By Submitted Article on October 30, 2019.
Throughout my career the phrase “my kid is never in school” is one I have heard many times from parents frustrated with the complications of additional child-care arrangements, altered schedules and concerns that children cannot possibly be receiving a good education with so many days off.
The Education Act stipulates that teachers cannot be scheduled to work more than 200 days in a school year. Teachers in Alberta can only instruct a maximum 907 hours in the classroom and be assigned 1,200 hours of work. Instructional time generally includes direct children-teacher interaction; it does not include teacher preparation, parent/teacher meetings, staff meetings or professional development. These types of activities, along with recently increased legislative requirements for schools such as occupational health and safety training for employees and first aid training, are part of the maximum assignable time of 1,200 hours.
Teachers, administrators and division-based leaders must comply with these parameters as they face increasingly complex classroom conditions. Today, it is common to have a class of students with an incredibly wide range of abilities, foundational knowledge and life experiences. Most classrooms today are inclusive of students with various medical, physical and psychological needs. Despite these challenges, however, Alberta’s education system, consistently ranks among the highest in Canada and around the world according to the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA).
Most school jurisdiction calendars consist of 197 operational days with student days varying anywhere from 180-185 days. Within those 197 operational days most school divisions plan 12 to 16 professional development days during which staff participate in workshops, conferences, team meetings and other methods of learning to increase their professional understanding, knowledge and skills. By the end of October, many schools have had at least two staff professional development days for the 2019-20 school year.
So what are teachers learning when kids are not in school? Teachers are working on first-aid training, health and safety courses and numerous other professional development activities. During a professional development day earlier this month, Livingstone Range School Division teachers chose from 31 professional development sessions including: Understanding Autism & ADHD; Supporting Individuals through Valued Attachments (SIVA); Effective Technology in the Elementary Classroom; Supporting Students with Down Syndrome; Speech and Language Strategies; Brain Development; Indigenous Numeracy; various subject specific training; Leadership Training and Mental Health & Wellness sessions.
Although it may seem that children have too many days off during the school year, ongoing professional development is a vital component for educators to stay current in their practice and to provide quality education to the next generation of leaders. So, the next time your child is not in school, ask yourself: I wonder what staff are learning about today that will help them become a better teacher for my child?
Darryl Seguin is the superintendent of Livingstone Range School Division