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Q & A: But do I have to? Yes!

January 31, 2017 Gordon Thomas, Executive Secretary

Question: So do I really have to go to the teachers’ convention?

Answer: The most asked and most answered question in this column, now in its 15th year under my name, is whether or not a teacher has to go to a teachers’ convention.

First of all, remember that these are our conventions. They are not run by your school board or Alberta Education. Under our General Bylaws, we have established teachers’ convention associations as subgroups of the Alberta Teachers’ Association, and they are responsible for operating the teachers’ conventions established across the province under the School Act. The Association is responsible for the operation of each of the 10 convention associations.

Alberta’s teachers’ conventions can be traced back to the 1880s, when the school inspector in each inspectorate called together the teachers for a meeting. These meetings were generally held in October or November, and the inspectors updated teachers on the required curriculum and assorted regulations or directives and offered suggestions with respect to teaching practice. Teachers were also able to share research, hear prominent educators speak and discuss new ideas. Conventions were an annual event, although the influenza epidemic was sufficient cause to cancel teachers’ conventions in 1918, and the minister of education cancelled conventions in 1931. Since 1942, they have been the responsibility of the Association, and their status is enshrined in the School Act and the Association’s General Bylaws.

Generally, all active members are expected to attend their teachers’ conventions. There is a legal and a professional obligation to attend. Given that teachers are employed by a school board and paid to attend teachers’ conventions, teachers are expected to attend.

There is also a professional expectation that teachers will work to advance their professional standing, and attendance at convention is one of the ways that such a goal can be further attained. Almost every year, a teacher fails to attend his or her convention and the matter becomes newsworthy. Meeting the chair of the school board on the ski hill when you are expected to be at the teachers’ convention is not a very good thing. Where there is sufficient evidence that a teacher has not attended convention, a hearing of the Professional Conduct Committee is always held. Teachers will be sanctioned by the Association and also by their employer for failing to attend the convention. The report of the hearing is available to the public and, in recent years, such reports have been reported in the media.

If you have questions about your circumstances, please contact the convention factotum (in the PD program area) at Barnett House or the Member Services duty officer at Barnett House or SARO.

Questions for consideration in this column are welcome. Please address them to Gordon Thomas at Barnett House (

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