Janice Neden, M.Ed/BGS

 
September 2009          September 2008          August 2007         May 2007         Fall 2006

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

September 2009

“There is an increasing tendency in capitalist democracies to insist that

no questioning of the dominant order be allowed.”

(Friere et al., Mentoring the Mentor)

I chose this quote from Pablo Friere to begin my third president’s report to you. It seems to be a recurring theme that we as teachers continue to challenge the “dominant order” that would silence our voices when we try to engage in educational debate. For unlike researchers who have always debated and argued their positions among themselves in order to better articulate their positions, we as a profession are too often silenced if we attempt to engage in discourse. Personally, I have always believed that the purpose of education is to engage in discourse yet I see countless examples every day of the opposite being the reality. I recently attended a plenary address at the BCTF summer conference given by Judy Rebick as she spoke of the “world upside down”. She used this phrase to illustrate how the values that should be the most important, e.g., community, connection, relationality (mutually reciprocal) are at the bottom and the dominant values appear to be bureaucracy, accountability, fragmentation etc.

However, it is important to remember that most of us continue to be the dominant order in the classroom. What do we value? What decisions do we make about pedagogy? Do we resist the pressure to pour information into a person devoid of real meaning? According to Friere, “merely pouring information into another person is fundamentally disrespectful of that person”.

I ask all of us to reflect on what is done to us as well as what we do to others as we begin this new school year. John Dewey wrote over a century ago that “the goals and process of education are one and the same thing”. Where are you going and how are you getting there? I often see parents make the mistake of doing everything for their child and then wondering why the child isn’t independent. I challenge you to ask these fundamental questions of your teaching. If we truly want each child to achieve their potential, how do we go about this? Our long term destination must carefully consider each step along the way. I would also challenge leaders of all kinds to consider this carefully. If we surround critique and silence voices then we break teachers’ and students’ spirits and do not achieve what we set out to accomplish.

What did LATA accomplish on your behalf during the last school year? As always we continue to advocate on many fronts. As your president I continue to engage in a variety of discourse on a provincial level that I find personally and professionally extremely rewarding. Every year LATA makes significant contributions to the public education system through curriculum initiatives, in-service education, professional development, ministry committees, publications, presentations and conferences. Some of the on-going activities that we engaged in on behalf of our members included;

  • Two conferences
    • The first conference, hosted in Burnaby on the October PSA day, was our biggest outreach venture to date. We collaborated with SET-BC, the Burnaby School District and PITA to webcast our keynote speaker Dr. David Rose from Harvard speaking on Universal Design for Learning. Remote sites that were able to access the webcast included Prince Rupert, Fort Nelson, Cranbrook, Kelowna, Williams Lake, Campbell River. If you have not been able to view this webcast that was archived on both the LATA website and SETBC website you have until October 23, 2009 to view it.
    • Another regional conference was held in Kamloops in February in collaboration with the Kamloops/Thompson District Teachers’ Association. Our thanks to the Kamloops/Thompson Pro-D Committee for assisting us with this venture. Saima Fewster, Past President of SEA and current BC Case Special Project Coordinator spoke on IEP Development.
  • The Vital Link
    • Our hard working editor continues to produce our wonderful LATA journals. This is the first journal since our last conference in Kamloops. In this journal you will find information on our upcoming fall conference being held in Burnaby on Oct. 23, 2009, titled, “Why Math is Failing Our Children”, featuring Shad Moarif, founder of the Karismath Program, a program guided by UDL (Universal Design for Learning) principles.
  • Teaching to Diversity website
    • LATA continues to contribute to the ongoing development of the Teaching to Diversity website. This is an excellent website meant to support teachers of all areas. The site is developed and maintained by LATA, SEA and ESL PSA’s with greatly appreciated assistance from Charlie Naylor of the BCTF’s research department. Please take the time to investigate this wonderful resource. You can access it through the BCTF’s website by typing “Teaching to Diversity” in the Site Search box.

Along with these regular events and activities your executive was kept busy on a number of special projects that focus on our goal of promoting professional learning and supporting teachers.

