I recently attended my 8th AMPA (OSSTF's Annual Meeting of the Provincial Assembly). Before that I had attended several AGM's as a member of ETFO. I like that kind of meeting, I like getting the big picture, I like hearing about what things are like in other corners of the province. I think those of us who frequently attend meetings like this, forget what it's like for someone to attend a meeting like this for the first time. We had some newcomers with us at AMPA 2015 and I asked Shawna McPherson from Bradford District High School to write up some of her thoughts following that experience to include in the April 1st edition of Hard Copy. I asked her permission to post it here as well, in an effort to reach an even wider audience. Below is Shawna's article:
As a member of CBC over the last few years, I’ve heard all about AMPA – how exciting it is, how interesting, and how empowering it is to have a part in shaping the future of OSSTF – so, this year I decided to take the plunge and go …
AMPA … The Annual Meeting of the Provincial Assembly of OSSTF … A three day conference in Toronto with over 500 delegates and 150 alternates, as well as guests, honorary members, the press, and staff, from all over Ontario. A little overwhelming you say … at first, absolutely … and honestly, I was actually kinda nervous going in, you know venturing into the great unknown and all … and then you get swept away into the ceremony and celebration of it all ...
The first sessions start at 9am on Saturday. As you go down to the escalator you see people everywhere, and I do mean everywhere, chatting, greeting friends both old and new (likely met in the Hospitality suites the night before J), and preparing for the day’s events. The main meetings are held in a ballroom that has been converted into the largest meeting room you’ve ever seen. On the main stage sit the Provincial Executive, the Chairs of the meeting, members of the Steering Committee, and to the left of the stage behind the black curtain … all of the staff who work tirelessly to see that everything runs smoothly. In front of it, a sea of tables and chairs, organized by District and completely full. There are monitors placed strategically throughout the room so that everyone has a clear view of what is happening at the front of the room. It is amazing and completely overwhelming!
One of the first items on the agenda is the President’s address … WOW! Listening to the President of OSSTF, Paul Elliot, speak was inspirational, empowering, and literally gave me goose bumps. He spoke of unity, solidarity, the power of all those who work in the field of education, the strength we have in working together, and most of all of hope. Hope that we would make it through the tricky minefield of negotiations with some gains; Hope that we would maintain the strength and unity that has brought us this far and the certainty that we are going in the right direction.
Following the opening address, the work begins and continues until 4pm on Monday … Three full days of meetings. How tedious you think … all that time and all those hours listening to people share their reports, filing motions, amending the motions, debating each and every thing … but tedious it is not! It is amazing to watch this machine at work. It is interesting to listen to the opinions and thoughts of all the people that are a part of OSSTF, from teachers to support staff to educational assistants to associate professors et al. All had a different perspective on the issues presented and were given the ability to have their voice heard and weighed before each issue was voted on; and nothing at AMPA is decided without a vote … It is truly democracy in action.
We had some interesting guest speakers too … I have to say my favourite was Liz Sandals, not because she had anything interesting or enlightening to say (actually it was more hypocritical than anything else) but because the Assembly graciously escorted her out of the hall with a rousing rendition of “Solidarity Forever”!
Of course the weekend is not all about the meetings J It is also about coming together as a cohesive group and making connections. Connections with those we work with and those from all other areas of the province. It is an oppourtunity to talk about the challenges we face individually, within our respective fields, and within each of our districts. It’s about networking and making new friends. I was fortunate enough to be able to spend time with a remarkable group of people who took me under their wing and showed me the ropes.
Throughout the weekend there were many different social events ... As there were elections being held at AMPA this year, each candidate hosted a hospitality suite, each with a different theme, and completely open to everyone who was there. There was also the President’s Ball, a dinner and dance held on the last night, and of course the Karaoke party to end all Karaoke parties to end the weekend’s festivities. Seriously though, put 700 or so educational workers in one building for a prolonged period of time, and well, I’m sure you can imagine the hilarity that ensues J
Overall, being able to be a part of AMPA was an amazing experience and it was a privilege to be a part of something so fundamental to our organization. I encourage everyone to take the plunge at some point in their career … trust me, you’ll be glad you did!
As for me … I definitely plan on attending again, and again, and again …
1st time AMPA attendee
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The view from my desk, as Teacher Bargaining Unit President for D17 Simcoe