As my web bio states, I have been involved in education for over 35 years and have held positions in social work and construction prior to teaching. As a son of immigrant parents, I am so appreciative of having had a world-class education in Alberta that was not a result of privilege but of a right bestowed on us all by people like yourselves who wanted to make sure the cause of humanity is advanced. I have had the pleasure and privilege of teaching thousands of students and they have taught me as much as I have taught them. One of the key themes I have heard over the years from students is that they want to participate in a world that offers opportunity, security, and justice in their society. This is my cue as to how to proceed in and out of the classroom.
Statement of beliefs
I believe in promoting diversity and inclusion as it makes for a better society for all. I believe that all education should be in the public domain, not the private domain as we all have a stake in creating a common community in which we work and live together in. There will be some that will claim special privilege should be allowed to invoke private education. As I look to the south for evidence of a society that is at peace, I can't find much, can you? It seems pretty apparent to me that we need to have a system that provides equal opportunity for all our children. One that promotes cultural harmony and the common good for all citizens. If that is not a primary goal of education, then what is? There is no magic solution in moving forward as a community but I do believe it starts with the greater society having a vision of the future that will lead to a just and peaceful world for our children. To me, this is what we should strive for.
We need to find a funding formula that works to lower class size and properly fund public schools.
Covid has caused many students to fall behind and we need to find ways to help students catch up.
We need to take direction from academia (science) to guide our work in education.
Views on funding
As indicated as my first priority, the funding formula needs to be revised. I started teaching in the early 80's when the discussions around the 20/20 model (20 students, 20 teaching hours) were being discussed as a model for teaching. We have fallen so far behind given the class sizes today. What has happened? I've seen special education go from a model of 1 teacher to 6 students to now, 1 teacher for 20 students in many cases. I have taught classes of 45 students of which half of them had special needs. It is impossible to do justice for students and teachers alike with these kinds of numbers today. When I hear of grade one classes having close to 30 students and of course some of them needing help, I shake my head and feel for those students who may not be privileged in being able to receive extra help. Good education costs money and leads to good outcomes but what costs do we pay as a society if we don't invest in education?
How learning conditions can be improved
Learning for the most part is an active process. This suggests that when the teacher can get students involved in their learning they are more successful in the results of assessments. Offer opportunities for students to create and display their learning. I've always found that when students buy into their tasks it proves to be more enriching for all involved. Using technology in the upper-grade levels can help motivate students to strive to do better. Of course, the constraints of class sizes, focus on managing numbers take away from a deeper curricular experience. When all staff, not just teachers and support staff but leaders as well, get hands-on in the learning process it fosters a greater sense of community within the school and this leads to more satisfied students and parents. However, it has to be said that as hard as many teachers work at creating learning environments, budget constraints, leadership goals, and central office expectations can stifle the process.
How trustees and school boards can best support teachers
Teachers are charged with looking after our children. There can be no greater responsibility than this and therefore require the respect and remuneration associated with this responsibility. As a teacher who had been in leadership, I know the value of caring for teachers. I've worked with many teachers who were truly gifted and their impact on students was a pleasure to observe but it can be a thankless job. If you don't have leaders that can support teachers properly or have constraints like class size as mentioned above, then it the job of the trustee to advocate on behalf of the teaching community to foster a more successful educational atmosphere. We also need to listen to our teachers as they have stories and experience to pass on to us and government leaders that can provide feedback on the needs of teachers. If we truly believe that children are our most precious resource, shouldn't we support the people who care for them?
Views on recently released draft curriculum
The process of implementing a top-down curriculum is flawed therefore we need to have:
1. Involvement from school boards and the community within. That is teachers, consultants, parents, and of course students.
Having taught within Edmonton Public for 30 plus years, I have met many bright staff, parents, and students who are the right people to steer curriculum direction. This needs to happen and has not.
2. Our university and associated educational professionals have devoted their lives in the pursuit of what educational excellence looks like. People like Dr. Carla Peck (Social Studies UofA), who has presented thoughtful critiques of the curriculum should be noted.
3. Finally, our government’s job is to then compile and synthesize the information from points 1 and 2 to develop and implement a new impartial curriculum that meets the needs of all students.
Curriculum development must take the direction of the great community as noted above to be truly effective.