Most of us had a favourite teacher from school.
I had a few. Mrs. Royer, in elementary school, was warm, accessible and caring. She treated all of her students equally, and I’ll never forget how hard she laughed at Grade 6 camp when my friend jumped out of his sleeping bag in his undies while she tried to get us campers to go to sleep.
I loved my Grade 4 teacher, too, Mrs. Olthof, who could transfix an entire class of otherwise unruly nine-year-olds by reading aloud from children’s classics like Roald Dahl’s The Witches.
If I had to choose my most influential teacher, however, I’d say it was Mr. Weiss, who I had first as my Grade 7 home room teacher, then again for Grade 12 social studies. His passion for teaching extended far beyond the classroom, as he hosted extra-curricular committees and activities that imprinted on his students a passion for the environment, culture and politics. He was unorthodox, outrageous and brilliant. Mr. Weiss rose to the challenges of imparting his small-town students with a sense of curiosity about the wider world.
Right now, across the province, educators are stepping up to a different, unprecedented challenge: teaching during a pandemic. In truth they’ve been at it for more than a year, but the latest COVID-19 measures, wherein students have been sent back home with their laptops to attend their classes online, represents the biggest challenge yet.
As the springtime sun saps students’ motivation to stay engaged with their screens, teachers have to press on, staying organized, communicating clearly and assessing progress toward learning objectives. Encouraging collaboration and staying connected is hard enough in a face-to-face environment; it’s easy to imagine how online instruction can quickly turn students into passive observers rather than active participants.
And yet in our schools, teachers are adapting. I’ve heard several stories from parents, amazed by how their children laugh along with their classmates as their teacher performs, engages and inspires them to get through the day. Considering that most teachers are facing an educational environment they’ve never experienced, their ability to learn on the fly, to persevere and to put their students’ needs first is nothing short of remarkable.
This dedication to education should, in turn, inspire parents across Alberta to take a deep interest in the Alberta government’s proposed draft curriculum.
This dedication to education should, in turn, inspire parents across Alberta to take a deep interest in the Alberta government’s proposed draft curriculum. The UCP is purporting to entertain public feedback via “virtual town hall” sessions, but so far the response from those attending the sessions has been troubling: participants report unanswered questions, patronizing, cut-and-paste government talking points and misrepresentations of the current curriculum.
Teachers, as much as they commit themselves to our children’s learning and pour their hearts into keeping their students engaged, feel they can’t speak out on the proposed curriculum. That’s why it’s important Albertans take the time themselves and not only learn about it, but write their MLAs and the Ministry of Education about it.
Most of us who had a favourite teacher from school feel in our heart that no matter what curriculum they were presented with, those teachers would still remain dedicated, accessible and caring. Perhaps they would have.
But dedicated teachers shouldn’t be forced to succeed in spite of the curriculum; they should be supported by it.
Now’s the time for Albertans to provide that support.
Teachers know what’s best for the students, and the UCP’s proposed curriculum isn’t it.
Bob Covey// firstname.lastname@example.org