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Welcome to the RSEKN blog! 
Here, you will see postings from our regional teams and partners throughout Ontario!  What you see below is a sample of RSEKN blogs that have been published since our network launch. But wait, there's more! Make sure to visit RSEKN's French site to read more blogs from our French partners!

Interested in submitting to the RSEKN Blog? 
Contact your Regional Team Lead to see how you can post about you and/or your organization's work in equity!

Un appel à l’action- À la suite de l’attentat en Nouvelle Zélande

posted Apr 16, 2019, 3:15 PM by Ontario GRT - GTA   [ updated Apr 17, 2019, 3:59 AM ]

L’attentat en Nouvelle Zélande a profondément ébranlé la communauté musulmane. Le vendredi, ou jumuah, en arabe, signifie la journée de la prière en congrégation. C’est une période de temps sacrée en Islam jusqu’au point qu’un sourate du coran porte le même titre. Cet attentat a perverti cette journée, et a laissé derrière lui plus que 50 morts innocents y compris les vieillards et les enfants. Pour couronner le tout, le terroriste filmait son attaque brutale en vive sur les réseaux sociaux, notamment Facebook. Cette publicité lui donnait l’attention qu’il cherchait et diminuait l’attention sur ses victimes.

Sans doute, cet attentat était une grande tragédie. C'était l’islamophobie à l'extrême; cependant, il faut comprendre le mécanisme derrière l’attaque, et s'adresser au grand système préalable mis en place qui donnait lieu à ces actions.

Au niveau des médias, l’islam est étroitement lié au terrorisme. Le public n’est plus sensible lorsqu’un terroriste “musulman” se présente à l'écran. En fait, ces derniers attendent qu’il soit “islamique” ou “musulman.” On remarque de ce fait lorsqu’on regarde des émissions et films d’Hollywood ayant des terroristes “islamiques/ musulmans”, par exemple Homeland, True Lies , Iron Man et bien d’autres. C’est une formule bien conçue chez Hollywood selon laquelle les musulmans devraient être présentés comme abusifs, violents, ignorants, bêtes et haineux envers l’Occident. Ce type porte une barbe et il est brun et poilu. Pour les musulmanes, les éléments stéréotypiques existent aussi. Elles sont voilées, leurs corps sont cachés sous des draps noirs. Elles sont muselées, abusées, et illettrées. L’Hollywood investi beaucoup d’argent pour maintenir cette formule. L’objectif est clair; rallier le plus grand nombre de spectateurs pour contrer un groupe cible afin d'augmenter le revenu.

Ces stéréotypes ne restent pas sur l'écran. Selon l'étude de Wilkins-Laflamme (2018), depuis 2011 les sentiments négatifs envers les musulmans sont en hausse au Canada, même parmi les groupes minoritaires tels que les noirs, le LBGTQ, etc. Ces derniers sont en lien avec les éléments stéréotypiques présents dans les films d'Hollywood et sont reflétés dans la vie quotidienne des musulmans. En outre, chaque musulman individuel est perçu comme représentatif du groupe entier, et se retrouve non seulement à justifier ses propres croyances et son style de vie mais ceux des autres. C’est mon cas personnel. On me pose souvent des questions concernant les musulmanes qui portent le hijab (le voile), même si je ne le porte pas. Je suis forcé de répondre aux questions intrusives: pourquoi le voile existe et plus précisément, pourquoi telle ou telle femme le porterait. On me considère comme l'autorité sur tous les adhérents de la religion malgré qu’il y ait des milliards de musulmans autour du monde provenant de cultures différentes.

Face à ce climat, que peut-on faire? Dans les écoles, il faut sensibiliser les élèves sur la diversité en général, y compris celle des musulmans. Je propose une activité sur les stéréotypes. Les élèves ressortent tous les stéréotypes concernant les musulmans sur des posts-its et par la suite, les organisent en catégories (les femmes, les groupes ethniques, les vêtements, etc.). Cette activité, qui se fait en anglais ou en français, permettrait aux élèves de sortir tout ce qu’ils pensent savoir sur les musulmans. La suite de l'activité est la partie la plus importante. Une fois les stéréotypes confrontées, l’enseignant doit fournir des exemples qui les brisent. Ceci peut impliquer les invités venant en salle de classe ou aller visiter des mosquées, etc. Avant d’entreprendre cette activité, il faut s’assurer de créer un climat en salle de classe dans lequel les élèves se sentent à l’aise de s’exprimer librement et ont un esprit ouvert.

