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about, a stuffed Cat in the Hat and an old puppet of mine called “Jackie” at opposite ends of the cabinet wearing masks and denot- ing our in-school classmates and colleagues. In the middle, a small maskless stuffed “book- worm” cradled an iPad, denoting our learn- ers at home. I then pulled the camera back to reveal the permanent backdrop to my display, consisting of a Progress Pride flag and a Black Lives Matter banner, to which I would later add a medicine wheel tapestry. The messaging was intentional. Our


school year began amidst the backdrop of two inescapable global realities. The first was the novel Coronavirus pandemic whose effects have been felt most acutely by mem- bers of equity-seeking groups. Alongside this reality has been a worldwide outcry from the streets against police violence, the effects of which are felt most acutely by Black and Indigenous people, people of colour, people who struggle against income inequality, with mental health issues, or are queer or trans. Several years ago, in a speech to members


of my local, author and journalist Desmond Cole used the term “dangerous intersections” to describe what happens when Blackness or brownness converge with mental health, in- come inequality or gender. It has been ever thus, but the events of this past summer have amplified these inequalities and inequities in ways many teachers feel obliged to acknowl- edge. Thus the displays I put up, photo- graph and discuss with children – including, so far, Halloween, Orange Shirt Day and Islamic Heritage Month – are presented quite literally against the backdrop of these dual pandemics. However lofty the vision, the realities of


day-to-day school are never very far away. During our first week online, my colleagues and I received a late-night email from our administration, which included the fol- lowing: “As per the Elementary Operations Handbook – Opening Exercises, The instruc- tional day will begin with the Land Acknowl- edgement followed by O Canada.” Truthfully, I had begun each morning


with the TDSB Land Acknowledgement; however, I had run afoul of my patriotic re- sponsibilities. While the anthem is a conven- tion of schooling, I was at pains to see how it might be an administrative priority when so many issues remained unresolved – children and teachers awaiting devices, parents strug- gling with logins and families still without teachers. On a personal level, I’ve also strug-


20 ETFO VOICE | WINTER 2020


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