Saturday, October 1, 2011

Educational Transformation in Alberta via Collaboration

On September 22, I had the pleasure of representing Red Deer Public Local #60 teachers at Alberta's Fall Education Transformation meetings. This meeting hosted three parties who play an intricate part of public education in Alberta: Alberta Teacher's Association, Alberta School Boards Association and Alberta Education.

I spent the day at Barnett House in Edmonton, the home of the Alberta Teachers' Association, sitting with my school district's superintendent, two school board trustees, two members from Alberta Education and two other teacher representatives from my local.

The day was spent discussing these three focus areas:

 FOCUS AREA #1: SHARED UNDERSTANDING/SHARED OPPORTUNITY
OUTCOME: SUPPORT FOR THE IDEA OF TRANSFORMATION AS A SHARED PROCESS

  • What's the most important characteristic of education transformation for you?
  • If transformation is about moving from one reality to another, what does this entail (e.g., is this about learning outcomes being different, is it about the classroom, is it about how education is governed?)
  • Discuss the relationship enhancements that articulate a new way of working together -- what do we have to change about how we relate to one another?
FOCUS AREA #2: MOVING FORWARD TOGETHER: WHO DOES WHAT?
OUTCOME: SHARED COMMITMENT TO PRIORITY ITEMS / ROLES AND RESPONSIBILITIES

  • If we are to collaborate on transformation, what's most important to work together on?
  • How do we define our respective roles and responsibilities in taking on these topics?
  • How do we hold one another accountable for our mutual success?
FOCUS AREA #3: NEXT STEPS
OUTCOME: SUPPORT FOR MOVING FORWARD TOGETHER

  • What are some ways Alberta Teachers' Association, Alberta School Board Association and Alberta Education can start taking action for transformation?
  • Is a plan required to guide the process? If so, what types of plans/planning are needed and who should lead their development?
  • How, when and at what levels (local/provincial) do we involve other stakeholders in the process?
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I walked away from this event thoroughly impressed with the level of commitment each of the three organizations (teachers, school boards and government) showed for rethinking how we can work together. There was no finger pointing or blaming. 

Not once did we discuss test scores. 

Not once.

I can only imagine the legacy of hard feelings and grudges that have developed in Alberta between teachers, school boards and government, however, in spite of any potential desire to accuse, blame and criticize each other, there seemed to be a real commitment in the room to move forward together.

So what's next?

On November 4 & 5, The Alberta Teachers' Association and Alberta Education are hosting a Combined Professional Development Area Conference and Invitational Curriculum Symposium. This is remarkably cool because the government and the teachers together will collaborate on rethinking curriculum in Alberta schools. Essentially this event will provide the teachers and government an opportunity to work together to rethink curriculum with a focus on our partnership with Finland.

Perhaps the only hesitation I have with this opportunity is to ask what role the Alberta School Board Association will play in this rethinking curriculum process? Seeing as how they aren't invited.

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