Knowing Ward 20 versus living in Ward 20

I’ve participated in two all-candidates meetings/debates so far with the TDSB Trustee election.  I find it quite surprising that I often am the only one representing specific community needs & interests here in our Ward.

I do not talk broadly about initiatives I’d like to see in our schools.  I do not only talk about educational research or provincial/board policies. I speak specific to addressing the needs of our students, families, and communities.

I am often asked if I live in the Ward and have been quite open the fact that I don’t live here.  I am finishing my Master program at OISE/University of Toronto, so that has required me to live downtown for the past two years until April 2012.

Despite the fact that I do not live in the Ward, I have made it a key priority to learn about our schools, our families, and Ward 20 in all its diversity. These conversations started my campaign & will continue as your Trustee.  Clearly I have not been able to knock on all doors.  I want to continue to do so.  I want to talk with you.  Your stories, experiences, questions, concerns, and ideas are what I bring forward as your Trustee.

Even in the midst of pounding the pavement, I always try to answer your calls, emails, have extended conversations at your door, or meet you for coffee or tea.  & for those who I’ve befriended already, we will continue the conversations after February 27 regardless of the outcome.

Vote for me, a true community-oriented and community-grounded voice focused on supporting our students and improving our schools.

Media coverage #2 – campaign

Ontario educator and blogger Doug Peterson wrote this article on me, entitled “Yoga and Politics.”  Some of the things he highlights: how we met, my experiences and perspectives, my social media and technology use, and what I bring to the table as Trustee for Scarborough-Agincourt.

Excerpt:

The use of social media just at election time is disingenuous.  I know that it’s a relatively new phenomenon to some but I think that I would really have a great deal of respect for someone who promises during her/his campaign to stay connected after the election to provide information directly to we taxpayers.  In fact, anyone who promises to live-tweet or live-blog during debates on bills would be guaranteed to get me to look strongly at their candidancy.

Even more impressive would be someone who is a known user of social media to spur conversations, debate issues, take a stand, etc. BEFORE the election.  For them to have a position already established and then to slide over to election mode would be the best possible scenario.

Voters in Scarborough-Agincourt have that opportunity in candidate for board of trustees, Monica Batac.  Monica is a an established social media user.  I first met her at the ISTE Conference in Philadelphia where she was just another Ontario Educator in the pack of us that learned and dined together.  At the time, she was going to school to get her Master’s Degree in Teaching.  We met up again at the ECOO Conference in Toronto.  What I particularly like about these events and the Ontario Educators that went to these two events is that the conversation is certainly not an echo chamber.  In our discussions, we talk and push each other to think about the WHYs that go with what we’re doing.  That is so helpful.

It was with a smile that I read that Monica was planning to run in Scarborough-Agincourt.  Monica has strong ideas and opinions about education and isn’t happy with the status quo.  I think that she’s perfectly placed to take on the challenge of representing people in that huge school district.

Many who head into political office do so with a machine behind them.  Monica’s working to build a social machine.  Whether it’s through her Facebook fan pageTwitter account, orpersonal website, she’s doing her best to build community to help spread her message.  Reading the content recently, she does have friends and followers, but not necessarily in Scarborough-Agincourt.  Hopefully, that grows as she heads towards the February 27th election date.  She did get a little bit of traditional media coverage which can be a challenge in a by-election.

So, how does a first time politician get money to run?  There have been a lot of fund raisers that I’ve heard of before but how about attending a Yoga Class together?  Is this a sign of new thinking to come?  Her friend Colin Harris already has blogged about her thoughts of planning and expecting excellence.  These are the sorts of things that we need driving education towards the future.

It would be terrific and a positive sign for the future that candidates who know and use the technology are taking the time to get elected and move the educational system forward.  I just wish that I could vote for her.

See full article, click here.

Social Media and Parental Involvement

I’ve been thinking quite a bit about how we engage with parents at classroom and board levels.  I recently posted about how I seek to make a clear, direct path and link between parents and myself as Trustee.

