CTF honours Alberta teachers
Two Alberta teachers received national honours at the annual general meeting of the Canadian Teachers’ Federation, which was held in Edmonton in July.
Wilson Bearhead, a Nakota elder and member of the Wabamun Lake First Nation in central Alberta, received the CTF Indigenous Elder Award. Bearhead has taught in public, Catholic and First Nations schools, using nature and storytelling as powerful tools to convey and enhance his lessons. Bearhead also has committee involvement in initiatives such as Project of Heart, a national organization seeking to uncover the history of the residential school system.
Bearhead said he was honoured to receive the award.
“The reason that I’m honoured is that … I always believed that Indigenous people have a place in this circle,” he said.
“Indigenous people have always had the knowledge of many things in this world, but for some reason that knowledge was never acknowledged or recognized. But today it is being recognized and being honoured.”
Former ATA executive secretary Gordon Thomas received CTF’s Special Recognition Award.
Thomas was cited for his collegial approach during a 41-year career as a teacher. Highlights of his 34 years with the Association include helping negotiate a resolution to teachers’ $2.1 billion unfunded pension liability and helping create a teacher evaluation policy model from scratch. His work inspired the Teacher Growth, Supervisionw and Evaluation Policy, which has been in use for 20 years.
Thomas said he was very grateful to be recognized.
“It’s very meaningful to me because I’ve done a lot of work with my colleagues across the country,” he said. “It’s very special and I’m very grateful to CTF for the recognition and to Alberta for nominating me.” ❚
Resource shortage behind increased aggression toward teachers
A growing number of aggressive incidents toward teachers is being linked to a lack of critical resources and supports for students in schools.
A CTF survey of teachers across Canada found that rates of violence range from 41 per cent of teachers in some jurisdictions to 90 per cent in others. More than 70 per cent of teachers reported that both rates and severity of violence in schools are increasing.
Rates of violence experienced by teachers tended to be higher for teachers who are
2) working in elementary schools,
3) working in schools in lower socioeconomic status locations and/or large metropolitan areas, and
4) working as special education teachers.
The findings come from the federation’s first-ever pan-Canadian research review on violence in schools.
“Today’s teachers are faced with many challenges, including teaching to increasingly complex classrooms, encompassing diverse cultural, academic, behavioural and social skill sets and backgrounds,” explained CTF president Mark Ramsankar. “They require educational support and resources such as assistants, psychologists, psychiatrists and other professionals to support their students’ learning experiences.
“According to studies, a child’s feelings of abandonment in which his/her educational, social and emotional needs are not being met may lead to violent outbursts,” Ramsankar added. “And that violence against teachers is taking a toll on educators’ mental and physical well-being as well as their self-worth as professionals.”
The CTF research points to some of the drivers behind the increased rates of aggression: widespread underfunding for public education; lack of resources and supports for addressing violence against teachers (including inservice supports and training), and serious inadequacies in services and supports for student mental health, behavioural and special education needs. ❚
Ontario secondary teachers rejoin national federation
The Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation (OSSTF) officially returned as a CTF member organization following a unanimous vote on July 11.
“The OSSTF is a powerful driver for social justice, human rights and a strong public education system,” said CTF president Mark Ramsankar. “Their voice will heighten and strengthen our collective capacity to promote public education, to advance the teaching profession and to address the critical needs of children and youth in Canada.”
OSSTF president Harvey Bischof said that members of his organization are looking forward to rejoining the CTF and participating in advocating for publicly funded education across Canada.
“The CTF’s focus on social advocacy, labour rights and social justice issues also aligns with the OSSTF’s values and beliefs,” he said.
“Formal alliances and co-operation among like-minded organizations will be indispensable in advancing and improving the cause of education in a world where education policy is becoming increasingly centralized and co-ordinated across jurisdictions.”
Bischof congratulated the CTF on the 57th anniversary of Project Overseas, an important joint initiative between the CTF and its member organizations to send teams to various countries with the aim of strengthening publicly funded education. “OSSTF members look forward to participating in this program where they can also support their international education colleagues, while learning from them. As partners in the CTF, we can work together to build a humane, decent and fulfilling future for all students and the society in which we live,” Bischof concluded.
The OSSTF has 60,000 members across Ontario, including public high school teachers, occasional teachers, educational assistants, continuing education teachers and instructors, early childhood educators and other educational support staff.
In 2016, the British Columbia Teachers’ Federation also voted to rejoin the CTF after an eight-year hiatus. The CTF now represents 238,000 teachers as part of its 17-member provincial and territorial organizations. ❚