Teaching Reflections

Breaking News: Teachers can READ! (can someone please pass this on to the MoE)

Warning: friends, colleagues and random readers who have key word searched the wrong tag lines and are now reading this blog; this is going to be a rant. If you’re unfamiliar with rants, please check out the work of the reigning rant king of Canada: Mr. Rick Mercer.

Teachers are a pretty educated bunch: most of us have college and/or university degrees – some masters and doctorates. We can read, make logical decisions, understand basic common sense and have individual experiences that give us a basis of education in many aspects of : physical and emotional health, teaching pedagogy and classroom management. Therefore, when we’re patronized, it really bothers me. REALLY BOTHERS ME.

What’s led me to this ranting outlet is safe schools online training. Not familiar with this concept? Thank your lucky stars, but if you’re a teacher in Ontario it’s coming your way this school year. Yay for you!

Safe schools is a company that sells online ‘courses’ that read logical, common sense information at an annoyingly slow pace for hours on end with various images thrown in for good measure. After your ‘learning’, you must complete a true/false quiz until you receive 80%, however everyone I know has completed the quizzes first and passed, as the questions are so ridiculous anyone with basic common sense could pass without listening to the ‘training’.  

It’s essentially everything we’re taught NOT to do in the teaching profession rolled into a nice package that probably costs more than my new 21st century classroom.

Best of all, since safe schools is an American company, much of the content isn’t even relatable or applicable to Canadian schools. 

The Ministry of Education downloaded this little gem to school boards as mandatory training for staff.  Teachers  complete ‘x’ number of courses on their PD days and during staff meetings. I can’t speak for others, but I know as a secondary teacher I’m ‘mandated’ to complete 13 courses, totalling over 4 hours of ‘minutes’ throughout the school year.

Do we have nothing better to do with our professional development time than listen to a computer read to us?

Yes…….read to us. You see, the Ministry of Education clearly believes we are incapable of skimming and scanning the courses, reading what is applicable to our current knowledge base, students and personal classroom needs – so the lessons must be read to us. And obviously,  we  can’t decide when we’ve learned what’s adequate in relation to the topic, so if we don’t spend the full time allotted to the course ‘minutes’ we get the message  below and need to RESTART it.


What’s worse is that many of these online ‘courses’ are focused on training we’ve already completed OVER AND OVER AND OVER AND OVER AND OVER AGAIN: student allergies, medicine delivery, student mental health, bullying, concussion awareness, etc…. It’s like beating a dead cat. WE GET IT.

Our last board-wide PD featured @GeorgeCuros – an innovative motivational speaker who challenged teachers to push outside their comfort zone, improve their craft, expand their knowledge and develop meaningful relationships with students. As a group we were pumped!  I was inspired by much of his presentation and was excited to try some new media applications and pedagogical activities in my classroom and department. 

Then………the reminder email came about staff meeting and our next PD time to be dedicated to dum dum dum…… safe schools online training. It’s like being vortexed to the dark ages.

This is once again a painful example of how completely out of touch the Ministry of Education is with teachers in Ontario.

Although it may seem like a small inconvenience (4 hours over the school year), it’s the subliminal messages that this training communicates to teachers that enrages them: you are too stupid to read, too incompetent to understand information you’ve been trained on time and time again, and completely untrustworthy to gauge your own learning, so learning modules must be timed to ensure you’ve completed them adequately.

Moreover, by downloading this training to school boards, then school administrations, it puts a strain on those relationships within a system. Teachers are upset about this: they feel that they are being patronized, their time is being wasted (that could otherwise be devoted to productive professional development) and that money is being flushed down the toilet. So, who do you think is going to hear about their complaints? Not Mitzie Hunter and friends! School administrators, whose hands are tied as supervisors of the training will be taking the heat for this. This cannot bode well for school and district dynamics and morale.

Teachers are competent professionals. We take our jobs seriously and want to improve our craft. Please STOP wasting our professional development time. I recently wrote a blog about what teacher PD could look like Ontario schools  (Why Teacher PD Should be Genius Time). The same thoughts were echoed in another educational blog I recently read on Twitter, Getting Smart: Four Key Ingredients For The Teacher PD Revlolution. Teacher PD is crucial to teacher growth. We want to use this time to learn more skills, share resources with colleagues and have meaningful dialogue as subject or school groups, not stare aimlessly at a computer screen.

It really is pretty simple: all we want is a little respect. It’s time the Ministry of Education starts listening to what teachers need to evolve as educators. We can let you know….all you need to do is ask.

Are you a teacher in Ontario who has been mandated to complete safe schools online courses? What do you think about how that has impacted your professional development this school year? What do your colleagues think/feel about this? Comment below!


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