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LETTER: Restoring respect and responsibility in Ontario's education system

'It's unconscionable that some parents remain silent while school culture deteriorates to the point where students fear using the restroom and teachers and administrators are subjected to overt appalling disrespect'
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To the editor:

After 35 years of service in both public and elite private education settings across Canada and internationally, it's evident that Ontario's education system is at a crossroads.

Recent bans on cell phones by the Ministry of Education signal a step in the right direction, but it's time to recognize that behavioural reform must be a foundational pillar for meaningful change. Such change will require strong support from senior-level and site administrators who, of late, seem to have lost the will or backbone to set reasonable but high expectations.

Teachers, parents, and students all must take an active role in school improvement.

Let's be candid: the state of behaviour in our schools is appalling and fundamentally undermines the learning environment mandated by the Education Act. As someone deeply invested in the profession, I must acknowledge that significant responsibility to address this crisis rests on the shoulders of educators, unions (whom I wholeheartedly support), and parents alike.

Teachers and unions have historically fought valiantly for issues such as class size and prep time, but it's time for a paradigm shift. We must demand a return to professionalism within our ranks. Dressing professionally, behaving professionally, and demanding standards for ourselves are a statement of commitment to our profession and the students we serve. We must hold ourselves and our colleagues accountable for maintaining a standard of professional conduct that fosters an optimal learning environment.

However, reform is not solely the burden of teachers and unions to bear.

Senior administrators have been hamstrung, their authority undermined by a pervasive fear of parental backlash and lack of support by upper administration or the Ministry (the statement by the Minister of Education that he ‘has the backs of educators’ is a bit of joke). It's high time they reclaim their authority and assertively address the toxic influence of disruptive students/parents on school culture.

Parents, too, must accept their share of responsibility. Where are the voices of those parents who prioritize their child's education and demand a safe, respectful learning environment?

It's unconscionable that some parents remain silent while school culture deteriorates to the point where students fear using the restroom and teachers and administrators are subjected to overt appalling disrespect.

The erosion of respect for education within our society begins at home, and it's time for parents to take a stand against those who seek to poison our schools with their apathy or hostility. The same can be said for students, who have enormous responsibility and investment in their education. It is time you demand that your schools provide a safe, fun, and engaged learning environment. Is this impossible? Not at all, as evident in most private schools.

These expectations are not the product of high tuition fees, rather they are the result of having high expectations for everyone in the community, and the will to enforce these expectations (yes exclusion -suspension- from the school needs to be on the table if, at the end of a progressive discipline policy, students refuse to comply with school expectations).

In conclusion, banning cell phones is but a small step in the journey toward revitalizing Ontario's education system. True reform necessitates a collective commitment to restoring respect and responsibility at all levels of our educational institutions. It's time for educators, unions, administrators, parents, and students to unite in demanding an environment where learning can flourish, unencumbered by the distractions and disruptions that currently plague our schools.

David Brazeau

North Bay