  • As President I attended three two-day meetings over the course of last year with other PSA presidents to discuss mutual issues and concerns. Even though all presidents give up weekend time to meet we believe that this collaboration benefits you as members.
  • I participated in the BCTF Program for Quality Teaching as a mentor for the second year. This BCTF initiative, made possible by a grant from the BC Ministry of Education, aims to coordinate and to continue the Federations’ work in teacher inquiry. The program is currently seeking to include new mentors. If you are interested please contact Nancy Hinds, PSID staff at nhinds@bctf.ca by September 25th, 2009.
  • I participated in a 5-session think tank at a university to re-examine their offerings in Special Education to better reflect current issues and trends.
  • I continued to act as a Steering Committee member on the BC CASE Special Projects. This project offers online modules and cornerstone workshops led by locally trained facilitators. This project was created to address the workplace issues involving large numbers of new teachers to the Learning Assistance Resource Position. You can find out more information by contacting Saima Fewster, the Past-President of SEA and current special projects manger for BC CASE.
  • LATA also participated in a think tank hosted by the Ministry of Education to address the challenges regarding adaptations and modifications. For the newest information, check out www.bced.gov.bc.ca/specialed/adaptationsandmodificationsguide.pdf.
  • The updating of the “Teacher Resource Guide to IEP Planning” continued to be revised to reflect current policies and practices. The IEP planning document has been completed and we are awaiting a release date from the Ministry of Education. Check the LATA website or the Ministry of Education’s website for further information. This will be available online and in hard copy from the Ministry.
  • Committee work on “Teaching Students with Learning Disabilities: A Resource Guide” has recently been completed. Stay tuned for future information regarding a release date from the Ministry.
  • We also participated in committee work with SEA, CUPE and the BCTF to rewrite “Roles and Responsibilities of Teacher Assistants”. We hope to have this available in hardcopy for our October PSA day in Burnaby.
  • LATA Vice President, Don Beggs, presented at the BCTF New Teachers’ Conference.

This has been the third year of my term as the president of LATA. I participated in all of the above activities as well as attending the BCTF summer conference and the BCTF AGM during Spring Break while keeping up with full-time teaching responsibilities on your behalf. However, I could not do any of this work without the support of the LATA executive. This group of outstanding educators truly values the opportunity to serve others. The many, many long hours that all of the executive spend to make the world a better place for teachers, parents and students is a testament to them all and they are greatly appreciated. We are always on the lookout for dedicated teachers who are interested in joining our executive. The professional development opportunities you will receive along the way through involvement with conferences, special projects etc. are unparalleled.

Finally, in closing, I wish all of you well in the coming school year. Consider the words of Thich Nhat Hanh who emphasized that “the practice of a healer, therapist, teacher or any helping professional should be directed toward his or herself first, because if the helper is unhappy, he or she cannot help many people”.

Please make sure to visit the LATA website for registration information regarding our October 23rd conference in Burnaby on “Why Math is Failing Our Children” featuring Shad Moarif, founder of the Karismath Program, a program guided by UDL (Universal Design for Learning) principles. To register for this conference, go to www.bctf.ca/psas/LATA/conference/events.htm.

Hope to see you in Burnaby in October!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

September, 2008

'The world cannot afford to lose the talents of half its people if we are to solve the many problems that beset us.'

~Rosalyn Sussman Yalow, US Medical Physicist

 

The last school year proved to be another busy year for the Learning Assistance Teachers’ Association. Every year LATA makes significant contributions to the public education system through curriculum initiatives, in-service education, professional development, ministry committees, publications, presentations and conferences. Some of the on-going activities that we engaged in on behalf of our members this past year included:

 

  • Two annual conferences – one hosted in Vancouver on the October PSA day and another regional conference held in Kelowna in collaboration with the Kelowna District Teachers’ Association. Our thanks to the Kelowna Pro-D committee for assisting us with this venture.
  • Producing the LATA journals as well as a brochure on the detrimental effects of student retention. This brochure on student retention was developed in response to the Minister of Education’s statement at the Teachers’ Congress that there would be some partners of education who would promote the practice of retention in response to students who were struggling in school. On behalf of the association I responded that individuals who promoted the practice of retention did so despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary. This brochure produced by LATA is in response to individuals promoting this practice. You will find a copy of this brochure included in our latest journal. Please copy it and use it with parents, educators and other interested individuals.
  • Continued contribution to the on-going development of the Teaching to Diversity website. This is an excellent website meant to support teachers of all areas. The site is developed and maintained by LATA, SEA and ESL PSA’s with greatly appreciated assistance from Charlie Naylor of the BCTF’s research department. Please take the time to investigate this wonderful resource.

 

Along with these regular events and activities your executive was kept busy on a number of special projects that focus on our goal of promoting professional learning and supporting teachers.

