevent or end any strike and legislate new teacher contracts, effectively putting an end to teachers’ unions’ rights to collective bargaining
    • Prior to 1975, teachers in Ontario did not have the right to legally strike
    • Bill 100, the School Boards’ and Teachers’ Collective Negotiations Act, became law in July 1975
    • Teachers Collective Negotiation Act, Bill 100, in 1975 was a turning point for the teaching profession in Ontario. 
    •  The first labour organization in Canada to do so was the Ontario Federation of Labour, which in 1983 designated seats specifically for women on its executive. http://www.etfo.ca/AboutETFO/History/Documents/It’s%20Elementary%20-%202018%20Edition.pdf 
    • In 1997, Bill 100 was repealed by the Harris government in favour of Bill 160. This bill would restrict teacher bargaining.
    • The government passed Bill 115 (The Putting Students First Act) on September 11, 2012, Premier McGuinty asked teachers to “hit the pause button” on salary increases. This bill also limits the legality of teachers’ unions and support staff going on strike. In April 2016, the law was found to be unconstitutional. (source:https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Putting_Students_First_Act). 
    • 2015, OPSBA tabled a set of contract strips aimed at setting back the clock on years of hard-fought bargaining gains. The strips included: management control over teacher preparation time; increased teacher supervision time; teachers losing the ability to determine which student assessments to use; removal of the new, fair teacher hiring policy; erosion of occasional teacher working conditions; erosion of local bargaining rights; removal of class size protections in local agreements; and changing the role of DECEs in Kindergarten programs. Source:http://www.etfo.ca/AboutETFO/History/Documents/It’s%20Elementary%20-%202018%20Edition.pdf
    • 2015, ETFO reached a tentative agreement in early November that included a 2.5 percent salary increase enhancements to working conditions. Other gains included improvements to the teacher hiring regulation that benefited occasional teachers, and a half-day Professional Activity Day devoted to health and safety.
    •  April 2017, the Ontario NDP released its pre-election policy document that included a number of ETFO policies, including reduced Kindergarten class size; more resources for students with special needs; a move to random-sample EQAO testing; a commitment to creating healthy and safe schools; and a plan to increase access to high-quality child care. (Source: http://www.etfo.ca/AboutETFO/History/Documents/It’s%20Elementary%20-%202018%20Edition.pdf)
                       
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    Update your NETWORK (it’s your best resource):

    I just celebrated my 10th anniversary on Twitter. While my participation and involvement in Twitter has changed some in the last few years, I still find it one of the most useful and supportive resources for activism, learning and sharing.

    In fact, my Twitter feed is my first “go-to” each morning (News, Trending, Specific Lists).  Yes, I am conscious and deliberate about what I am reading (and who is publishing) and I try to ensure my feed is diverse (even when I do not agree with every opinion). I am CERTAIN that my life has been enriched through these tools. I have also lost “friends/followers” due to my own opinions which I make clear “are my own and not representative of my employer (or family, or friends).

    The real truth here is that I can reach out to almost any expert at any time and get advice. I cannot always do that in my own place of work. I have developed long-time friends and colleagues from across the world (whom I have visited and have visited me).

    As the instructor of a Junior Level Qualification course (in Ontario), I always have my participants find at least three NEW people to add to their network and I encourage them to reach out. I am so proud and excited that so many of the folks who I have followed and collaborated with are included in this list. – Zoe

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    The Beauty of Collaboration and Co-Creation:

    In my Junior Additional Qualification course, I have my students/participants gather, discuss and unpack a variety of online resources which they (we all) see as effective for instruction in a Junior or Middle school classroom. I try to encourage folks to find current tools and to share why/how these tools can help students engage with content and learning.  More importantly, I always recommend that my students post the collaborative collection on their blogs and website. What a beautiful way to learn, share and find something new for our classrooms and schools.

    These are some great resources – Enjoy!
    – Zoe

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