ATA staff officer,
ATA staff officer
This fall, when teachers return to the classroom, the demands on their professional and personal lives will be something never before seen in public education. So it’s perfect timing that the Alberta Teachers’ Association is preparing to roll out several new workshops with a focus on health and wellness, according to Nancy Luyckfassel, an executive staff officer with the ATA’s Professional Development (PD) program area.
“We know that times change very quickly,” Luyckfassel said. “We look at our workshops as living documents and hope they are always reflecting the current needs and realities in teachers’ classrooms.”
The ATA’s PD program area offers 50 workshops, seminars and presentations for schools and can be booked by any active or associate ATA member in good standing. They’re delivered by Association instructors, staff officers and Indigenous facilitators. Many workshops are also offered in French.
A $200 booking fee is required, and Luyckfassel says people should register early to avoid disappointment, particularly around hot spots like the beginning of the school year or division PD dates.
“We will take bookings a year in advance,” Luyckfassel said. “When we get really full days, we manage the bookings based on the date they were received.”
Before the COVID crisis, PD was on track to have a record-breaking year in requested workshops.
Aside from the annual updating of current content, six new workshops will be available in late August. Four will support teacher wellness, a healthy work–life balance and class management; two will be added to the Indigenous education roster.
HEALTH AND WELL-BEING WORKSHOPS
Creativity – Our Next Generation Depends on It!
Luyckfassel says this workshop develops the strong relationship that exists between creativity and personal well-being. Participants will learn how to use creativity as a tool for problem solving in their personal and professional lives.
She says the COVID crisis has provided some excellent examples of how creativity is being used to provide innovative solutions to evolving problems.
“Bauer started repurposing their plants from making hockey helmets to making personal protective devices. We’ll incorporate this story and many others as examples of how creativity is being used to solve the challenges we’re faced with.”
Making the Most of a Teaching Life: How to be Well and Stay Well
This workshop was developed to study a holistic approach to teacher wellness. Strategies will be explored to confront the pressures that exist both inside and outside the classroom, such as financial or family issues.
Luyckfassel says these strategies are becoming increasingly valuable to teachers.
“We will soon be experiencing a very difficult bargaining process and managing the pressures placed on education by the current government will be tough. This workshop will look at tactics for members to be well and stay well both professionally and personally.”
Mental Health 101
This workshop provides teachers with a basic understanding of the mental health issues they might see in their classrooms. However, the purpose of the module isn’t to train teachers as counsellors or psychologists.
“Similar to first-aid training, this workshop will give teachers the basic information they need to identify and help students who may be experiencing mental health issues,” Luyckfassel said.
Lessons learned in this workshop are not confined to the classroom. The skills acquired will also help teachers understand the feelings that they and their colleagues may be experiencing at times, Luyckfassel said.
Classroom Management: Beyond the Basics
The result of teacher demand, this is a follow-up to the workshop entitled Classroom Management: What Works, which was developed for beginning teachers. This new clinic will help teachers who have some experience in the classroom but still need guidance with the next steps, such as managing student behaviour and dealing with difficult situations.
INDIGENOUS EDUCATION WORKSHOPS
Two new Indigenous education workshops are currently under development and will be available in the fall. Both were designed with much input from First Nations, Métis and Inuit Elders, Knowledge Keepers, teachers from Alberta, and the Association’s Indigenous Advisory Circle, said Melissa Purcell, executive staff officer for Indigenous education with the ATA’s Professional Development program area.
The Sixties Scoop: Understanding Implications and Contributing Towards Reconciliation
The Sixties Scoop took place from the 1960s to the 1980s. Social workers, unfamiliar with working with Indigenous peoples or not understanding the cultural or historical context of Indigenous communities, identified thousands of Indigenous children as living in unacceptable conditions. They “scooped” these children from their homes and placed them with non-Indigenous families across North America and throughout the world.
Many victims of the Sixties Scoop dealt with horrific physical, mental, sexual and emotional experiences. The disconnection from their cultural roots and trauma from abuse had long-lasting impacts that are still being felt today.
Purcell hopes this seminar will help teachers reflect on their own understanding, values and beliefs about Indigenous people and how they can apply this new knowledge in their classrooms and professional life.
“It’s learning about the histories of this land that we are not taught through our own learning experience,” said Purcell. “It’s important for us as teachers to work toward making change, not just for First Nations, Métis and Inuit students, but for the benefit of all students and teachers across the province.”
The Association worked very closely with the Sixties Scoop Indigenous Society of Alberta (SSISA) for guidance on the information the workshop would be sharing with teachers.
Finding Our Way in Indigenous Education: Connecting Hearts and Minds
This workshop addresses some of the common statements heard from teachers, such as “I don’t know what I don’t know,” or “I am afraid to say or do something offensive,” Purcell says.
She stressed that the workshop is meant to help unpack some of the Indigenous education resources that already exist and “just hold space for conversation about how we find our way in Indigenous education — how do we connect hearts and minds.” ❚