OCT OEEO

PS_March_2020

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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 March 2020 In the spirit of open conversation and to support an array of perspectives, Professionally Speaking welcomes letters to the editor. The opinions expressed in letters are solely those of the authors and should not be interpreted as the view of the College. We reserve the right to edit letters for length and clarity. Letters should be sent to ps@oct.ca, be in response to content in the magazine and include the writer's phone number and registration number. Tell us what you think! PHOTO: DSG PHOTOGRAPHY We are listening I n our December issue, we published a letter to the editor that hurt and distressed many members. We deeply regret the pain this caused. The letter was in response to the article "Teaching LGBTQ Students," which was published in the June 2019 edition and supported the College's mandate to protect students and the Ethical Standards for the Teaching Profession. The article offered strategies for creating inclusive classrooms and steps to help teachers prioritize the visibility of all students. (See below.) The published letter was a member's personal reflection and not the position of the Editorial Board or the College. It questioned what to do when one's personal beliefs are in conflict with one's professional and legal obligations. Af ter significant deliberation, our Editorial Board chose to publish the letter because the Letters to the Editor section is a forum for members to express their views in response to material that has appeared in the magazine. The College received dozens of letters and more than a thousand social media posts in response to the letter. We are listening. While the Editorial Board's content review policy is robust and sound, there is always room for reflection, improve- ment and growth. With that, the board will implement an additional step going forward when reviewing poten- tially sensitive material. In addition to Godwin Ifedi Chair, Editorial Board seeking consensus when considering whether or not to publish such material, it will seek opinion beyond the Editorial Board, as necessary. Furthermore, to address the question at the heart of the original letter to the editor, the Editorial Board has decided to publish an article in an upcoming issue that will explore what members should do if their personal views conflict with aspects of the curriculum, instructional styles or the philosophy of their employer. Sincerely,

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