Viewpoints

November 18, 2014 Mark Ramsankar, ATA President

What advice would you offer a new teacher?

I’ve had the pleasure of travelling the province for the last few months to celebrate the inductions of our newest colleagues entering the profession and welcome those colleagues who are new to Alberta. Of the many roles I have as president, participating in these induction ceremonies is a highlight, as they are exciting and rewarding events.

What would you say to new inductees if given the chance? Would your core message change? Mine has not!

Mine is a message of hope: hope for the future as new teachers enter our profession; hope for each child who will be influenced and taught by our new colleagues; hope for our communities, our province, our nation and the world. I say at each induction that the new teachers being celebrated represent the future, the rebirth of our membership and growth in the profession.

An ATA slogan states, “The future: it’s why we teach.” We know that teachers, through our work with students in the public education system, contribute greatly to the foundation on which social and economic prosperity are built. Ours is the responsibility of helping all children develop intellectually, physically, emotionally and socially into future citizens who will make positive contributions to our communities, our province and our country.

I remind our new inductees that they have been in classrooms and have experienced what teaching is. They have that experience and now they are teachers.

The influence we have will always make us teachers in the eyes of our students. They call us “Mr.” or “Miss” years after they have been in our classes. New inductees need to know that their influence is farther reaching than the day-to-day classroom.

“Once you are a teacher, you will always be a teacher!” I remind them.

I experience a sense of pride as the inductees take the pledge and make their commitment to the students and families of Alberta. This, however, pales in comparison to the pride shown by the parents and family members in attendance.

It’s fantastic to see some inductees share the evening with their parents who are also teachers. How special would it be to have your son or daughter enter the profession? One teacher even said to me, “I am so excited to be inducted, and I am teaching in the same room that my mom taught in for many years!” Yes, it truly is an endless cycle.

I remind new teachers that ours is a nationally and globally respected organization. Our expectations are very high in both competence and conduct. Our public sends their most precious gifts each day. This is the responsibility we carry and take very seriously.

I say at each induction, “I am a proud Alberta teacher,” followed by encouragement to all of them to find their voice.

Ours is a collective consisting of each individual’s personal advocacy. I challenge them to find their voices and express themselves proudly, to carry the voices of students who don’t have their own and to carry the voices of their students’ families. We are the keepers of the public education system and must strive to maintain public assurance. This goes well beyond the classroom.

My final message impresses the importance of family and self. I challenge each one to work diligently to find and use quality family time throughout the year. This is difficult, but being at your best includes taking time for yourself and recouping when you need to. Our students benefit greatly from our efforts to take care of our health. In this way they receive our best each day.

Finally, I ring my bell. The symbol of the bell and its call to each of us to enter the profession has become part of each induction speech. The bell I use belonged to my father, a world-class educator who taught me the importance of caring for others.

I believe we cannot start without a call. Like runners on a track who start the race at the sound of the gun, inductees start their careers at the sound of a school bell. It is a special moment for me to call my new colleagues to our profession.

What do you do to support, welcome and advise our newest colleagues as they enter the profession that I believe to be the greatest of them all? ❚

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