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Be more than a bystander

Staying engaged is difficult but worthwhile

April 7, 2022 Jason Schilling, ATA President


Former Mayor of Calgary Naheed Nenshi spoke recently about service to one’s community at the ATA’s Political Engagement Seminar. He elegantly explained how public services such as public education, health, libraries, community supports and public transit helped shape him as a young man because the community around him wanted him to succeed. Teachers can easily relate to this, as seeing our students succeed is one of the many joys of teaching. Mr. Nenshi continued to talk about his service, particularly his endeavours in politics and how, after encouraging others to get involved, he decided to take the plunge himself. As he said, “if not me then who?”

This reminded me of a conversation I had with a good friend a few weeks before. We were talking about the invasion of Ukraine, the limitless drama of Alberta politics and other newsworthy issues. My friend commented that she no longer watched the news or social media. It was too difficult and it seemed hopeless to try to make change. I understand where she was coming from. I think for many of us, the state of the world is overwhelming. However, my counter to this, which was also echoed by Mr. Nenshi, was that we can’t be bystanders in our world. We can’t feel hope if we act as bystanders. We need to engage in the world around us.

Teachers sometimes ask me about a lack of member engagement around issues like collective bargaining and the removal of the discipline function of the ATA. Never in my career have I seen so many ways for teachers to be engaged in their Association. The News, Magazine, website, social media, locals, conventions and specialist councils are just a few ways we can stay connected and engaged. I also know that never in my career have I seen people so exhausted, professionally and personally. But as Mr. Nenshi also said, in tough times, it’s easy to lose hope, and we need to dig deeper into our reserves because the fight is worth it. These words resonated with me as I often say we fight for what we believe in and value. It may be easier to disengage, and there are days when we just want to turn it all off and watch House Hunters, but we don’t because it’s worth it. ❚

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