Monday, October 29, 2012

Jeff Johnson and Teacher Workload in Alberta

Alberta's Education Minister Jeff Johnson knows that he has to address Alberta teachers' workload, however, he opposes placing hard caps on work hours.

As an Albertan and a teacher, I agree that teacher workload is something that we can no longer ignore. And like Johnson, I also oppose hard caps on hours.

Teaching is a profession and professionals do not have punch cards. Professionals must be given the authority and support to do their jobs and then they must be trusted to act on that authority. Only then can professionals be held accountable.

Rather than place working hour caps, Johnson has said that he would rather identify and remove unnecessary initiatives imposed on teachers by the province and school boards.

In principle, I can agree with the sentiment of Johnson's suggestions. For too long, Alberta teachers:
  • have been treated as mere pawns in top-down mandated, flavour-of-the-month initiatives that come from distant school board or provincial authorities.
  • are rarely asked to speak on their own account.
  • are the end-point of education reform - the last to hear, the last to know, the last to speak.
  • have experienced school board and provincial initiatives as things done to them rather than with them
  • have been encouraged to take on new responsibilities without balancing their workload by removing other responsibilities.
If Jeff Johnson wants to address teacher workload, I suggest he start by empowering the teaching profession by:
  • end heavy handed, top-down mandates from distant school board authorities and government.
  • provide schools and teachers with sustainable funding to address class sizes.
  • provide teachers with more time to collaborate and learn together.
  • reduce the paper work teachers are required to produce such as Individual Program Plans.
  • rethink school board mandates such as district level standardized instruction and assessment policies such as online grading and reporting.
School has looked, tasted, smelled and felt like school for too long. In order for things to improve, things have to change.

It is unsustainable to expect Alberta teachers to take better care of other people's children than their own. 

Technology is only one of the many disruptive forces that are pushing on public education, and Alberta teachers are so busy teaching students that they don't have enough time to learn how to be better teachers. Unless something is done about teacher workload, Alberta's future failures will be paved by our refusal to innovate and improve on our past success.


  1. Thank you for speaking so eloquently on this topic Joe. Teachers are not only on the far side of educational reform we are on the outsiders in the world we should be the consummate insiders. Whether it is the academics, the bureaucrats, or the politicians reform or, as I prefer, transformation, comes from some perch far removed from anything I do or would choose to do.


  2. I find your thoughts intreging and thought provoking. What I don't see, likely just missing it somewhere, is that other professions, mine included, have standards of practice and proceedures that are recognized as being the right way to do certain things, can you help me here? As a parent, I want to know that me children's teacher's assessment of their learning and growth is aboiut the same as it would be elsewhere in Alberta and Canada for that matter, how can this be provided without some level of standardization.


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