De plus, les enseignants devraient porter attention aux ressources employées en salle de classe durant les leçons afin de promouvoir une ouverture d’esprit et d'éviter les éléments stéréotypiques. Les personnages

dans les histoires qu’on présente aux élèves devraient être représentatifs de la diversité qui nous entoure, y compris les protagonists musulmans. En immersion, lorsqu’on visionnent les clips-vidéos en français, il importe de montrer aux élèves les musulmans parlant en français ou provenant des pays francophones comme ceux au Maghreb ou en Afrique.

Contrer l’islamophobie dans nos écoles exige l'implication de toute la communauté d'apprentissage (les parents, les élèves, l’administration et les enseignants). De nos jours nous ne pouvons plus nous fier sur ce que nous voyons et entendons à l'écran. Nous devons être toujours en mode de questionnement par rapport aux stéréotypes, surtout dans les nouvelles, les films, etc. C’est cette vigilance et pensée critique qu’il faut transmettre aux élèves. Les membres de la communauté d’apprentissage devraient assumer la responsabilité de s’engager avec les uns et les autres et bâtir des relations avec le reste de la communauté afin d’éviter un autre attentat comme celui en Nouvelle-Zélande.

Par: Jafar A. Hussain

Jafar A. Hussain est enseignant en immersion française du conseil scolaire de Toronto. Il participe activement aux programmes reposant sur les initiatives globales et l'équité. Entre 2007 et 2013, il faisait partie de l'équipe de TakingItGlobal (TIGED), Global Partners Junior, Global Scholars et Safe and Caring Schools. M. Hussain est chercheur dans le domaine de l'éducation et publie des articles sur l’usage de la technologie en immersion française ainsi que sur la pratique réfléchie en salle de classe. Il détient son baccalauréat en Études françaises de l'Université York, son baccalauréat en Éducation et sa maîtrise en Didactiques des langues secondes de l'Université d’Ottawa.


Références:

Coran-francais URL: https://www.coran-francais.com/coran-francais-sourate-41-0.html

Islamophobie.net: http://www.islamophobie.net/

Phys.org: https://phys.org/news/2018-03-muslims-high-discrimination-canada.html

Vox.com: https://www.vox.com/videos/2017/2/23/14699072/hollywood-muslims-terrorist-stop

Wilkins-Laflamme, Sarah. (2018). Islamophobia in Canada: Measuring the Realities of Negative Attitudes Toward Muslims and Religious Discrimination. Canadian Review of Sociology/Revue canadienne de sociologie. 55. 86-110. 10.1111/cars.12180.

Zafar, Abid. (2018). Portrayal of Muslims in the Bollywood Movies. 97-107. URL: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/328580196_Portrayal_of_Muslims_in_the_Bollywood_Movies


My Relationship With Equity Throughout My Bachelor of Education

posted Apr 15, 2019, 4:24 AM by Ontario GRT - GTA   [ updated Apr 15, 2019, 4:29 AM ]

Hello/ Bonjour, I am Mathoora Uthayakumar and I want to thank you for reading this post! I am a primary/junior teacher candidate who will be working with different stakeholders and the FESI committee to ensure the annual FESI/RSEKN conference will be successful.  I look forward to tackling the barriers and disrupting the cannon especially during this time in the world of education, as Ontario is seeing a crucial change.

As I am finishing up my last school practicum, I am eager to head into the community and join a group of educators who are trying to elicit change and have a positive impact among our youth.  However, I am feeling discouraged.  Why?  I have observed educators continuing to teach our students outdated information about Canada.  This is part of the “hidden curriculum.”  Students are not well informed, if at all, about Canada's colonial history, and are still being taught about Canada through a settler-colonial mindset.  This is often difficult to undo without exposing this mindset and without someone to show you how to engage in decolonizing our minds and our pedagogy.  Students do not understand the importance of the land acknowledgement and often counter my requests to listen carefully with a confused “Why?” 

In all fairness, I can’t be upset with them; they have never learned the meaning of the land acknowledgement.  It is March and I wonder about how many classrooms have actually unpacked the land acknowledgement.  As I entered practicum, I tried to assess how much the students knew about Indigenous histories.  I realized very shortly that their knowledge was limited.  This led to my first initiative in the class: creating and executing a unit about the first peoples of Canada.  I wonder how our education system and society would differ in the education system supported Indigenous education in the way it supports EQAO.  I am fortunate to have been able to share my knowledge with the students, as some Teacher Candidates have not been so lucky.

            Being the Communications Officer for the GTA Regional Team of RSEKN, I am realizing that there are educators and community partners who also seek to deconstruct and dismantle our European settler-colonial mindsets and curriculum, and who care about truth and reconciliation.  It gives me hope.

