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Posts Tagged ‘World Teachers Day’

One of the best parts of my job is that I regularly hear from parents about the amazing difference individual teachers have made for their children. And all of us likely have stories about teachers that have had a significant impact in our lives. I know if it wasn’t for teachers like Mrs. Caffrey (I wrote about her HERE a few years ago) my life would be very different.

As we celebrate World Teachers’ Day today, it is a chance to reflect on the state of the profession.

Each community has its own unique circumstances.

Let me start by bragging.

West Vancouver Schools are regarded as some of the top schools in the country, known for our innovative programming, and the teachers are seen as the top in their field. Whether it is on standards assessments, or with graduation rates, or on levels of satisfaction with the school experiences, our students’ results are exceptionally impressive.

And I am in awe of how our students, supported by their teachers, are leading in areas from the climate crisis, to SOGI, to Truth and Reconciliation. Our schools are proof that citizenship and academic success are connected.

And I look at the programs that our teachers are leading its clear we are on top of ensuring relevance in all we do. From innovative business and entrepreneurship programs to a range of work experience options exposing students to new careers to the hundreds of students engaged in robotics, our staff are regularly modernizing the school experience.

But . . .

In West Vancouver, the challenge of housing affordability makes it almost impossible for teachers to live in the community. Less than 10% of our staff actually live here. So, now as competition for staff increases, and teachers can work closer to home, more than ever we need to ensure we offer a professional, rewarding, and enriching experience for staff. These teachers travel through one or more jurisdictions in which they could get a job to work with us in West Vancouver.

The reality is that if teachers choose to work closer to home, it will be challenging to replace them with someone of the same quality. This is the state of our job market.

We are doing everything we can to continue to recruit and retain the very best. It is all about culture, and we do everything we can to build and create amazing places for teachers to work, learn and grow.

Just as we have become much more focused on our students’ mental health, the same is true for our staff. And I am trying to support teachers in creating boundaries on their work, so they don’t have situations where they receive an email from a student or parent at 10 PM and a reply is expected that same night. And we are trying offer as much professional support so our teachers can remain at the front of the teaching profession.

And how can the community help?

Treat teachers well. It can sound simple, or even trite, but it matters. While none of us are perfect, and can make mistakes, all teachers I have had the chance to work with are incredibly professional. Working through scenarios, I am in awe of how teachers balance the needs of individual learners, with also what is best for the community of learners in the classroom.

When I ask teachers why they stay, they almost all speak to the great satisfaction they get from the work, and regularly highlight the support they receive from colleagues, their administrators and parents.

However, I am hearing from our schools and seeing more news stories around parents confronting teachers and staff in schools. We seem to be moving too quickly to a place of outrage, and rapidly bypassing that essential step of seeking first to understand.

I know, this is not about teaching, it has been even more pronounced in health care, and horrible treatment many doctors and other health professionals have received over the last few years. The diminishing trust for our public institutions is disappointing and alarming. I also think some of the media from the United States covering school board meetings and other events has normalized behaviour that should not be seen as OK.

And before this behaviour seeps more into our system, I think we should have this conversation.

We can do better.

Teaching is a human enterprise. It is wildly frustrating because it is impossible to bottle and replicate what makes a “great teacher.” Its strength is also its humanness. Teachers build communities, that help our students navigate the experiences they have and will have in the larger world.

I often get asked if I could do it over would I go into teaching, or would I recommend others to pursue teaching. ABSOLUTELY! It is hard, complicated work. And it is also rich, rewarding, and powerful work. We need our absolute best to see teaching as a professional option for them.

I encourage you to share stories with your children of the teachers that made a difference for you, and what it was about them that made such an impact.

And by no means do I want to shirk our responsibilities. Please continue to hold us to account. But if we want our very best to join the teaching profession and perhaps most importantly, remain in the profession, we need to treat them professionally.

I feel blessed to work in a community that values education so strongly. I am confident students are receiving this country’s best education preparing them as active citizens and supporting life beyond our schools in our communities, universities, trades programs and the work world.

To all the wonderful teachers in the various roles across West Vancouver, and those beyond, Happy World Teachers Day!

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world-teacherSo, just how many of your teachers from grade school can you name?

I was struck by a story shared by Dean Shareski on Opening Day about The Amazing Miss A and Why We Should Care About Her.  The study comes from McGill Faculty of Education, Professor Eigil Pedersen.  The study initially looked at how students who had Miss A for grade 1 showed an increase in IQ scores between grades 3 and 6 while those in other classes were stable.  There was nothing unique about Miss A’s class but something was going on.  Students were again studied years later and given an “adult status” score  including factors such as the highest grade of high school completed, the type of housing they occupied, their personal appearance and their occupational status.  And again it was those in Miss A’s class that stood out.

And what else was true, every single pupil of Miss A’s could remember her as their grade 1 teacher.  So what was it about the magical Miss A?

lt was reported that she never lost her temper or resorted to physical restraint, and showed obvious affection for the children. She generated many lessons on the importance of schooling and why students should stick to it. She gave extra hours to pupils who were slow learners. She believed every pupil could learn. That surely explains the one characteristic that emerged as a steady pattern, illustrated best by the comment of one respondent, “it did not matter what background or abilities the beginning pupil had there was no way that the pupil was not going to read by the end of grade one.”

The entire story is worth reading and a good reminder that we need to be careful to buy into simple explanations of socio-economic conditions as being the sole determiner of students’ success.  It also is an excellent reminder of what are truly the characteristics of a great teacher.

