Support, relevancy and resources

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 publication style. To be considered for publication all letters must be signed and provide the writer's daytime phone number. Letters should be addressed to: The Editor, Professionally Speaking, 121 Bloor Street East, Toronto ON M4W 3M5; e-mail:


Support for teachers

I welcome the College's plan for a $40-million, two-year mandatory program of support for newly certified teachers, reported in PS News (December 2003).

I know from my experience, I needed someone to show me the ropes. If it had not been for a very understanding and supportive principal I would have sunk.

However, I would extend this program of support to all teachers, new or experienced. Providing time for lifelong in-service learning and self-assessment prevents burnout and stimulates teachers to meet their potential. Students benefit exponentially.

I have just returned to teaching from an educational leave of absence with a renewed love of learning and teaching. Professional development is absolutely crucial. I urge the College to take this program further. Let's include all teachers and instructors who teach our citizens.

Sareh Wodlinger is an ESL/LINC instructor at Kennedy Language Centre with the Toronto District School Board.

Panic and relevancy

In Leanne Miller's article, Ensuring Literacy in an Age of Scrutiny (December 2003), she quotes a literacy leader with the Limestone board to the effect that many kids actually panic when taking a high-stakes test. It needs to be noted that everything about the Ontario Secondary School Literacy Test (OSSLT) - the manner in which it is administered, the focus placed on it by administration, its totalitarian rules, the paper-and-pencil format - everything is designed to induce this panic.

She quotes another Limestone teacher on the "success" of the OSSLC (the course for kids who couldn't pass the test itself - the "failures," as they no doubt see themselves): "There's no Shakespeare or novel study - they read things that are relevant and practical."

This demonstrates exactly the kind of society the test would like to generate: a society where Shakespeare and novel study are irrelevant. Not in my classroom!

Peter Giaschi teaches high school in the Hastings-Prince Edward District School Board - he formerly taught English and currently teaches dramatic arts.

Literacy in an age of post-modernity

How disappointing that Leanne Miller did not question fundamental assumptions about what literacy is in her article, Ensuring Literacy (December 2003). The concept of literacy held by the EQAO and embodied in the OSSLT - the uncritically assumed standard underlying Miller's discussion - is English-language dependent, culturally Anglo-centric and limited to paper.

If we intend to educate students as responsible citizens in the 21st century, we must attend to current literacies - including multi-modal interfaces, multicultural viewpoints and multilingual texts. The OSSLT neither predicts nor ensures students' ability to cope with the literate demands of the postmodern world.

Heather Lotherington is an associate professor of multilingual education in the faculty of education at York University.

Spelling modification techniques

When I taught high school electronics and other subjects, I used a simple device to improve spelling.

I would take off one mark for every word misspelled up to the total marks available on the assignment, usually 10 or less (that is, one mark per word no matter how many times it was misspelled). Correct spelling was available from the textbook, the dictionary on my desk or from me: just ask. They could earn marks back, two for every assignment without misspelling. They loved it when they got 12/10 on an assignment.

Within weeks most students had earned back lost marks and continued to turn in error-free assignments. I never marked spelling on tests, only assignments.

I kept it up for years, until a principal ordered me to stop.

Robert J. Sweet taught high school for 26 years in the Halton District School Board.

Arts resources

I was delighted to read The Play's the Thing (December 2003).

I would like to suggest two additions to the Theatre & Drama Resources list (page 25): the Ontario Association of Specialty Program Schools ( or and the International Network of Performing and Visual Arts Schools ( or

Catherine M. Thompson is past president of the International Network and an arts teacher, currently on leave from Niagara District Secondary School.