Letters to the Editor

Professionally Speaking welcomes letters and articles on topics of interest to teachers. We reserve the right to edit letters for length and to conform to our publication style. To be considered for publication, letters must provide the writer’s daytime phone number and registration number. Address letters to: The Editor, Professionally Speaking at ps@oct.ca or 101 Bloor St. W., Toronto, ON  M5S 0A1.

Swooning for the June issue

Professionally Speaking - Cover June

I suppose I’m like many busy educators in that I spend some time in the summer catching up on my professional reading. I will admit that when copies of Professionally Speaking arrived in the past I didn’t make reading them a priority.

I just finished the June edition, reading it cover to cover in one sitting. I am so impressed with the quality of the writing, the layout and graphics, as well as the chosen topics. As a principal and AQ instructor I apply a pretty high professional learning standard, and this issue definitely met that standard. Being visually appealing certainly kept me flipping the pages. Bravo!

— Kerry Norris, OCT, is the principal at Westmount PS in the Kawartha Pine Ridge DSB.

A distinct designation

Re: “Rethinking Kindergarten”

Paint Strokes

I read your article “Rethinking Kindergarten” in last month’s edition (Professionally Speaking, June 2012) and, as a Registered Early Childhood Educator working in a full-day Kindergarten classroom, I thought it provided great insight into the program. However, I wanted to point out one important oversight that was made in the article. The teacher in the article was referred to as OCT, but the early childhood educator was not referred to as an RECE (Registered Early Childhood Educator) or DECE (Designated Early Childhood Educator). In order to work for the board of education, an Early Childhood Educator must belong to the College of Early Childhood Educators, a professional body much like the Ontario College of Teachers. I think the RECE or DECE is an important designation to make, especially when your magazine clearly promotes the importance of belonging to a professional College.

— Samantha Ainge, RECE, teaches full-day Kindergarten at Rosedale PS in the Lambton Kent DSB.

Creative work ideas

Re: OCTs Are Employable

The letters “OCT” do not stand for “Only a Classroom Teacher.” While the classroom is the first love and ultimate goal for most of us, the OCT designation can be promoted in other occupations.

OCTs have a specific professional skill set that allow us to instruct, to care, to explain and to make complex ideas simpler. Anyone who has driven through Kitchener knows that the city planning department could benefit from an OCT on staff to place signs in a less confusing way. Museums would be more marketable if curated under the guidance of an OCT. Instructions for assembling appliances would be clearer if written by an OCT. So would income tax forms. Corporate training would be more efficient under an OCT’s direction.

The problem is not, as some authors suggest, that there are too many OCTs. The problem is that the College, and all OCTs, need to be more creative about all that the admirable OCT designation denotes, and we need to promote ourselves and each other accordingly.

— Vance McPherson, OCT, teaches science at Fond-du-Lac Denesuline First Nation in Fond-du-Lac, Sask.

Thoughts on LeSage

Portrait of LeSage

Re: Focus on LeSage

As a teacher and mediator with both the school board and union, I read with great interest the “Focus on LeSage” article (Professionally Speaking, September 2012). His (and Mahoney’s) forward thinking “no-fault” approach was both refreshing and necessary to find solutions to the problems outlined in the report. However, I do have some concerns about the recommendations and how the College will address them. For example, through mediation at the school board or union level, issues that have been deemed “resolved” can (and are) still forwarded to the College for investigation. This seems both redundant and unnecessarily punitive. Perhaps, in conjunction with school boards and teacher unions, a “who does what” discussion would help clarify the roles of each body. Perhaps the College should look at relinquishing investigating non-sexual/non-criminal matters and allow these issues to be dealt with exclusively at the local level. This may not only create a better partnership among each body, but may also act to stem vexatious complaints from threatening the reputation and career of those wrongly accused. Mediation is the answer to most of these complaints, not punishing and publishing.

— Paul Wesley, OCT, teaches at East York CI, Toronto DSB and is a mediator with the Toronto DSB and OSSTF.

