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10 GREAT BOOKS


1. The Boy & The Bindi by Vivek Shraya (Arsenal Pulp Press, 2016) 2. Jingle Dancer by Cynthia Leitich Smith (Morrow Junior Books, 2000) 3. Speaking Our Truth by Monique Gray Smith (Orca Book Publishers, 2017) 4. WOKE: A Young Poet’s Call to Justice by Mahogany L. Browne (Roaring Brook Press, 2020) 5. POWER POEMS for small hu- mans curated by S. Bear Bergman (Flamingo Rampant Press, 2019) 6. I Am Enough by Grace Byers (Harper Collins, 2018) 7. Moondragon in the Mosque Gar- den by El-Farouk Khaki (Flamingo Rampant Press, 2019) 8. Don’t Touch My Hair by Sharee Miller (Little, Brown and Company, 2018) 9. Queer Heroes: Meet 53 2SLGBTQ+ Heroes from Past and Present by Arabelle Sicardi (Wide Eyed Editions, 2019) 10. Young, Gifted and Black: Meet 52 Black Heroes from Past and Present by Jamia Wilson (Wide Eyed Edi- tions, 2018)


by writers and characters who are Black, In- digenous and people of colour. These titles must not be set aside for specific times of year like Black History Month in February or Asian Heritage Month in May or Indigenous Heritage Month in June. The final $600 of my homeschool library budget last spring went entirely to one vendor, a favorite of mine, specializing in titles about Black cul- ture and history. My shelves at home are also packed with books about women and girls, income inequality and queer and trans folk. Five weeks in, no child has protested. No- body has asked, “Where are the books about white people, Mr. Nore?” Sharing this material over a livestream


proved complicated at first. Using an app called EpocCam, which works for Android and iPhone on a Mac or PC, I can convert an iPhone into a webcam or document camera. Since it connects through the WiFi in my home, I can move the device around my desk as needed. The app and a goose- neck stand cost me about $30, compared to the $300 I might have spent on a docu- ment camera. Let’s talk about costs for a bit. And privi-


lege. I’ve maintained a private office space at home for decades. Because technology plays a big role in my day job and in my other interests, I didn’t mind spending extra money on the items that help me succeed as a virtual teacher. These have included a second large monitor enabling dual display on a Mac Mini, a podcast microphone on a scissor arm, a quality chair that I spend at least 10 hours a day in and a repurposed conference table that I modified into an er- gonomic workstation. It’s all gear that I use in my private time. I keep the following in mind as I move


towards assessment and evaluation: many of our newly-hired members are half my age, making half my salary and operating their learning studios on a Chromebook in their bedroom. Other members who didn’t ask for this assignment grapple with these potential costs as well. Our students have, in many in- stances, had to do their schoolwork on an iPhone or an iPad, while they await a more suitable device. Their learning space might be the kitchen table at home, the coffee table at Grandma’s or an office in the back of the family-owned small business. Their parents, guardians and caregivers may be sprinting from one device to the next to get multiple children started for the day. Some of my stu- dents have a parent at home because of a job loss during the pandemic or because work


22 ETFO VOICE | WINTER 2020


outside the home poses a danger to health in the family. When we evaluate our students’ performance – or our own – we are evaluating privilege, or the lack of it. Thoughts of privilege and access are on my


mind when I communicate with parents. I got my start in the 80s teaching EAL and later or- ganizing adult literacy programs. I know that bombarding families with emailed informa- tion is fraught, particularly in an era when our inboxes are flooded with links and pdfs. For some messaging, I’ve made short videos for parents on everything from an inexpensive microphone set-up to mental health online. My hope is that parents can see and hear what I’m talking about. About five weeks into our virtual journey, my weekly email now links to a blog created for parents. In this way, they have an archive of past communications. I’ve chat- ted with parents on Google Meet as I would in the schoolyard. As I put more information out, my inquiries from parents have been fewer and far less distressed. As tired as I am some days, I remain op-


timistic. Despite the tech failures, the ad- ministrative challenges, not to mention an education minister whose reassurances never manifest themselves in our classrooms, I do find joy in my work. And hope. I pick up my banjo and play an old Pete Seeger tune and, although our voices don’t sync perfectly via livestream, we are able to do something our classmates and colleagues cannot do in their home school. I put on a video of Cha Cha Slide and try to dance along with my class without bumping my head on the basement ceiling. The kids and I do daily mindful breathing to a piece of meditative music. They show their toys and pets to me and to each other. I prom- ise them that, yes, my wife – a volunteer ani- mal rescue worker – will come back down to the office with one of our dogs in her arms for a Q&A about canines. What would school be without guest speakers? Our commitment to the rights of our chil-


dren and families, as well as our colleagues, must be renewed amidst the times in which we find ourselves. My best guess is that virtual schooling may be with us to some extent in the 2021-22 school year. My hope is that edu- cation stakeholders push hard for an online model that is founded in the community of a teacher, a class of students and their families. Our work from home may be less-desirable than in-school teaching, but with real tan- gible support, it can remain ethical, energized and equitable. n


Gordon Nore is a member of the Elementary Teachers of Toronto.


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