Celebrating and Supporting Beginning Teachers

Celebrating and Supporting Beginning Teachers

Principal, Ralph McCall School – Some of them “played school” in their basements as a kid. Others discovered a passion for working with children and teens through volunteer or paid involvements. Many of them have family members who are educators. Each one recently completed a succession of valuable practicum experiences. And now all of them are embarking on their teaching careers in Rocky View Schools and throughout the province.

Welcome to the profession, beginning teachers!

In RVS, we are recent beneficiaries to innovation, energy and the enthusiasm of working alongside dozens of colleagues new to the profession. How valuable each is to their site and to their students. How fortunate the families of these learners is to have an inspired new teacher leading their sons and daughters.

But as thrilled as we are to have them on the RVS team, how do the veterans among us ensure these new teachers aren’t merely surviving, but thriving? According to an Alberta Teachers’ Association (ATA) study from 2013, there remains a high attrition rate of teachers who leave the profession within their first five years. The potential reasons for this are vast and not the focus of this commentary. Rather, it is to highlight how experienced colleagues might mitigate it happening, providing ample support to beginning teachers from the outset. In RVS, and across the province, there are many options and formats being employed. If you’re a new teacher yourself, I hope you are accessing some / most / ALL of these. If you are in the position to guide or mentor, please do so! We all need to be aware of the following opportunities for our colleagues, just starting out:

  • RVS Community of Practice for Beginning Teachers
  • ATA Beginning Teachers’ Conferences in Calgary and Edmonton
  • #ntchat (New Teacher Chat on Twitter)
  • School Based Mentorship Partnerships and Programs
  • Induction Ceremonies
  • Administrative Support through formal and informal evaluations
  • And more – just Google “Supporting Beginning Teachers” and there is no end to the titles, resources and other ideas!

All teachers were once beginning teachers. We all remember what an exciting time it was, what it felt like to be starting out and what a big difference even the smallest of supports made. We are lucky to have so many new colleagues in our Rocky View Schools. Let’s ensure we nurture their talents and their well-being!

Celebrating Teachers Conventions

Celebrating Teachers Conventions

RVS Principal, Ralph McCall School – As Program Chair for this month’s Palliser District Teachers’ Convention, I was sharing at a recent School Council meeting about some of the exciting Professional Learning opportunities teachers would be participating in. Our trustee was especially interested and commented that the Board of Trustees often hear about jurisdictional and in-school professional learning events, as well as participate in their own educational conferences, but know little about teachers’ conventions. While teachers’ conventions are “closed to the public” events, they needn’t be shrouded in mystery. In fact, they have evolved to become outstanding professional learning events, the details of which ought to be celebrated.

Teachers’ conventions began in the 1890s as a Department of Education event so that school inspectors and superintendents could meet annually in the fall with teachers at one school in each community. Over the next several decades they moved from individual school sites, to hotels to large conference centres. They further evolved from initially being a venue for inspectors to “correct” individuals’ teaching, to being mostly an Alberta Teachers’ Association (ATA) platform for sharing business, finally moving to the rich, two-day conference style event, complete with a plethora of sessions across all curricular areas that they are today.

The Palliser District Teachers’ Convention Association (PDTCA) sees delegates from nine ATA locals participate together. Geographically, the district covers most of rural and “rur-ban” southern Alberta (with the exception of Calgary, Lethbridge and Medicine Hat). With over 4000 PDTCA delegates in attendance, Rocky View teachers make up about 30% of this cohort. This year, we are proud to welcome three world-class keynote speakers to open our event:  Mr. Mark Tewskbury, Dr. Temple Grandin and Mr. George Couros. Further to these speakers, our program is offering over two hundred other sessions, mostly at the Calgary Telus Convention Centre and Hyatt Regency. Sessional topics – many of them presented by local speakers – range from best practices in Literacy and Numeracy across all grade levels, to Coding, Robotics and Maker Spaces. Teachers can create hands-on visual art or musical pieces, enrich outdoor and environmental education programs, become better informed about the rising mental health needs of youth, improve second language and immersion instruction, participate in woodworking and culinary arts demos, hone content in religious studies, develop mastery in using Google Apps or scientific tools and more. So much more.

It is all accomplished, in Palliser, by a Board of volunteers who give up multiple evenings and weekends to plan an amazing event for colleagues. Further, these colleagues are receiving this professional learning gift through the contribution of $103 of their annual ATA dues. Where else could one participate in a two-day, world-class caliber event, put on by volunteers and at a cost of only one hundred dollars?! As I opened with, the details are to be celebrated!

So this year, on February 23 and 24 when the students are enjoying the end of their February break, please think of their teachers and the work we are participating in to make classrooms dynamic and engaging, yet still inclusive and achievement-oriented places. Yes, we ARE reuniting with former colleagues and networking with future new ones over coffee and lunch, but teachers’ conventions are NOT “paid days off”. We have our sleeves rolled up, our heads are down, and our minds are being challenged, inspired and re-energized. The teachers in Rocky View and the rest of the Palliser District are coming together to make schools the best they can be.  We thank you for supporting these two days of professional learning…. and all the work we do!