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.

Inclusivity and professional development

Addressing homophobia

I just wanted to commend Professionally Speaking on its recent cover story by Kate Lushington (Building Inclusive Schools, June 2010). As both an out gay educator and a member of the College, I found it quite powerful to read about and recognize such a cross-section of my peers thoughtfully taking on this much-needed work across our province.

Ken Jeffers, OCT, is Co-ordinator of Gender-Based Violence Prevention at the Toronto DSB.

And intellectual disability

What prompts me to respond to the Lushington article is the opening exchange. The teacher’s response to a student’s “gay” remark evokes the student’s reversion to “retarded,” to which the teacher replies, “Do you mean stupid?”

This response perpetuates a common antipathy against students who have an intellectual disability. I used to tell my students there’s no point in making mistakes if we don’t learn from them, and I defined stupidity as the failure to learn from mistakes. I regret taking that harsh approach.

In my retirement I volunteer in the Community Living movement. I now recognize my previous uses of “stupid” and “lazy” as mean-spirited slights on learning differences that we fail to adequately address in our teaching. As in fighting homophobia, love, not hate, is the answer. Thus, the broader lesson here is to accept one another in our diversity.

I see the moral of the personal stories in Lushington’s article as promoting inclusiveness in all respects, not just sexual orientation. In other words, the diversity and equity policy must extend to everyone.

Salvatore Amenta, OCT, is Regional Director of Community Living Ontario.

Lesson Study

I feel that the full-time classroom teacher is the true expert when it comes to creating, using and sharing high-yield strategies. We are the true reservoir of ideas and talent that foster greater student success.

Collaborating with our peers formally and informally is part of our daily routine. Therefore, professional development built on a framework of mentorship and collaboration is a step in the right direction.

I agree wholeheartedly with “less emphasis on what is new and more emphasis on what works” (Lesson Study, March 2010). Too often, the best minds seem to tell us that the last decade’s experts were wrong.

In the twilight years of my career, I hope to teach in a developing country. I always feel grounded when I think of boiling down teaching to the bare minimum. To me, the only necessities would be eager and motivated students mentored by an inspiring and dedicated teacher. Somewhere to sit in the shade of a mature tree would be nice.

Lesson Study, at first glance, seems to be a step in the right direction. It can foster an ideal of peer collaboration and partnership. If it is designed so that coaches are drawn directly from the pool of full-time classroom teachers, I think it will ensure that the lessons are effective and pragmatic.

I hope that coaches are limited to a specific term of a year or two before they pass their responsibility to one of the teachers they have mentored. In this way, authentic capacity will be built.

Romeo Augustus, OCT, teaches Grade 6 at Guardian Angels Catholic School of the Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic DSB in Waterdown.

New AQ courses

Now that many school boards are moving away from hiring specialist teachers at the intermediate level, it is more important for teachers to be experts in every subject through Grade 8.

I was gladdened to see that the OCT, ETFO and many Ontario universities immediately saw the need for an AQ course in intermediate mathematics. However, more AQ courses are needed. English, science and social studies are all subjects where teachers need to be both passionate about curriculum and confident in their ability in order to inspire students to achieve greatness.

Although I disagree with the practice of Grade 7 and 8 teachers being responsible for many subjects, I do realize we must be prepared. I hope that, as an organization that supports teachers and promotes excellence in the classroom, you will agree that more training should be offered in these concrete and practical curriculum-based areas.

Colleen Looby, OCT, teaches intermediate English and math and is currently on maternity leave from the Ottawa-Carleton DSB.