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Opinion, Promising Practices

Are We Teaching the Way We Aspire to Teach

What sort of question is that?

I’m in Halifax with Ron Canuel and Christa Freiler where, later today, we will be presenting the recently completed CEA/CTF report, Teaching the Way We Aspire to Teach: Now and in the Future, to delegates at the Canadian Teachers Federation President’s Forum.

The report is the culmination of more than 2 years of planning and consultation with teachers from across Canada around what some might consider to be a rather curious set of questions: Are you teaching the way you aspire to teach? What are the conditions that would enable you to teach the way you dream of teaching on a more regular basis?

Increasingly, teachers across the country find themselves part of a profession that has become more prescriptive in terms of what must be taught, how it is to be taught, and the methods that will be used determine whether it has been taught effectively. Yet for the last several months, we have moved across the country attempting to weave another thread  into the narrative of how teachers see themselves and the work that they do

Interestingly enough, whenever we’ve told other educators that our goal is to, in a very positive way, explore the space that exists between the teacher they dream of being and the teacher that they feel they’re sometimes forced to be, the reaction has been pretty much the same: a brief pause, followed by an expression of recognition and, in most cases a knowing smile.

It’s the type of question that is designed to engage the imagination and it has been in those moments of deep engagement where we have been able to recognize that the hope for this profession does not lie in some outside mandate, some as yet undiscovered teaching strategy, in a book or a program. Instead, I’m convinced that the most positive sign of transformation in this country lies in the hopes and dreams of the teaching professionals that walk into classrooms every day.

From the Yukon to Halifax we heard from teachers who expressed a sense of excitement about the questions, eagerly and poignantly articulating a vision that was grounded in their own stories of excellence, and the desire to be able to live those stories more often. Not only were teachers able to express their visions in powerful ways, but they were able to point to very specific conditions that, they believe, will help us realize that vision.

Over the summer, I will be digging a little deeper into the work of the project—the approaches that we used and the themes that emerged from the many stories collected.  For now, I’ll leave you with the invitation with which we began each of our focus group sessions:

Think of a time in your life as a teacher, an administrator, a parent where you felt you were at your best—a time when you said to yourself, “Yes! This is what it’s all about.” Try to remember as many details as you can about that story, and feel free to share it—here or elsewhere.

Meet the Expert

Stephen Hurley

Stephen Hurley

Education Consultant, Catalyst, voicED Radio

Stephen Hurley is a recently retired teacher from the Dufferin Peel District School Board in Ontario. Stephen continues to work to open up public spaces for vibrant conversations about transformation of education systems across Canada.

Stephen Hurley est un enseignant récemment retraité de la Dufferin Peel District School Board en Ontario. Stephen continue de travailler à ouvrir des espaces publics pour des conversations dynamiques sur la transformation des systèmes éducatifs partout au Canada.

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