            During my B.Ed, my colleagues and I have been encouraged to “Indigenize” our classrooms by including Indigenous stories, history and culture into what we teach organically and with deep respect. We make our lessons relatable to all students and draw on our commonalities while valuing our different. I do wish that materials about Indigenous peoples and world views, written by Indigenous people, was more easily accessible, while many individual teachers and teacher librarians are doing their best, there needs to be more support and resources at the system level.

            By joining the FESIcommittee and taking on the role of the Communications Officer, I have been able to connect and network with community partners, superintendents, principals, and fellow educators, whom all have the same intent and passion to support and represent all who are present in their classroom.  They are also deconstructing colonial histories and present-day structures and practise and speaking truth to power. 

            The conference is developing very well, and I look forward to all of the speakers and workshops we have planned to challenge the cannon and look to the future!

Thank you/ Merci 

CRRP and me: Reflections on my experiences as a teacher candidate

posted Apr 11, 2019, 10:47 AM by Ontario East   [ updated Apr 11, 2019, 11:20 AM ]

Written by: Sidney Pompa-Sidhu

My name is Sidney Pompa-Sidhu and I’m a Year 2 teacher candidate at the University of Ottawa. I’m currently doing my last practicum placement with RSEKN before I graduate this upcoming spring. This blog is a reflection on my experiences as a teacher candidate with a focus on inclusivity and practicing culturally responsive and relevant pedagogy (CRRP) in the classroom. As someone who wanted to work in education from a very young age, I’m extremely grateful for the extensive experience I’ve had teaching and learning with children and adolescents. I have developed an understanding that every student is unique, with learning abilities that intertwine with the diversity of a classroom.  

Often discussed and promoted in Ontario schools, CRRP, as described in an earlier RSEKN blog post, “promotes the importance of recognizing, acknowledging, and in various ways including the range of cultures that exist in any classroom”. As mentioned in the post, Culture Shifts, and So Should Your Response, “the ongoing challenge to implementing CRRP is that cultures are ever-changing .... because of the cultural flux, gaining a consensus on what [CRRP] pillars are has been debated for decades, and adaptations continue”. Though cultures are ever-changing and it is not always easy to implement CRRP, I do believe that teachers should be making every effort to create culturally relevant curriculum to better suit the needs of their students. This will lead to a friendlier and kinder classroom environment and an overall better school experience for the students in your class.

As a teacher candidate, I taught English to students in grades 9-11 at the academic, applied and locally developed levels at Brookfield High School. Brookfield has an extremely diverse population, which reminded me of my own experiences as a student in elementary and high school in Toronto. Many of the students that I taught in the applied English classes were students who had recently come to Canada and whose first language was not English. My associate teacher always made a point to incorporate culturally relevant reading materials so that every student felt that they were being represented in the curriculum. Together, we read one book in particular that really stood out to me and that every student in the class thoroughly enjoyed called Bifocal by Deborah Ellis and Eric Walters. This novel is told from the perspective of two teenage boys (one Middle Eastern and one white) and tackles several issues regarding racism, stereotyping and fear. If you’re teaching English at the high school level, I highly recommend reading this book with your class.

I had a very similar experience while doing my practicum placement at Churchill Alternative Public School, working with students in grade 4. My associate teacher always made a point of acknowledging every holiday and briefly explaining what it was, why it was important and how it was celebrated around the world. She would also do a daily read-aloud that always consisted of people of different cultures and religions around the world. My associate teacher would regularly talk about being inclusive why it was important to always be kind to one another regardless of each other’s differences. I quickly noticed that this was something that really registered with these nine and ten-year-olds and was extremely impactful. This placement taught me that it is never too early to start having conversations about the importance of inclusivity, diversity and equity with students.

Creating an environment in which all students and parents feel that the classroom is an inclusive, safe, open and caring space should be a priority for all teachers and educators. Students of all ages learn better when they are in a learning environment that they feel comfortable in. Taking from my experiences as a student and a teacher candidate, students should always have a say in their own learning. Actively engaging students in their own learning and hearing what they have to say will be something that I continue to do in my future practices as an educator. 

All teachers need to evaluate the strengths, needs and interests of their classroom and find ways to develop, implement and assess culturally relevant curriculum and pedagogies and assure they are inclusive of marginalized and racialized groups. In making this a priority in my own classroom, RSEKN will certainly play a role in my future practices as an educator by continuing to support equity and diversity and supporting communities of practice across Ontario in anti-racist and refugee and newcomer education. As an educator and teacher, it is important to remember that something that may seem minimal to you, could have the biggest impact on one of your students. 