I know many educators who use email, Twitter, class blogs, websites, Facebook, and other on-line platforms to share information with parents.  I must make clear the distinction between using social media to merely transmit knowledge and using it to create, develop, and maintain dialogue.  Colleague Lorna Costantini discusses this distinction:

Are teachers using SM to ask parents what they think? Is it being used to seek advice from parents? Are we using Facebook and twitter to maintain two-way communications? Are we providing training for parents on how to respond and engage using these tools? Is it the already engaged parents who are engaging now using SM? How many parents are connected with smart phones, computers the Internet? Is there any data to support how many parents know how to use these tools. I want to hear overwhelming that SM is being used successfully to engage parents but in general I don’t think it is. I need to be bang on in writing about tools for parents of teens so can you share your thoughts on how best to do it?

I believe we must

  1. Share information with parents using social media
  2. Train parents how to use social media
  3. Develop collaborative and transparent dialogue with parents using social media

Full article by Lorna Costantini can be found here.

Parental Voice in Education – Breaking the hierarchy, beyond the school walls

You’re a parent and have concerns, ideas, and suggestions regarding your child’s education, the local school, or perhaps the Toronto District School Board at large.  Who do you talk to?

Traditionally, you would approach the teacher or principal. Some of you may even be part of the advisory committees.  Is this the only way?

What about if you don’t have time to call in or drop by the office? Many of us struggle with daily responsibilities and meeting immediate needs.  Where do you find the time and space to have your voice heard?

Arguably, most parents do not see the giant hierarchy of the school board. They don’t necessarily come into contact with the administrative and executive staff.  But if the changes you seek and the questions you have require dialogue at that level, what do you do?

Your ideas can get lost in the hierarchy. I’m here as a direct link.

 

Most parents may think they can bring their concerns up to the Principal level. But the puck does not stop there. Did you know that the Board of Trustees have a ton of influence on what goes on in Toronto schools? They essentially decide what initiatives and projects take priority.

Trustees should be your advocates.  As a Trustee for Scarborough-Agincourt, parents can talk with me. I will open the doors, both online and face-to-face, to make sure you can access me in whatever mode works best for you.  Trustees are to develop and maintain meaningful relationships with parents, students, staff, educators, and community members/organizations.

Vote for me so you can have real dialogue with someone who can influence the direction of public education.


I’ve heard many parents advocating to maintain city services in Toronto for the sake of their children. I urge you to continue to be more vocal, especially with education.  I’ve heard parents urge city councillors and Mayor Rob Ford to listen to the needs of the people they serve.

I’m here to listen, talk, collaborate, plan and advocate
on your behalf for your child’s education.

 

Let’s continue the conversation:

 

Curious to see the full TDSB organizational structure? See it here.

 
 

The new year brings a new trustee – my campaign begins…

On our first day of 2012, I would like to share an important message with you.

It is with the overwhelming support of my family and many colleagues, friends, and mentors that I will be running in the by-election for Toronto District School Board (TDSB) Trustee for Ward 20 – Scarborough-Agincourt.  I am excited & encouraged for the next two months of campaigning.  I hope you will come along for the ride.

Over the past few months, I have considered the range of career opportunities available after graduation. Anything and everything under the sun has been suggested- from oversea teaching gigs, employment with local boards, to tutoring.  I’ve considered continuing my studies or entering the private sector.  As some of you may know, I have not been 100% convinced that one opportunity was better suited for me than another.

I have spent the last two years navigating and switching between my identities as student, teacher, educator/mentor, researcher, community member, and advocate.  Yes, I am a multi-purpose, multi-identity stakeholder in education.  Becoming the Trustee for Ward 20 would allow me to continue this often messy, complex, yet invigorating work.  This time though, it is beyond informal conversations with peers or teachers – it is with the stakeholders themselves and with some weight in decision-making.

My reflections, learning, and experiences have always brought me back to the big picture, the critical implications of our definitions, practices, and values of teaching, learning, and education.  Would you agree there is dissonance in what is and what could be?

We all know we’ve got work to do.  Let’s get the votes.