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Oct 22

Chris Smeaton

Learning must be continuous

The following post was published in the Lethbridge Herald on October 22, 2014.

On Sunday, I returned from a conference sponsored by Educational Research Development and Innovation (ERDI). This organization invites approximately 50 superintendents from across the country, twice a year, to meet and discuss education trends and topics from a national perspective with a multitude of corporate partners who have close ties to education. Beyond my time, there is no financial burden to the division as ERDI covers all costs. While that is certainly appreciated in times of fiscal restraint, the real benefit is the high quality learning I’m involved in during the conference. It is a great opportunity to engage in professional dialogue with other Canadian superintendents from, often, much larger school divisions.

These conversations reinforce my strong belief in the importance of being a continuous learner, regardless of your position within a school division.  Eric Hoffer once wrote, “In times of change learners inherit the earth; while the learned find themselves beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists.” There has never been a truer statement for the world of education. A constant learner is, more than ever, being recognized as a requirement for educators today.

Prior to my departure to the conference, our division hosted our annual Professional Development Day. Over the last number of years, these days have become more supportive of autonomous professional dialogues that enhance instructional practice. The focus is simply on learning and assumes (rightfully so) that our staff will engage in these opportunities.  While schools may look relatively similar to days gone by in structure, the learning environment has vastly changed to meet the needs of a very diverse population sitting in our classrooms. The learned teacher of yesterday must transform to an ongoing learner to succeed in an increasingly complex education system. Given that, it is imperative that school divisions offer and encourage participation in high quality learning opportunities within the typical school day, after hours, and through the use technology and social media.

Alberta continues to be a world leader in education because school divisions make learning for staff a priority. Even with the elimination of the Alberta Initiative for School Improvement funding envelope a number of years ago, school divisions across the province still commit significant dollars to support professional learning. Regardless of the position held in a school division, from superintendent to classroom teacher, learning must be seen as a non-negotiable activity. A strong Alberta requires an investment in our children and that will always be well supported through an investment in and commitment to learning for our educators.

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