Intelligent Lives Screening – Does IQ define potential for success?

posted Mar 22, 2019, 9:35 PM by Ontario South   [ updated Mar 31, 2019, 7:21 PM ]

Written by: Petra Owusu

    On February 13th, 2019 there was a community screening of Dan Habib’s “Intelligent Lives” at  Western University’s Faculty of Education. The event was sponsored by RSEKN and the Canadian Research Centre on Inclusive Education.

     Before the commencement of the film, there was a short discussion regarding what we believed intelligence was and the purpose of IQ scores. One question asked, “Do you think IQ tests or any standardized test can predict a person’s ability to learn, or their future?” There was a mutual consensus that IQ scores do not define an individual. It was discussed that there were several other factors that are involved in a person’s ability to succeed and how the role of the environment takes a substantial part in the cultivation of skills. I shared how IQ scores do not provide a holistic picture of an individual and that it tends to put a cap on an individual’s worth. It is apparent that IQ scores accentuate what a person cannot do rather than what they can.

    The film incorporated three different stories of students who are at different life stages. The first story was about Naieer who was in high school and was included in all his classes. It is evident that Naieer was passionate about painting and his family as well as the school was really attempting to nurture this strength. Considering that Naieer is a tall, Black male living in America, there was a concern that his father had expressed which touches upon intersectionality. A huge concern of Naieer’s father was that the police may target Naieer in the community for “acting weird”. The problem of this situation is that it is well-known that Black males in America tend to be targeted by police. This realistic fear of the father highlights the additional challenges and anxieties that some families may face when it comes to inclusion within the community. This should remind us to be aware of the complexities of intersectionality and how there are many components for when it comes to inclusion inside and outside of school.

    The next story was about Micah who was in University. His story focused on the social aspect of life outcomes and he communicated positive life goals such as wanting to get married and to become a parent someday. He conveyed how he observed his parents fighting for him growing up and now he is proud to be doing that for himself. The question raised here is whether we expect life goals to be similar for people with and without intellectual disabilities. The last story shown was about a woman named Naomie. We were able to witness Naomie taking part in job training and getting hired at a beauty school for a paid internship. This outcome is in stark contrast to unpaid and underpaid employment opportunities that are typical for people with intellectual disabilities.

    Based on the viewing of this film, it is apparent that inclusion brings empowerment to individuals with a disability and enables them to thrive in the community. After the viewing of the film there was a stimulating dialogue about how in Ontario, we are still fixated on IQ scores as a reason to place children in segregated school settings. I think the takeaway message from this conversation was that we need to remember why inclusion is important in the first place. We never want to return to the days of institutional mistreatment of individuals with intellectual disabilities. Communication between networks is also vital and needs to take place to see how other people in different provinces are incorporating inclusion into their schools. Lastly, what resonated with me the most was that everyone in the film had someone advocating for them. The question is what happens to those in our communities without advocates? How can we become their advocates and not let IQ scores be a barrier for them? In Ontario, we are certainly trying, but it was a mutual understanding at that event that we need and can do better.  

“We will know that inclusive education has really become embedded in our culture when the term becomes obsolete” – Quote from Choosing Outcomes and Accommodations for Children, 3rd ed. Michael F. Giangreco et al.

 

 

 

 

 

Engaging youth in the reconciliation process

posted Mar 12, 2019, 9:27 AM by Ontario East   [ updated Mar 22, 2019, 9:34 PM by Ontario South ]

The second annual Màmawi Together: Youth for Reconciliation Day united students from across Ottawa to create their own Reconciliation Legacy Projects

Written by Robert J. Ballantyne

Members of the Màmawi Together planning and coordinating team

Around 250 youth leaders, in grades 7-12 from Ottawa’s various school systems, gathered for the second annual Màmawi Together: Youth for Reconciliation Day on Feb. 22 at the University of Ottawa.

Màmawi Together — “Màmawi” means “Together” in the Algonquin language, in honour of the event being hosted on the traditional unceded territory of the Algonquin nation — is an Indigenous awareness and education event which reflects the 94 calls to action from the 2015 Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada.

The event, organized by the Urban Communities Cohort at the Faculty of Education, with support from RSEKN and the University of Ottawa teacher education program, the full-day event seeks to build and sustain respectful relationships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Canadians through awareness-building and education.

At the opening ceremony, students heard from Elder Jenny Tenasco, who blessed the event and also spoke about difficult truths, including Canada’s history with Indigenous peoples and her experience as a Survivor in the Residential School System.

