Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Task Force on Teaching Excellence

May 14 2014

I would like to present some concerns with the findings of the Task Force on Teacher Excellence.

As a parent, I want to be sure that all students have access to great teachers who not only instruct but also educate the whole person.  As a teacher, I believe that to be true. I believe most of Alberta’s teachers are strong teachers.  All three of my kids attended public school in Slave Lake. Their teachers helped them develop communication and life skills. Because of their teachers, they can play music, create art, and speak French. Because of their public education, they are good citizens who have respect and tolerance for people who are different from themselves. Because of their teachers, they have all found a passion for the sciences.  My eldest daughter is completing a PhD in Biotechnology at Cambridge University. My second daughter is top of her class in Geophysics at the U of A.  My son is in Computer Science at the U of A. I say this not to boast about my children’s intelligence, but to say that even though they grew up in a remote northern community, they have received an excellent education from their public school teachers.

The report states no teacher has lost his/her certificate in the past ten years due to incompetence and finds this “inconceivable.” It uses this fact to support its recommendation that Alberta’s teachers need greater evaluation.  The fact no teacher has lost a certificate due to incompetence is not evidence that the system is failing. It could even be construed as success. It could mean teaching skills are being nurtured and that weak teachers are becoming strong teachers. Given that 40% of Alberta’s teachers leave the profession within five years it is more than possible that those who lack competence leave the profession.
Teachers are judged every day. They are judged by their students. They are judged by parents. They are judged by their school based and district administrators. They are judged by their communities when their school’s test scores are published and when the Fraser Institute publishes its school rankings. They are judged by society when today’s youth fail in any conceivable way. Most of all, they judge themselves. They judge themselves every single day when they ask “what could I have done differently?” and “how could I do better?” and “how can I get this concept across?” or “how can I reach that one kid who resists learning?”  

How is it, in a province where industry regulates itself, where doctors and nurses and lawyers and engineers have their own regulatory bodies, that Alberta’s teachers are not considered capable of regulating themselves? Alberta’s teachers need support from the Ministry of Education. They need financial support, they need moral support and they need educational support. The one thing they do not need is one more agency telling them they are not good enough for Alberta’s students.


Nicola Ramsey, Slave Lake