 

On behalf of the PSA council I was selected along with another president to participate in an Ad Hoc Committee with the BCTF executive to address the area of specialized teaching. We looked carefully at BCTF policy and practices to ensure that teachers new to any teaching role are being supported professionally, and that generalist teachers and students are getting the best service possible from specialist teachers. In order to achieve this, universities and colleges need to continue to offer certificate and diploma coursework that reflect the realities of the workplace. I will be participating in a “think tank” this year at one university to rework their Diploma in Special Education to better reflect current issues in education.

 

I also had the opportunity to participate in a wonderful conference offered by Bruce Wellman and Laura Lipton on mentoring. Mentoring opportunities and professional learning plans to offer ongoing professional development are being promoted in many districts. To find out about some exciting mentoring initiatives log on to the BC Projects section of the BCTF Teaching to Diversity website. The site is an excellent overview of the process that several districts have gone through to develop a group mentorship program.

 

In addition to these activities we have been provided the opportunity to give input into the BC Case special project. This project is meant to develop training modules for use with teachers who are new to the role of Learning Assistance Resource Teachers. Stay tuned to find out more about these exciting modules in upcoming journals. You can also find out more information by contacting Saima Fewster the Past-President of SEA and current special projects manger for BC Case.

 

Another interesting development continues to be the changes to the School Completion Certificate program. Students on IEP’s are now able to receive grades and transcripts of marks for coursework completed. However, there is a lot of confusion at the district and school level as to how to implement this when current reporting policy indicates that percentages and grades are not appropriate for students in educational programs with significant modifications. Please share with us any of your specific examples of challenges regarding this which we will pass onto the Ministry of Education. It is imperative that the guidelines be clear, appropriate and easily communicated to all partners. The use of adaptations and modifications to student programs continues to be discussed with the Ministry of Education. LATA was invited to participate in a think tank hosted by the Ministry of Education to address the challenges regarding adaptations and modifications. Stay tuned to on-going developments regarding this.

 

One of the most time consuming but professionally rewarding projects was the participation of LATA in the updating of the Teacher Resource Guide to IEP Planning for teachers. The original IEP Planning document was written in 1996 and needed to be rewritten to reflect current policies and practices. At the time of the writing of this president’s message the IEP planning document has been completed and should be available in hard copy and on CD in the fall of 2008.

 

This has been the second year of my term as the president of LATA. I participated in all of the above activities as well as the Langley Special Education Inquiry, the BCTF Public Education Conference titled “Equity and Inclusion”, the Teacher’s Congress, The BCTF summer conference and the BCTF AGM, all while teaching full time. I could not do this, however, without the support of the LATA executive. This group of outstanding educators truly values the opportunity to serve others. The many, many long hours that all of the executive spend to make the world a better place for teachers, parents and students is a testament to them all and they are greatly appreciated. We are always on the lookout for dedicated teachers who are interested in joining our executive. The professional development opportunities you will receive along the way through involvement with conferences, special projects, etc. are unparalleled. 

 

Finally, in closing, I wish all of you well in the coming school year. As I approach the end of my teaching career I am struck by how few “starts to the school year” I have left in my career. It helps to keep me appreciative of the honor of working with all of my fellow educators, parents and students while continuing to advocate for better working and learning conditions.

 

Please make sure to visit the Conference section of the LATA website for registration information regarding our October 24th conference in Burnaby on Universal Design for Learning. This promises to be an excellent conference with our keynote speaker, Dr. David Rose, from Harvard University as well as BC educators who are busy putting theory into practice. Hope to see you in Burnaby!

Janice Neden, M.Ed/BGS

LATA President

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

August, 2007 (Message from the Vital Link, Volume 12, Number 2, Fall 2007)

Dear LATA Members:

 

It is with great pleasure that LATA and PITA present this combined journal to you. The fact that we have joined with PITA in presenting a publication to you is indicative of the efforts that are underway to collaborate with other specialty areas. Michael Fullan (2001) states in his book, Leading in a Culture of Change, that five components are necessary for organizations to be effective: “ ...they pursue moral purpose, understand the change process, develop relationships, foster knowledge building, and strive for coherence… with energy, enthusiasm, and hopefulness.” To this end LATA has worked hard to recognize that change abounds and to be pro-active in addressing many issues. One way to do this, as Fullan points out, is to develop relationships, especially relationships with people different from themselves. Turning information into knowledge is a social process where relationships are key. So we welcome the relationship with PITA and its members and welcome back our members to another school year and another year of us looking for ways to support you.

