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Don't Give Up On Truly Smaller Classes For Ontario Students

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As a mother and as a teacher, I am saddened that the vast majority of members of the Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario voted to ratify the 2017-2019 extension agreement instead of fighting for truly smaller class sizes. Our existing reality in education -- educators, students and families -- is one of being constantly "under pressure." This is a pressure that teachers are now clearly, as a group, complicit in creating for themselves.

elementary class
(Photo: Skynesher via Getty Images)

There are so many reasons and examples of why truly smaller class sizes would have been a fight worth having. We had an opportunity to stand up and fight for true change, but just like last time we voted, we let this opportunity slip through our fingers. Another chance to truly stand up for children in a foundational way has been lost.

There seems to be little will from union members to defend their goal, stated to the public, to achieve meaningfully smaller classes. Much of what has been achieved by this extension agreement is symbolic rather than truly helpful. We know what helps children and we know that good learning conditions are good working conditions.

If their school situation becomes unbearable because of large class sizes, I will consider all education options including those outside of the public school system.

So, what next?

How to move forward

I have a little saying that I whisper to myself when things get tough. "Blessed are the flexible, for they shall not break." This is easy to say -- and harder to achieve.

This is my plan as a mother and a teacher, given the present situation. Maybe some of these steps are right for you, too.

1. There is beauty in standing up for what is right regardless of the result.

The outcome was never within my personal control, only my own actions were. This is where I will continue to focus.

2. Retreat and regroup.

I am no stranger to setbacks and you probably aren't, either. Mindfulness meditation will ease suffering; I will sit with the pain of this reality instead of pushing it away or inviting it to be a part of me. I must take time to reflect on this situation and focus what I can do in my own small world. Seemingly mundane activities such as washing the dishes, having a bath and folding laundry are my opportunities to practice mindfulness.

I will also drink enough water, get enough rest, exercise and eat enough green vegetables. This sounds basic, but sometimes it is important to highlight the foundation of what we need to be healthy. My health is wealth.

3. I will hug my children every day and make time to truly listen to them.

If their school situation becomes unbearable because of large class sizes, I will consider all education options including those outside of the public school system.

4. Wait for another real opportunity to make a critical difference for our children.

Then act on it.

History is full of examples of setbacks that eventually led to successes. One day, one way or another, smaller class sizes will be achieved and a proper educational foundation will be provided for our children of Ontario.

Stay strong. Stay hopeful. Our children are worth it.

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