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. Address letters to: The Editor, Professionally Speaking at ps@oct.ca or 121 Bloor Street East, Toronto, ON M4W 3M5.

Admonishments and advocacy

Modelling admonishment

I was disheartened to read of a teacher being admonished for procuring, possessing and giving a colleague 1.5 grams of cannabis (September 2009). The most distressing part was that even though this wasn’t on school property, it was considered the member’s responsibility to be a role model at all times. How can you role model when there is no one to witness you?

I’ve been at a few teachers’ parties where people have overdone the wine, even using colourful language. Does the College encourage teachers to report behaviour they deem bad role modelling? If so, the College could get very busy. Driving 10 kilometres over the speed limit (illegal), shouting at a child’s soccer game (frowned upon), walking out of a bar after having one too many (potentially illegal), riding a bicycle with insufficient lights at dusk (illegal depending on time), using humour in the classroom (no, already covered – even the union magazine published an unsigned article on the dangers of that).

Could this be just the start? Am I, as a teacher, allowed to vote for the Marijuana Party? Can I have its sign on my lawn? Are there other political parties I should be wary of because it may be considered bad role modelling? Any religions I should refrain from participating in?

As teachers, we fill out a defence declaration every year. Isn’t this enough for behaviours off the job?

I would like the College to show some respect for boundaries. New bureaucracies tend to inflate their own importance and may end up with as much power as they deem fit to grab. Good for the students of Ontario?

Is anyone watching?

John Douglass Hume, OCT, teaches Grade 5 math and English at Woodroffe Avenue PS in Ottawa.

Medalling advocacy

Congratulations on the outstanding article Gold Medal Learning (December 2009).

The message that we do not have to own the podium, just be the best that we can be, inspired our Professional Learning Community to prepare our February newsletter and classroom presentation on self-advocacy using the Olympic metaphor.

It is refreshing and powerful to connect character development with self-confidence, self-awareness and self-advocacy in all students, including those with learning disabilities.

Thank you for helping us all hold the torch high!

Ron Lessard is Executive Director of the Learning Disabilities Association of Sudbury.

Reverse the surplus

I read with interest Transition to Teaching (March 2010), which documents increasingly bleak employment prospects for new teachers.

It is important to recall that a primary cause of Ontario’s current surplus was a decision in the late 1990s to increase the number of teacher graduates by 40 per cent, which the College was instrumental in promoting. New programs opened, existing programs grew and international schools were accredited. But what should have been a short-term adjustment to address a brief spike in retirements became permanent, even though enrolment has been falling.

Given its role in increasing the teacher supply, what is the College now doing to address the surplus?

Miriam Sobel is a concerned resident of Ottawa.

Retro stereotypes

I’m a retired teacher and always look forward to the arrival of Professionally Speaking. Every issue reassures me that the future of education in Ontario is in the very capable hands of talented, creative teachers committed to inspiring young learners.

But your cover photo of three science teachers observing two Grade 10 students at Walkerville CI in Windsor (March 2010) made me uneasy. The male student in the foreground seems to be the active participant in a science experiment – with the rapt attention of three teachers and the doting regard of a female classmate. Two female teachers seem to take a secretarial role, while the male teacher encourages the protege.

Images such as this reinforce pre-feminist notions that science is a male realm where females are supportive and admiring cheerleaders.

The cover juxtaposed with the otherwise intelligent content provides incongruous messages and a reminder that we as educators must be vigilant in recognizing and challenging old attitudes and negative stereotyping

Our students deserve no less.

Sheila Kozmin, OCT, is a retired teacher who taught high school English and Special Education in the St. Clair Catholic DSB.