The story got me thinking, when I look at my K-12 school years – how many of my teachers could I name?  I actually did pretty well and have really nice things to say about virtually all of them.  So, on this World Teachers’ Day I would like to thank those who I remember:

K – Mrs. Groening

Grade 1 – Can’t remember name and don’t have good memories

Grade 2 – Mrs. Caffrey  (Read all about her)

Grade 3 – Mrs. Caffery

Grade 4 – Mrs. Caffrey

Grade 5 – Mr. Nakanishi

Grade 6 – Mr. Whitehead

Grade 7 – Mr. Taylor

Grade 8 – Mrs. MacDonalnd (Science), Ms. Bourne (English), Mrs. White (Social Studies), Mr. Inglis (Math), Mr. Paquet (PE and French), Mr. Hobson (Band), Mrs. Hicks (Food and Clothing) 8 out of 8

Grade 9 – Mr. Carroll (Science) Ms. Ball (English), Mr. Bryan (Social Studies), Mr. Loader (Math and Computer Science), Mr Milholm (PE), Mr. Hobson (Band) 7 out of 8

Grade 10 – Mr. Carroll (Science),Ms. Bourne (English), Mr. Bryan (Social Studies), Ms. Blaschuk (Math), Mr. Hirayama (PE), Mr. Hobson (Band and Consumer Ed) 7 out of 8

Grade 11 – Ms. Carey (English), Mr. Brown (Social Studies), Mr. Turnbull (Math), Mr. Gresko (Biology), Ms. Hurley (Computer Science), Mr. Spearman (Law) 6 out of 8

Grade 12 – Ms. Carey (English), Mr. Brown (Western Civ and Literature), Mr. Commons (History), Mr. Topping (Geogrpahy), Mr. McCallum (French) 6 out of 7

It is an interesting exercise.  I have strong memories of almost all the teachers I remember and they are almost exclusively not about what I learned, but how their class made me feel.

To all my teachers, and those in the profession past and present – Happy World Teachers’ Day.

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Way-of-life-l

World Teachers’ Day is a great time to reflect on the power of teachers and how they influence our lives, the lives of our families and those in the community. My own reflections and thoughts have been expressed in several posts on the importance of this day:

In 2010, I shared some of our presentation from the school district’s Opening Day:

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 “teacher” word 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.

In 2011, I described the powerful difference that teachers made in my schooling in the K-12 system, in particular Mrs. Caffrey:

Mostly, I remember Mrs. Caffrey made me feel safe, and I was excited to come to school every day.  To this day, 28 years later, I smile when I think about her . . .  someone who quietly changed my life and, I am sure, the lives of many others.

Last year, I highlighted just a few of the amazing teachers I have had the wonderful opportunity to work with early on in my career — in particular, Bill Lawrence, Doug Sheppard, Gail Sumanik and Fred Harwood:

It was a bit of great luck I had in my first year to have mentors who took time to help me become successful, to be surrounded by excellent teachers sharing their craft in a culture that was accepting and encouraging.

What is fact about all of these teachers — teaching is more than a job for them, it’s a way of life, and this is true for all of the very best in the profession.

Of my own personal experience growing up in a family of teachers, I didn’t always understand why my parents were up late planning and marking to be ready for the next day in the classroom, or why we were going to musicals and basketball games at their schools. I did come to understand that they didn’t sign up for a job, they signed up for a way of life.

True, the teacher way of life does mean sometimes missing out on your own children’s’ activities in support of other students, and taking the high road when a suggestion is made about teaching being a 9-to-3 job.  But then, the rewards realized from how we can make a difference in a kid’s life are pretty special.

As we celebrate World Teachers’ Day, I want to thank all of my friends and colleagues in this most amazing profession for taking on the teacher “way of life”.

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As we celebrate World Teachers’ Day, I want to celebrate some of the teachers who, early in my career, have influenced and shaped the teacher I have become. Last year, I celebrated my own teachers — in particular, Mrs. Caffrey — and the influence she had on me as a student.  Today, I want to thank a few teachers who made all the difference in my very first year of teaching.

There is a bit of luck involved where one lands as a new teacher.  When I started in September 1996, I landed at McRoberts Secondary in Richmond.  I was teaching outside my area (as a Humanities teacher in a Math/Science assignment), but was immediately partnered with Bill Lawrence as my mentor. Bill, was a kid-magnet and made science and math relevent and engaging. That first year, I remember how he gave up his October PSA Professional Development Day to spend the day planning with me.  We both taught a double block of Math/Science 8.  We took the time to build several units we could do in tandem.  He was also so willing to share.  Admittedly, I had some colleagues who protected their lesson plans and resources like state secrets, but Bill’s filing cabinets were always open to me.  And even though science and math were not my areas of expertise, he treated me like a true partner in our teaching  — although I know I was getting far more from him than he was from me.  From “egg drops” from the roof to “the science of breakfast cereal” he helped me see the course wasn’t the textbook.

It was not only Bill who made a difference in that first year.  When one is surrounded by excellent teachers, that excellence is bound to rub off.  I watched how Doug Sheppard built an outline for a course around student outcomes and not activities — this was a new way of thinking for me.  I also saw Doug use a final exam that had only one question, and certainly different from the multiple choice tests I assumed were the only final exam option.  I also worked with Gail Sumanik who was in the role of principal, but was a teacher first.  She challenged and supported me as I began to figure my way in the profession.  And, then there was Fred Harwood, who quietly offered to switch one block in our teaching assignments that first year; it gave him one extra course to prep, and me one less — one of the little things that can make a big difference for a first-year teacher.

It was a bit of great luck I had in my first year, to have mentors who took time to help me become successful, to be surrounded by excellent teachers sharing their craft in a culture that was accepting and encouraging.

As we celebrate World Teachers’ Day — and all the wonderful ways teachers are making a difference; making our world a bit better, one child at a time, I want to thank Bill, Doug, Gail, Fred and all the others for their insightfulness, taking the time to help me find my way, and welcome me to the most amazing profession in the world.

Happy World Teachers’ Day!

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