March 2017

On February 24, 2017, educators from the GTA came together for our 20/20 Conference. Digital citizenship, diversity & inclusion, and health & wellness were all topics to be discussed through workshops and keynote speakers. The diverse topics were meant to create innovative ideas that can be brought back to classroom. Walking through each room established how interactive workshops can be building blocks to building safer schools and communities.

Jamie Mitchell led Workshop 1A How to Create 21st Century Classroom Norms. By showing how important it is to be digitally competent, educators discussed the importance of teaching students appropriate behaviour on the internet. As the world moves into a strong technological era, it is crucial that there is comprehensive understanding of the written and unspoken rules of the internet.

Ms. Lorraine Bailey-Wallace, Ms. Talcia Richards, and Ms. Nikki Silvera led Workshop 1D on Building Sustainability for Mental Health and Wellness in you school community. With the stigma surrounding mental health still working to be broken down in today’s society, the workshop intended to provide strategies and resources for educators to ensure the well-being of students at their schools. The initiatives will bring new insight to a previously ignored topic.

Aaron Cowan & Amy Yanover presented Workshop 1E on the Positive Spaces Day: Building School-Wide Inclusion & Empowerment. Bullying prevention strategies aim to build an inclusive environment that will empower students to reach their full potential. Sharing experiences and learning what works as opposed to what doesn’t is a good way to move forward.

Dean Barnes hosted Workshop 2A Supporting Student to be Healthy in Mind, Body, and Heart. This interactive workshop aimed to share positive experiences from the collaboration of students, staff, and parents on the topic of wellness. The implementation of Wellness Wednesday have made a huge impact on the school’s comprehensive approach to building a healthy mind, body, and heart.

Rebecca Katz presented Workshop 2C Lessons for Media Literacy and Digital Citizenship from Online Media Fandom. Fan communities have become an internet phenomena that foster creative fiction, art, and video. Art and ideas can be shared at a faster rate than ever before which means that we have to adapt to the possible consequences. Students must learn digital citizenship as part of their new curriculum.

Tina Vankuren hosted Workshop 2D The Therapeutic Benefits of Humour in Education. Humour is an important part of mental health and wellness. This workshop focused on getting educators to tap into their sense of humour in a way that will get students engaged. The comedy made it easy to have an interactive session where there was

Deb St. Amant facilitated Workshop 2E Joining the Circle: An Educator’s Toolkit to Support First Nations, Metis, and Inuit Students. By having the conversations about First Nations issues that affect students, educators are better able to assist them with resources. Pride, identity, and racism were discussed in the context of building relationships with First Nations students and family in order to have healthy schools

Alan Richardson & Sandra Crockard hosted Workshop 3 A Peer to Peer—An Initiative in Whole School Health & Wellness. This interactive workshop sought to show how student-led mental health and wellness programs can be implemented. Community engagement is essential to moving past mental health stigmas and the best way to do that is by having students make the connections in the community.

Christine Klaasen facilitated Workshop 3B Teenagers, How to Love Them In: applying a mindful, restorative approach to practice. Restorative practices were at the center of this workshop in terms of modifying the discipline model. In this workshop, the participants learned how to change their language to be more restorative as well as how to stay calm during tense moments in the classroom. Lastly, teachers were shown how to deal with the toughest students without the usual discipline.

Marbella Carlos hosted Workshop 3D Body-based Bullying, Social Media and Eating Disorders. Social pressures are difficult to escape especially because of the use of the constant use of social media which impacts the body image of youth. Through the interactive workshop, participants learned how to have these tough conversations with their students. Addressing body-based bullying makes it easier to ensure that all students celebrate physical diversity.

Linda Primier, Collette Chalmers, Bill Urwin, and Philip Popcock facilitated Workshop 3E Making the Spectrum Digital; Preparing ASD learners for the new workplace. The Dufferin Peel Catholic District School Board created a program to help students with autism. They used iPad technology to help students build their own digital portfolios. The technology is also used to help student who have different learning styles.

As we have seen with all of the topics that were discussed, they are not easy to talk about which is why we need to create spaces that allow these dialogues. In addition to the workshops, the two keynote speakers– Dr. Tracy Vaillancourt and Dr. Ashleigh Molloy–brought the themes of the conference together. Dr. Tracy Vaillancourt shared her knowledge on promoting equality, mental health awareness, and anti-bullying resources. It is inevitable that there were many points that educators will be taking back to their schools and communities. She is an example of how personal experiences are important in helping to build your identity. Dr. Ashleigh Molloy was successful in engaging the crowd. His energy kept the crowd attentive and eager to participate as he delivered his message.

We can only grow if we communicate with each other and learn as a result. As education keeps moving forward and adapting to the 21st century, we all must learn to be part of the change. Recognizing the past needs in education in relation to the present and future needs are essential in becoming successful educators!

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The 20/20 Student Stream focused on digital citizenship, mental health & wellness, and diversity & inclusion. Students and speakers were encouraged to be engaged, ask questions, and share their thoughts on these matters that are becoming increasingly important in the education system. Their insight was helpful in creating a safe space where new ideas could be discussed without judgement.

The initial portion of the conference consisted of presentations on digital citizenship. Social media and its proper use was the center of the dialogue between the speakers and the students. Since we cannot avoid growing use of digital media, it is crucial that we learn how to use it effectively. We need to control it rather than let it control us. Caroline and Kimron made this message clear and students agreed that social media has become a part of their every day lives whether it is on their phones, tablets, or laptops.

The next theme of the conference was health & wellness. Jaqueline brought up chi gong as a new topic for the students to learn. She emphasized how it has helped her in mindfulness and then went on to guide the students to how it is practiced. The students were engaged by talking about how they deal with stress and later mentioned how relaxing the exercise was for them. Matt was the second speaker on health & wellness. His sense of humour was engaging for the students and he also had them move around and get to know each other. Throughout his presentation, he kept the students motivated and eager to listen for when he shared his personal stories.

After lunch, the students moved on to our diversity & inclusion workshops. Jason led the discussion by getting everyone pumped up and sharing stories with an anti-bullying message. He shared why he believes sports are essential in promoting inclusivity.

The Harmony Movement workshop led by Punita and Koryn gave the students activities that dealt with diversity and inclusion. They had insightful conversations about prejudice, stereotypes, and icebergs. Yes, icebergs. As Punita and Koryn mentioned, you can only see 10% of an iceberg while the other 90% is under water. The same goes for people. There are many things that we can see, but there is much more beneath that we don’t know unless they tell us. Their exercises were informative and interactive making it a great end to the conference.

Everyone who came to our conference made a difference. It was great to see students who wanted to participate and learn. These are the strong leaders we need to build safer schools and communities.

–“I can bring more information back to my school, for myself about mental, physical, and social awareness.”

–“This conference has taught me about many topics that I find are important in my life and I can apply info I have learned into my life.”

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