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At HWDSB, we are aware of how COVID-19 has highlighted two pandemics in our society: one related to the virus itself, and one related to social inequities the virus intensified, like anti-Black racism.

HWDSB is committed to developing safer, more equitable and more inclusive learning environments. Schools have an important role in learning about equity, and supporting student and staff well-being.

To address both pandemics, a team of staff informed by our community created a series of lessons called Learn.Disrupt.Rebuild@HWDSB: Building a Community of Care​.

These lessons for Kindergarten to Grade 12 students align with HWDSB’s Board Annual Plan and Equity Action Plan. The lessons will support students and staff on topics related to human rights, equity and mental health during the pandemic. Lessons support the Ontario Curriculum.

We have organized age-appropriate lessons into four modules:

  • Module 1. Physical Safety, Mental Health and Wellness.
  • Module 2. Understanding Identity and Intersectionality.
  • Module 3. Exploring Human Rights, Equity and Anti-racism.
  • Module 4. Empowering Action and Allyship.

Students will learn that who they are – their identity – is an important part of their learning and well-being. We want students to understand who they are, speak up when things are unfair, and help create a safer learning experience for everyone.

Some of these topics are complex, so we encourage you to talk with your child about this learning. You can ask questions like: What did you learn about today? What did you think about what you learned today? Do you have any questions about this topic?

Over time, we will add to this website with resources such as sample lessons.

If you have any questions or concerns, please speak with your child’s teacher or principal. You can also learn more about Addressing Concerns at HWDSB.

Thank you for helping all students and staff feel safe, supported and accepted.

Primary Example Lessons

These are some sample lessons that may be adapted by educators in the classroom to promote safer and more inclusive learning spaces for all students.

Junior Example Lessons

These are some sample lessons that may be adapted by educators in the classroom to promote safer and more inclusive learning spaces for all students.

Intermediate Example Lessons

These are some sample lessons that may be adapted by educators in the classroom to promote safer and more inclusive learning spaces for all students.

Secondary Example Lessons

These are some sample lessons that may be adapted by educators in the classroom to promote safer and more inclusive learning spaces for all students.

Why focus on unique identities rather than on one shared identity?

“Students grow up and become the adults who teach their own children or students in schools. Asia is the biggest continent. Korea, Japan and China are all different, but people don’t act like it. They ask if we speak Mandarin when we are Korean. Not everyone is the same – even people who come from the same country have different experiences.”

“There is a very unique experience of when you’re racialized; especially when the school around you is not that diverse.”

“I think student voice involves not only listening to the students but responding on what really matters to them and asking questions, so they know our opinions are being heard.”

-Student Voice

One major theme of Learn.Disrupt.Rebuild is that people should get to know themselves so they can better understand the world around them. This is a way for them to navigate social structures, and to notice when things are unfair to them and to others.

It is important that students get to know themselves as people who have various identities (e.g., race, gender, ethnicity, etc.), rather than have a single identity imposed upon them. Exploring your own identity helps a person build a sense of self and is a great way to find common ground in diversity.

In contrast, some would argue in favour of colourblindness. This refers to the racial ideology that says the best way to end discrimination is by treating individuals as equally as possible, without regard to race, culture, or ethnicity. It is only a half-measure that in the end operates as a form of racism.  We all have various identities and we should recognize and celebrate the differences that makes each individual complex and unique.

Are you trying to turn my child into an activist?

“Students who aren’t racialized could have seen things happen to students who are, so maybe they can be allies.”

“There are different types of allies – you can do something performative and be the face for racialized people, or you can stand beside them and speak up.”

-Student Voice

It’s our role as educators to educate students about the world as well as critical thinking skills.  It’s also our role to provide safe and inclusive learning environments.  Learn .Disrupt.Rebuild strives to demonstrate that all of us, students, educators, administrators, families and community, have a role to play in creating social change.

An ally is a person who works to end a form of oppression that gives them privilege(s). Allies listen to, and are guided by, communities and individuals affected by oppression. Forms of oppression include ableism, ageism, audism, classism, biphobia, homophobia, transphobia, racism, sexism, and others.

