I am, by nature, a person of optimism, planning and care. I instinctively lean toward the silver linings. Challenges are often just opportunities I’ve yet to reframe. As I reflect on my first year as president of the Alberta School Councils’ Association (ASCA), I am drawn by nature to the glimmers of community building, the pinpoints of hope and the waves of compassion I saw this past year.
I have experienced, personally and through this role, that relationships between students and teachers, parents and teachers, and teachers and school communities have been the foundation upon which education has existed and survived through a global pandemic. The value of strong relationships built with great care on integrity, mutual respect and trust is immeasurable.
It is these relationships that I believe we need to continue to nurture and lean into as we navigate our education experiences together — always together.
The draft curriculum being presented to Albertans for piloting and then implementation simply does not meet the needs of our students, nor is it of the quality that our children deserve. ASCA members recently passed policy at our annual general meeting related to the renewal of curriculum. Our members believe that the creation, piloting and implementation of curriculum must have opportunities for meaningful parental and educator engagement that is free from influence from elected officials.
These requirements have not been met with the current draft curriculum. Additionally, our members want to delay the implementation of any draft curriculum until it has broad support from education professionals, teachers, parents and citizens. School councils have legislated roles and as school communities work with their councils to support students, conversations around the draft curriculum will be happening.
It is important for parents, teachers, administrators, trustees and superintendents to work together to understand the current version of the draft K–6 curriculum. It is imperative that our relationships strengthen and our understanding of each other’s needs and perspectives deepen.
This pandemic and the mismanagement of the response to it has depleted many of us in a variety of ways. Sometimes, under great stress, people collapse into themselves and have no energy to do even one more thing, no matter how great an impact that one thing might have. I recognize that we are weary. I recognize that, separate from the pandemic, many Albertans have felt unheard, disrespected and unvalued by some of the provincial policies that have been passed in the last couple of years.
All these things are valid obstacles, and all these things have drained us. Yet there is another thing we need to do, irrespective of our weariness.
From my weary vantage point, I look for the silver lining. I dare to hope, even. I am reminded of all the times that teachers have shown up for families. I am reminded of the opportunities that are created for students when parents work in collaboration with their school communities. I revel in the joy that students have when talking about their school day — that special lesson from a really cool teacher or that awesome conversation with a peer that lifted them up.
We are making it through a pandemic, within a quality education system, because of those relationships. These resilient relationships have held us up, and they can propel our fatigued selves forward. Parents are partners in education, and it is crucial that we work together with teachers to move this draft curriculum from implementation back to the table for a rewrite. There must be a process by which curriculum is developed, not in isolation from the people who will experience the implementation (teachers, students, parents), but in collaboration with those stakeholders most impacted by new curriculum.
I am not an expert in curriculum; I am a partner with teachers, and I am engaged in our children’s education locally and provincially. I, along with many parents on school councils, will stand with teachers as we advocate for a quality, inclusive curriculum that we can be proud of and, most importantly, that our students will benefit from.
Students deserve more than lifted racism, age-inappropriate outcomes and rote memorization. Teachers deserve to have curriculum that honours the integrity of their profession. Albertans deserve an education system that reflects the values of our communities and helps young citizens grow into themselves. We must continue to build relationships that help us as we reject this current version and partner to reiterate our expectations of what new curriculum must be.
Thank you, all teachers, for your dedication, hard work and partnership.
I am a partner in education, and I invite all teachers to stand beside me. ❚