Help build relationships

It is a call to think about what we ask of our youth and how we model it as adults.

The only thing that interferes with my learning is my education.” – Albert Einstein

As a teacher, I am continually working on improving my students’ abilities to be curious individuals that face the world with compassion, understanding and a skill set that will allow them to be successful in the world that they will be inheriting. A world where complex problem solving and creativity are a must; where tribalism and aggression-based solutions no longer have a place over diplomacy and seeking solutions that suit all. Teaching is about creating relationships built on trust and honesty with our students. Within this, I’m torn by the hypocrisy of the current situation.

When my students are faced with a tough, real life problem to solve, each student comes to the table with their own agenda with the opportunity to make their case and then the real work begins. Students innately understand that a solution has to be made that suits many stakeholders in the problem and it is all on the table. So why does modern negotiating culture encourage both sides to hide their motives and to ‘shoot for the stars hoping for the moon?’

Wouldn’t it be better if they both came to the table with a commitment to honesty and a willingness to come to agreement? If we are continually grabbing turf, eventually there will be no turf left so we must recognize that education is not ours to own but rather ours to share. The social studies 11 curriculum reminds students of the impacts of tribalism and is the reason that we talk about past conflicts. It appears in the science 10 curriculum when students learn that competition amongst species, or within species, weakens the population.

When I have a student that comes to me and says that another student is not respecting him, I don’t send the offending student to the office for discipline, I help the students figure out the problem.

So, if the government feels disrespected, they too shouldn’t just run to the office and demand suspension? Are they fearful that they might actually be wrong? Would a mediator or arbitrator suggest another solution?

Due process and problem solving is taught in the social justice curriculum and seeps in under the social studies 10 curriculum in the creation of our nation. It exists in all of the math curriculums when we talk about problem solving and the need to place all assumptions and understanding before coming up with a solution and that there are many plausible methods to get to the same solution.

These are just two lessons that students are asked to learn and apply to their every day lives. They are reinforced through the curriculum but forgotten about in adult life. Are we that different form our mistakes of the past? Has society really learned from our predecessor’s mistakes? Every day I walk out of my classroom having taught my students how to navigate life only to find my lessons corroded by the those fighting for what – money, power, voice?

I belong to a union that supports education but resists reform; that supports teachers but protects poor practices. I wish that I belonged to a professional association that supported education, encouraged teachers and provided opportunity for creative solutions to new world problems.

I wish I belonged to a union that supported teachers and actively encouraged teachers to self-improve but knew where to draw the line for those unwilling to improve. I wish that I felt valued as a voice of reason that avoids tribalism and is open to the possibilities. The Ministry of Education, school boards, superintendent’s office and principals are not enemies; they are allies.

I live in a province that says it values education, but erodes trust of the people that deliver the education. I live in a democratic society that has a challenge seeing past the four-year term of the election cycle, that would rather play the political game than to create a vision for a new future.

Education is not an area on which to campaign. Education is an area to place your hope for the future on. All great revolution and change are grassroots, not top down.

Encourage growth don’t proclaim growth. Create the conditions for skilled professionals to do their job without the layers of bureaucracy and mistrust that they will not do their jobs. Build relationships.

This is not a plea for more money; it’s a request for respect. Respect for one of the occupations that doesn’t have immediate implications on our society but long-term ones. Respect for the artistry of teaching and the professionals that we trust our children and their future to. Respect to the processes that have made this country a fantastic place to live, where creativity and ingenuity are as much a part of our tapestry as solving our problems through conversation and diplomacy.

Our futures and the sustainability of this province depend on solid education, which in turn depends on sound teaching.

This is not a condemnation of our government, nor is it an insult to the union. It is a call to think about what we ask of our youth and how we model it as adults.

Paul Britton