Reading media headlines such as "Schools Under Attack," and "More Cuts to Education Funding" should be a canary. These stories suggest that schools are places to be drained, minimized and altered. Society, and the global economy, is in tough right now. There is a battle playing out in our newspapers and on our television screens that wages war on public services like education and health care - in an attempt to 'balance' budgets or secure a better economic position.
To me, little more than education and health care matters. Society should be driven and improved through its public sector. We can debate about whether today's schools are successful in their endeavors of preparing students for the future; we can argue about whether hospitals and medical staff are performing their jobs in an efficient manner - but, we should not be having a conversation about whether these services are anything but vital.
The world economy did not crash and "re-adjust" itself on the actions of educators. Our current economic situation is not the result of cushy salaries or generous sick-bank programs. Capitalism, at its very nature, is an ebb-and-flow. Money needs to be lost in order to be made. Jobs depend on many things - some of which are needless and obsolete. Our system was not working and it finally caught up with us. But let's focus on what matters now. Through education we can prevent the inefficiencies and traditional economic model from working in a cyclical way. Our students have the potential to design a new system and plan - one that is sustainable and addresses our global needs.
Teaching needs to change - and I will be the first person to, not only acknowledge this, but also to help achieve it. There are many things that we can try in education to better reach students that are not being done as we speak. There are countless strategies and new ideologies about the nature of learning that can be implemented in a way that brings about real change. Teachers, like anyone, fear change when it compromises their security, well-being and comfort. We need to find ways to better educate our teachers about the future of teaching - without attacking the economics of their livelihood and causing resentment.
Most of this lasting change should begin in the Faculty of Educations across our province. Many of these new educational lenses must be adopted by our leaders as exemplars. And above all else, our efforts should focus on improved learning for students. With so many obstacles and challenges in the classrooms of today (i.e. student behaviours, minimized support), many teachers are getting by and doing the job they can do - not the one they should be doing.
Whether we are 'flipping the classroom,' teaching through differentiated instruction, or delivering inquiry-based programming, we, teachers, will drive the change and shift the face of the classroom from us to them. Except, how many teachers are willing to shift their practice and experiment with their pedagogy when they feel their job is under attack?
Grassroots change - real change - will only be possible through visionary leadership and careful planning. The potential of transforming student learning into meaningful, relevant and powerful experiences is at our grasp. We must not stay the course, but rather, venture on the other paths to truly discover our profession and purpose. What an exciting time to be an educator.