Anita Tenasco, director of Kitigan Zibi Education Sector, spoke at Màmawi Together’s opening ceremony: “Canada is a richer place because Indigenous peoples are here.” 
(Photo: Robert J. Ballantyne)

Nicholas Ng-A-Fook, director of teacher education and co-director of Ontario Equity Knowledge Network, spoke at Màmawi Together’s opening ceremony 
(Photo: Robert J. Ballantyne)

Following the opening ceremony, students engaged in an act of reconciliation through art, reflecting on the approximately 6,000 Indigenous students who died as a result of the Residential School System. As part of Project of Heart, a collaborative art education project, students created reflective reconciliation tiles which were later turned into a commemorative mosaic assembled by University of Ottawa teacher candidates.

University of Ottawa students helped assembled a commemorative mosiac of tiles created by 
Màmawi Together students in honour of reconciliation. 
(Photo: Robert J. Ballantyne)

Afterwards, the youth leaders moved into smaller groups to attend workshops. Among the wide-ranging workshops were wampum belt making, introductory Inuit and Métis cultural presentations, and a session on how the Indian Act treats Indigenous peoples as compared to the UN Declaration.

Before and after the workshops, many students said the event had an impact on them.

“I’ve learned that once a person has lost his culture, his sense of identity, it will contribute negatively to his life,” said one student from Hillcrest High School. “How do we rebuild that connection?”

A number of University of Ottawa teacher candidates also attended the event, and many were also moved by the event.

“It’s not just about textbook facts and statistics — there are real [reconciliation] stories you can connect to,” shared teacher candidate Brock Hendry.

Students also developed their own reconciliation legacy projects, consolidating what they learned from the day’s speakers and workshops, and what they can share with others. They will all be coming back to the University of Ottawa to share these legacy projects on April 25.

J.P. Longboat closed the Màmawi Together event with an eagle dance, along with a final prayer by Monique Manatch. 
(Photo: Robert J. Ballantyne)

How to welcome gender diversity everyday in your classroom

posted Mar 4, 2019, 8:50 AM by Ontario East   [ updated Mar 4, 2019, 8:51 AM ]

Written by Robert J. Ballantyne

Dr. Lee Airton wants educators to welcome gender diversity everyday in their classrooms — not just when there’s a crisis.

Airton (pictured to the left), an associate professor at Queen’s University and author of the recently published Gender: Your Guide – A Gender-Friendly Primer on What to Know, What to Say, and What to Do in the New Gender Culture, is leading a public information campaign to make gender expression ordinary, not only in classrooms, but in all public spaces.

“Let’s make gender more flexible and less constricting,” Airton said to an audience of teacher candidates at the University of Ottawa on Feb. 19. “Let’s make it a source of more joy, and less harm, for everyone.”

With support from RSEKN and the University of Ottawa teacher education program, teacher candidates organized Airton’s keynote lecture, along with a full day of professional development workshops about Gender, Identity and Sexuality. These workshops included panels and groups about LGBTQ+ sports inclusion, teaching inclusivity in a Catholic context, and Two-Spirit and Indigenous Gender.

In Airton’s keynote, they offered two axioms to form the foundation of gender-friendly daily teaching practice:

All students’ relationships with gender are ambivalent and will change over time;
Teach like you already have transgender spectrum students, friends, family or loved ones in your classroom.

On the first day of class, Airton recommends teachers “signpost” their gender identity, “Hi there, I’m [title/name] and my pronouns are [e.g. he/him].
“Come out by signposting your pronouns,” Airton explained. “Encourage non-compulsory pronoun sharing.”

However, educators should not to create situations that oblige pronoun sharing from students — being careful to not rely on a “pedagogy of exposure (Meyer, Stafford & Airton, 2016) and use people who live in gender students as sacrificial lambs.

“Students shouldn’t have to sacrifice their right to privacy, among other things, in order to bring attention to the lack of gender inclusivity in a school community,” Airton added.

Airton also put forward a couple of classroom case studies that teachers can consider emulating in their own practice.

“In elementary school, when reading Where the Wild Things Are, ask the class, why does the author use ‘he/him’ for that monster? Why ca
n’t ‘they/them’ be used instead? Or why does any book have boys doing x-y-z instead of girls?”

In secondary school, Airton laments that awareness campaigns about breast and cervical cancers aren’t transgender inclusive, people who “might have the same parts, and [therefore] the same risks of these cancers.” Airton encourage teachers to create a lesson where students rewrite health awareness campaign content that is non-transgender inclusive in a “non-exceptionalizing manner.”

