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16 IN YOUR CLASSROOM Professionally Speaking March 2019 ILLUSTRATION: KIM SALT Professional Practice Maintaining student attention levels in the classroom is often difficult for teachers; it affects both the seasoned and the new. After experiencing this challenge first-hand and trying various approaches throughout my career, I eventually landed on a technique that works well for me; it starts with getting to know your students' character! Once you've accomplished that, I suggest you tr y doing a physical warm-up at the beginning of each class, as well as incorporating mindfulness meditation and deep breathing exercises — this is what I've found has helped me handle my more rambunctious classes. (For instance, one combination is jumping jacks or lunges followed by yoga poses.) Ever y group and teacher is dif ferent, but if you begin with this approach, you can then fine-tune it to what will work best for you and your students within your learning environment. DAVID PARMER, OCT TORONTO DISTRICT SCHOOL BOARD HAVE A CLASSROOM IDEA TO SHARE? Send it to us at ps@oct.ca and your advice could be published in an upcoming issue! Check out our Professional Practice Research archive at oct-oeeo.ca/research. Amp Up Your Eco-Education BY STEFAN DUBOWSKI You know the three Rs of environmentalism: Reduce, Reuse and Recycle, but how about Rethink? Resources for Rethinking (r4r.ca), a website with English and French lesson plans, books, videos and more, invites students to think compre- hensively about biodiversity, climate change and other matters of sustainability — either as a stand-alone subject or linking it to topics such as math, social studies and art. The non-profit Learning for a Sustainable Future (LSF) created the site and has teachers review featured resources (which are matched to the Ontario curriculum), making it easy to find material for all grades and subject matter. Simply use the handy home-page, pull-down menu to search by level, topic and jurisdiction. For instance, are you teaching Grade 10 business and commerce? If so, the site recommends Chew on This, a book on the fast food industry that outlines the environ- mental impact of large-scale meat production facilities. How about Grade 5 math? Try Playing with Decimals, a lesson in which students explore cost-of-living differences between developed and developing countries. Grade 8 arts? Try Antifreeze; Anti Fish, a play that illustrates the relationship between storm drains and water ecosystems. If you're not sure where to start, visit the Hot Topics tab for a calendar of environmental events like World Food Day, Waste Reduction Week and the COP 24: UN Climate Change Conference, all of which you can use as jumping-off points for classroom activities. The Ministry of Education's elementary-level resource guide Environmental Education: Scope and Sequence of Expectations, explains that students require the knowledge and skills to understand the complex issues that affect the environment, both now and in the future. With Resources for Rethinking, you will find a range of tools that will help students reach this increasingly important goal. 36 37 Professionally Speaking June 2019 June 2019 Professionally Speaking I t was two years ago when Ian and Stephanie Clark noticed their middle child, AJ (not his real name) — seven years old and in Grade 2 — was acting out. "For most of the year, there was a surface-level explanation: AJ was being a kid and trying to test bound- aries," Stephanie says. "Then, before the school year ended, AJ shared that he wanted to wear girls' clothes, but feared this form of self-expression would not be accepted." The couple — who use plural pronouns "they, them and their" when referring to their biologically male child — were stunned by AJ's sense of self-awareness. But sadly, Stephanie says, AJ's (and her) worries didn't come out of left fi eld. Despite living in a diverse town, "the LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans- gender, two spirit and queer) commun- ity does face biases, discrimination and the struggle for acceptance." This intolerance continues to creep into classrooms across the province, even though there are policies and legislation meant to protect students (including Ontario's Equity and Inclusive Education policy). A Mani- toba Teachers' Society study pub- lished in 2015 called The Every Teacher Project on LGBTQ-Inclusive Education in Canada's K–12 Schools is riddled with dire statistics: 49 per cent of educators report hearing homophobic comments ("that's so gay") daily or weekly; 55 per cent were aware of LGBTQ kids, who had experienced harassment, engaging in self-harming; and though 97 per cent of teachers say their school is safe, the number nosedives when focusing on LGBTQ students' well-being. Egale Canada Human Rights Trust (an organization that promotes inclusion and informs public policy) found 44 per cent of trans students are likely to miss classes due to safety concerns. Fortunately, there's a good-news story to tell: Research shows the vast majority of teachers are aware and supportive of LGBTQ-inclusive educa- tion (including Professionally Speaking's readers, who asked for more coverage on the topic in the latest reader survey). David Parmer, OCT, a secondary science teacher at Toronto's Dr. Norman Bethune Collegiate Institute, says he's made a conscious effort to keep these students top of mind over his 25 years of teaching. "I'm fully aware of the statistics that show suicide rates among LGBTQ youth is very high, and it's important to me to create a safe and welcoming space. I strive to have my students feel repre- sented in our classroom." Perhaps you share Parmer's passion but don't feel well versed or trained in creating a more inclusive environment — you're not alone. Many teachers say they could use a boost of confi dence and knowledge to help them better connect with and teach LGBTQ students. We spoke to educators who are successfully incorporating the curriculum and prioritizing the visibility of all students in their classrooms. Here's their advice. 