 

One of the ways that both PITA and LATA are working to support teachers is to offer year-long professional development. Both organizations met with Minister Shirley Bond in June 2007 to outline a proposal whereby our organizations would look at collaborating with an interested school district to offer expert support to teachers new to the role. In our case this would likely be a year long program of support for new LAT’s. We would offer conferences, local workshops, mentoring and web-based information-sharing to a local. If you work in a local that may be interested in collaborating with LATA, please contact jmneden@shaw.ca for further information.

 

Another area where I have been busy fostering relationships is in China. In fact, this President’s message comes to you from China where I spent a second summer teaching at a teacher’s university in Hangzhou, China. It is quite appropriate that I write this message about collaboration from China where I am engaged in a collaborative effort with teachers to address some of the difficulties we face. And nothing could be more appropriate than to write this after I have recently completed climbing the Great Wall – which is perhaps the world’s shining example of what can be accomplished with a thousand collaborative hands all joined in a purposeful goal. I help teachers here examine the same issues that we grapple with at home.

 

One of those issues which we grapple with is how to help students who are at risk. This is a universal issue. It does not matter if the child has been diagnosed with ADHD, autism, chronic health issues, or another challenge; our concern for the welfare of each child remains at the heart of our efforts. Our belief that all children can learn is also universal. Certainly we have cultural differences and may speak different languages; however there is more that binds us than separates us. One of the common threads throughout the four weeks that I have been teaching here is that in order to change attitudes and beliefs, we need to remember that change is a process, not an event. This is a core truth for all of us.

 

Another core truth may reveal itself when we ask ourselves if we are happy with all aspects of our role. If we are not, what will we change? A message I sent to the teachers in China is if you keep doing what you’re doing, you’ll keep getting what you’ve got.

 

As we head into a new school year with all of its celebrations and challenges, it is important to look at our big ideas. What are your teaching goals for this year? If you can articulate them, that is a good first step. Better yet, write them down. The success rate for meeting goals increases if they are written down. Maybe your goal is to focus on one of the ministry categories in order to better understand how to help children in these categories. Or, maybe you are new to learning assistance and need to focus on survival skills for this role. Regardless of your goal, remember that we at LATA are here to help. We are all experienced Learning Assistance/Resource Teachers who volunteer our time to give back to teachers. We offer conferences (see our webpage for information) and numerous resources to assist you (see our webpage for a list of available resources). Perhaps your district is interested in collaborating with LATA in a year long professional developmental model to support learning assistance teachers in your district. Don’t forget to let us know.

 

I hope to see you at one of our conferences this year. We will be in Vancouver on October 20th with a conference on Attention Deficit Disorder. During February we will be presenting with the Kelowna Teacher’s Association at UBC Okanagan on Universal Design for Learning using technology. Perhaps you are interested in being on our listserv. If so, please contact our web manager, Rae Perry, for information. If you are unable to attend our conferences, I would ask that you seriously consider getting your colleagues to join the LATA or PITA PSA (or both). The more relationships we have among members, the more effective we will be.

 

I have included some pictures of my summer in China, as well as articles written by two of my teachers on at-risk students in China (see Vital Link, Volume 12, Number 2, Fall 2007). I trust that you will find this journal helpful. If you have an article you wish to share on your expertise or worthwhile suggestions for other teachers, please submit it to our journal editor, Maryanne Reavie, for consideration.

 

In closing, as I climbed the Great Wall in China this summer, I was reminded of the challenges in education. Sometimes the steps on the Great Wall are easy to climb and they are worn with the footsteps of generations who have gone before us. Other times they are steep and difficult to navigate. At these times, we are required to draw on all our resources to keep going. Then there are the places along the way where we need a handrail to help us up. Let us be your handrail on this difficult climb. Good luck.

