Ms Soapbox is shocked.
She just returned from the Alberta Teachers’ Association Summer Summit on Public Education and discovered that she knows far less about education and teaching in Alberta than she thought she did.
So pop quiz! (Stop grumbling, many politicians are pontificating about the state of education in Alberta with far less information than you have).
Question 1: The Alberta Teacher’s Association is:
- A partisan group pushing the NDP’s social engineering agenda
- A bunch of teachers flogging the latest fads in education
- Nothing more than a teachers’ union
- A nonpartisan group that encourages its members as individuals to be politically engaged
Answer: 4. The ATA was created by the Teaching Profession Act after William (Bible Bill) Aberhart came to power with the Social Credit party. Every public and Catholic school teacher belongs to the ATA. Its mandate is to advance education, improve the profession and increase public interest. It has performed this duty under the SoCreds, the PCs and now the NDP. Its power to bargain on behalf of teachers comes from the Public Education Bargaining Act.
Question 2: The ATA allocates what percentage of its budget to union activities?
Answer: Surprise! The ATA allocates 10% of its budget to union activities. Ninety percent of the budget is used to advance the profession, improve recruitment into education, improve teachers’ competence, advise and discipline teachers, assess competence, increase public awareness, and work with national and international organizations with similar objectives.
Question 3: Who is the teacher’s boss?
- The principal
- The School Board (Trustees)
- The School Superintendent
- The ATA
- None of the above
Answer: This is a trick question. Teachers work in a collegial setting, they don’t have ONE boss. It’s the principal’s job to ensure a teacher is meeting professional standards, but complaints brought by parents or others about a teacher’s competence go to the Superintendent and may result in a Competence Review; complaints about a teacher’s conduct go to the ATA and may result in a Conduct Review before a discipline committee.
Question 4: The ATA always provides representation to teachers undergoing a competence or conduct review:
Answer: False. The ATA provides representation for teachers in a Competence Review (eg the teacher consistently fails to show up for class, doesn’t teach to the curriculum) but never provides representation for teachers in a Conduct Review (eg the teacher has an inappropriate relationship with a student, gets caught drunk driving or pole dancing at the local pub). The ATA’s advice in a Conduct Review is: tell the truth and consider getting a good lawyer.
Question 5: The biggest challenge facing students in Alberta is:
- Social media (distraction, anxiety, depression, digital addiction)
- Overcrowded classrooms
- Lack of preparation for the jobs of the future
- Crabby teachers
- Helicopter parents
Answer: The ATA has identified 1, 2, and 3 as some of the many challenges that must be addressed if Alberta’s students are to succeed in the 21st century. Crabby teachers and helicopter parents are irritating but not as serious as the first three.
Bonus question: The Curriculum Redesign is a secret activity that will:
- Undermine parental authority
- Be riddled with politically correct themes like colonialism, oppression, and climate change
- Prevent schools from teaching military history including Canada’s participation in two world wars
- None of the above
Answer: 4. The government typically undergoes a curriculum review once every seven years, however past conservative governments slowed down the review cycle to avoid costs. Programs such as fine arts have not been updated for 30 years.
The review process creates a conceptual outline that becomes more concrete through the efforts of a working group made up of teachers, specialists including university profs and others. The process includes public consultation and the final result should not be a surprise to anyone.
The politicization of the process by (let’s be blunt) opportunistic politicians creates distrust in the very people who are in the best position to educate our children. Hardly an appropriate outcome for someone professing to have the best interests of the students at heart.
How did you do?
This isn’t about getting 75% of the questions right and earning a gold star. It’s about deepening your understanding of education and educators in Alberta.
Talk to a teacher, call a member of the ATA. You’ll find it far more enlightening than the rants of a politician who hasn’t set foot in a classroom since the collapse of the USSR.
My thanks to Jonathan Teghtmeyer and the ATA for inviting a group of MLAs, school trustees, and others including Ms Soapbox to the Summer Summit. We learned a lot!
NOTE: The reference to social studies as an outdated program has been corrected. Thank you to the readers who caught the error.