Activism is simply taking action to effect social change; this can occur in a myriad of ways and in a variety of forms. Often it is concerned with ‘how to change the world’ through social, political, economic, or environmental change. This can be led by individuals but is often done collectively through social movements.

What research supports this approach?

HWDSB is a school board that operates under the Education Act and other relevant legislation, as part of Ontario’s Broader Public Service. HWDSB receives its direction from the Ministry of Education when it comes to implementing the Ontario Curriculum.

When the Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC) submitted recommendations to the provincial government on Ontario’s education system, it was clear that: “An education system that respects human rights and promotes inclusion will be better placed to meet the government’s goals of improving academic achievement and preparing all students for the working world.”

The OHRC continued: “Ontario’s Education Act envisions providing students with the opportunity to become highly skilled, knowledgeable, caring citizens who contribute to their society…However, despite the aspirational values set out in both the Education Act and the Code, more work needs to be done to make sure the human rights of students are respected.”

Ontario has directed school boards to ensure they make school environments safe, welcoming, and inclusive of all students regardless of their identity and must have the competence and capacity to address all forms of discrimination. Ontario’s education system must also address the rights of First Nations, Métis, and Inuit (Indigenous) students and the unique barriers they face in accessing education.

Unfortunately, not everyone benefits from Ontario’s education system equally. Racialized or marginalized groups face inequality and discrimination; this has led to lifelong and even intergenerational impacts with significant personal, cultural, economic, and social costs. One example is the lower educational attainment recorded on the Canadian Census, when it comes to Indigenous and Black populations.

Education is both a free-standing human right and an indispensable means of realizing other human rights. It is an “empowerment right” and the primary vehicle by which economically and socially marginalized adults and children can lift themselves out of poverty and obtain the means to participate fully in their communities.

Among the OHRC’s six key recommendations was the call for the government to “Equip educators to teach human rights and meet their legal obligations.”

Lessons in Learn.Disrupt.Rebuild@HWDSB align with Ontario’s Education Equity and Inclusive Education Strategy. (See details below.)

Why are you teaching these ideas?

“It would be helpful to talk about ways we can tackle racial bias, educate students and adults about racism and condemn stereotypes, as well as explain how our future generations will be affected by how we respond to racism. If we keep quiet and accept the “reality” of racism nationally and globally, it will be normalized and become sustainable. We only meet our needs and compromise the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. Students can unite, raising voices to condemn racism, discrimination, and stereotypes, while educating and advocating for change.”

-Student Voice

You may be referring to the lessons, aligned with HWDSB’s Board Annual Plan and Equity Action Plan, that are supporting students and staff on topics related to human rights, equity, and mental health during the pandemic. All content aligns with the Ontario Curriculum and Ministry of Education directions. The lessons in Learn. Disrupt. Rebuild@HWDSB are grounded in evidence-based pedagogical approaches, including Culturally Responsive and Relevant Pedagogy, Anti-Racist/Anti-Oppression Education and Universal Design for Learning.

To enhance our human rights education instruction, a team of dedicated staff was hired to create a series of culturally relevant and responsive lessons. These lessons, informed by our community, are called Learn.Disrupt.Rebuild@HWDSB: Building a Community of Care.

Learn.Disrupt.Rebuild@HWDSB​ is one of many equity initiatives in our Equity Action Plan, which also includes the 2021 student census, 2020 employment equity audit, 2019 staff census and much more.

The lessons are designed to support HWDSB schools to fulfil their legal obligations in promoting fundamental human rights under the Ontario Human Rights Code and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, with which HWDSB is required to comply.

