On my way home from even more heavy discussions at work around equity in schools, I came by this mural at the corner of Dundas St. West and Cordova Ave. It’s called The Faces of Islington, painted by John Kuna in 2013. It portrays changing demographics in the style of a huge class photo. Beside it is a plaque explaining that the mural “celebrates the ethnic and cultural character of Islington as it has changed over the last century.” It’s interesting that I run into an art piece celebrating ethnocultural differences after discussing how, as a school system, there are different outcomes for students based on their ethnocultural background. I saw some pretty rough data from the TDSB about high suspension rates, lower academic achievement, and higher rates of special education designations for racialized students, particularly students that identify as Black, Latin American or Indigenous. Luckily, those heavy conversations focus around what we can do about all that. I don’t pretend that the equity work that I’ll be doing will be easy – I expect it to be messy and painful – but I know the work is worthwhile and necessary. My hope is that mural on Cordova will one day reflect a true celebration and respect of different cultures – that is, when children’s cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds don’t become barriers to success. Now that would make a nice picture.
Published by Jason To
I'm a secondary mathematics teacher at Westview Centennial Secondary School in the Toronto District School Board. I'm returning to the classroom following a stint as a TDSB Math Coach and Coordinator of Mathematics and Numeracy. I view math education through the perspective of equity, inclusion and anti-oppression and its intersection with student identities. As a powerful tool and vehicle for social change, I see math as student empowerment and ensure they see its learning as a social enterprise that challenges them to think critically and collaboratively. I am also a staunch advocate for the elimination of streaming in education — that is, the separation of students into distinct learning pathways based on students' perceived abilities and identities. I have worked at the school and system levels to support teachers with inclusive math practices and shape policy to remove streaming as a structure barrier to equity and inclusion. When I'm not doing all that, I pet my cat, try to read something, play a sport, watch a superhero movie, and be with friends and family. View all posts by Jason To