Frequent freshening for AQs

Re: Additional Qualifications

I noticed the announcement regarding experience for AQs in the September Professionally Speaking and wanted to share my experience. I recently took my Special Education Part Two and Specialist course. For Part Two, I waited until I had a full year of Special Education experience in the role of a Special Education Resource Teacher and for the Specialist two years in the SERT role. I was surprised when I logged into the classes that many of my classmates had never taught in a Special Education specific role.

I found the specialist course to be mainly based on discussions-requirements to post on each others comments, to work in groups and, ultimately, to learn from one another. This was somewhat difficult when most of the topics were new to my classmates. For example, I worked with a group to create a safety plan. They were new to developing safety plans, and I, having made many, was looking for new advice and successful strategies for improving student safety. I would have enjoyed hearing from and learning from other experienced special educators, especially for the specialist course.

If teachers can enrol in any AQ, I hope course developers take that into consideration when reviewing and updating the courses, but knowing that this process is only every few years, there may be others feeling a bit disappointed.

— Susan Royal, OCT, is a teacher in Simcoe County DSB.

The retired teachers debate continues

Re: Teaching after retirement

Retired Teachers

The OCDSB is considering volunteers to support extracurricular activities (“Board seeks to save clubs,” Jennifer McIntosh, Orleans EMC, September 27, 2012). Retired teachers who wish to give their life meaning and be an asset to students can do so by volunteering, or don’t retire.

David Suzuki, one of my favourite teachers I never had, taught me to “Share — don’t be greedy.” (Professionally Speaking, September 2012).

— Mark Shulist, OCT, is an occasional teacher in the Ottawa Catholic SB.

Miss teaching? Consider volunteering

Re: Mary LaGrotteria

In regards to the letter written by retired principal Mary LaGrotteria in the September 2012 issue of Professionally Speaking, several threads need to be addressed.

LaGrotteria strongly disagrees that supply teaching should not be done by retired teachers. She asks whether or not a retired teacher will be judged negatively by taking some other type of employment — thus taking away a spot for a young person. To my mind the answer is “yes.” With a student unemployment rate in Ontario of 20.9 per cent (July 2012), there are others who would benefit from that job.

LaGrotteria is also speaking from a very personal point of view. She assumes that her presence in the classroom after retirement is valuable. While it may be, retired teachers need to be reflective in their practice and assess whether their methods and skills are current enough and whether their efforts are actually productive in their post-retirement practice. Furthermore, if such employment gives LaGrotteria “meaning,” then — if one is financially secure with a comfortable pension — why not volunteer your valuable skills for the benefit of your school community? Why not perpetuate the cycle of selfless giving?

In my undergraduate years, I volunteered at a Catholic elementary school in my hometown. Every week, a certain retired teacher volunteered her time to assist groups of primary students who needed help with reading. Currently, at Immaculata HS, there are several retired teachers who return to coach sports or participate in charity work. Those acts have made more of an impression on me than any retired teacher who “double dips.” I’m tired of hearing the argument “that teacher could easily have remained employed for many more years as a full-time teacher.” It implies that we should give such teachers extra accolades; such an argument is becoming stale. When I’m retired from teaching, I’ll volunteer my time.

— Joshua Blank, OCT, teaches English and social studies in the Ottawa Catholic SB.

Work is a choice

Re: “The profession should do more to help new teachers” (Professionally Speaking, June 2012) and “Personal reasons for teaching after retirement” (PS, September 2012)

Nobody expects senior businesspeople to stop working because their jobs are in demand. The same holds for firefighters, factory workers or municipal employees. The question of whether or not senior teachers should continue to work after leaving full-time teaching is predicated upon the unfair belief that teachers should have to live by entirely different rules than the rest of society. Instead of engaging in that conversation and validating its underlying assumption, teachers young and old should take every opportunity to assert that we deserve the same basic freedoms as everyone else.

— Jeff Clemens, OCT, is a high school occasional teacher in the Waterloo Region DSB.