In Solidarity at Queen's Park

On Friday 21 February, all four teacher unions in Ontario united and walked out of classrooms – that is a total of 200 000 members – to show solidarity. The members working in my locale were asked to go and picket at Queen’s Park for one shift. The day dawned with blue skies and crisp air. It was chilly – but not as cold as it had been for previous walkouts.

When I arrived at Queen’s Park, the crowds were already gathering and by 10:15am people filled the closed off streets around the park. The flags of the four unions waved above the heads of educators fighting for the right of a decent public education programme.

I was proud to be standing with the others (it was reported to be over 30 000 bodies at Queen’s Park – including some parents with their children). Children in the province have a right to a decent education without having to pay for it and I was proud to be their voice at the rally.

We walked the route at a slow pace with each turn taking about half an hour. At the end of the day when I arrived home, my feet were aching (winter boots are not made for walking!) but I was satisfied with making a stand.

The teachers of our union, ETFO, have now entered phase 6 of the strike action. No walkouts have been planned but some physical and online picketing are to occur within the next two weeks. Time will tell whether these efforts will make a difference.

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2020

An Electrifying Experience

Yesterday, on 12 February 2020, the elementary teachers of Ontario walked out of their classroom for the fifth time this academic school year to protest the changes proposed to public education by the current conservative government. Elementary teachers are protesting the proposed cuts to special education, the increase in class sizes, and the wish to change the current kindergarten model. In addition, teachers want the government to address the issue of the violence in the classroom which is on the increase.

Yesterday, I joined the picket line at the Royal York Hotel where the Minister of Education was to speak to the Canadian Club. When I reached the venue, I was stunned at the number of people already at the site. Teachers had already begun picketing outside the hotel, and the vibe in the area was electrifying. Once all my colleagues had arrived, we joined the demonstration happening in front of the hotel.

As we marched, we chanted and made some noise with our tambourines, shakers and cow bells. There were a number of leaders at different points of the line that lead us in the chants that kept us going. The feeling of solidarity I felt energised me and gave me the zeal to continue for the next three hours.

I was happy to see that we were being noticed. The TV cameras were there: the protest was live streamed and seen in the media – unlike so many other protests that had been ignored. Our local communities had seen us, but not the larger. Yesterday, we were noticed. Yesterday, we made our voices heard.

The police presence was strong – though we did not create any problems. After all, teachers are a group of people who are used to following both the rules and the dictum “safety first”! Ours was a peaceful protest despite there being so many people in one space.

Yesterday was the most electrifying experience that I have had on the picket line. That energy has charged me and will help to keep me going on with the fight. Today, I walk into my classroom and work with the children for whom I am protesting.

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2020

Music Monday: Picket Songs

One of the things that is keeping us warm on the picket line is music. The current music teacher at our school has compiled a Spotify playlist of songs which she plays through her speaker during the 3 hours we are on the picket line. Fight Song by Rachel Platten is one of the songs that is often played:

Stop classics have been added to the playlist like Fleetwood Mac’s Don’t Stop:

And, of course, Don’t Stop Believing by Journey:

Her playlist has many songs on it that we enjoy. And the best thing is that the music keeps us going, the dancing keeps us warm, and the camaraderie helps the time pass a little faster.

What song would you suggest we add to our playlist?

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2020

Weekend Coffee Share: A Strange Week

If we were having coffee, I would admire the falling snow with you that I see through the window. I enjoy it when the snow falls as the world seems to be quiet and at peace. In a little while, I will need to go out and do my weekly grocery shopping and I will enjoy the walk because not much snow has fallen and I will not struggle too much with the shopping cart. Yesterday sidewalks were cleared so walking is made a little easier.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that the week was strange because I taught for only three days of the week. On Thursday and Friday, the elementary teachers in Ontario, Canada walked out of the classrooms to protest the changes that the government are proposing to public education. Yesterday I posted a summary of my experience which you can read here.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that I planned and wrote yesterday’s post early in the morning. However I was having some issues with uploading my photos I managed to publish quite late in the day so many of you will have missed my summary. For some reason, the comments weren’t open – which I have now rectified. I love having the comments open on my posts as conversation is what I enjoy most about blogging.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that on Wednesday after school I went to a teacher’s evening at the textile museum. We were given a tour of their new textile exhibit which features the printing on fabric in the past by the indigenous peoples in Canada. I enjoy these evenings as they are informative and I enjoy seeing the creativity of people when they work with fabric. My intention is to work on a post this week so that I can share with you some of my favourite pieces.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that this weekend I am recovering from being outside in the cold (and the below 0c temperatures) for 4 hours two days in a row. My throat is scratchy and I am coughing. I am trying to recover quickly as the upcoming week brings with it more picketing – unless the government moves towards the bargaining table. We do not have any hopes though that this will happen.

If we were having coffee, I wish you a wonderful day and the best week.

What would you tell me if we were having coffee?

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2020

(This post is linked to Eclectic Ali and the Weekend Coffee Share)

Two Walkouts in a Row

Despite the cold temperatures this past week, the teachers working in Ontario, Canada participated in walkouts to protest against the cuts to public education that the current government is proposing. On Thursday, the walkout was province-wide and included the 83 000 teachers that work for school boards across Ontario. Teachers bundled up and made their way to their designated picketing site.

My school was instructed to meet outside the constituency offices of Vincent Ke. We milled around on the sidewalk outside for a while but the cold drove us to walking. We spent the time walking up and down a section of Sheppard Avenue East. Not only did the walking warm us a little, but it also helped to pass away the time of our three hour shift.

