Dear Minister Lecce,
I am writing this letter as a constituent, parent, teacher and taxpayer.
As a teacher in a publicly funded school, this Friday heading into the Christmas break is a celebration of the relationships formed with students and an understanding that like me, they need an opportunity to decompress. This may sound bombastic to people who do not work within education but for those who do, the Christmas break is a critical time within the school year where both teachers and students feel the brain drain and need a mental pause from the stale air of classrooms and schools.
Specifically, as a classroom teacher, it’s a break from being all things that are expectant of me and that I whole-heartedly embrace. As a teacher of nearly ninety Gr. 10, 11 and 12 high school students this semester, my role is so much more than sharing knowledge. As teachers we’re expected to be “Caring Adults.” This means, I’m working to share my knowledge and expertise, while being “loco parentis” (in place for a parent) to students. With this, beyond the curriculum, I do my best to serve students, recognize who they are as individuals and help them find the support they need when they need it. Needless to say, teaching is multifaceted. It’s both deeply fulfilling and emotionally exhaustive at the best and most challenging of times.
As such, being a teacher is to recognize that the profession is so much more than curriculum. I have the true pleasure of working with and supporting other peoples’ children. Like when I send my own kids to a publicly funded school, I expect the very best from and entrust their teachers with the two things I love and care about most in this world. Therefore, I want the teachers who empower and care for my own children to be supported, respected, fairly-compensated and listened to when it comes to goals for Ontario education and frameworks that will shape student learning and their profession. Importantly, being a teacher is not average – it’s unique and carries a great weight worth carrying.
So, as we enter the Christmas season, I have so many wishes for my students. I wish that they are safe and well. I wish that they have the opportunity to make special memories with friends and families. I wish them a future that is bright and where they embrace education for the intangibles; being a critical thinker, contributing collaborative, innovator, problem solver and so much more. I wish for them to be the very best that they can be. I wish for them the brightest future possible.
For all of this to be possible, I need to think of you as well.
I wish for you;
To truly reflect on what it means to be a leader. If you haven’t already, read Barack Obama’s “Audacity of Hope” and take some critical non-partisan pointers;
To recognize that personal privilege can shape thinking and doing. For example, perhaps attending a private high school does skew a deep understanding of publicly funded school realities;
To value the importance of education well beyond the rhetoric of a finding a “good job.” Teaching is a good job that you are attacking and it comes with many years of post-secondary education and continued professional devleopment;
To recognize that all students are different and thus need publicly funded classroom space that is safe, responsive and conducive to deep and personalized learning. This means class size does matter;
To understand that mandatory eLearning will be a disservice to students who are still learning to self-regulate and who learn better is a classroom/community space;
To acknowledge that mandatory eLearning will create inequity not merely in regards to technological access but learning supports for students;
To stop vilifying union leadership and recognize that they are elected by their membership to serve the membership. Union leaders and the membership are Ontario taxpayers as well;
To recognize the value of supporting the most vulnerable students, their families and parent education groups;
To stop speaking on my behalf. As a parent and taxpayer our thinking and values are not aligned;
To embrace humility and admit the deep mistakes that you are making;
To acknowledge that you do not have a background in teaching and thus cannot authentically speak to Ontario education through an authoritative lens;
This is all to say that my wish is for a 2020 with renewed focus. There’s still time to meet the true needs of students in Ontario and continue the wonderful work that defines our world class education system.
Ontario education is not broken. Please don’t break it.
Wishing you a Merry Christmas and a New Year full of new thinking, renewed focus and meaningful servitude.