February 26th, 2024

Where have all the teachers gone in Alberta?


By Lethbridge Herald on November 29, 2023.

Jason Schilling
ALBERTA TEACHERS ASSOCIATION

Alberta’s students deserve the best. Unfortunately, our ability to attract and retain teachers to work in public schools is being eroded.

Dedicated teachers are exiting the province and exiting the profession because of how untenable working conditions have become. With an influx of new students into classrooms in recent years, teachers are facing a workload that feels overwhelming, impossible, and unrelenting. Not only are class sizes large, but the unmet needs of the students are tremendous.

The government routinely shares that Alberta has one of the best education systems in the world, and we do. However, while the government takes the credit, teachers and school leaders are doing the work of propping up a system on edge. That work is becoming more and more complex and challenging.

Work intensification and the moral distress of seeing students struggle without getting access to the supports they require are wreaking havoc on the teaching profession.

This school year has seen another very large increase in the number of students across the province. School divisions in Edmonton and Calgary alone are seeing an addition of up to 16,000 new students. Rapid growth in the student population has been going on for years. Sadly, the funding of our schools has not kept up.

The most recent data from Statistics Canada paints a dire picture. Alberta’s schools are by far the lowest funded, per pupil, in the country. 

As a result, we have a significantly higher ratio of students to teacher than every other province. Public education in Alberta would need an increase of 1.2 billion dollars to bring Alberta just to the Canadian funding average.

Every student in public schools deserves to have their learning needs met. It is irresponsible and, frankly, quite shocking that Alberta students are dead last in Canada when it comes to funding.

I know that teachers are not alone in this concern. Recent public opinion polling the ATA conducted showed that 72 per cent of Albertans believe class sizes are too big, while 68 per cent of Albertans believe the government is not spending enough to support our public schools.

What does this lack of funding actually look like on a day-to-day basis in our schools and classrooms? Students crammed into overcrowded classes with the number of students too often creeping up into the high 30s and low 40s. 

A lack of resources such as textbooks and teacher guides to support newly introduced curriculum. Too many classes without educational assistants and too many students going without the extra support they require to succeed.

It is easy to see how this sustained neglect to adequately support schools is impacting the people who work in those schools. Increasingly, teachers and school leaders are feeling a sense of despair when they cannot meet the needs of their students on a daily basis. This feeling of hopelessness is driving great teachers and school leaders, who want to do their very best for our students, away from the profession. Currently, there are several school jurisdictions across the province with job postings that are going unfilled.

The issues in education are quickly becoming normalized and that’s not right. It doesn’t need to be this way.

We need to move the narrative away from the idea that public education is an expense that we cannot afford. We cannot keep asking our public education system to do more with less. By underfunding our public schools, we are failing a generation of students who will one day be our province’s leaders.

As the legislature returns this fall, it is my hope that our elected officials will look at education as an investment in our students and their futures.

We have an amazing resource in Alberta of teachers who are educating the leaders of tomorrow. We can’t afford not to properly fund public education in Alberta.

Jason Schilling is the president of the Alberta Teachers’ Association and a teacher from Lethbridge, Alberta with 25 years of experience in the classroom. 

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Say What . . .

Work policies in many fields have made the job much harder to accept or continue working, but one of the major factors, and warnings were made years ago, that ‘baby boomers’ retiring, leaving almost all areas of the workforce short.
Some do move after being poached, with attractive bonuse. Then there are many young people today who just do not want to work. Too many social programs have allowed a lazy attitude to working for a living.

biff

not saying teachers are not good and useful and professional. however, perhaps what is most draining on teachers, as it has been on many of the students that are not geared for university academics, is the ad nauseam shoving of a far too long outdated, virtually irrelevant ed system in general. good enough in terms of helping us learn the ever useful basic reading and math skills. beyond that, one of greatest wastes of financial and human resources next to bureaucratic waste in our society. gosh, if only there was a way to get in even more of the likes of training in shogun japan, factoring binomials, and similes and the like, and less of silly life skills and community skills things like some trades essentials, practical living and interpersonal skills focuses, and using school communities to partner with non-profit services that cater to the needs of the broader community…mind you, it might be that one could develop empathy from such practical service opportunities…not good based on our societal standards for success. creating more room for creativity and problem solving development in the curriculum sure could help, too. that, however, could get in the way of a system stuck in elitism and habit, and celebrating the students that make teachers look good. and that may even imperil…god help us…the honour roll.

