May 21st, 2024

Alberta’s education system needs support from Minister

By Letter to the Editor on October 9, 2021.

To the Honorable Adriana LaGrange, below is a letter to you, to the Alberta provincial government, education stakeholders and everyone whose life is touched by education:
On “World Teacher Day” I beg you to take a minute and consider the voices of your teachers, and hear us when we say: our kids are not alright. While we appreciate everyone’s kind thoughts, words and tokens on this day, what we really value and what we really need is your support, because I say it again: the kids are not alright.
Teachers are spending hours of their own time trying to figure out how to help students recover the time they’ve lost – while having no extra time or support to do so.
The full impact of students’ disrupted schooling has been growing every day since we started back this year: I see more and more evidence that the kids are not OK. Anxiety and mental health issues are higher than they have ever been; assignments are being completed well below grade level; attendance continues to fall; emotional regulation is at a low, and the students who were already between the cracks in the system have nearly fallen through.
The kids are not alright; the teachers are not alright; the system is not alright.
In these trying times, when we are scraping for some semblance of normalcy, and trying to help students re-enter the educational world, we have no support.
We had little to no funding for students with additional needs before the pandemic, and now the pool of students with additional needs, learning gaps, and mental health concerns is growing exponentially and we are seeing the effects across the school, every day.
In every school, we are forced to make the hardest decisions about where to place our educational assistants so that they have the biggest impact.
This means that not every class, or student, who benefits from, or needs, an educational assistant has access to one.
We are forced to make decisions as to the priorities in our classrooms: do we try to fill the gaps that have been created over the last two years? Or do we push the curriculum since there are PAT’s looming over our heads? And no, we can’t do both.
On this “World Teacher Day,” I beg you to consider the fact we’re handling the fallout from COVID-19, while still living in COVID conditions. There is no return to normal for your teachers and schools, despite the ability to resume sports.
The gaps created or accelerated by COVID are beyond our ability to patch without support, and every day that teachers work without the support of parents, districts, and governments, is a day that students are falling behind and falling into the cracks. So on “World Teacher Day,” I beg you to listen to the teachers.
Listen to the teachers that are asking for more funding for educational assistants so we can provide small-group pullouts or instruction.
Listen to the teachers that are asking for PAT’s and diplomas to not be counted in students’ final marks. Listen to the teachers that are asking for a “grade 13” to help give us time to build students back up and prepare them for what comes next. Listen to the teachers calling out for more mental health staff and mental health support in our schools.
Listen to the teachers who are calling for a new curriculum that involves participation from all stakeholders. Listen to the teachers who are crying out for support so that we can do what we love: supporting your students.
So, on “World Teacher Day,” I hope you thought kindly about a teacher. I hope you share some kind words of encouragement to a teacher, but more than anything, I hope you share this letter.
I hope you share it and that the government acknowledges that without supporting schools, the mental health crisis won’t improve. I hope they acknowledge that without supporting the schools, the economy won’t improve. I hope they acknowledge that without supporting the schools, healthcare won’t improve. There’s an unattributed quote that goes: “teaching creates all other professions,” and while it is perhaps somewhat trite and perhaps lacks humility, the general intention shines through: teachers are here to help build up every student, and help them find their unique path.
So, on “World Teacher Day,” give us the support to support those who matter most to so many of us: the kids, because they’re not alright.
Jade Oldfield
Learning Support Teacher
Junior High Humanities Teacher

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