“Help your students see gender as a process for everyone, including you.”

Visit Dr. Lee Airton’s website, the book Gender: Your Guide, and find out more information about Airton’s No Big Deal: I’ll Use Your Pronoun campaign, which features downloadable teacher resources.

Witnessing Meaningful Learning

posted Feb 19, 2019, 12:59 PM by Ontario East   [ updated Feb 19, 2019, 1:04 PM ]

Written by Jessica Sokolowski, PhD Candidate in Education, University of Ottawa


The weather on Wednesday, January 23rd was dreadful with raging snow and frigid temperatures. But when I received news that the Media Arts Coffee House at Hillcrest High School was still on, I was determined to take the wintery trek, unsure of what sort of turnout to expect from this group of secondary students, presenting their newly learned skills in spoken word poetry creation and performance. They had worked so thoughtfully over a semester, building their skills and preparing for this moment, this time to be really heard. Through partnership with Youth Ottawa, the students in the Media Arts class at Hillcrest were introduced to spoken word poetry by Ottawa-based spoken word artists Jamaal Jackson Rogers (a.k.a. Just Jamaal the Poet) and Maya Basudde (MayaSpoken)

Due to the weather, I arrived apologetically late, frustrated by my tardiness, though no fault of my own. I planned on arriving early, introducing myself and seeking permission to be in this safe space, privileged to be a witness to this art. But it didn’t go that way. Instead I crept through the doors and slid into an empty seat, desperate to go unnoticed, to not break the ambiance that filled the room. From where I was seated I could feel the power in that room. I could taste these students’ hunger for life, for truth and for change. Their stories echoed through me like a brisk wind, robbing me of breath, unveiling the raw beauty of their souls. The confidence in their calculated speech, the aesthetics of their purposeful language and the strength through their voices, led me through their lived experiences and opened them to the vulnerability of truth—their truth. 

This space is where meaningful learning begins. As I navigate through my own research space working with narratives and storytelling and the relation to student experience, I am humbled to witness theory in practice. I watched the social emergence amongst the students and the teacher, supporting and encouraging each other to speak their truths, and to be free through their art. One by one as they took the stage, it was not silent, but was rather filled with acknowledgement of their bravery, and a connected support system that was clearly built over time. They not only listened to the carefully crafted poems of their colleagues and fellow students, but they offered support, understanding and encouragement to one another. This was truly a safe space. 

If meaningful learning is our goal, how can we achieve this without first seeking understanding of the foundation on which we intend to build? In our life continuum, we enter new learning spaces with a breadth of knowledge and a flurry of experiences that we carry with us on our journey. I want to be a part of the journey of my students; however, I cannot do this without them first understanding what that journey is, and who they really are. But to know who they are, they must first be given the time and space to sort that out. To support students in where they want to go, we must first see where they have been. What I was privileged to witness at this coffee house on that cold, blustery day, were the inspirational results that can occur when students are given the tools, are guided, and are encouraged to tell their stories and break down the barriers of discrimination and oppression that they battle every day. What I witnessed was what meaningful learning can look like.

Spoken Word Performer Photo Source: https://youthottawa.ca/en/programs/our-programs/amp-2-2/

2018 CEC Special Education Conference: Equity Success Stories

posted Feb 14, 2019, 12:37 PM by Ontario South   [ updated Feb 14, 2019, 12:40 PM ]

- Written by Olivia Faulconbridge
RSEKN Southern Regional Team


The Ontario Council for Exceptional Children held its 62nd annual Special Education Conference titled "Well-being, Equity and Success for All" 
in Toronto on November 30th and December 1, 2018. As part of the Southern Ontario Regional Team, Dr. Jacqueline Specht, Dr. Sheila Bennett and Olivia Faulconbridge had the opportunity to attend the conference and present RSEKN to attendees. Throughout the conference, we had the opportunity to hear from researchers, educators and students on how they are creating inclusive and equitable environments for exceptional children.  

During the RSEKN presentation, we sat with three women working across Ontario in schools in a variety of positions. Each of these women shared their own experiences with striving to succeed in supporting exceptional children in inclusive settings. As is often the case, we heard the barriers they encountered in their jobs. For them, these barriers included other teachers, principals and parents. Nonetheless, each of these women found unique and creative ways to support the students in their schools. One woman worked as an educational assistant and had supported a child diagnosed with autism to slowly build the ability to attend school assemblies. Where the majority of the teachers and principals at her school jumped to the conclusion that this child would not be able to attend assemblies and should either be taken to another class or sent home, this women did not give up on her student. Over many years, she supported his ability to be in the assembly for a few minutes to being able to sit through an entire assembly. This was one example from the group, which only reinforced and strengthened the group's confidence that students with exceptionalities can be included and do not have to be sent home and left out of learning. 