IMO

Your response strongly suggests you have never been a teacher and/or you are not aware of how the Alberta curriculum has changed, particularly for the worse, under the current regime in this province.
BTW, “creativity and problem solving” is anathema to any sociopolitical paradigm needing obedient little workers churned out of technical or academic schools to do the bidding of the oligarchy.

Last edited 2 months ago by IMO
buckwheat

Yeh one of those obedient little workers to replace your furnace, hot water tank, install your windows, fix your car and all those menial tasks that a condescending dork like you thinks is above your pay grade. Must be a prof somewhere.

SophieR

I think by obedient, IMO meant automatons curling up in the lap of anyone in authority and barking party line as programmed. Not unlike someone we know whose name rhymes with buckbleat.

biff

not sure your point here

SophieR

I was just helping bucky try to understand the notion of thinking for yourself by discerning the difference between ‘critical thinking’ and ‘indoctrination’. This is particularly important now that we’re enjoying a premier completely invested in social engineering.

But, despite my considerable efforts, bucky shielded himself with the paranoia & victimhood trope, with some added ‘zing’.

(Between you and me, biff, I expected worse: a quote from the manhattan blog guy.)

biff

indeed, there is a noteworthy difference between critical thinking and indoctrination. perhaps the masses might begin with a simple query: what is the difference? here is a hint: we long believed women were inferior to men, and treated them as such; we long believed homosexuality was criminal, and govt overreach drew up and enforced laws to that extent….social conditioning is insidious, and a good marker as to where it crosses the line are any laws that that give govt/society the final say over one’s body and what consenting adults wish to share with one another (of course, always limited by the rights of another).

buckwheat

Speaking of barking Sophie. Zing.

The Dude

For the record. I respect anyone who works hard and is good at what they do for a living, regardless of their occupation, so long as they are honest and dependable. As for your final comment, do I sense some lingering resentment from someone who was asked to withdraw from a post-secondary institution to reflect on their goals in life and perhaps work on their study habits?

buckwheat

Nope. You are incorrect and you need to re adjust your senses. Also assumptions with no basis other objective than being a condescending dork. Say, did you write this letter and are commenting on yourself.

The Dude

Pro tip: If your going to call someone a condescending dork, you need to include the insult in a proper sentence.

biff

quite right.

biff

“quite right” is meant only with respect to the acknowledgement of trades people and others that provide services

biff

perhaps you and those negging my entry have read it quite incorrectly. moreover, i will share that i know the education system at least a little more thoroughly than most.
with regard to trades and practical skills type learning, which tie in well to life skills: are these not essential? is it not great at times to be able to fix this or that oneself, as well as to even know the basics of how things work in our homes and lives, beyond flicking a switch and turning a knob? are these not excellent opportunities that speak to those who learn with their hands, can problem solve with their hands, and who demonstrate intelligence through their hands? or, do you prefer we still corral everyone into classrooms where we all get forced to factor binomials…with the only purpose being so that we can then get to factor polynomials?
education speaks of their respect for all etc blah blah, but the system is power locked into an elitist structure of academia first, and foremost. the academics get the honour roll, the inverse on the bottom get the curriculum dumbed-down.
the opportunities for those not university/academia-oriented to discover, hone and share their talents, which are the large majority, are not respected.
trades are not for “dummies” – they should be an integrated, and interesting component of the overall experience for all students. so should the arts; and so should academia. in the last 2 years or so of high school, students might then choose their day with more focus on what interests them most.
my issue with education, in a nutshell, is there is ever the massive over-lean to academia, which serves only a minority very well. for those not academic as such, the “ed” experience is a grind – as in a grinding down on the skills and potentials and intelligences and self esteem and sense of worth of the many.
i further stand by my suggestion that schools should be partnering with needy community services orgs: this would help develop useful societal skills, such as empathy and service to others. things that serve and evolve the heart are surely at least as equally important as those that serve and evolve the brain.
not sure what is your issue with problem solving and creativity? do you think the development of these are undesirable? if not, do you think these skills are even nearly adequately embedded in our curriculum?
i am surprised you have such an appreciation for our education system.

IMO

“i am surprised you have such an appreciation for our education system.”

Should I be ‘surprised’ that you appear not to have comprehended my initial post?

biff

well, your entry is ambiguous, is it not? you take issue with my entry, which is critical of ed system, but not critical of teachers, and you further make an assumption i know little of the ed system. however, you then point out issues with the system, with a particular emphasis upon the recent changes to it. i agree the recent changes do not improve a poor system, but that is not to say the system was acceptable or “better” before the changes. i stand by entries: the system is poor, and teachers are not the issue – the curriculum and the approach are the issues.