Parents and teachers team up in advocacy

September 2, 2021 Brandi Rai, President, Alberta School Councils Association

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Some of us just dragged our weary selves through the thrum of summer with the hope of patching ourselves up from the long school year we just survived. Others bounced along to the beat that is summer break with their children and doled out fun like confetti at a loud, long party. Whether you’re a parent on either of those ends, or some muddled amalgamation in between, I want to remind you that your resilience during the past year was forged with the love that parents have for their babies.

Your children made it through a whole year of learning in a pandemic because of you and your ability to show up, even when you’re bone tired and spilling anxiety because of the tumultuous landscape around you. Economy woes – yes they’re there. The stability of the health-care system – what a worry that has been. Saying goodbye to loved ones with limited closure for grief – that’s been a reality for lots of families across our province. Balancing work, home life, child care and your own mental health – yes you did that delicate dance over and over during these last 17 months.  

One of the many partners that families have had during this last year has been teachers. Parents and teachers have worked together to help students survive and, in some cases, thrive during a global pandemic.  

Even in the absence of a pandemic, parents and teachers are uniquely poised in our children's lives to collaborate so that the whole child is supported and educated in meaningful ways. When parents and teachers work in partnership, individual students benefit but also entire school communities. Individual parents and teachers share common goals, and organizations such as the Alberta Teachers’  Association and the Alberta School Councils’ Association advocate for them provincially.  

Throughout our province, united voices can be heard, from those who want our children to be successful students in classes that are an appropriate size, with inclusive experiences in a well-funded, equitably accessed education system. Parents and teachers dream together, we listen to each other and work with each other. Who else is listening to our voices? Who else is envisioning a better education system for our children? Who else is working alongside parents and teachers in authentic collaboration? It is not always our elected provincial representatives, even though it is their role to do so. 

It is these missed opportunities for strengthening our education system that have added to the stress and strain felt by families and teachers this year. Packed classrooms, poor ventilation, minimal provincial funding assistance for additional health protocols, the collapse of contact tracing, the additional workloads that fell to teachers and administrators – those just scratch the surface of the strain on our education system this year.  

Add to that a funding formula that many districts have found to be insufficient to meet the needs of their local students, and a draft curriculum that is so inept that thousands of Albertans are petitioning for a rewrite – it is a wonder that parents and teachers are still standing in the face of provincial mismanagement. 

Yet here we are, still standing, and with the responsibility to walk forward and advocate for change because it is our students, our babies, who are impacted by shoddy policies, racist curriculum and a dereliction of decency.  

It is imperative that we continue to build partnerships with other parents, with teachers, with trustees and with community members so that every Albertan has an understanding of what is happening in education.  

We, as parents, must not be complacent about the strain added to our teacher partners by an overly ambitious timeline for implementing the refuse that our provincial leaders is claiming as curriculum. We must hold fast to the representative model that holds our elected officials accountable so that the curriculum is adjusted to reflect inclusivity, age-appropriate outcomes and the ethos that our children deserve. We must listen and learn from our trustees (there is an election in the fall, so talking to your candidates now is a must) as they navigate governing local education with inadequate funding and provincial policies that are shortsighted.  

As we conclude the summer that was supposed to be the best ever, hopefully parents have refilled their cups with community, connection and determination, and are ready and willing to join with teachers in advocating for all students this fall and beyond.

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