I guess it is about time that I share on here the podcast "Inspiring Women Series", hosted by Shannon Mullen, that I was asked to participate in last week. Shannon is one of my long time and dearest friends. Not only do we share a birthday, but we also shared many formative experiences in high school together. Shannon is inspirational women herself - highly educated, articulate, thoughtful and adventurous. When she asked me to participate in her podcast, I was humbled.
Here is what Shannon shared as an introduction to our conversation:
“I’m just one person trying to leave the world a little better than I found it.”
The seventh episode of the Inspiring Women Series is my conversation with Megan Valois, a high school teacher in the Ottawa Catholic School Board and a longtime friend of mine.
Since she is one of the hardest working, most caring, and most positive women that I know, I feel fortunate that Megan was willing to share her story, insights, and passions with me.
Megan grew up in Ottawa, Ontario, where she currently lives and works. As a young girl, she was inspired by her father’s commitment to volunteerism, and became dedicated to community service herself.
“His name on a bulletin board wouldn’t mean anything to a lot of people…but the people who did know him were greatly impacted by him, and that’s the type of person that I want to be.”
During high school, she volunteered at her church, was involved in her school’s Youth Ministry and Peer Helping programs, and spearheaded the Student Ambassador Program for Kids Help Phone in Ottawa. In 2002, she received the Governor General’s Caring Canadian Award for her contributions to the greater community.
“It’s just the little things that, cumulatively, create a person’s legacy.”
After “fast-tracking” from high-school, Megan completed a Bachelor of Arts degree at Acadia University in Nova Scotia. Following her graduation, Megan moved back home and earned her Bachelor of Education degree at the University of Ottawa with teachables in English and History at the Intermediate and Secondary Levels. She also has additional qualifications in Special Education, Primary/Junior Education, and French as a Second Language.
Megan has been working as a high school teacher for 10 years and is currently teaching Grade 11 English and Grade 10 history, including a “sheltered class” which consists of only ESL students. As a teacher, Megan is passionate about differentiated instruction, Assessment for Learning, 21st Century Learning, and the use of technology in the classrooms. Megan moderates Canadian Ed Chat and has completed her Google Apps for Education training. In 2012-2013, Megan received the honour of being one of five teachers recognized by Queen’s University as “Associate Teacher of the Year.”
“I would love to do something that has a big impact on education.”
As she is very invested in ongoing professional learning, Megan uses much of her spare time networking with other educators online, preparing for conference presentations, and attending professional development workshops. However, since giving birth to her son, Ethan, just under two years ago, Megan has learned to balance her passion for teaching with her family responsibilities.
In this episode of the Inspiring Women Series, Megan discusses her passion for education, the unique challenges of being an “army wife” (her husband, Travis, serves in the Canadian Armed Forces), her desire to make a difference in the world, and the importance of surrounding herself with positive people.
“I thrive on positive energy because when you are around like-minded people who really want to make a positive impact, it really causes you to look inward as well and ask yourself: ‘Where is my passion? What is my fire? Where do I want to go? What do I want to do? What kind of impact do I want to have?'”
Here's the results of our conversation if you'd like to listen to our whole conversation: https://shannonmullen.me/2016/06/09/inspiring-women-series-a-conversation-with-megan-valois/
In the past few days, I have spent a lot of my time reading about the Stanford University campus rape case and sharing articles, including my brief thoughts, on social media.
And maybe I’m not going to make a lot of friends by sharing these thoughts. Maybe people who don’t want to discuss serious issues and want to keep everything lighthearted will un-follow me. Please, feel free.
“Silence, like a cancer, grows” - Simon and Garfunkel
Because, as a woman and moreover, a teacher, I feel it is extremely important that I speak out on issues that are not only dominating national and international news headlines but ones that can and will very likely impact the lives of the students who I teach.
I recently watched the Netflix/CNN films documentary “The Hunting Ground” on the recommendation of a former student who has a college diploma in social work and is currently completing a university degree in the same field.
I would love to say that it was astonishing in what it portrayed but the sad reality is that it was not. Distressful, appalling, nauseating? Yes. Shocking? No.
One in five college women will be sexually assaulted. That means that whether I want to admit it or not, I have and will teach students who have and will end up being sexually assaulted. Statistically, that is a fact. And that makes me literally, not figuratively, sick to my stomach.
Sexual assault is rampant on college campuses. And the statistics are very likely conservative… on the low end of the spectrum… of actual assaults given that victims of these crimes often do not report these crimes for a host of reasons, including fear, shame, guilt and trauma to name a few.
It is also important to take a moment to refute the naysayers. Significant research has been done on the topic of false accusations. It is estimated that between 2-8% of cases (from Hunting Ground documentary, multiple sources) that are reported are, in fact, false. I am not condoning this in any way, shape or form. Any person who falsely accuses anyone of a crime does not only a great injustice to that person they falsely accuse but also insults the entire criminal justice system and all of us who support and believe survivors. So please be cognizant that I am not in denial about the fact that false accusations do exist and my heart goes out to the men and women who are falsely accused, as they are also victims. I stand with them as I do with all other victims.
That said, the majority of cases are not false accusations. In fact, in many cases, the accused is a repeat offender. In one study cited in “The Hunting Ground”, a staggering statistic was presented: “Less than 8% of men in college commit more than 90% of sexual assaults”. I was stupefied by this.
This is why we need women and men to join their voices together to decry sexual assault and rape culture. We know that very few men are raping women. We know that most men are loving, responsible, respectful people. We need them to join with us to reprehend those who commit these crimes.
