“Here come bad news, talking this and that”

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Given the way educators in Ontario are being treated of late (to borrow from Pharrell) it might seem crazy what I’m about to say I could not resist the chance to pick up a supply job and hang out with some amazing students and staff today.

There’s nothing quite like actually being in the classroom….

I was so pleased to find that I was working with a student from last year sunshine she’s here,

I knew today exactly what Pharrell was talking about:

Clap along if you know what happiness is to you
Because I’m happy
I worked with the student, saw her progress since last year, was reminded of what it feels like to anticipate reactions, the ways to make progress while working with the student’s disability, taking into account both strengths and areas in need of improvement – to be able to spend my day and energy with a person whose value seems beyond the understanding of politicians at Queen’s Park these days.
I remembered why I did this work for 12 years. We sat and listened to music – sang a little, rocked back and forth a little, connected.
The building was not overrun with talk of strikes. No anti-government sentiment to be found. Not the time or the place. Just a lot of talk about the students and their progress, upcoming events, funny anecdotes. And caring. So much caring, everywhere.
When you’re out in the world, you forget that’s what it looks like. Out in the world it’s all sorts of bad news talking this and that. 
If possible, I am more ready to fight the attack on public education. Liz Sandals and the Government of Ontario, all I can say is:
…..give me all you got, and don’t hold it back,

I should probably warn you I’ll be just fine….

No offense to you, don’t waste your time

Here’s why

Bring me down… can’t nothing…

Today I felt there is nothing that the government can say or do that will convince me that the fight for bargaining rights, for classroom working conditions, for students, is not worth our time.

I do not want to be in the fight. There is no doubt though, it’s on our doorstep.

I’ll be just fine because I know the truth.

(The song I spent all that time listening to was, of course, Happy by Pharrell – it’s amazing how many lyrics fit the fight we’re in….)

Each other…

May 21, 2015

A long marriage requires two people to fall in love, over and over, with each other.

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Every day, Tim and I make the same choice we made 32 years ago: each other.

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And we made another amazing choice: to become parents.

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How lucky are we? Incredibly.

(Thanks for the first 32 years, sweetie. Looking forward to each day ahead.)

Sometimes…

Sometimes I get to the point of frustration, that I just become silent. 

This is not one of those times.

A year ago, I posted on social media about how frustrated I was that the opposition party in Ontario was running on a platform of laying off 100,000 public sector workers which would, of course, include education workers.

Two years ago, I was discussing the tough negotiations that were happening with the provincial government, including the threats of cutbacks to crucial benefits, like sick days (which in the field of special education frequently means “injury recovery days”).

This translates in to two long years of fighting. Fighting for my rights, the rights of people I work with, the rights of students I support in the school system.

Yes, my peers and I knew what our working conditions were when we signed on with our respective school boards. We knew that we would be called on to do hard work and that the pay was not commiserate with our value to the system, our students or their families. We hoped that when feasible, the government would step up and recognize that value.

Over the past two years, we have been beaten down in the media, vilified for wanting to be recognized and compensated in the only way our society seems comfortable acknowledging value: monetarily.

Over the past two years, I have seen a shift, a dangerous shift, towards the edge of disaster. I have seen people become tired of being made out to be greedy and selfish. People who continue to work hard to deliver amazing programs to students, but who question why?

Why do I continue to do this work – especially when this honorable profession is vilified by the media and is now disdained by segments of the public? Why do I continue to do this work when my own government, the keeper of civil society, no longer feels that funding education is more important than funding votes?

Many capable and enthusiastic young people have turned away from a career in education because of these same circumstances.

What is happening to education in Ontario? Education is being eroded to pay for the government’s future, plain and simple.

We cannot be silent in our frustration – we must speak out at every opportunity. We, educators and the public, must work to save the future of our province by saving education and the hard-working, dedicated educators of our province’s future citizens.

“…it only takes one voice, at the right pitch, to start an avalanche.” (Dianna Hardy)

The new Ontario “sex act”

The recent reaction by some parents to the introduction of the new Health and Physical Education Curriculum is distressing, and oftentimes infuriating. I am not opposed to people making choices about what is best for their child; I’ve done it myself.

I believe in public education strongly and I believe in the right to advocate for your child. I do not believe they should be mutually exclusive.

Sending around flyers stating that teachers will be teaching children how to masturbate, engage in anal sex and facilitate them looking at pornography is not only categorically untrue and insulting to the professionals who teach your children, it is not advocacy. That is lying and therefore teaching your children that you need to spread lies when your argument is weak.

Stopping people at a bus stop and discouraging them from sending their child to school to protest something on your behalf is not advocating for your child. This tells your child that you need to harass and bully when you disagree with a system change.

When you carry signs that say “What’s next? Safe animal sex?” you are not advocating for your child. You are spreading hate. You are teaching your children that exaggerating and perpetuating stereotypes is acceptable when you disagree with the government.

The amount of misinformation being sent around the internet, mailboxes and school parking lots is astounding.

I ask parents to read the curriculum. Every word. Then decide if it goes against YOUR beliefs. If the knowledge is not beneficial to your child, who will be out in the world with the internet and cell phones and parties and peer pressure without you, then you are well within your rights to withdraw your children from the public system. I do not think this will protect them. Instead, the more caring and dedicated people who are in our children’s lives the better. People committed to helping them understand and navigate the challenges of social and personal interactions, well, that’s a good thing.

Parents are the head of households, but school is the place where other ways of thinking are learned and shared and discussed. No one is trying to change your family values; the point is to ensure that the values of personal safety and inclusion and diversity are understood and respected. There is a universality to that. Just as you expect people to respect your way of life and beliefs, even if it is different from their own, this curriculum is intended to help children respect other ways of being. It is filled with ways to keep them safe from unwanted attention and harm.

Don’t insult the intelligence of educators, or your children. No one is trying to corrupt children. This new curriculum has more in common with the sex education they have been receiving since 1998 than people seem to appreciate. Yes, children are learning certain aspects at a younger age; this reflects what is happening in society as a whole.

If you, as an individual, have an issue, work with your school. Be a partner in the learning process. Be a true advocate.