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An Inspiring Alberta Education

Since its inception a few years back, many teachers, students and parents are curiously awaiting the roll out of Alberta Education's "Inspiring Education". On its website, the architects of "Inspiring Education" suggest that they're "changing everything" about how we teach and learn within our schools. As an educator who is anxiously awaiting and pushing for progressive change within our education system, I'm eagerly awaiting what the results of this process will be. However, as we know, the "Inspiring Education" process has not been without its controversies with corporations being included on the curriculum re-write process being at the top of the list.

If Alberta Education is to truly have an "Inspiring Education" that will transform our schools and classrooms into places of authentic learning, citizenship and critical discourse we will have to change much more than the curriculum. An "inspiring education" is inherently tied to the government that rolls it out as well as the issues that we deal with in our society. Below are my suggestions for those involved in our education system (so basically all Albertans) to outline what a truly "Inspiring Education" can be for all of us.

1. Long Term, Predictable and Sustainable Funding - Education and learning cannot be inspiring unless we have the predictable resources and funds to equip our teachers and students with. The more governments cut education budgets the more they harm the learning of our students.

2. Democratic Schools - We can no longer have administrators, teachers and staff who are an authoritarian presence within our schools. Punitive punishment far too often hurts marginalized students in our schools and it is time we allow students to have a voice in the decision making processes of our schools. We must begin to embrace truly democratic processes like restorative justice to deal with discipline issues within our schools as well as empower students who organize gay-straight alliances and other groups that support and contribute positively to school culture.

3. Democratic Classrooms - We can't expect students to be critically thinking and democratic citizens if teachers act like authoritarians in the classroom. Our job is not to maintain discipline or control student behaviour. We must embrace democratic practices and ways of teaching to enable our students to have the skills necessary for maintaining a healthy democracy in our world. Our profession demands that we engage in a process of learning with students that gives them the confidence, skills and determination to lead a positive life for themselves and contribute to making our world a more just, equitable and democratic place.

4. Social Justice Education - The issues of race, class, gender, sexuality, (dis)ability and colonialism not only impact the world we live in, but they are also present in our classrooms. Teachers must understand the intersectionality of these issues and how we can work together with students to make the world a more just and equitable place. Any "inspiring" curriculum will include specific courses, outcomes and resources to empower teachers to learn about these issues with their students in their classrooms. Education is not neutral or objective. What we choose to teach or not teach about is a political act that will impact how our students see themselves and make sense of the world around them. An "inspiring education" will empower teachers and students to work with community members to learn about important social and environmental justice issues so we can begin to make the world a better place. Currently, their is a severe lack of specific social justice outcomes within our curriculum. Whether that is out of ignorance or by choice, we can no longer accept a curriculum that does not include these vital issues for the safety and well-being of our students.

5. Indigenous Education - Most importantly, every Alberta teacher and student goes to school on either Treaty 6, 7, or 8 land. As teachers, if we are to participate in an "inspiring education" with our students and larger community, one of the first things we can do is acknowledge not only that we teach on treaty land, but that Indigenous ways of knowing and teaching will be accepted practices within our schools and classrooms. Alberta Education should always be working in partnership with Indigenous leaders and communities to create an education system that can engage students in a learning process that will teach them the history of the land and people that made this place home long before our schools were here as well as what has happened since European settlement. We have a responsibility as educators to begin and contribute to the process of healing the wounds of the past and embracing non-western forms of pedagogy that we can bring into our classrooms.

6. End Standardized Assessments - Any standardized assessment, whether it's in elementary school or the grade twelve diploma examinations are not tools we should use to rank and judge student learning. Teachers should not feel compelled to teach students how to take a multiple choice test and there are a variety of different methods teachers can use to assess student learning. From portfolio's to major research projects teachers can assess student learning in conjunction with the student for a better learning experience. Standardized exams only hinder student learning in preparation for the exam and are an unfair high stakes tool used by Alberta Education to deem a students final mark as they prepare for their lives in post-secondary, in the workforce and as citizens.

This is a simple and imperfect list of six suggestions to make Alberta Education's "Inspiring Education" more "inspiring". I've been lucky enough over the last year to engage in good conversations with folks involved in this process and have even reviewed some of the new social studies curriculum. However, before we officially announce that "Inspiring Education" is our model here in Alberta, we need to push those making decisions to involve the above ideas in order to make our schools and classrooms a more just, equitable and democratic place for all students.


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    1. Thanks for the heads up! That's an old habit that I just can't seem to kick! Cheers!

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