If you are unfamiliar with the recent case at Stanford University, please allow me to fill you in on the key facts.
A young woman, who was inebriated and unconscious, was sexually assaulted behind a dumpster in the early morning hours one January day in 2015. By sheer miracle, two young men, Ph.D. students, were biking to a party and observed Brock Turner on top of this girl. They noticed she was not moving. Not at any point. No movement at all. They immediately approached and questioned him. He fled. One stayed with the victim, still unconscious, while the other pursued the assailant, Brock Turner, and physically restrained him until police arrived. If not for their selfless and brave actions, who knows what would have become of “Ms. Emily Doe”.
Brock Turner was found guilty of three sexual assault charges. The usual sentence for such a crime is up to 14 years in prison. He received 6 months… possibly as few as 3 with good behaviour. All the more insulting is that Brock Turner’s father, Mr. Dan Turner, felt that this sentence was far too severe for “20 minutes of action” in a 20 year life, as he so stated in his letter to the court. (See link to full letter below).
The survivor of the Stanford assault committed by Brock Turner has become the face of the spirit and resilience of survivors. Ironic, in that we do not know who she is, by name or appearance. And yet, this speaks to the power of words to touch the human spirit and rally people towards the cause of justice.
The eloquent and impassioned letter shared by “Emily Doe” in court after learning of the ‘slap on the wrist’ that her rapist received, is something that will resonate with a generation.
“Ruin a life, one life, yours, you forgot about mine. Let me rephrase for you, I want to show people that one night of drinking can ruin two lives. You and me. You are the cause, I am the effect.”
“You took away my worth, my privacy, my energy, my time, my safety, my intimacy, my confidence, my own voice, until today.”
“And finally, to girls everywhere, I am with you. On nights when you feel alone, I am with you. When people doubt you or dismiss you, I am with you. I fought every day for you. So never stop fighting, I believe you. Lighthouses don’t go running all over an island looking for boats to save; they just stand there shining. Although I can’t save every boat, I hope that by speaking today, you absorbed a small amount of light, a small knowing that you can’t be silenced, a small satisfaction that justice was served, a small assurance that we are getting somewhere, and a big, big knowing that you are important, unquestionably, you are untouchable, you are beautiful, you are to be valued, respected, undeniably, every minute of every day, you are powerful and nobody can take that away from you. To girls everywhere, I am with you. Thank you.”
The courts may have denied her justice by sentencing her convicted rapist to only 6 months in prison but justice will be hers. She will have the final word. Her suffering will be acknowledged. Her legacy will not be one of victimization. Her legacy will forever be that of courage in the face of unspeakable injustice. And while none of this will ever take away the hurt and the pain and horror that she has gone through, hopefully she will realize that there are so many millions of people who are supporting her and believing in her and proud of her for being the “lighthouse”.
Vice President of the United States of America, Joe Biden, shared a beautiful open letter (https://www.buzzfeed.com/tomnamako/joe-biden-writes-an-open-letter-to-stanford-survivor?utm_term=.sob7aQVqG#.kpex9PWn6) to “Emily Doe” today. I hope that everyone takes the time to read it. He expresses what so many of us are thinking and feeling and sharing.
I do not know your name — but I see your unconquerable spirit.
I see the limitless potential of an incredibly talented young woman — full of possibility. I see the shoulders on which our dreams for the future rest.
I see you.
You will never be defined by what the defendant’s father callously termed “20 minutes of action.”
His son will be.
I join your global chorus of supporters, because we can never say enough to survivors: I believe you. It is not your fault.
What you endured is never, never, never, NEVER a woman’s fault.
And while the justice system has spoken in your particular case, the nation is not satisfied.
And that is why we will continue to speak out.
And so, speak out I will.
I will stand with survivors. I will decry rape culture. I will speak out against privilege in justice. I will not be silenced by fear of what people will think.
Stand up for what you believe in, even if you are standing alone. And standing alone, I am not. I stand with millions of men and women, all over the world, who know that human dignity and rights matter and that no one has the right to victimize another human being.
“The seriousness of rape has to be communicated clearly, we should not create a culture that suggests we learn that rape is wrong through trial and error.”
"The idea that your son has never violated another woman next to a dumpster before isn’t a credit to his character. We don’t get kudos for only raping one person in our lifetime."
– John Pavlovitz
I will teach my students that every person has worth and value and no one EVER has the right to hurt you in any way.
"Hear my words that I might teach you
Take my arms that I might reach you" - Simon and Garfunkel
I will be a part of the solution. I will not be a part of the problem. I will add my voice to the chorus. I will stand with survivors.
Joe Biden Letter: https://www.buzzfeed.com/tomnamako/joe-biden-writes-an-open-letter-to-stanford-survivor?utm_term=.msxakbK0r#.yqgbeP6Ng
Mr. Dan Turner Letter: http://heavy.com/news/2016/06/brock-turner-father-dad-dan-turner-full-letter-statement-stanford-rapist/
John Pavlovitz Letter: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/john-pavlovitz/to-brock-turners-father-from-another-father_b_10339418.html?ir=Canada+Living
Rape Survivor Statement: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/the-stanford-rape-case-read-the-victims-full-courtroomstatement/article30329342/
Hunting Ground Movie: http://www.thehuntinggroundfilm.com/
Who am I?
Hi! I'm Megan. 21st century learner and teacher. I am passionate about DI, assessment, student success and #edtech. My blog is where I share what is happening in my classes, my professional learning and sometimes things that are on the outer circle of education. Comments always welcome!