The following blog is a response to Ms. Thompson’s speech in the Ontario Legislature on Thursday, April 4th – available here.
Yesterday was a disappointing day for Ontario’s teachers, parents and students.
On a day when we reached out to begin good-faith consultations with Ontario’s Ford government, we instead heard you blame teachers and unions for a student walkout at schools across the province, when in reality it was your government’s policies that sparked this action.
We know teachers’ unions did NOT organize student walkouts under the previous government, nor were they behind yesterday’s actions. I’m concerned we may be seeing more walkouts and missed class time due to the growing unrest of students concerned about the future of their education, considering the negative changes being proposed by your government.
Instead of focusing on political stunts, such as making purposely crafted fabrications in the Legislature, I encourage you to instead work cooperatively with us on the real challenges facing Ontario’s education system such as the fact that too many of our kids are suffering from: schools with limited and rescinded funding, overcrowded classrooms and education policies that change with the wind.
Over half of Ontario’s sixth grade students are meeting an acceptable standard on their math tests, and those who aren’t require more support, classroom funding for new resources and intervention programs to close the gaps in their mathematical education. The teachers’ unions have offered no solutions to the math crisis, because it was caused by a previous government’s focus on discovery based math – and was not the choice of teacher unions or their members.
No teacher enabled students to skip classes – or miss math classes yesterday; walkouts were student choice and teachers remained in classrooms, teaching those who chose to stay. When students are in class, teachers are focusing on delivering curriculum; the fact that you actually think we have time to do anything else is laughable and points to the fact that you’ve not spent much time (or any at all) in Ontario classrooms.
I’d also like to clarify that no one is using students as a captive audience for political agendas. Moreover, if you’re going to make an accusatory statement like this, in a Legislative session, that slanders an entire profession that you supposedly represent, you may need some actual evidence to support your argument – which you suspiciously don’t provide.
Just so you know, (listen up – I’m only going to say this once) teachers are university educated professionals who care deeply about their profession and the students they teach. You should be proud to represent our vocation because we are devoted to our practice. It’s actually genuinely sad that you can’t see this, and that you have barely begun your time as the Education Minister and have already managed to completely alienate the entire workforce in your portfolio.
Our profession will not be distracted from making the necessary reforms Ontario needs to ensure the students in this province have the best education they can with the little resources, training and support you provide for us. Improving math scores as part of a sustainable, world-class education system that protects what matters most for students is great and all, but again if you knew ANYTHING about education the MOST valuable skills Ontario students require that directly correlate to their success in education, physical and mental health, employability and future are literacy skills. Currently, in Ontario we have NO FUNDING for early intervention literacy programming which is essential to close vocabulary and literacy gaps for our most at risk students.
We’re very pleased that you are renewing Ontario’s curriculum to get back to the basics so that more kids have the math, science and financial literacy skills they need to succeed, but again although this learning is very important, in actuality literacy skills are the most essential skills students require for success at school, work and life and your government is willingly choosing to ignore this fact. If a student can’t read and write effectively, they can’t participate in any other subjects, including: math, science and financial literacy.
Thanks very much for passing legislation to make the successful completion of a math content knowledge test a requirement for certification by the Ontario College of Teachers. I’m just curious, though, as to who you believe will be taking this test since your government is planning on eliminating more than 3000 teaching jobs, so there will be no need for teacher education in the foreseeable future due to the fact that there will be no jobs for young teachers.
Your government is also now actively considering making math skills a minimum standard for re-certification in Ontario, but you failed to explain why teachers who have no education in math and don’t teach math would need to take a minimum standard math test.
Like you, I also want to remind parents and Ontario residents that should they be concerned about their child’s safety and education because of any changes to education policy being suggested by your government, they always have the option to contact the Ministry of Education and ask to speak with YOU directly. Get ready for some jammed phone lines.
Furthermore, I also want to advise all school boards that I expect them to take action to support their teachers in the face of your blatant, unwarranted attack on our profession.
Lisa, you mentioned in the Legislature that in the private sector, people know that if you skip work without justification, you don’t get paid – thanks for clarifying this for us teachers but we didn’t need the tip. You may have confused us with MPP’s – who get paid regardless of how poorly they do their jobs or actually show up in the Legislature. As outlined by a great CBC article available here, it was noted that two of your PC colleagues (Randy Hillier and Monte McNaughton) were among members with the lowest attendance rate in the House between 2014 and 2018.
In conclusion, I want everyone in your government to know that we are prepared to take action to defend the rights of our students, and the legitimacy and professionalism of our vocation – to give parents peace of mind that no government will use their children as pawns in political games.