1. PRACTICE SELFREFLECTION It's not the most obvious fi rst step, but the College's Deputy Registrar Joe Jamieson, OCT, says it's incumbent upon educators to demonstrate care, trust, respect and integrity in the workplace. That's why it's important to look inward. "Ask 'Do I have any biases about the LGBTQ community?'" he says. "If you have a negative perception, that's something that needs work; it will be hard to interact with the necessary care and respect these students deserve." 2. SOAK UP KNOWLEDGE "The feeling of being intimidated by a lack of knowledge or training is com- mon. However, we've found that the best way to overcome our apprehen- sions has been to fi nd opportunities where we can learn and gain confi - dence," says Tess Della-Pieta, OCT, a teacher at École secondaire catholique Pierre-Savard in Ottawa. As one of several LGBTQ advocates in her school, Della-Pieta says her administration's support has allowed staff to not only go to seminars, but to develop their own educational forums. "A few years ago, we organized and hosted the fi rst annual 'Rencontre interscolaire'— a one-day conference with workshops and guest panels discussing current issues, tools, next steps and future goals within our board." As a member of the LGBTQ commun- ity, John Paul Kane, OCT, who teaches primary grades in Toronto, says getting acquainted with students who identify as LGBTQ takes initiative. "Request professional development, and reach out to Gay-Straight Alliances and colleagues in neighbouring schools where there are programs to create inclusive and safe spaces. Visit to see them in action." Kane says each school should have an equity representative who liaises with their board's equity department. "If you don't have an equity rep, become one." The College offers an Additional Qualifi cation course on teaching LGBTQ students. (See sidebar for details.) LETTERS TO THE EDITOR 12 Professionally Speaking December 2019 Professionally Speaking welcomes letters to the editor. We reserve the right to edit letters for length and to conform to our publication style. To be considered for publication, letters should be in response to an article or ad published in the magazine and include 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. Tell us what you think! Yoga's place in the classroom: an ongoing debate I am writing in response to the letter about yoga and faith-based practices in the classroom published in the June edition of Professionally Speaking, as well as the two subsequent letters in the September issue. I would like to offer a different point of view as a teacher in a Catholic school board. As a Catholic teacher, I believe that my job is not only teaching the curriculum, but also teaching the Catholic faith and integrating it into various subjects. Since yoga has roots in Hinduism, I would not feel comfort- able practising it or teaching it to my students. One of the letters in the previous issue of this magazine suggested that such a view could be xeno- phobic, but I see this as a way to protect the rights and beliefs of teachers and students. There needs to be a way in which teachers or students who are not comfortable with certain practices are not made to feel like they are obligated to participate in them. In addition, I believe that it is appropriate for Catholic schools to inte- grate their faith into the entire school curriculum (within Catholic schools) and that at least from this angle, yoga — a faith-based practice — would not be appropriate. Anastasia Chvedova, OCT, is a kindergarten to Grade 6 occasional teacher with the Oawa Catholic District School Board. with this line in the article: "It's incumbent upon educators to demonstrate care, trust, respect and integrity in the workplace." But how can we demonstrate integrity when we do something which is against what we believe? Nancy George, OCT, is an occasional teacher who teaches junior/intermediate math in the York Region District School Board. When classroom activities are in conflict with beliefs This is in response to the article about showing inclusive- ness to the LGBTQ community in the June issue of Professionally Speaking. We know that our boards place much importance on inclusion. But we need to dig deeper and realize that this might not always be in line with teachers' and students' religious convictions. How do we show inclusion and freedom to these teachers and stu- dents? Are they given enough freedom for their beliefs? Being an occasional teacher, I have stepped into class- rooms and been required to follow up on projects already in progress where students were engaged in assignments like making posters in support of LGBTQ students and families. I often think to myself, do these assignments take into consideration the kids and teachers whose religious beliefs do not support these lessons? Do the parents and guardians of these students grant permission for them to do such assignments? And are all the teachers given freedom of choice when it comes to administering such assignments? How can teachers go against their conscience and assign work that's not in tune with their core belief? I do agree

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