When my shift had ended, I walked another 15 minutes to the subway station to get home. While on the train, I could feel the tingling in my toes as they slowly started to warm up. Getting off the train was difficult and, during the walk home, I constantly thought of the warm drink and meal I would be having. Once home, it took me the rest of the afternoon to warm up.

Yesterday it was our turn to take part in the rotating walkout action. My colleagues and I joined up in front of our school and walked the short bit to Yonge street. We had received permission to picket on the main street so that we could get more exposure – our school is in a small side street that is quiet during the day.

As we were standing on the corner, we were covered in snow. However, the group did not let the cold get them down – the music teacher had brought with her a speaker and prepared playlist which encouraged us to move to the music. We were also shown a lot of support from the community. The coffee and sweet treats given to us by parents were welcomed – the hot coffee arriving at an opportune time as it warmed my frozen fingers.

As of this morning, we have heard no notification that the government is going back at the bargaining table and more walkouts are planned for next week. I would rather be in my classroom teaching my students – but this issue is too important.

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2020

Grateful for Principal's Support

If you have read my recent posts, you will know that the teachers in Ontario, Canada are in a strike position. Today, all 83 000 members of the elementary union (k-8) are walking out of schools to show support for the following: small class sizes, maintaining the current kindergarten model, and protesting cuts to special education for children with needs. We are picketing this morning in rotations of three hours no matter what the weather. This morning it is snowing (with chances of sleet) and the temperatures are below 0c. I know the ice, snow, and cold are not going to be pleasant.

Yesterday in our mail boxes, all teachers received a package given to us on behalf of our principal. I could not help but feel emotional when I picked it up. The package shows her care and support – so important at a time like this. Included in the package were some snacks and – most important – hand warmers. These will definitely come in handy for today’s below 0c temperatures.

I am certainly grateful for the support of our principal, and of the admin staff in general. It means so much to have their support and to know that we, the teachers at the school, do not have to butt heads with those people who supervise us from day to day.

What are you grateful for this week?

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2020

Grateful for Admin Support

As you all know, on Monday the teachers in our school board walked out of the classroom and walked a picket line in front of the various schools. (If you missed my post, it is here.) At the start of our 3 hour stint in -18c temperatures, our school principal came out and offered us baked goods. In addition, she told us that she had organised a gift card at the coffee shop down the road and that we were to each grab a hot coffee on her and the vice-principal.

Midway during our time picketing in the freezing cold (literally), the VP came out to encourage us. She spoke to each person in our group, showing her support for what we were doing. In addition, the office staff and support staff also came out during their break to show solidarity.

On Monday was the second time I have participated in a strike since teaching here in this country. And this time round the support from the admin staff is incredible and not what I expected. It makes things a little easier because the heads of the school do have more work when we are participating in strike action. The show of their support helps to create a positive atmosphere in the school.

This week I am grateful for the support of the admin staff at the school where I work. It certainly helps when we all foresee a long road ahead.

What are you grateful for this week? Leave a comment or a link to your post below.

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2020

Walking the Picket Line

Yesterday my colleagues and I participated in the fourth phase of our ongoing strike by withdrawing full services. The day dawned with the frigid temperatures of -18c but we were determined to stand up for what we believe is important.

Our bodies constantly moving to keep warm, we gathered together in front of the school where we teach. The school is not at full capacity, so the group was small. However, we cheered one another on as our bodies got used to being out in the extreme cold. As someone mentioned, it was a little like yard duty – but for an extended period of time.

I am proud to be working as a teacher for our school board. I know that we have an important job to do – a job that some in our society do not appreciate. However, the parents at our school are very supportive and understanding. They realise that the reason we are standing up to the government and the cuts they want to enforce is for the good of their children, our students.

A few parents brought their children over to show them that yesterday was not just a day away from school; these parents had explained to the children what it is we are fighting for. Two of our students yesterday morning walked the picket line with us to experience strike action. Definitely a learning moment.

It is not often that we were able to catch the sunlight and stand in its warmth. Our neighbourhood has been changing over the last few years as condos are sprouting up in its streets. We became sun seekers, searching for any spot in which to stand. Sunlight was rare, though, and we walked up and down a section of the street to keep ourselves warm (especially our feet!).

We are hoping that the government ministers see the light (did you see what I did there Becky 😀 ) – but we do not have any hope that they will. Today the secondary schools are going on their third walkout and, thankfully, the temperatures have risen by 15c. Hopefully the next time we walk out of our classrooms for the strike action, it won’t be so cold.

Have you walked the picket line?

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2020

(This post is linked to Becky’s Square Challenge.)

Strike Action

Stop Bill 115

It is taking away our democratic right

They say.

Bill 115.

No discussion.

No negotiation.

A direct command to do as we say.

It is undermining our democratic society

They say.

A society that others have fought for

And died for.

They are undermining our professionalism

They say.

Reducing our pay.

Not acknowledging our experience.

Silencing our voices.

It is time to take action:

To fight back against those

Who wish to dictate our actions.

Strike vote.

Solidarity.

Work to Rule.

Strike Action.

Fight against tyranny.

With democracy?

No choice given.

No divide and conquer.

Fight tyranny with dictatorship.

They take away our democratic right

I say.

Our ability to make professional choices.

To make our individual voices be heard.

What are your thoughts on strike action?

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2012