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Reflecting on a tough year


June 14, 2022 Jason Schilling, ATA President


Teaching is a reflective practice, in my opinion. We often spend time throughout the course of any given school year evaluating our lessons, assessments and interactions with our students. This reflection enables us to refine our practice and think about where we’d like to go in the future. 

In my experience, the role of president on Provincial Executive Council is no different. Though I’m not actively in the classroom, reflecting on my work as president is something I do daily — what went well, what didn’t. This school year — like the school year before that and the school year before that — has been challenging. As I reflect on this last year, I think about the old Clint Eastwood movie my dad made me watch, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.

We started the year after the so-called best summer ever on the brink of the Delta wave that impacted our schools significantly. The year seemed to spiral downward, with confusion about the return to school after winter break. It was extremely difficult to get the government to settle on a plan that would address the needs of students, staff and school communities. It didn’t help that the plan seemed to change on a daily basis, with little or no explanation why.

How many of our schools received thousands of masks and rapid test kits days after the protocols were suddenly lifted? Many of those masks and rapid tests are still sitting in school leaders’ offices across the province — a glaring symbol of the government’s inadequate and often confusing COVID measures.

Another issue that could fall into either the bad or the ugly column is the draft curriculum. This issue has generated a lot of focus this year and will continue to do so. Regardless of the immense pressure put on the government by the ATA, teachers, parents, university faculty, school boards, Indigenous groups and francophone groups to delay or stop the implementation of the draft curriculum, the government presses on.

Even with the recent release of the feedback provided by education stakeholders, which reiterates the critiques, the minister presses on. I am often asked by media why the government is doing this. In my opinion, ideology is driving this curriculum reform under the current minister. It has been wrongly politicized by those who know little about how students learn. This ideology will fail a generation of our students. It is beyond time that the government return to the proven process for curriculum development that has served our province well for decades.

The passing of Bill 15 was another moment in the last year that I would categorize as bad and ugly. Undermining the profession in a press conference, the minister set forth a series of events that recently saw Bill 15 given royal assent. The work and challenge for the ATA will be to assess how this affects our future as a profession and as an association.

As we approach the end of the school year, I have also been reflecting a lot on how these issues have had a dramatic polarizing effect on people, including teachers. Though the year has been challenging, we have seen many good moments as well. One good moment for me has been attending induction ceremonies for our new teachers.

Whether virtual or in person, induction ceremonies are always a highlight. When I speak to our newest colleagues, I encourage them to remember why they wanted to become teachers, especially on the challenging days, and to remember the good. It’s quite easy to become cynical and wonder if you are making a difference. Through my travels and experiences, I can tell you that the work you do as teachers and school leaders matters deeply to your students and your colleagues. The impact you have is immensely positive. Even when, some days, we witness the worst of people, we also witness the best of people.

As we head into June, we will have time to reflect on the lessons of this past year, along with the hope of the future. We have a lot of work ahead of us, but I know we will continue to work together to find solutions that benefit our students, their families and each other. I wish for you a restful summer. You deserve it. ❚

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