This week, staff will officially return to work on Tuesday, although many have been in and out of the schools throughout the summer. Our Division’s opening day celebration will be held on Wednesday and then schools will have a couple more days to prepare before students return to classes after the long weekend.
There is always a flood of emotions on those first couple of days. There is a recognition that summer is coming to a close, a great excitement to see our colleagues and even a little anxiety as we get ready to welcome the new school year. Whether you are in a school or not, these emotions are real and often produce a slight tauntness in our mid-sections!
It is not hard to understand why these emotions rear their heads at this time. We are about to enter another year of the educational race that runs from the start of September to the end of June. While that time period should indicate it is a marathon, we quite often live it as a 10 month sprint! “Full speed ahead” or “Petal to the metal” seems to be the anology for the school year. We put our heads down and enter the race as soon as our feet hit the ground and don’t look up until the end of June.
Simply put, this is not healthy for those in the education sector or students. As part of the Provincial Framework Agreement with the Government of Alberta, divisions are required to establish a committee to look at the current teacher workload. While this committee and the resulting report may assist in defining what is imposed on us and what we impose on ourselves, the necessary and deep seated changes required, will need to (1) come from our own attitudes about the race and (2) center on teacher efficacy!
Learning takes time and reflection is required. We cannot allow ourselves to be simply sucked into the vortex of finishing the race. We need to begin to welcome the journey of learning as opposed to be fixated on the destination of results! Assessments focusing on the learning growth of each student needs to be central to our attitudes. While diploma exams may still hamper that attitude, every year prior has the potential to be far more dynamic and far more real. We have the opportunity to fully engage students as opposed to simply covering curriculum…with the right attitude and correct support.
The correct support comes from educators working together, being connected and sharing their vast expertise. Teacher efficacy is about building instructional skills and believing that one can make a difference. It is about administrators both at the school and divsion office who support innovative and creative practices that challenge the status quo. And finally it is about slowing down so that you can enjoy the ride.
This year, make learning and your teaching a marathon and not a sprint. Challenge your own attitudes and the external pressure to get to the finish line quickly. Take time to reflect on your own practice and connect with fellow educators through a Personal Learning Network! Advocate for real learning and not shallow achievement. The time you take will enhance both your journey and that of your students. Enjoy your marathon!!!