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.

Kudos to Rainbow District School Board

PS cover Feb 2013

The March issue caught my attention because of the article “The New Face of Aboriginal Education.” For a good part of my career, I taught for a school board that provided educational services to five First Nations on the Georgian Bay shoreline.

I applaud the efforts that are being made in the Rainbow DSB to teach Native cultures. For too long our Canadian history books have given only a salutary reference to the Aboriginal inhabitants of the land. As a result, First Nations, Métis and Inuit have not felt included in the fabric of the country.

However, this may still not be enough to address the shortcomings of our educational systems. The Inuit, for instance, have always learned survival skills such as hunting and fishing, and making shelters from the example of the elders, mostly out on the land. Book learning is a very new thing culturally speaking for these people. If there is going to be any success at all, there will have to be a big change in how skills and knowledge are to be transmitted to the younger generation.

One of the biggest obstacles to obtaining a formal education is the amount of time students miss for traditional activities out on the land. In my experience, teaching high school science and math in the North, I could not find suitable learning materials that I could put into the hands of students so that they could work at their own pace. Most of the teachers I taught with were developing these kinds of instruments themselves.

We should be developing culturally appropriate learning materials that are programmed so students can work through them at their own pace.

A sort of “mastery learning” approach so that students progress on an individual basis. Grades should be done away with. It is the knowledge and skills that are important, not whether someone passes or fails.

James Mintz, OCT, is a retired high school science and mathematics teacher.

A well deserved honour

maureen smith

What a thrill to see Maureen Smith lauded for her contributions to the advancement of bilingual education in Ontario (“At the College,” Professionally Speaking, June 2013)! I was lucky enough to have been a French student of Maureen's at Althouse College (University of Western Ontario), and she is truly deserving of this honour. It was clear then from her example that having a passion for your work is its own rich reward. Maureen's enthusiasm and tireless promotion of bilingualism have doubtless inspired many more educators than just me. Congratulations!

Andrea Davidson, OCT, is a senior school French and journalism teacher at The Country Day School in King City, Ont.

Transition to teaching

In response to “Transition to teaching,” in the March 2013 issue, I am writing only now because the issue has come up the last few weeks, and there seems to be no change in the situation — most days, in my school, there have not been substitute teachers for absent teachers. As a consequence classes have had to be dispersed. Given the fact that so many certified teachers have no employment in the profession, the question arises why more teachers are not being hired.

Furthermore, as the article states, certified Ontario teachers are teaching in other parts of Canada, and in other countries. Ontario taxpayers are providing other jurisdictions with qualified teachers for whose training they did not have to pay. It is in effect a “teachers brain drain.”

Miguel Prohaska, OCT, teaches at Our Lady of Fatima Catholic School in the Toronto Catholic DSB.

Transition to Teaching

Outside lessons inside class

Transition to Teaching

I enjoyed reading your story, “Off-Duty Lessons” in the June issue of Professionally Speaking. I would like to see more stories like this one as they are inspiring, and there are many, many teachers across the province who have interesting hobbies. I am both a teacher and journalist and interview all the retirees in my school board every summer for a publication featuring their careers. In the past 10 years, I have interviewed a principal who was well on her way to becoming an opera singer, another who races horses and occasionally rode her horse to school, and a teacher (who is not yet retired) who trains swimmers for the Special Olympics. I, myself, am a female boxer as well as a competitive ice hockey player, and find skills from these two sports have helped me enormously in my teaching Core French in the classroom.

Stephanie Dancey, OCT, is a Core French and literacy teacher with the Peterborough Victoria Northumberland and Clarington Catholic DSB in Peterborough.

Technically speaking...

PS cover June 2013

Your June cover story caught my eye. I am the editor of a technology magazine, and the use of tech in education is an ongoing interest of mine. (My wife is a teacher, so I see Professionally Speaking regularly.)

I thought the article was very informative and the writer, Stefan Dubowski, did a good job of covering a variety of content in a readable manner.

I was a little baffled by the cover and inside photos. The article was about modern (mostly mobile) technology, while the art is pieces of old desktop PC components. It was eye-catching but also incongruous.

Peter Wolchak, editor of Backbone magazine.


to Aloysia Muskiluke, OCT, who won the DELL XPS10 multi-touch tablet with dock! (See the announcement in our June issue for details.)

Muskiluke teaches at Trenton HS, Hastings and Prince Edward DSB, in a Practical Learning Program, which has 10 developmentally delayed students between ages 14 and 20. “Using technology empowers kids,” she wrote to PS. “Unfortunately, finances are tight for both these students and our school. More often than not, they just don’t get this opportunity.” To learn about your OCT discount with DELL,
visit dell.ca/mpp/OCT.

  • Antonio Discenza, OCT, who teaches at St. Michael’s College, TDSB, is the proud owner of the entire first season of Arctic Air (see Final Exam, June 2013) because he liked us on Facebook.
  • Lynn Breault, OCT, who teaches at École secondaire catholique Sainte-Marie, in New Liskeard, wins a $25 Indigo gift card for taking part in our Facebook poll.

Finally, see the Fresh Start article to meet the winners of our FRESH START contest!