On Friday, I had the pleasure of presenting to members of the Faculty of Education at the University of Lethbridge on the transformation agenda. I began my presentation with a quote that I took from a tweet by Dave Martin (@d_martin05) “If we teach today, the way we were taught yesterday no one will ever be prepared for tomorrow.” Even though the U of L offers one of the finest education programs in the country, they too, like all teacher preparation institutions, must be involved if education is to be truly transformed. Currently Alberta Education is engaged in an action agenda that encompasses a number of initiatives, all of which are to impact transformation. They include:
- Action on Curriculum (Curriculum Redesign)
- Action on Inclusion
- Action on Teaching and Learning
- Action on Legislation
- Action on Research
- Action on FNMI Success
It would be unrealistic for our university partners to ensure that teaching training included the above list in great detail but I believe there are certain aspects that all new teachers need a solid background in to prepare our students for tomorrow. If we truly want engaged thinkers, ethical citizens with an entrepreneurial spirit, then here’s my list:
- The Three R’s- Relationship! Relationship! Relationship!- Great teachers of today and great teachers of tomorrow need to be able to develop authentic relationships with their students and parents, their colleagues and their administration. I always add the word authentic because relationships based only on “feel good” instead of mutual trust and respect don’t last long. We know that successful students have at least one adult in the school that they can identify with and feel a sense of belonging. Every student needs to have that experience and it can only be achieved through authentic relationships. Great teachers are not friends with their students, they are mentors. That authenticity needs to flow to parents, colleagues and administrators as well. Trust, which is critical in our world today can only be built through the establishment of authentic relationships.
- 21st Century Competencies- It is time to move away from what to learn to how to learn. For too many years, we have been programmed to be content driven as educators. Although our curricula tends to be far too wide and not very deep, we still have to find the ability to embed these competencies. Students need the opportunity to be creative, innovative and collaborative. They need to be able to problem solve and think critically because, “We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.” -Albert Einstein.
- Inclusive Education- One of the greatest shifts that I believe has occurred with inclusive education is starting from student strengths rather than student deficiencies. Furthermore, learning must be for ALL students not just some. That requires teachers to draw from a large toolkit of high yield strategies to meet the needs of EACH student. Understanding brain research, implementing differentiated instruction and utilizing powerful assessment strategies are not optional but rather part of what good teachers do… day in and day out. Setting up structures of intervention within the classroom and/or building cannot be left to chance. Inclusion means moving from feeling sympathy and making excuses to having empathy and creating opportunities.
- Focus on FNMI- The last 150 years of FNMI education has been dismal. With an increasing birthrate in the FNMI population it should come as no surprise that all divisions will have more FNMI students in their classrooms in the coming years. The first step to FNMI student success must be on building strong and positive relationships. For too long, fingers have be pointed and blame has been established. This can only be eliminated by the development of trusting relationships and through a better understanding and knowledge of our FNMI peoples and their culture. Every time I view the video “Justice for Aborginal Peoples” it reminds me of the terrible injustices they have endured and the need to heal wounds we created. We have often told FNMI people what they need to do for their children’s success in school and quite honestly that has not worked. Instead, we need to ask our FNMI people what we can do as individual teachers, schools and systems to help create successful learners.
- Lifelong Learning- One of the 21st century competencies is lifelong learning. It is extremely difficult to teach if we are not role models ourselves. Teachers need to be constantly updating their skills, looking at the latest research and engaging in high quality professional learning. Going to a conference every 5 years is not sufficient given the complexities of education today. Teachers need to engage in collaborative activities both inside and outside of the typical school day. Social media has allowed educators to engage in professional dialogue based on their own needs and without expense. Students need to see teachers excited and passionate about their personal learning. Teacher’s enthusiasm about self learning and personal management must be readily viewed by students.
- Be Bold- This is probably the most important to me as the senior leader of the division. We cannot maintain the status quo anymore if we truly want to transform education, and the only way to move from the status quo is to be bold. Being bold doesn’t mean being disrespectful or becoming an anarchist, but it does mean challenging the status quo and pushing the learning culture. It means trying something new and innovative, becoming a risk taker in your classroom and failing forward. Bold systems require bold leaders and bold schools require bold teachers. Without boldness we will wake up 5, 10, or 20 years from now and still be having the same conversations.
So, what would you say is important for preparing tomorrow’s teachers?