In the past editorialists like me could depend on a few literary devices around the new year to begin their prose. We could write some witticism or other about mistakenly using 2018 on cheques instead of 2019, but, of course, no one uses cheques anymore.
We could spin a yarn about taking down old calendars and putting up new ones, but I haven’t purchased a calendar in ages, and those kiosks at the mall around Christmastime seem dreadfully dull these days. There are much better ways both to keep track of events and to look at cute pictures of cats.
So what is a guy to do when looking to create an amusing lede for a New Year’s column?
The body of the column will be easy. I can look ahead to the year that will be and speak of the upcoming events. But how might I pull the reader in first? Hmm…
Sure, after some awkward segue, I could talk about how 2019 will be an eventful year and that it will start hopping quickly. Nominations are closing soon for the ATA’s Provincial Executive Council elections. Central table bargaining could very quickly come to a head, and local bargaining still continues for 10 units left unsettled for more than two years.
Then there is the provincial general election, which has been heating up for some time and will certainly dominate the public square for the next few months. The economy will remain a hot topic, and that will be used to debate public finances. But how will we ensure that education remains a priority?
I know what my main premise will be. We need teacher engagement, now more than ever.
There is a palpable sense of restlessness amongst teachers. It may be anxiety, but it also feels like energy.
Class sizes are large and so are the gaps in support for student needs. More must be done, yet we keep hearing about how there is not enough money to fix the problems. Teachers are obviously concerned about Alberta’s slowly recovering economy, but they also know that—when asked to help the government with its finances, they have responded — teachers have had only one salary grid increase in the past six years. And next school year will bring with it new quality standards and the start of new curriculum implementation for a third of our members.
The challenges ahead for teachers can only be responded to with teacher engagement around the issues and events that matter.
I could close my editorial with a call to action. (If only I could figure out how to get it started.)
We need teachers to advocate. An emerging theme for the Association this year is the idea that “teachers want what students need.” So we need teachers to talk about those important issues, in particular, class size and supports for inclusion. Talk to your friends and family, your students parents’, trustees and MLAs, and get out and talk to all of the candidates in the upcoming provincial election. Tell them about your students, classes and schools and ask them what they think.
The coming months are critical for the future of our profession and province, and we must make sure that the needs of students and teachers are an important part of the conversation.
I am mindful of what Bill Moore-Kilgannon, former executive director of Public Interest Alberta, would say in his presentations about advocacy. He would post a picture of a screaming baby and talk about how a baby is the most effective advocate. Babies know what they need, and they will focus on it until they get it. They will make sure that you can’t ignore their needs, and they will persistently draw attention to their needs until those needs are met.
That’s it! That’s the literary device I needed.
As old man time representing 2018 departs, we are met with the New Year’s baby representing 2019. Let’s be inspired by that baby, inspired for the future and all that it can be and how it can be achieved through a well-supported public education system. Let’s also be inspired by the tenacity of babies and their ability to effectively and tirelessly advocate for what they need. ❚
I welcome your comments—contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.