Dear ETT Members,
I hope this message finds you well.
This week has brought some clarity for students, families, and educators. We finally received the memo from Minister of Education Stephen Lecce, and are relieved to know where we will be teaching through June and to the end of the school year. Reporting plans are in the works. There will be more coming shortly in this regard.
ETT members should be aware that there was a motion that passed on May 12 in a Special TDSB Committee of the Whole meeting that called for all teachers to engage in “consistent interactive remote learning.”
Now that the motion has passed, there is a call to the Board and Director to implement it.
As I have shared in video messages, emails, and newsletters throughout the closure, we are exercising our professional judgement in our use of methods and platforms in our distance learning programming with students based on ETFO bulletins and advisories.
Our work with students is consistent and remote, and our students are interacting daily with lessons, activities, and pre-recorded and written communications, of which programming items are posted to virtual learning platforms each and every day.
We are doing our due diligence as professionals, and it is good to have confirmation that the path forward for educators, students, and parents, from now until the end of June, is a little bit clearer.
It is also important to note, that, to date, we have not received any new, specific communications regarding this issue at our weekly ETT Round Table meetings with the Board.
Please see the attached letter sent to all TDSB Trustees, as part of my President’s deputation on May 12, in defense of our practice and professional judgement in programming during the closure.
Statement From ETT President Joy Lachica to TDSB Trustees
Defending Our Practice and Professional Judgement in Programming During the Closure
May 11, 2020
ETT stands together with our esteemed OSSTF colleagues to implore the Board to consider and reflect on the remarkable speed at which emergency remote teaching and learning practices are being implemented by our members for our very youngest learners. As Education Week draws to a close, we at ETT commend them as they are truly miracle workers, when, in other sectors, establishing sound and effective standards of practice might take months.
I understand that there is an emergency motion to be brought forward, and I urge you to please consider the following as you review the legal and prohibitive grounds for decision-making, as well as the pedagogical efficacy of approaches, that:
- ETT has engaged in professionally collaborative round table discussions with our management partners at the Board since the closure began about what emergency distance learning should look like. We have emphasized repeatedly and there is an understanding all around that effective remote learning is different than “synchronous” learning. Safety, privacy, and family status issues are at play if live-streaming is imposed. We need the Minister to reflect on these considerations, as, perhaps, he has not recognized their importance.
- During this pandemic, educators around the world are doing their utmost to support their communities, families, and students, as they care for their own health and well-being, while engaging their own children and those in their classrooms in remote learning. We are using best practices with all our integrity and expertise as professionals and pedagogues as we make professional judgement about methods and practice. It is important to recognize that such standards of practice for distance learning in other sectors could take months to implement in a regular climate.
- As we have learned from our members, pre-recorded lessons, narrations, and materials with posted activities and feedback afford flexibility for families in differing home contexts at any time of day. Synchronous scenarios do not offer that. Pausing, replaying, and chunking (recorded) segments provides IEP accommodations. Equity issues are, indeed, tantamount. Synchronous learning heightens equity issues. Not all students have access to a quiet place in their home to participate in synchronous learning, nor do all teachers.
- Professional boundaries are a significant matter for consideration. Members must carefully consider how they will maintain professional boundaries during interactions with students while providing instruction. Cell phones make it very easy for students or parents to record online interactions that could then be shared via social media with others. Recordings could be modified to change the tone, intent, or message of what was said. Our members must be extra vigilant and cautious when online with students. Allegations against educators must be investigated by boards and they cause significant stress for the members involved. Our safety, our privacy, and our own family status issues are paramount as we navigate emergency distance learning.
- Violence in the home is a reality for many women, children, men, and 2SLGBTQ+ peoples. Many students may have already been witness to violence or experience it on a regular basis. Canada’s Minister for Women and Gender Equality reported a 20 to 30 per cent increase in rates of gender-based violence and domestic violence in some regions of the country due to the COVID-19 crisis, with some shelters in Ontario experiencing a 400 per cent increase in calls for help. Violence is a reality in our communities and something that must be considered when implementing synchronous learning.
- We are concerned that strategies related to safety and security, including ways to protect ‘meetings’ and how to shut down meetings immediately, have not been provided by the Board. Fulsome training must be provided and should include:
- Clear explanations with steps to report inappropriate incidents and how to deal with students who may have been witness to harassment or racism.
- Strategies to immediately address any non-students, such as parents, guardians, and/or older siblings, who appear to be in the ‘meeting.’
- Consideration for where such ‘meetings’ take place in the home and awareness of artwork, books, and other items or people in the background deemed inappropriate.
- These are our looming and very serious concerns for our members around synchronous learning.
Thank you for your consideration of these items as you reflect on what is before you. We appreciate that the Board has always respected the professional judgement of our members regarding our pedagogy and practice in the regular school setting. We continue to appreciate the constructive dialogue and understanding together, as we sit at our respective tables to bring the very best to our students and families through this pandemic and beyond.