Janice Neden, M.Ed/BGS

LATA President

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

May 2007

Dear LATA Members,

As the year starts to wind down there is a natural tendency to look back and reflect on what the previous year has brought. My first year as President of LATA has only increased my appreciation for what we as teachers do to meet the needs of all learners. Some of the activities that LATA has been involved in that reflect our mission to inform, advise and advocate on behalf of public education, as well as to provide professional development and support for teachers include the following:

      • Presented a Fall Conference in Vancouver on “Inclusionary Practices: Building a Community

      of Learners in our Classrooms”;

      • Co-authored a BCTF Discussion Guide to the Ministry of Education’s: Special Education

      Services: A Manual of Policies, Procedures and Guidelines;

      • Brought the LATA perspective to the BCTF Conference “What Really Counts! Rethinking

      Accountability”;

      • Participated in the BCTF Teacher’s Congress;
      • Presented at the New Teacher’s Conference;
      • Set up a list serve and an e-mail list for all interested teachers to keep them informed of

      issues and concerns;

      • Participated in a BCTF selection committee;
      • Continued our role with other PSA partners on the Teaching to Diversity website;
      • Published two Vital Link journals;
      • Attended PSA Council (three times a year) to share common concerns and issues with other

PSA presidents.

We accomplished all this and more while holding down full time teaching jobs. Why do we do this? For me it is because I believe that one of the keys to success in our profession is cooperation, not competition.

This brings me to one of our biggest challenges that we face as a specialized profession. As president of LATA I will be joining with the president of the Tech Ed Association to advocate for the retention of specialist qualifications for counselors in BCTF policy. This is the only specialist area in BCTF policy that states what a counselor “must have” in order to practice. There is a move afoot to revise this policy to what counselors “should have” instead of “must have”. While on the surface this may not appear to be a critical revision, LATA maintains that specialist qualifications are an absolute necessity in order to perform our role, as in the case of other specialties, including counselors. The following is a letter I posted to all PSA presidents stating our case:

As the president of LATA, I think that it is important to join in this conversation regarding specialist qualifications, particularly as it relates to Learning Assistance Teachers.

 

Some BCTF members have stated that teachers have a broad range of abilities that are applicable in a number of subject areas. This it seems to me is at the heart of the difficulty with a lack of specialist knowledge. We, in Learning Assistance, are not dealing with a broad population, but rather with the most "at-risk" population in the school system. These are the very children for whom broad knowledge/methods have not been effective. The intervention cannot continue to be based on the same broad knowledge of students. Rather, it must be based on the most effective teaching methods for that child. This requires a teacher who is knowledgeable about research, reflective about practice, has a vast repertoire regarding at-risk populations and has incredible interpersonal skills. One teacher has stated that they were trained in science and math and then moved to intermediate then to a computer teacher. I would suggest that all of these subject areas while very difficult still have as the main focus the broad student population and curriculum. The whole focus of these programs is not entirely on the student deemed to be at-risk. The Learning Assistance mandate focuses on the individual student who is outside the norm.

Some have stated that "…if the employer believes they are able and qualified, why would the BCTF have a policy saying that they are not qualified?" I would suggest that this is not the first time that the BCTF has a policy that disagrees with the employer. In the Special Education Manual of Policy and Procedures under LAT qualifications, even the Ministry states that Learning Assistance Teachers should have a minimum of 5 years successful classroom experience, among other qualifications.

This brings the "shoulds" and "musts" regarding qualifications into discussion again. In my opinion, by removing the "musts" and replacing with "shoulds" all that is achieved is a watering down of qualifications. These are the very students who require the best teaching practices, not watered down ones. By echoing the Ministry's stance, the BCTF also endorses a watered down approach to qualifications.

There has also been a statement that "…sometimes teachers seek a change to another subject area. They have some background and interest in the area." By reducing necessary qualifications so that teachers have more opportunities to move between assignments, we may be disabling the very students we seek to support by putting teacher mobility first.

Recently I came across a quote that said, "You can't put students first, by putting teachers last." I would also suggest that the reverse is true. If we put teachers’ needs ahead of students’ needs, where is the professionalism in that? Are we, or are we not a union of professionals?  In much of the discussion around this issue, I have heard lots of talk around teacher needs and abilities. I have not heard the talk center around student's needs. As a Learning Assistance teacher that is where my focus always begins.

I also wish to add a personal note regarding this role of Learning Assistance. I have noted over the years the lack of voice the at-risk student population often has. With growing alarm, I have noted an increase in the lack of voice that Learning Assistance Teachers have regarding the very population we serve. Like the students, we are often told—not asked—what needs to happen to make a difference. For me, I believe that behind all this talk of qualifications is a quest for social justice that can only be achieved by ensuring that all children receive an excellent education. This cannot occur when some children have the benefit of a highly trained specialist while others do not have similar access.

