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Editorial: Year one of an exciting new role

August 30, 2016 Jonathan Teghtmeyer

A new school year will be underway shortly for Alberta’s teachers and students. It is sure, once again, to be a very interesting year.

A number of major files will be active in the year ahead, ensuring that education in Alberta will receive a fair amount of media and political attention. Curriculum design, student learning assessments, new teaching profession standards, the release of results from the 2015 Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), the implementation of guidelines for inclusive schools and the outcomes of central teacher bargaining are all guaranteed to put education on the front pages in the year ahead. Unforeseen issues will also emerge.

In preparing to write this editorial, I was planning to tackle one or more of the matters outlined above. However, the more I thought about these issues, the more I landed on a different concept.

You see, this year will be a big school year for me for a completely different reason: in a few days, my first–born daughter starts kindergarten. Now I begin my journey in a new role in the education system: a parent.

In reflecting on the issues above, I keep thinking about how important it is to look first at the big picture of public education. I will discuss those issues later, but my perspective on them must be grounded in a grander vision of what it is I want our education system to achieve.

As a parent, I can’t help but think of my own child’s needs first. First off, I want my daughter to feel safe, welcomed, valued and engaged in her school. I want her to gain the knowledge, skills and attitudes that will make her a successful, compassionate and active citizen. I want her to acquire the knowledge that will allow her to understand the world she will live in — including the fundamentals of mathematics, language, history, geography and science, among other areas.

I want her to be exposed to a wide variety of diverse subjects and disciplines. But, in doing that, I also want her fuse to be lit in a few small areas that really excite and inspire her, and I want her to have the opportunity to explore those a bit further. More important than anything related to content, I want her to gain valuable skills related to critical thinking, creativity, collaboration and citizenship.

Most of all, I want her to develop a thirst for knowledge, a hunger for understanding and a love of learning. This is no tall order for public education.

I know too that public education is not just about serving the needs of my child; it must also serve the needs of society. It is not good enough for my daughter to achieve those things above; I want those things for every child. I also want future citizens who know how to live and work well together, with mutual respect for each other, not in spite of their differences but with a full appreciation of those differences.

I want a public education system that provides the greatest support to those who need it the most, including those with greater health, intellectual, economic, social or emotional needs. I want a public education system that mirrors our compassionate and pluralistic nation.

I understand that sometimes what I want for my daughter may conflict with what is best for the system, but I also know that my daughter will be better off when everyone around her is better off. I hope I have the patience and perception to see when these conflicts arise and the understanding to accept when my daughter’s interests may need to take a back seat to the greater good. I hope I can help her understand that too.

I am excited by the collective potential of my daughter, her generation and our society. Our public education system is ready and well-suited to develop and deliver on that potential. ❚

I welcome your comments—contact
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