Moving forward with resolve and hope
We live and work in an extremely dynamic sector that is under constant scrutiny. So many individuals have values and opinions regarding education, and there are many who claim a stake in our education system: students, parents, the community at large, business, government and teachers. As such, public education is a magnet for myths and misconceptions.
I believe that each individual’s reality is based on the omission of context combined with the lens through which that person views the world.
One of my key priorities as your president has been to support the Association’s views on education issues through strategic planning and appropriate actions. My perceptions are viewed through the lens of president. I conduct my work in a variety of venues — including presentations at our teachers’ conventions and induction ceremonies — and at every opportunity I reinforce the message from our Strategic Planning Group that the future is not something that will simply happen to us — it is something we must and will create together.
When others attempt to undermine or marginalize the profession as “just the teachers,” I remind these individuals that Alberta teachers are citizens first — they are Albertans who are members of families and communities. We teachers are Albertans whose realities are based in the day-to-day rigours of the classroom, and as committed and engaged citizens, we are committed to co-creating the future of this province.
Those who seek to marginalize the profession, therefore, do so based not on in-school experiences but rather on anecdotal information and views from a variety of external lenses.
Margaret Wheatley, in the foreword to our Strategic Plan states: “There is no power for change greater than a community discovering what it cares about.” I know that teachers in Alberta care about their students and the quality of education they can or cannot provide. A great source of stress and frustration for teachers comes from knowing they cannot teach the way they need to teach due to a lack of support and resources required to meet the needs of all students in their classrooms.
Until recently, from where I stood as president of your Association, the story of improved Alberta classrooms might have seemed distant given the many distractions that have been playing out over these past two years. These include attacks on the profession and public education in general, the waffling over the human rights of LGBTQ students, and the efforts to undermine public confidence in the capacity of schools to define and create the future of this province. I am hopeful that the current and future governments will lead the province through policies and programs toward a 2030 Alberta that’s like the one outlined in the Association’s Preferred Futures document.
I turn to the premier and the education minister to work on behalf of Alberta teachers to rethink our public assurance model and to work with the Association and our well-established networks to offer students world-class educational experiences based on the Association’s A Great School for All document. Addressing issues of child poverty and the equity gap in our province will go a long way toward ensuring there is a great school for all students in Alberta.
Myths and perceptions as viewed through the lens of government must continually be challenged, explained and sometimes substituted for the realities as seen through the lens of the profession. This is the ongoing work of the Association. Our Strategic Plan suggests that the Association continues to “be an agile and resilient organization that is continuously learning through research.”
The Association’s document Research into Policy and Practice reviews a variety of research initiatives that range from studies that examine the changing work of teachers and school leaders to the impacts of ill-conceived policies around the acquisition of technology, including the growing use of digital reporting tools that have increased teacher workload at a high cost and with little if any benefit to students. These research projects offer support to the realities I share with other education stakeholders in the province.
I am reminded of another Margaret Wheatley quote: “No one is coming to save us.” Through our research partnerships and actions we demonstrate that we do not sit idle waiting for things to happen to us, or for someone to come save us or manage us. As teachers and school leaders, we have broken out of the habit of looking inward, closing our doors and withdrawing from the issues. Instead, we’ve reached out to maintain meaningful networks of support to advance our agenda for educational reform in Alberta.
And now to continue this work.