At the end of the conference, I had the opportunity to stay for the awards ceremony and luncheon. I must admit, I chose to stay because I was a bit hungry and very intrigued by the short introduction (see right) of the motivational address speaker, Robert Hampson (Rick Hansen School Program Ambassador). Prior to this address, I watched a number of students and teachers from across Ontario receive awards for academic, social and physical excellence. I heard a number of motivational stories as each of these awards were introduced. I heard about teachers that worked countless hours and found unique and innovative ways to promote inclusive environments for all of their students. I heard about students in one class that took on large coding projects and developed their own project under the guidance of a beloved teacher. I heard about students who pushed themselves physically and academically to prove that they could achieve what everyone else could achieve. 


Robert's address ended the ceremony with a heartwarming and extremely motivational speech. I will not summarize his life experiences as he told them in this blog, because that his story to tell. However, I will say Robert became blind at a young age because of a brain tumour. He has since not only succeeded in school, but he has achieved countless other goals including, running charities, becoming a competitive swimmer and graduating from St. Lawrence College. Robert demonstrated what it is to not only self-advocate, but also to pursue your goals no matter the obstacles. 

“Never tell me something is impossible. I think, if you want to do a thing badly enough you can find a way. When somebody tells me I can’t, it usually makes me want to do it even more.” 
-
 Robert Hampson



RSEKN Update: Looking Back to Fall 2018 & Looking Forward into 2019!

posted Feb 5, 2019, 2:15 PM by Noor El-Husseini


The past four months have been exciting and eventful for the RSEKN team. During the fall, RSEKN celebrated the launch of @LeeAirton's book, Gender: Your Guide, hosted by Glad Day Bookshop. This important guide is a genuine and accessible guide to understanding —and engaging in—today’s gender conversation and new gender culture. On October 24th, the Teacher Education program at the University of Ottawa and RSEKN Eastern Team led the 2018 Lead Associate Teacher Day on Culturally Responsive & Relevant Pedagogy, with keynote speaker Dr. Nicole West-Burns



During November, the University of Waterloo hosted the Transgender Health and Wellness Conference 2018, in collaboration with the RSEKN Southern team and a growing list of incredible partners and sponsors. The conference aims “to provide health and wellness practitioners/educators/students in Waterloo Region with education and resources to deliver trans-affirming health care and education”(@TransHealthWR). 


York University’s annual 2018 Faculty of Education Summer Institute (#FESI2018), titled “Realities in Data: Who counts...What counts...Who's counting?” was a great success! RSEKN joined forces with the Summer Institute planning committees and celebrated the largest turnout for the conference yet, including French-language workshops! To extend the dialogue from #FESI2018, The Equity in Education Hub was born – an ongoing, open-access and community-based space with a collection of reports that “utilize identity-based data to educate about the realities and experiences of students in the GTA”. The teams and bilingual planning committees continue their work and community consultations in preparation for this year’s 2019 Faculty of Education Summer Institute. Finally, RSEKN is pleased to announce our fourth Northern regional team, led by Pauline Sameshima at Lakehead University.


Moving forward into the New Year, RSEKN has a fantastic line-up of upcoming activities and events! In the eastern region, we are preparing for the next Black Youth Student Conference, initiated last year in with the support of RSEKN and local school boards (OCDSB and OCSB). In partnership with Youth Ottawa, the Eastern team is also developing course with local teachers to include use of spoken word as a mechanism to address the six RSEKN themes. On March 22, the RSEKN French Eastern Regional team, led by Éliane Dulude, is hosting a Conference-Debate entitled « Penser l'Apprentissage de l'Histoire de l'Afrique », in partnership with l’Association canadienne pour la promotion des héritages africains (ACPHA) at the University of Ottawa. This conference and debate will feature local school boards (CEPEO, CECCE, OCSDB), educators, parents, students and artists! Also, both English and French RSEKN Eastern teams are participating and supporting the upcoming Mamawi Youth Conference on TRC 94 Calls to Action (Bilingual Event), which brings together local youth with grassroots community organizations including local Indigenous communities, teachers, teacher candidates and teacher educators, and how educators can best respond and support students as social actors in future. 

