World Teachers’ Day is an opportunity to highlight our profession. In addition to celebrating the excellence we see in our neighbourhood classrooms, it is an important opportunity to also raise the larger issue for which the day was initially intended:
World Teachers’ Day, held annually on 5 October since 1994, commemorates the anniversary of the signing in 1966 of the UNESCO/ILO Recommendation Concerning the Status of Teachers. It is an occasion to celebrate the essential role of teachers in providing quality education at all levels.
Currently, there are some interesting conversations around the future of teaching and learning in B.C., across Canada, and around the world. Jurisdictions are wrestling with the big issue of what the changing world means for learning, and what this, in turn, means for teaching and schools.
While some of these discussions, at least those I have been following in parts of the United States, have focussed on improving teaching and learning by placing blame on teachers, and excluding teachers (and students) from the discussions on reform — there IS a better way. Our system will continue to improve, be relevant and engaging, when we focus on where we are going rather than who to blame for any of our current shortfalls.
Hopefully, we will continue to focus on the changing pedagogy and how this will impact our profession as we continue to move forward. My confidence was buoyed just last Friday with the Installation Speech of our new Governor General of Canada, His Excellency the Right Honourable David Johnston. While the entire speech is worth reading and the video worth viewing (the second part which includes the focus on education is embedded at the bottom of this post), I was struck by his passionate commitment to teachers and public education:
Anyone who has achieved any degree of success and been placed in a leadership position can point to dozens of teachers, mentors and coaches who have made them better persons along the way. In my case, they number in the hundreds.
During my term, we will find ways to properly recognize our teachers who are responsible for our intellectual development. If there is one trumpet call from my remarks today let it be “Cherish Our Teachers”.
I have always had great admiration for the teachers and educators of this country.
As we consider our vision for 2017, I ask “Can we have equality of opportunity and excellence too?” I believe that no nation in history has worked harder than Canada to ensure equality of opportunity. How do we square that with excellence as well? For me, the answer is through our public educational system which is the most inclusive in the world.
How do we ensure accessible education for all so that all Canadians can realize their full potential? And how do we reconcile universal access with stellar achievement? And how do we continue to innovate in order to compete with the world’s best? Innovation at its simplest is crafting a new idea to do things better. Innovation embraces both technological and social innovation. We want the same continuing commitment to excellence in our learning and research institutions that we saw in our Canadian athletes who brought us a record 14 gold medals at the 2010 Winter Games, we need the kind of innovation that has made “BlackBerry” a household expression. We want to emulate our Olympic and Paralympic athletes by constantly striving for excellence in all that we do.
We want to be the Smart and Caring Nation; a society that innovates, embraces its talent and uses the knowledge of each of its citizens to improve the human condition for all.
Our Governor General said what so many of us think about teaching and public education. Teaching continues to be a simply amazing and powerful profession.
I want to reiterate what I said on Opening Day last month:
It is funny we often use different words for teacher. We have teacher leaders, lead teachers, principal teachers, support teachers, helping teachers, mentor teachers, and then we sometimes take the word teacher out – and have instructional leaders, among a range of other terms. I am good with teacher. It is who I am, and it says it all. The rest is about the different roles we have, but teacher describes who we are. I don’t think we actually need anything more. And while teachers sometimes get beaten up in the media, and our profession is asked to do more and more, it is still the greatest profession in the world – and there are few things better in life than being called a teacher. What we do makes a dent in our world; it matters, and makes it a slightly better place in which to live.
I am blessed to have come from a family of teachers, to have spent my life guided and influenced by one excellent teacher after another, and each day I work with teachers looking to change the world one student at a time.
To all of you, Happy World Teachers’ Day!