Ontario’s Ministry of Education states that: “A positive, inclusive, equitable, and non-discriminatory elementary and secondary school experience is vitally important to a student’s personal, social, and academic development, to their future economic security, and to a realization of their full potential.” Ontario Ministry of Education’s – Curriculum and Resource

Lessons in Learn.Disrupt.Rebuild@HWDSB align with Ontario’s Education Equity and Inclusive Education Strategy: “Equity and inclusive education aims to understand, identify, address, and eliminate the biases, barriers, and power dynamics that limit students’ prospects for learning, growing, and fully contributing to society. Barriers may be related to sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, race, ethnic origin, religion, socio-economic background, physical or mental ability, or other factors. It is now recognized that several factors may intersect to create additional barriers for some students. These barriers and biases, whether overt or subtle, intentional or unintentional, need to be identified and addressed.”

The lessons in Learn.Disrupt.Rebuild@HWDSB support the Ministry’s and HWDSB’s goal to develop and integrate Culturally Relevant and Responsive Pedagogy (CRRP) approaches to promote teaching, curriculum and assessment that are responsive to students’ needs and lived experiences. These lessons are a resource that is just one of the ways intended to support staff as they address issues related to equity, mental health, and well-being.

CRRP is an approach to education that emphasizes the importance of acknowledging learners’ and educators’ multiple social identities and how they intersect with the world; the importance of engaging students with a full range of differences in learning background, strengths, needs and interests.

“CRRP provides a framework for building positive environments, improving student responsibility and success, encouraging parent-school relationships, and building strong community connections. It also emphasizes that it is important for educators and school leaders to examine their own biases and to analyse how their own identities and experiences affect how they view, understand, and interact with all students. This can help to prevent discrimination, harassment, and the creation of poisoned environments. Educators are responsible for meaningful teaching and learning that recognizes and responds to who is in the classroom and the school.” Ontario Ministry of Education’s – Curriculum and Resource

Where is the next teaching module of Learn.Disrupt.Rebuild?

The staff team for Learn.Disrupt.Rebuild releases modules on the website after HWDSB educators have had a chance to work with them in schools. Educators may edit or revise these modules, so they may not be teaching students exactly what is posted. To learn more about what is being taught, families are better off speaking with their child’s classroom teacher.

Anti-racism: Anti-racism is defined as the work of actively opposing racism by advocating for changes in political, economic, and social life. Anti-racism tends to be an individualized approach that is set up in opposition to individual racist behaviors and impacts. Source

Anti-Black Racism: The Council for Democratizing Education defines anti-Blackness as being a two-part formation that both voids Blackness of value, while systematically marginalizing Black people and their issues. The first form of anti-Blackness is overt racism. Beneath this anti-Black racism is the covert structural and systemic racism which categorically predetermines the socioeconomic status of Black people. The structure is held in place by anti-Black policies, institutions, and ideologies. Source

Antisemitism: Antisemitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred or blame. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of antisemitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, as well as toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities. Source

Human Rights: Rights inherent to all human beings, whatever our nationality, place of residence, sex, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, language, or any other status. We are all equally entitled to our human rights without discrimination. These rights are all interrelated, interdependent, and indivisible. Source.

Intersectionality: Intersectionality refers to the social, economic, and political ways in which identity-based systems of oppression and privilege (such as gender, gender expression, race) connect, overlap, and influence one another. Source

Islamophobia: An exaggerated fear, hatred, and hostility toward Islam and Muslims that is perpetuated by negative stereotypes resulting in bias, discrimination, and the marginalization and exclusion of Muslim people from social, political, and civic life. Source

Pandemic: A pandemic is the worldwide spread of a new disease. Source.

Privilege: Refers to the unquestioned and unearned set of advantages, entitlements, benefits, and choices bestowed on people solely based on a single characteristic. Privilege can be due a number of different attributes – race, gender, age, sexual orientation, education, status, and ability. Source.

Social Movement: A loosely organized but sustained campaign in support of a social goal, typically either the implementation or the prevention of a change in society’s structure or values. Although social movements differ in size, they are all essentially collective. That is, they result from the more or less spontaneous coming together of people whose relationships are not defined by rules and procedures but who merely share a common outlook on society. Source

Systemic or Institutional Oppression: The systematic mistreatment of people within a social identity group, supported and enforced by the society and its institutions, solely based on the person’s membership in the social identity group. Source

Updated on Monday, December 13, 2021.
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