On a recent birthday, my children gave me a card that resonated far more than they could have known, beyond my personal life to my professional work and the issues the Canadian Teachers’ Federation (CTF) advocates for. The gist of the message was, “Mum – it’s your birthday – relax, take time for you, put your feet up … and then CAN YOU MAKE ME A SANDWICH!” We laughed, but I did explain why the card touched a chord or two for me beyond the busy realities of being a parent (and, especially, even though it is 2018, being a mother).
I told them that parents and teachers have a lot in common! Many of those commonalities are positive but there are some real challenges too.
How often does a classroom teacher in Canada, whether she be in Vernon, British Columbia; Kugluktuk, Nunavut; Montréal, Quebec; Paradise, Newfoundland; or elsewhere; just barely begin to delve into planning or marking only to be called to respond to the steady ping of emails, staff meetings, an incident in the school, extracurricular duties, inquiries from parents, and more? Many reading this will know how often such essential reflective time for teachers is interrupted and deferred until later that night or the weekend. The pressures on teachers’ time and, especially, professional space are increasing. Joni Turville’s article on the impacts of email on teachers’ professional space paints a concerning picture. Email is not, as hoped, helping us work “smarter”; it is adding pressures and distractions that extend teachers’ days almost immeasurably. Similarly, many of you will know, too well, how the ever-increasing number of standardized tests (PISA, TIMMS, PIRLS, and more) can crush teachers’ professional autonomy and judgement (not to mention, student learning).
The CTF, in concert with its Member organizations in each province and territory, advocates for teaching to be upheld as a profession wherein teachers are regarded (and remunerated) as professionals, well qualified and able to exercise professional judgement each and every day to ensure quality inclusive public education for the students in their care.
The CTF does not condone any erosion of teaching as a profession nor any diminishment of quality public education as a public good and human right for all children and youth. In fact, these two tenets are mutually reinforcing. All students need qualified teachers and quality learning conditions and all teachers need professional space in order to provide the very best for the children and youth in their care.
To that end, and beyond advocating for appropriate allocations of teacher time, the CTF is pleased to have recently enhanced our focus on teacher professional learning. The article in this issue of Perspectives by Pamela Osmond-Johnson further elaborates many of the imperatives related to teacher-led professional learning. Regarding teacher professional autonomy, the CTF is also proud, among other initiatives, to collaborate and advocate with the Council of Ministers of Education, Canada in efforts to ensure current Fair Dealing copyright legislation is upheld. We believe teachers must continue to be able to select extracts from resources they determine best meet the needs of their students while also promoting Canadian artists in schools across the country.
The CTF staunchly supports women’s rights and, with the vast majority of Canadian teachers being women, engagement in advocacy related to equity is part of our core business. This emphasis is underscored in the article about the recent Education International World Women’s Conference written by EI staff and much of the CTF advocacy work.
The CTF advocates to improve conditions in schools such that all students and teachers can learn or teach in safe, caring environments. We do not condone corporal punishment in any form; that position has been a policy of the CTF since 1989. Equally, we work to ensure the continued safety of all students and teachers and welcome discussions with school boards and ministries of Education regarding Section 43 of the Criminal Code of Canada and Senate Bill S-206 (calling for its repeal) in order to ensure appropriate provisions are in place to protect the safety of all teachers and students.
As you dip into this issue of Perspectives, I invite you to consider, alongside the CTF and the provincial and territorial teacher organizations that comprise our national federation, how we may continue to strengthen the professional space of teachers for the betterment of the profession and all students across the country.
Cassandra Hallett is the Secretary General of the Canadian Teachers’ Federation.