Union leaders claim Lecce painting ‘unrealistic picture’ of state of education

‘There’s a lot of fear out there. There have been requests for sick leave … That is completely understandable, ”says the local union leader

On Sunday afternoon, the provincial education minister Stephen Lecce posted an open letter to parents on Twitter about Ontario’s back-to-school plan, but local teachers’ unions are alerting of misleading statements in the letter that they say may contribute to a misunderstanding of what is currently happening in schools.

“I’m not sure the provincial government really values ​​what the education system does,” said Kent MacDonald. “They appreciate a number of things. In the end, it falls to the educational workers. “

MacDonald is president of the Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association Simcoe Muskoka Elementary School Teachers Association.

In Lecce’s letter, he claims that every teacher has received professional development through distance learning.

MacDonald said teachers from the Simcoe Muskoka Catholic District Schools Board had the opportunity to review some online resources as part of professional development, but it was not mandatory.

“I really think he’s painting an unrealistic picture,” said MacDonald.

In part of the letter, Lecce says that Ontario alone is creating a comprehensive online learning management system that ensures teachers can engage students in a safe environment, send and receive assignments synchronously, and participate in discussions.

“I’m not sure they created Brightspace. It’s free for educators and school authorities, ”MacDonald said, adding that there are other subscription services that teachers use as aids, but either the teachers pay out of pocket for them or the school authorities pay for them.

He said teachers on the Catholic board have the option to use either Brightspace, Google Classroom, or both.

“I think when Lecce says ‘everyone is trained’ it gives the impression that we are all ready to go. It’s really not the case, ”he said. “We have to work with it to get used to it, but the challenge for teachers is that we do what is not ideal in front of students.”

In the letter, Lecce refers to emergency childcare places that the government has opened to accommodate key workers. MacDonald said a key component of that program is missing from the letter: teachers and education workers are not considered essential workers.

“Yet they expect teachers to work,” MacDonald said. “I think a lot of people can relate to being home, having a Zoom meeting, and having kids around. That’s the pressure. How do you do both “

Jen Hare, president of the Simcoe County branch of the Ontario Secondary School Teacher’s Federation, also questions Lecce’s claim that every teacher has received professional development in distance learning.

“It’s just not true. The teachers assigned to distance learning, or designated Learn @ Home by the Simcoe County District School Board, received guidelines and webinars, but the general teachers who study face-to-face received no professional development at all – they wouldn’t have needed it “Said Hare.

She says the distance learning that teachers adapted to in March looks very different from the distance learning that is happening now.

“We hope to be able to catch up quickly to survive this shutdown,” she said.

Hare said she heard from teachers that they were struggling to completely change their course delivery overnight.

“There’s a lot of fear out there. For this part of the time there were requests for sick leave. In my opinion, that’s completely understandable, ”she said.

Hare said she also has sympathy for school authorities. As a rule, professional development (PD) in schools is carried out personally and with help. Since this is no longer the case, most PDs are now conducted virtually through self-directed webinars.

“If you want to transform your entire practice, most professionals just don’t learn that way,” she said.

Allyn Janicki, President of the Simcoe Muskoka Secondary Teachers Union of the Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association, did not return a request for comment on this story.

However, she tweeted on Sunday evening on the subject.

“To claim that teachers have been ‘trained’ on PD modules that were either self-directed or cursory reviews by non-experts is like saying that I am a forensic investigator because I saw CSI,” she wrote.

Janet Bigham, president of the Simcoe County chapter of the Elementary Teachers Federation of the Ontario Teacher Union, which represents elementary school teachers on the Public Board, did not return a request for comment on this story.

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