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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 or 101 Bloor St. W., Toronto, ON M5S 0A1.

Overseas Experience Matters

I have just read your September 2014 issue and found it interesting. Letters to the editor express concern at the fact that Ontario has continued for years to oversupply the teacher training programs with students, resulting in many well-trained teachers without work. On the other hand, regulation does not allow any teachers who find work overseas to be given credit, even though they plan, collaborate, mark, report to parents and do extracurricular activities.

Overseas, teachers use the Internet consistently, they Skype with experts and involve their class, they use TED Talks and YouTube presentations to support their work, they get involved in the community, they enjoy their work and demonstrate this to their students. All the teachers I work with are College-certified, and they are building some impressive experiences, taking students on week-long trips out of the country, engaging in training and certification courses and doing intensive work helping people who are less fortunate. These teachers’ experience and training should be counted, and certainly would be by anyone who has seen their work.

—Richard Dickson, OCT, is a teacher at the Canadian International School in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.

An image of an article from 'Professionally Speaking' titled, 'Passport to Learning'.

Engaging Teachers on Bullying

An image of an article from 'Professionally Speaking' titled, 'Bully-Proofing'.

As a classroom teacher, and thus the first line of defence against bullying in schools, I was happy to see your cover story for the March issue on bullying, a topic of tremendous significance for students.

After reading the article, which quoted five administrators and a professor of education — and zero teachers — I feel compelled to publicly question your goal of “engaging membership.” Unless, of course, you define membership as administrators only.

I hope that Professionally Speaking can be a forum for all parties to discuss the realities of 21st-century education.

—Jeremy Murray, OCT, is a senior social sciences teacher at Birchmount Park Collegiate Institute in Toronto.

Gearing up for Greatness

[Thank you for] a great article on Stan Hunter (Great Teaching, March 2015.) He continues to do amazing things with FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Robotics.

I helped start a FIRST team at Oakville Trafalgar High School 12 years ago. When I retired from teaching, I stayed on as a volunteer mentor. It allows me to continue working with great students. This year there are 128 high school teams registered in Ontario, plus hundreds of FIRST Lego League and Junior FIRST Lego League teams of elementary school students.

The program can’t run without volunteers, both technical and non-technical, and there’s no experience necessary. If you’re interested in starting or helping out with a team near you, find more information at

—George Chisholm, OCT, lives in Oakville and is the southern Ontario senior mentor for FIRST.

Health Hazards of Technology

An image of an article from 'Professionally Speaking' titled, 'Safety Rules'.

I was pleased to read the article “Safety Rules” in the December 2014 issue. Unfortunately, your article did not mention the risk of exposure to wireless radio frequency (RF) or microwave radiation (MWR) from routers and electronic devices now proliferating in our schools. RF was declared a possible carcinogen in 2011 (in the same category as lead and DDT), by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC). Many independently conducted research studies demonstrate serious biological effects of MWR, including sperm damage, DNA breaks (cancer), and learning and memory problems.

Recently, the United Federation of Teachers warned its 200,000 members about wireless radiation. In 2013, the BC Teachers’ Federation passed a resolution requiring on/off switches for Wi-Fi to help limit exposure. The Canadian Teachers’ Federation published the brief, The Use of Wi-Fi in Schools, to lobby Health Canada to update its exposure limits.

As your article outlines, the best safety protocols involve planning to avert future harm by taking appropriate safety precautions. It is past time for all parties to attend to the well-documented and credible body of research demonstrating that we may be unwitting participants, exposing students to a serious health hazard with incalculable long-term ramifications.

—Dorethy Luyks, OCT, is an elementary teacher at Walter E. Harris Public School and Norman G. Powers Public School in Oshawa.

FSL Teachers Deserve Respect

As a career Core French teacher, I need to respond to “Pop Quiz with Graham Fraser” (March 2015). While it is true that one of the biggest challenges in second-language learning is the lack of second-language teachers, rarely is there authentic discussion about the reason for this shortage: Second-language teachers are often treated as second-class teachers.

In elementary schools, for example, despite being the only teachers on staff who actually have to complete a subject-specific competency test in addition to basic FSL qualifications, we are relegated to working without our own classroom space. While it may seem inconsequential, I can tell you unequivocally that having a dedicated French space not only facilitates better teaching (enabling seating and groupings uniquely tailored to speaking activities, avoiding set-up and tear-down delays, ensuring working audiovisual equipment at all times), but it elevates the subject in the eyes of students, parents and other staff. Going to “the French room” helps students see French as a subject of value, with a teacher who is worthy of respect. If we truly want to attract and retain excellent FSL teachers, we need to extend to them the same rights and privileges as their co-workers.

—Kimberley Peters, OCT, is a Core French teacher and teacher-librarian at Beaverton Public School in Beaverton.

Balking at Bit.lys

I am very annoyed by Professionally Speaking’s use of addresses to shorten URLs. This shortening method was created to enable links to be embedded into character-limiting contexts such as tweets or text messages. The practice is extremely helpful when used in places where readers can click through to a link, but the unnecessary shortening of the URLs in print removes critical features that are communicated only by reading the entire URL. For example, the domain name provides clues about the source of the information, and may help readers determine if it is familiar or credible.

Also, the full URL usually contains words I can remember and type into a web browser address bar. I find copying the code much more of a challenge.

Finally, what if the link becomes broken? A user has no way of tracking down that information using a site’s search or menu features.

For all these reasons, your use of links in a print publication is a glaring contextual error that should be remedied. Please save them for your tweets!

—Yohonna Hodgins, OCT, is an elementary teacher with Markstay Public School in Sudbury.