professional development, anti-oppression, equity and inclusive training,
trans, blockers, unaware, teacher privilege, teacher identity, inclusive practices, risk-taking, support, gender, school forms, trans policy, advocacy, human rights, gender-neutral washroom, parental homophobia, legal obligation, curriculum, mis-gendering
Garrett: So one of the other parts of my role is I also do, with our board, I do the – or a lot of the in-servicing, and training of other teachers on our board. Um, on all anti-oppression. So we’re currently we’ve done most of the secondary teachers. It’s been a five-year plan. We’ve in-serviced most of the secondary teachers already. We’re working on elementary right now. Um, and that is all areas of oppression. Um, so that’s another part of the job that I do as well. It still astounds me, going in, working with teachers – and not just teachers, it’s also administrators that are being trained – the lack of awareness, still.
Tara: After all these years.
Garrett: I can’t even make the assumption that everybody in the room knows what the word trans means.
Tara: And this is despite the fact there are many trans students in their schools.
Garrett: Yes. Yes. Younger and younger. Right? In elementary, I mean the number of trans students that are already on blockers, and, you know, by grade five. Yet, many teachers have no idea, still.
Garrett: And one of the things we’ve done here that I would love to see happen across the system is we’ve got headship structures. Why not a headship, which is what we’ve done. It’s essentially what special programs, that’s what we call it here. We have – I think we’re one of the only schools with a special programs headship. Their job is special programs. It’s embedding equity through our entire system. Um, and I think that would be a structural piece that would really help tie together, and support classroom teachers. This is scary work. Right? For some. It’s frightening work. It forces teachers to examine their own identities, which is frightening for many. Their own privilege, which they don’t want to have to do. And so I think for one – one thing has worked for us is that we’ve got somebody, actually there’s two of us, that it’s our job to continue conversations of inclusive practices in education. And that classroom teachers don’t have to be experts. Right? And we support them in risk taking, and so when they don’t know, they come to us. And “Have you tried this? Have you thought about that?” If they’re still wary, I go in and do work in the room. And, um, I’m known as kind of “Mr. Equity,” so I’ll go in and I’ll do a smudging ceremony in the class. Um, I’ll do drumming in classes, I’ll do workshops on gender. I’ll help teachers embed those in their curriculum. Changing documents, and the wording of documents, I work with that as well. Letters that go out. I work with them on that. So, for me that’s one is it would be interesting to see equity and inclusive practices being recognised as that important. Right? If math is important, you’re going to have a headship.
Garrett: And so I would argue right now there’s some really, really good things going on in Durham Board, the fact that we’re training, like I mentioned, we’re training all the staff throughout our system on it. The fact that we now have trans policy, formally, on washroom use, on everything. But all of those things came as a result of changes, you know, to Ontario, Ontario Human Rights Code changes. Suddenly, you see policy, and I’ve been screaming policy on washroom use, I mean, we’ve needed this forever. And so that’s why I say it’s often for the wrong reason. I think it’s “Well, now the law says we have to”.
Tara: It’s top down.
Garrett: Yes. That’s right. The law says we have to, so now we have to. The positive of that though, is in doing this work with other teachers, and with new teachers, the risk isn’t there anymore. Right? When I was talking about queerness in a classroom, I was not protected. It wasn’t embedded in curriculum. It wasn’t protected in the Ontario Human Rights, and so when I was trying to have those conversations ten years ago, my job actually was actually in jeopardy. Now, you have to have those conversations, or your job’s in jeopardy. Right? It’s embedded. And so when I’m working with elementary teachers, for example, and I get it, the fear – the fear is parents. It’s not the kids. The kids are amazing. The kids are ready to have these conversations. The kids come with their identities already ready. You know what I mean? They’re prepared to have the conversation. It’s the parents. When you read Tango, or when you read any of those books in elementary, it’s the parents who are losing it, and teachers are afraid. Now, I’m able to say, I understand your fear, but you have not just an ethical or a moral obligation, you have a legal one. The curriculum says you must talk about this now. The Ontario Human Rights Code says you cannot continue to misgender. Right? And so that’s the positive that has come out for us in doing the work is that it’s no longer just the right thing to do, it’s the law. And if you want to protect yourself as a teacher, you need to do it.