It is critical to continue this discussion so that we may all develop a deeper appreciation of other's viewpoints regarding specialist qualifications. It also seems that such a discussion should be centered around the very people who lead the specialist organizations within the BCTF. So, I encourage other PSA presidents and their members to join in this conversation with their insights.

"The world is a complex place in which multiple perspectives exist, and truth is often a matter of interpretation." (Brooks & Brooks, 1993). I hope that you read these insights in the spirit that they were given, not as an attack on anyone or anything—rather, as an interpretation from my side of the fence.

Finally, readers, I feel compelled to share with you an interview I had recently with some students from grade four who were questioning me about my role as an LAT. It was quite an enlightening experience for me, for it was at the conclusion of the interview and their reaction to my information that I realized the depth and breath of what is necessary to bring to this role we call Learning Assistance Teacher.

The students asked,  “What do you do in your job?”

I replied, “My job is divided up into different areas. One thing I do is to work directly with students."

One student (interrupting) said, “You taught me how to read.”

I continued, “Sometimes students come into my room, one-on-one, sometimes in groups and sometimes I go into the classroom and teach with the teacher. I also do testing.  I work with teachers who need help, with parents, teacher assistants and principals. I have lots of meetings where we sit down and discuss concerns that people have. My job is to help people in trouble.”

“What did you do to get this job?”

I answered, “I began teaching 30 years ago. Most of the time, I was in the classroom teaching 25 to 30 students. I spent twelve years as a Learning Assistance Teacher. I have a Masters Degree, a Bachelors Degree, a Teaching Certificate and I am a Reading Recovery Teacher. I have published a book on a different way to teach children.”

“How many schools have you taught in and where were they?” they asked.

“I have taught in a total of 8 schools: in a First Nations school in the Chilcotin, on Vancouver Island, Fort Nelson, Williams Lake, Bridge Lake and Kamloops.”

“How many students have you taught?”

“When I was in the classroom, I taught classes of 26 to 30 students; plus I help around 100 students a year as a Learning Assistance Teacher. Added all together since I began teaching 30 years ago, I have worked with approximately 1,600 students.”

The students ended by asking me if there was anything else I wanted to say. I told them that in the summer, I go to China and work with Chinese teachers. Then I asked the students some questions:

“Do you think that I should have gone into this job right from university?” I asked.

The students said “No”.  One went on to say, “You might not know what to teach the kids or how to do it.”  Another student interrupted at this point and said, “They’ve got to let you in this job. Look at how many classes you’ve been in. If you can handle that many students, you can handle this job.”

What is very interesting to me is that what seems obvious to children, we, as adults, argue about.  My student interviewers felt that it was necessary that I have a history of teaching. They knew that if I was to be successful with the students who needed me the most, then I needed to know how to teach and what to teach when I started as an LAT. On the job training was not “good enough.” The students used the term, ‘good enough’ in much of their discussion. They felt that perhaps there should be a test that I took before I became an LAT to see if I was ‘good enough’ for the job.

So, teachers, reflect on what makes you ‘good enough’ for your job. Reflect on all you have accomplished this year as well as what you have yet to accomplish. As the year draws to a close, celebrate those lives you have touched and those who have touched yours. Enjoy the upcoming break and I look forward to meeting some of you at our fall conference in October. 

“One looks with appreciation to the brilliant teachers, but with gratitude to those who touched our human feelings. The curriculum is so much necessary raw material, but warmth is the vital element for the growing plant and for the soul of a child.” Carl Jung

Janice Neden, M.Ed/BGS

LATA President

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fall 2006

This is my first column as President of the Learning Assistance Teachers’ Association of B.C. (LATA). I welcome the opportunity to work with the many gifted and dedicated teachers that are part of our association. If you have concerns about supporting diversity, social justice and democratic education we need your support. I encourage all of you to work with us as we grapple with the multitude of issues that present themselves. One way to support each other is to join a Provincial Specialist Association (PSA). You will find a list of PSA’s at the back of our LATA journals or on the BCTF website. Many school based professional development committees will also reimburse you the cost of joining one or more of these associations.

