October 19, 2016
- Vancouver trustees take a stand against cuts and school closures, get fired
- Community leaders take on the Welfare Food Challenge
- Addressing Mental Health Issues in the Classroom
- Become a BCTF Peer Support Service Consultant
- BCTF participates in Gord Downie’s “Secret Path” education for reconciliation project
Vancouver trustees take a stand against cuts and school closures, get fired
Earlier this week, the BC government announced that it was firing the entire Vancouver School Board (VSB) because until that point trustees had not passed a budget. For months, the majority of VSB trustees in Vancouver had refused to pass a budget as a stand against school closures and program cuts that would hurt kids. By firing the VSB, the BC government is trying to place blame for its own policy and funding choices onto Vancouver school trustees, who have been strong advocates for our students and schools. Now, parents, teachers, and other community groups are rallying together to support the trustees and press the government to end the funding crisis that drove Vancouver to this point.
For those in the Lower Mainland, there is a rally this Thursday, October 20, 2016, at 5:30 p.m. at the VSB lawn, 1580 West Broadway at Fir. Another way to help and show your support is by signing a petition launched by a parent through LeadNow.
Whether it's attending the rally or signing the petition, these are two examples of actions teachers can take to show the provincial government that the underfunding crisis is not unique to Vancouver. Every single school district in BC has made cuts in the face of underfunding. As a result, BC has seen the closure of more than 250 schools, the loss of more than 1,600 specialist teachers positions, and a worsening of class composition. With a $1.9 billion surplus, the government has the means today to fix the underfunding crisis facing our schools.
Community leaders take on the Welfare Food Challenge
On Sunday October 16, BCTF President Glen Hansman joined several other concerned citizens and community leaders in participating in the 2016 Welfare Food Challenge. For one week participants will try to meet the challenge that British Columbians living on welfare face every week: surviving on a meagre food budget of $18. The challenge is sponsored by Raise the Rates, which advocates for an end to the nine-year freeze on BC's inadequate welfare rate of $610 per month for single people.
As he started the challenge, Glen told the media, “the Welfare Food Challenges provides an opportunity to bring greater public understanding of the extreme poverty of families on welfare, and the terrible costs in suffering among our most vulnerable students.” Read Glen's news release or check out #WelfareFoodChallenge on Twitter to learn more about what the participants are experiencing.
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Addressing Mental Health Issues in the Classroom
Teachers are noticing the increasing numbers of students in their classes who are exhibiting behaviours that are problematic and perplexing. To help develop teachers' understanding of what mental health issues might look like in students and how best to assist them in their classrooms, the Federation has developed a new workshop that schools and local associations can book. Teachers aren't expected to be psychologists or medical practitioners in resolving these issues, but there are ways for them to help students with mental health issues. Learn more about the BCTF's Professional and Social Issues workshop program online.
Become a BCTF Peer Support Service Consultant
The BCTF is looking to appoint up to two Peer Support Service teacher-consultants for three -year terms. These important positions provide direct one-to-one coaching support to members with letters of direction or on plans of assistance, and to members who request help with their teaching practice. Learn more about the responsibilities and application process online.
BCTF participates in Gord Downie’s “Secret Path” education for reconciliation project
The BCTF's Aboriginal Education co-ordinator, Gail Stromquist, was one of 33 teachers from across Canada who met in Ottawa for a two-day National Educators' Curriculum Collaboration dedicated to education for reconciliation.
The curricular materials are centred around “The Secret Path,” a legacy project of Tragically Hip leader Gord Downie, who suffers from a terminal brain tumour. The project is being kicked off with live concerts in Ottawa and Toronto, and the launch of an animated film and graphic novel, all of which tell the story of Chanie Wenjack, a boy who died of exposure at age 12 while running away from a residential school in Northern Ontario.
Downie collaborated with the Wenjack family in the creative process. As he recently told Peter Mansbridge on CBC: “This is our chance at a whole different world. This is the path to reconciliation.” The film will air on CBC next Sunday, October 23.
“The film and graphic novel give educators the means to engage the hearts and inform the minds of students, teachers, and parents,” says Charlene Bearhead, Education Lead for the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation. “The pain and loss of the Wenjack family is the loss, pain and trauma of all children lost to residential schools and their families. And the strength and resilience of the Downie-Wenjack family is the story of reconciliation for our communities."
Indeed, Stromquist's own family is another one that lost a child to the residential schools. Her aunt, Gladys Chapman, died at age 12 of tuberculosis contracted in Kamloops Residential School. Her story is told in Project of Heart: Illuminating the Hidden History of Residential Schools in BC and will be further elaborated in a series of lesson plans now being piloted in BC classrooms and soon to be available on TeachBC.