OCT OEEO

PS_December_2016

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34 Professionally Speaking | December 2016 With an increasingly diverse student popu- lation, the Waterloo District School Board (WDSB) introduced a mentoring program two years ago to address systemic barriers for Aboriginal and visible minorities with leadership ambitions within public education. The Aboriginal and Racialized Teachers for Leadership program, part of a broader board policy to develop future leaders, aligns with Ontario's Equity and Inclusive Education Strategy (2009), which recommends "positive employment practices that support equitable hiring." "If you have the same people tapping the same people [on the shoulder] then [equitable hiring] is never going to happen," says Deepa Ahluwalia, equity and inclusion officer for WDSB. "If we are going to be of good service to our students, then we need to address it." At École secondaire Jeunes sans frontières, a Grade 7 to 12 school in Brampton in the Conseil scolaire Viamonde, flags from almost 30 coun- tries, many from French-speaking Africa, hang in the school atrium. Well-represented in its fast-growing population of 550 students are children of immigrants or newcomers themselves, including recent refugees. On site is a Peel Region francophone settlement agency that assists new arrivals in making a smooth transition to an unfamiliar Canadian school culture. Audrey Neka, from Ivory Coast, had no friends at Jeunes sans frontières when she arrived four years ago. Through the settle- ment agency, she joined accueil des nou- veaux arrivants, a student-run welcoming committee. She credits an older student mentor, who by chance lived in the same apartment building as her, for helping her to overcome early academic struggles. "Now I know if I have issues [at school] I can go to the people who can help me," says Neka, a mentor herself. Through the partnership with the agency, says Jeunes sans frontières princi- pal Josée Landriault, OCT, "We know our new arrivals are being taken care of and that lets us concentrate on the students we have here." Despite inclusion progress elsewhere, the integration of students with emo- tional and developmental disabilities is a "last bastion" for schools, says Western University's Jacqueline Specht. "We still LEADERSHIP TRAINING FOR UNDER-REPRESENTED GROUPS opportunity for diverse learners to meet the requirements of the literacy curricu- lum and, as importantly, reduce their stress over Mother's and Father's Day. "It's about knowing your audience and knowing your students and fostering those relationships to ensure that each student has success in all aspects, not just academically," she says. Like Duncan, Jeunes sans frontières English teacher Renée Petit-Pas, OCT, emphasizes the need to lay the ground- work to ensure success for students with different skill levels. Last year, as co-ordinator of the school's International Baccalaureate (IB) diploma (an international education program that teaches skills for a global- ized world), Petit-Pas taught a Grade 11 English class of IB students, university- bound non-IB students, English as a Second Language learners and one student with a developmental disability functioning at an elementary school level. She tailored the curriculum so that those weak in English could speak French and participate in the class discussion. She also adapted the program for the low-functioning student. "This was some- one who intellectually was fairly limited, but I wanted him to feel welcome and comfortable and part of my class." Providing opportunities for students of different skill levels to connect with each other "has been incredibly reward- ing," says Petit-Pas. Having established an inclusive setting in the English class, she invited the entire class to help the student with the developmental disability to complete his favourite project: starring in his own short film. All of the students jumped in willingly –– the epitome of inclusion for Petit-Pas. Back at Scarborough's Eastview, Morden reflects on the successful powwow and what it takes to practise succesful inclusion. "Our goal has been to jump in. If we make mistakes, someone will tell us and will learn a better way," he says. "This is not the time for hesitation." PS have [these students] bused halfway across the city to special classes," she says. Specht recommends increased profes- sional development to instil confidence in those teaching diverse learners. "The attitude has to be that all children belong in the classroom and that I [the teacher] can do this," she says. "There are lots of teachers who [practise] inclusion really well and who realize that they don't have to create 27 [different] lesson plans." That proved true last year for Ottawa- Carleton District School Board's Manor Park Public School teacher Julie Duncan, OCT, whose ethnically diverse, mixed- income class of 24 Grade 4/5 students included 15 with individualized education plans (two with autism). Duncan was concerned about high stress levels among students, many of whom were from single-parent homes. So, she suggested an alternative event to Mother's and Father's Day to honour a significant parent, relative or neighbour. Last spring, for "FamJam" –– so named by the students –– they wrote personal let- ters to their valued adult, practised public speaking (reading excerpts from their letters for short video clips presented later) and used math and graphing skills to organize the potluck menu and seating plan for 80 guests. At the event, each child-adult pair received a commemora- tive photo taken by a Manor Park teach- er, who was also a skilled photographer. For Duncan, the emotional event (some guests left in tears) created an "It all comes down to the attitudes and the beliefs of teachers."

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