Teachers change the world. Though this is oft repeated, it cannot be overstated. As if evidence of this were needed, we recall desperate attempts by extremists to silence the voices of teachers and extinguish the curiosity of students around the globe. In September, 42 male student teachers were kidnapped and presumably murdered in Iguala, Mexico. More recently a Taliban attack in Peshawar, Pakistan left 141 people dead: mostly pupils but also teachers and the school’s principal. While these are without doubt faraway events, in the internet age we can hardly pretend to be isolated from extremism or immune to attempts at radicalization, often directed at our most vulnerable youth.
At this most peaceful time of year when many of us are able to reflect on the gifts we have it is appropriate that we consider our role as educators and as OSSTF members. As each of us changes the world by challenging pupils to open their minds and engage in the world around them, so too our Federation membership allows us the opportunity to shape the province in which these students will grow, work and raise their own families. We must continue to fight together with our provincial, national, and global partners to ensure the lamp of learning shines over all parts of the globe regardless of race, religion, sex, or socio-economic privilege.
In Ontario we enjoy a standard of living arguably unparalleled anywhere in the world. One need only visit the local farmer’s market; paddle, hike or ski one of our Provincial Parks; skate at the local arena; or enjoy any one of Ontario’s many publicly funded cultural attractions to know what an incredible province Ontario’s taxpayers have created over the last 150 years. These things did not come easily and are not to be taken for granted.
Without question excellent public education has played a significant role in making this province what it is, and while the last two years have introduced a level of uncertainty and discontent not seen in Ontario schools since the Mike Harris years, OSSTF continues to lead the fight for public education in Ontario. Your provincial executive is working on your behalf with the provincial government and the school boards to improve working conditions for teachers, your district leadership continues to develop positive lines of communication with the local district school board – most recently seen in the December 6 remembrance; and District 15 members continue to engage their local communities.
As you break, recharge, and prepare for the final onslaught in semester 1, I encourage each of you to consider not just how blessed you are to be a secondary teachers in Ontario but also your role in our Federation. What does the Federation do for you and what can you do for it? As we hurl towards 2015 consider how you, as a teacher and OSSTF member, will work to ignite the lamp and impact the world we all share.
Have a restful holiday. Enjoy time with family and friends. Come out and skate at your local arena on December 29 and have a safe and happy new year!
President OSSTF District 15