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Education and Activism

Teaching is an all encompassing profession. We often work late hours preparing lesson plans, staying after school or working through lunch to help a student out with academic or personal issues and often spend hundreds of our own dollars on classroom supplies to assist students in their learning.

And now, on top of what we already do as teachers, I'm asking that teachers AND community members get more involved in education activism. Now I know what you're thinking and don't worry I'm not trying to to install a Stalinist reform movement in Alberta's education system. What I mean by "education activism" is that teachers, parents, students and community members need to amp up our work towards a progressive and sustainably funded education system here in Alberta.

There are many great teachers within our province doing incredible things for our students. However, with increased student population and no predictable funding for our education system we are seeing class sizes rise in the province, which creates a more difficult learning and teaching environment for staff and students.

On top of this, our profession is being targeted by a corporate ideology, which emphasizes more standardized testing, corporate influence in the curriculum and merit based pay for teachers. All of these ideas would cause the dismantling of public education in Alberta and further destroy the common good for Alberta's citizens.

As teachers, we are protectors of our profession. When we signed up to be a teacher we also signed up to be advocates for the education system and our students. We must take our role outside the classroom seriously if we are going to ensure a strong public education for all Albertans. The idea of being an activist doesn't have to be a scary one either if you don't consider yourself to be one. What we need is for teachers to carry a progressive voice for education into their staff meetings, in conversations within the communities that we work, as well as getting involved in the teachers association and building community relationships with other folks who are working on progressive issues that impact education.

As we know, the issues of society impact our schools and classrooms. Poverty, racism, sexism, homophobia and many other forms of oppression infiltrate our schools hallways and students lives. If we believe that the purpose of education is to empower youth to be critically thinking citizens who participate in building a better democracy for Canada then we need to show them that we are willing to put our money where our mouth is. Luckily for us, there are many organizations and activists working in Alberta on all of the issues listed above. What we have to do as teachers is seek out those organizations, individuals, parents and activists in our specific communities to help us maintain a strong and democratic public education system. They have a tremendous amount of knowledge and skills they can share with us if we are willing to support them in our joint efforts to make our communities and schools a better place to live and learn.

And for any activists reading this post, we need you. As teachers, our time is limited and our capacities to act are hindered by the burdensome system we work in. We need allies who can provide us with strength, solidarity and a commitment that our education system has a large role to play in creating the type of world we wish to see. If we believe that a fair, equitable and just world is important for all Albertans, then we have to work with each other to ensure that happens.

I've had the privilege of working with and meeting many folks in Edmonton's activist community. It's been so inspiring to hear the stories of people who are so passionate about their work whether it be poverty, anti-oppression, climate justice or anything else. However, I often hear activists tell stories about how they wish their formal high school education should have been something more. How they should have been learning about feminism or Indigenous movements or any other progressive issue before they went to university. Well if that's the case, we would love if you could spend some time helping teachers, parents and students create that type of education for the next generation. After all, we all live in communities in which we often live out our lives independent from one another. It's time that we seek out individuals and organizations within our community who have common interests and goals in seeking a better Alberta education system for all.

If you are interested in any of the above then you can contact me on twitter, e-mail or in the comment section below!