The most effective way to send the Alberta Teacher’s Association (union) into apoplectic fits is to propose any possible means of testing the competence of individual teachers. The union has long battled all forms of standardized testing of students and has recently displayed nothing short of hysteria when the Alberta government dared to suggest that we should test teachers directly. This of course is simply because the Alberta Teacher’s Association is protecting a great number of incompetent teachers in the system and they know it.
Let’s get the usual statements and platitudes out of the way. Our children are our future thus the role of teachers is greatly important to us all. Teaching is a terribly difficult job. Alberta’s education system is critical to the future competitiveness of the province. Investing in education is investing in our future. Our children deserve the best.
All of the above statements are accurate. The Alberta Teacher’s Association (union) uses all of those statements as reasons why we must never test the competency of teachers. Anybody with a grain of common sense knows that the above statements demonstrate why it is vital that we test the competence of our teachers!
I should save on the use of parenthesis and clear one thing up right now. The Alberta Teacher’s Association is a union that tries to cloak itself as a professional association. The second an organization is empowered to collectively bargain and go on strike, it becomes a union no matter how it tries to portray itself. The prime mandate of unions is to protect the union members and it shows with the actions of the ATA. Professional associations will look out for the profession as a whole. In their vehement opposition of all forms of quality control in the classroom, the ATA has proven themselves to be nothing more than a union.
Professional associations strive to protect the integrity of their profession in working to ensure that all members meet a standard of quality and they will eject members who do not meet this standard. In 10 years, the Alberta Teacher’s Union has not found a single one of their 35,000 teachers to be incompetent. Really? Not a single one? Here is a word that I was not taught in school but it is the best one that applies here: Bullshit!
The Alberta Teacher’s Union is currently furious that our Education Minister has permanently barred some sex-offender teachers from teaching as well. That is how deeply the member protection instinct in the Alberta Teacher’s Union runs.
We all can remember our years in the education system. We all can remember some teachers who were incredibly talented and made an impact on us for life. We all can remember some who had to use slip-on shoes as tying laces was too much of a task for them.
I will run down the road of anecdotes here as I am sure that most will be able to nod their heads in understanding with similar experiences. I attended Banff Community High School in the 80s. It is a small school as demonstrated by our graduating class of 32 people in 88. This meant that teachers had to often take on multiple specialties. I had a math teacher who was incredible for my years there. This man’s presence was incredible. I was a pain in the ass student yet never dared mess around in this teacher’s class. Myself along with pretty much every student in this teacher’s class saw a spike in our math test markings as this talented man managed to make the most dry of courses understandable. Now in biology 20 I (and others in my school) had the opposite experience. The school’s regular biology teacher had taken maternity leave so the girl’s gym teacher was brought in to teach the course. This woman’s form of teaching was literally to write the textbook matter on the chalk board and expected us to copy it verbatim in our notebooks. We then would be tested and 60% of us failed. With nearly 2/3 (my math is still good) of us failing Bio 20 the course can be safely called a waste. I signed up for Bio 20 the next year and found to my horror that this same incompetent teacher was running the course. After two classes myself and over half of the class dropped the course. I still don’t have Bio 20 to this day. That worthless biology “teacher” was compensated and protected the same as that incredible math teacher. There are of course 10s of thousands of examples if this throughout the province.
Teaching is a calling and the talent within the best of teachers is innate rather than taught. Most of the best of our teachers were drawn to the profession immediately upon graduation. They love their work and are worth every penny (likely more) that they are compensated. Imagine the talent we could draw if we drove out the incompetent teachers and gave raises to the great ones. That of course would be merit pay which again terrifies unions.
There is a hard reality about many within the teaching profession that the union really doesn’t like to talk about. A huge number of teachers joined the profession as they simply saw it as a good paycheque that provided them with extended holidays throughout the year. Some of those who joined the trade for this reason are still great teachers but that number is much lower.
Did you ever wonder what happened to the schoolmate you had who drank his way through university while gliding into a degree of Ethiopian philosophy? Ever notice that while coffee shops are jammed with baristas with liberal arts degrees that few of them are over 30? Where did the person with the music degree or dance degree go when the garage band and stripper pole became tiring? Many of these people went back to school, picked up a teaching certificate and joined the high salary, profound pension world of Alberta teachers.
Not every person who decided to become a teacher as a secondary career choice is incompetent but let’s face it, many of them are. If we do want the best and brightest teachers in the system that we entrust our children to we have to test them and test them vigorously. The Alberta Teacher’s Union has failed terribly in monitoring the quality of their members (as can be expected) so it should not be a surprise that some want to see some outside testing of the quality of our teachers.
Ignore the BS from the Alberta Teacher’s Union whenever they cry the standard vapid: “its for the children!”. When it comes from the Alberta Teacher’s Union the reality is that it is always for the union members. The call is always for more pay, smaller class sizes (less work) and of course no outcome testing of students or performance testing of teachers. At least they are consistent.
While I am far from being a supporter of the Progressive Conservative Party by any means, I am fully supportive of Minister Jeff Johnson in that our teachers desperately need competence testing.
Our teachers are so important that their testing is critical.