A time for reflection and action
June 05 2020
Dear Members and Public,
Recent events in Ontario and other jurisdictions have renewed public awareness of racial injustice and inequity. Systemic racism is deplorable and robs individuals and groups from full participation as citizens and to live in a just society. Moreover, it deprives society from the talents, contributions and leadership of underrepresented individuals. Ontario’s education system has been recognized for its achievements on a global level and Ontario Certified Teachers are highly sought after beyond our provincial borders. But we would be remiss to use those accolades to deny or ignore that systemic racism isn’t present in our public institutions.
As a Council, our role and work are enshrined in legislation. We are mandated to protect the public interest through regulation. Infused into every aspect of our work are care, trust, respect and integrity, the four pillars that underpin Ontario’s Standards of Practice for members of the teaching profession. Current and past Councils have directed many initiatives related to equity, diversity and inclusivity to ensure the continuing education of members and guide the service delivery model at the College. A core element to all these initiatives is to bring awareness and understanding of the diverse needs of Ontario’s student population and to protect students from harm.
The College acknowledges it can always enhance its policies, practices and resources.
Together, with other stakeholders in both the education and regulation sectors, working within our respective mandates, we are eager to continue to develop our own awareness. To lead where appropriate and to consult and follow as needed to help address discriminatory behaviour and systemic racism. We need to listen. We need to reflect. We need to acknowledge. We need to act.
We need to acknowledge the lack of diversity on our own Council. We are predominately white members. How do we hear the voices of underrepresented groups to fully inform our decision making? How do we make decisions in the public interest if we’ve always been in a position of privilege? Individually we can make ourselves aware of our unconscious biases and acknowledge white privilege. Collectively, we can make a concerted effort to ensure diversity of Council members becomes the norm.
In the immediate future, this Council can commit to:
- actively inviting speakers from the Black community, the Indigenous community and other underrepresented groups so we can more fulsomely understand our mandate in serving the public interest from various perspectives
- introduce mandatory inclusivity and sensitivity training for Council members, both current and new, to more fulsomely understand the effects of anti-Black racism and discrimination against other underrepresented groups
- ensuring continued education of the membership to help dismantle systemic racism
- supporting individual OCTs who self-identify as a member of an underrepresented group to participate in College workgroups and/or Council and Committee work
Sample List of Initiatives
Enhanced Teacher Education Program
A key component of our work is the accreditation of Ontario’s teacher education program. In 2015, Ontario’s teacher education evolved to a four-semester program with an even greater focus on inclusive education. Ontario’s providers of teacher education programs must provide aspiring teachers with the tools to address all discriminatory behaviour, including anti-Black racism. The additional focus on issues of diversity and inclusion are fundamental to teacher preparation for today’s learning environments.
AQ Course Guidelines
To help Ontario Certified Teachers further their knowledge, we establish guidelines for ongoing teacher education in the form of Additional Qualifications (AQs). These guidelines are created and revised to meet evolving classroom needs in consultation with educators and key stakeholders. Moreover, they are all designed to incorporate the concepts of inclusivity, self-reflection, student voice and diversity.
As of today, there are more than 380 AQs developed, with 82 of them focused specifically on different types of diversity, including inclusivity in the classroom, support for newcomers, special needs and teaching LGBTQ.
Quarterly Communication to Members
To raise awareness of new and updated AQs, we highlight them annually in the March issue of Professionally Speaking, our official publication which is mailed direct to the College’s 234,000 members four times a year. In fact, the theme for the 2020 March AQ issue focused almost entirely on collaboration, anti-oppression and cultures of well-being.
The magazine’s editorial board reviews and approves articles based on content guidelines that meet our mandate. Accordingly, the guidelines reflect the Standards of Practice, Ontario’s English and French language schools and promote diversity through intent, images and language that respects gender, sexual orientation, ability/disability, ethnic/cultural backgrounds, elementary/secondary, public/catholic/French/private, rural/urban/suburban and different ages and stages.
In September 2019, the magazine’s cover featured educator Karen Murray, OCT and her work as a board-wide principal of equity, anti-racism and anti-oppression at the Toronto District School Board, which was part of a larger article about professional judgment. And, in December 2018, we featured Michael Naicker, OCT, on the December 2018 cover for his work in promoting diversity as vice-principal at Catholic Central High School, Windsor-Essex Catholic District School Board.
The magazine has also focused on equitable and ethical teacher leadership, inclusivity and diversity, while profiling and highlighting the work of educators who are making a difference in their communities.
Members and stakeholders also have access to a multitude of online resources that address anti-racism and anti-oppression at all levels, including all cultures and creeds, religious or sexual orientation, through our magazine, our electronic newsletter and on our website.
One such resource is our professional advisories, which are developed in consultation with educators and shared with experts and education stakeholders to provide critical feedback. As you know, racism and other discriminatory practices take many different forms, including the bullying of students and can manifest as mental health concerns. This is why the College has issued advisories on both Responding to the Bullying of Students and Supporting Students' Mental Health. The goal is to provide our members with guidance on professional judgment and practice and to remind them of their professional and legal responsibilities.
All advisories are distributed to the province’s Ontario Certified Teachers in print via the magazine and online by email. We generate additional awareness through our social media platforms and promote them by holding community discussions across the province. Moreover, we also make the advisories topics of discussion during our Annual Meeting of Members.
8th Council of the Ontario College of Teachers