Q & A: ‘Pedagogical supervisor’ a position that raises questions

October 24, 2017 Gordon Thomas, ATA Executive Secretary

Question: I’m to be visited by a “pedagogical supervisor” from central office who is going to tell me how to teach. Do I have to put up with this? I’ve taught for 20 years and I know what I’m doing.

Answer: Let’s start at the beginning. You hold a certificate of qualification to teach in Alberta, and that means that you must adhere to section 18 of the School Act, which sets out your statutory duties as a teacher. They include teaching competently and following the program of studies approved by the minister of education. You are also an employee of a school board and you can be directed lawfully, as an employee, to do certain things by your principal or by others who serve as an agent of the board.

That said, it is highly doubtful that a lawful order can compromise your statutory obligations to teach competently and to follow the program of studies. You are responsible for meeting the requirements of the Teaching Quality Standard and you must adhere to the Code of Professional Conduct.

A pedagogical supervisor cannot replace the principal, whose responsibilities with respect to teachers are also established in the School Act. I have noticed a significant increase in positions like this one in the past two years.

If the goal of the pedagogical supervisor is to provide surveillance of the teacher to central office, it is a waste of money and serves to undermine the role of the teacher and the principal. If the goal is to direct the teacher’s professional practice, that may cross into the teacher’s statutory duties. A teacher’s instructional duties are not to be handed off to a pedagogical supervisor. If the goal is to support the teacher’s professional practice, this position does not really line up with the support requests made by teachers. We hear calls for more support for inclusion, for complex classrooms and for reduced class sizes. Establishing a pedagogical supervisor to engage in surveillance and provide feedback wouldn’t be anywhere near the top of a teacher’s support wish list.

I would encourage you to advise your pedagogical supervisor of the supports that you require to improve your ability to meet your professional obligations as a teacher. Those would be the most constructive conversations to have. If your pedagogical supervisor seeks to direct your professional practice, you should contact Barnett House or the Southern Alberta Regional Office and ask to speak to a Member Services executive staff officer. ❚

"And there it was. Boom.
Big place for room for improvement of basic skills."

Education Minister David Eggen reacting to news that about one-third of Grade 6 students failed the no-calculator portion of the 2016–17 PAT math exam that he introduced last year. As reported by Postmedia. 

Questions for consideration in this column are welcome. Please address them to Gordon Thomas at Barnett House (gordon.thomas@ata.ab.ca).

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