On February 13 2019, the RSEKN southern team is hosting a community screening of the film "Intelligent Lives" at Western's Faculty of Education. Intelligence testing is a systemic barrier to people with intellectual disabilities, because of the misconceptions of what the numbers tell us about the individual. This 70-minute film paired with screening kit provides questions for the audience to discuss and to unpack the thinking around intelligence testing and ability. In addition, the southern team is developing “Living with Exclusion” – a major knowledge mobilization resource to assist teachers and other school personnel in understanding exclusion. Community members and stakeholders in education will present and share their stories of exclusion and their impact, as well as what steps can be taken in ways that promote and support inclusion.

The RSEKN Northern team is organizing and sponsoring a student-led conference in partnership with the Multicultural Association of Northwestern Ontario, and Lakehead Enactus. The conference will focus on access, inclusion, diversity and be organized and facilitated by and for youth! Addressing RSEKN’s theme of poverty and income inequality, the northern team in partnership with Lakehead ENACTUS, is developing and implementing a series of financial literacy workshops for youth and parents within their communities. 
 
On March 7, don’t miss RSEKN’s keynote panel: “Negotiating Equity: Mobilizing Knowledge in-between and across Different Communities” at the upcoming Jean-Paul Dionne Symposium 2019 – Building Equitable Futures. Hosted at the Faculty of Education at the University of Ottawa, RSEKN’s bilingual keynote panel will be moderated by regional leads Vidya Shah and Éliane Dulude with a diverse group of guest speakers from different linguistic and social positions within the larger education community. Finally, RSEKN is now working in partnership with Stephen Hurley, founder of VoicEd Radio to create bilingual equity podcasts! Stay tuned for more! 

Looking for upcoming events and activities? See the RSEKN calendar on our website! To stay up-to-date on our latest news, activities, and resources, follow us on Twitter @KNAER_RSEKN / @RECRAE_RSEKN

Suspensions and Expulsions: A Look at the Racial Injustice of School Punishment

posted Dec 3, 2018, 5:28 PM by Ontario South   [ updated Dec 5, 2018, 11:47 AM by Noor El-Husseini ]

Written by Olivia Faulconbridge

Continuing our examination of unfair suspensions and expulsions, this blog will look at the rate of school punishment in Black youth. During
York University’s Faculty of Education Summer Institute in August, we learned a lot about the injustices experienced by Black youth in Ontario schools from a number of people, including teachers, principals, graduate students, and community organizations. As the RSEKN Southern regional team, we chose to focus our work on suspension and expulsion, so these presenters peaked my interest. In April 2017, CBC news shared a report on the disproportionate number of expulsions among Black males, between 2011 and 2016, where almost half of the Toronto District School Board's expulsions were handed out to Black students. As is the case throughout Ontario schools and school boards, the TDSB collected race-based data in the effort to lower educational disparities. The reality is these stories have been told and retold for decades across cities, provinces and countries and, yet, very little change is made to systemically address or change the processes that reinforce these outcomes and impacts on Black students’ lived experiences, as well as their educational journeys.  

In March 2013, The Toronto Star published an article stating that during the 2006-7 school year, Black students made up about 12% of the high school students in Toronto’s Public board and yet they represented over 31% of the suspensions in that same year. Comparatively white students made up 33% of the high school students and only 29% of suspensions.

A TDSB report indicates that, between 2006 and 2011, Black students were more than twice as likely to be suspended at least once compared to white students. Black students were 3 times as likely to be placed in the essentials program and 2 times as likely to be placed in applied programs compared to white peers; whereas, white peers were 1.5 times as likely to be placed in academic programs. Black students were more likely to be identified as having an exceptionality (non-gifted) and less likely than white peers to be identified as gifted. Furthermore, Black students had a higher drop out rate compared to their white peers.

When asked how Black students feel about their education, they express feeling negatively about their school experience, their safety in the school and feel mistrusting of school authority figures. However, many of these articles seem to point to the characteristics of black culture and families as the reason for the increased suspension and expulsion, asking questions such as: Are they bored? Are they hungry? Is it because they’re poor? Is it because they have to take care of their siblings? While we examine the issues these children and their families encounter to explain the rate of suspension and expulsion, we are missing a larger problem; our own biases and assumptions.

Previously known as one of the most troubled schools in its area, one Ontario high school’s principal has instilled a change to reduce the rates of suspensions and expulsions. Reducing the focus on punishments such as suspensions and expulsions and focusing on building responsibility, participation, social relationships and self-regulation led to an improvement in the overall school climate and the academic outcomes of students who would previously have been at risk.

Who dares to teach must never cease to learn. -  John Cotton Dana

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