 

Why do PSA’s need your support? Every year presents itself with new challenges to a PSA’s survival. The most recent challenge can be described by discussing the difference between “professional development of teachers” and “professional development for teachers”. On the one hand there is a move afoot with professional development of teachers to train teachers in the correct methods. This type of training comes gift wrapped with many workshops and in-service pre-arranged for you by those not in the classroom so that all you have to do is show up. If that is not enough, it has at times been mandated by the administrator that the teacher attends the workshop. The focus then comes off the teacher’s needs and instead often focuses on the teacher’s perceived needs by those outside the classroom. There is also a subtle and sometimes not so subtle pressure by administrators to encourage teachers to attend workshops close to home. One administrator recently told me that there was no need to travel outside of the district on October 20th (traditionally referred to as a PSA day, but that name seems to have disappeared) as there were so many in-service opportunities presented in the district. The skeptic in me asks why? Why this move to take away the one day of the year when teachers were encouraged to reach out to others in the province, especially in their area of specialty? I believe the reasons are many and will leave that for another column.

 

The other type of professional development for teachers is where the primary focus is on teacher autonomy and teacher decision making regarding method and methodology. John Dewey wrote over a century ago that the goals and process of education must be one and the same thing. If we want teachers to be able to work effectively with the complex problems that present themselves on a regular basis in schools then teachers must have flexibility and the independence to look for the initiatives that suit their particular demographics. This particular approach involves a certain degree of trust placed with the teacher to be able to help themselves. If we want children to develop independence in learning then certainly we want the same thing for teachers.

Goals must equal process, and process must equal goals. If they are not congruent what can you do about it? I would encourage you to speak up and often. Don’t be fooled by apparent easy professional development arranged for you by others. Maintain that the most effective professional development starts with interest and selection by the teacher. Advocate for your students and yourself. Become involved in your school's professional development committee, your local union and join a PSA.

 

On a related note, I spent the summer teaching teachers in China. It was fascinating to discuss the many common concerns that we have regardless of borders. The teachers in my class webbed some of the education challenges they faced in China. (Author’s Note: this was a small sampling and is in no way reflective of the education system in China as a whole.) The issues that these teachers highlighted were:

      • Lack of teacher professional development.
      • Lack of teacher power and rights. Teachers felt powerless to make changes. They were unable to

      choose the best way to teach.

      • Teacher pressures which often led to mental and physical illness.
      • Too much emphasis on testing. So much so, that a Quality Schools Initiative has recently

      been introduced to reduce the amount of testing. To date, all it has done is increase

      teacher workload, and has not reduced testing.

      • Lack of creative ability by students.
      • Parents often feel that education is the teacher’s duty, not theirs. There has been a decrease

      in the amount of family support for education.

      • Class size. Classes of 40, 50 and 60 students were commonplace.
      • Lack of sufficient funding for education (inadequate resources).
      • The gap between rich (the city) and poor (the countryside). The teachers felt that this was a

      vicious cycle with no sign of improvement.

      • Teachers in China have a high social status but very low wages in comparison.
      • The one child policy in China has led to some very bad behavior in schools.

The teachers in China and I discussed and contrasted their list with educational challenges in Canada. We were both surprised by the similarities rather than the differences. I walked away from this experience with an improved international perspective of what it means to teach and be a teacher... how those of us in this profession are trying, in sometimes very difficult circumstances, to provide the best possible education to the students in our care.  

 

This leads to a discussion on what our goals and process will be for the coming year in LATA. The executive has agreed on the following four goals:

      1. To continue to advocate for teacher autonomy in professional development matters.
      2. To provide quality professional development opportunities that are reflective of our memberships'

      needs as indicated through questionnaires and e-mails.

      1. To work cooperatively with other PSA’s to increase memberships.
      2. To increase LATA’s position to be an effective collective voice that is reflective of our membership.

I feel honoured to serve as your incoming president. The LATA executive and I pledge to do our utmost to meet these goals to the best of our abilities. We are all long-serving teachers who feel it is imperative that we volunteer our time. Our volunteer cause is great, for it is our goal to mentor one another in order to better serve the students in our care. As we work with parents, teachers, administrators and district staff let none of us forget whom we work for. As I see it, there is only one group that I work for, and that is the student.

 

As you teach in your various areas of specialties this year, know that we are just an e-mail away if you are in desperate need of some sound advice. I would encourage all of you to visit the LATA website or the BCTF's Teaching to Diversity web project as avenues of possible assistance. Also, when you go to the LATA website you may wish to sign up for the list serve as well. Good luck, and I hope to meet you at one of our upcoming conferences. Look for a brochure or check our website for our spring 2007 conference in Nanaimo.

 

Janice Neden, M.Ed/BGS

LATA President