Student and staff wellness was on the radar of the board of trustees of the Black Gold School Division (BGSD) in Alberta even prior to COVID-19. Black Gold now adheres to three strong priorities that direct the work done with our staff and students: Success, Wellness, and Engagement & Partnerships. With a relatively small increase in the monetary investment in the Wellness pillar, we have been able to create momentum and change that is altering the trajectory of our division and snowballing in its impact. Our journey, while unique to our division, contains takeaways that can be applied in other contexts across the country to support staff wellbeing.
When the board and our senior administrators were discussing what our priorities should be in 2019, wellness was brought forward as an option, but focused mainly on students at that point. COVID-19, however, amplified the need for wellness support for our adults as well, as we started to hear that our employees weren’t doing “well” (a rather ambiguous term at this point). With this new priority and focus in place, we began to move forward with the wellness support for our staff members. To begin, an internal Employee Health, Wellness, and Safety Feedback survey was administered, and the big takeaway from it was that people in all positions were feeling a lack of time to do their jobs well.
It was at this point that our Division Principal, Jon Ganton, started to look for ways to dig a little deeper into our employee experience so that our next moves were headed in the right direction, rather than just being based on his interpretation of the in-house survey. He was drawn to the EdCan Network’s Well at Work Advisors program because the Advisors were all formerly involved in education and he felt this was vital. Schools are a different type of “business,” and we craved feedback from a perspective that would honour all the intricacies involved with that. When a partnership with the College of Alberta School Superintendents was offered, which cut the cost in half, Jon jumped on it, and in 2022 our connection with Caroline Picard, our advisor, began.
In order to understand our school division’s context and identify strategies and goals to move toward supporting staff wellbeing, our Well at Work Advisor began by reviewing the existing workplace wellbeing data and organizing interviews with a cross-section of employees.
Caroline conducted a series of eight interviews with pairs of employees that represented all of our union and worker groups in Black Gold. These took place over Zoom at a predetermined time that worked for each employee. Often, participants were paired with someone from a different union or role, which made for some really interesting connections and comparisons across groups of employees and buildings.
The questions Caroline posed centred around the perception and availability of wellness support from the employer, and also developed a context for each interviewee to share their personal experiences, concerns, and suggestions for improvement.
From the rich foundational review and recommendations that Caroline created, we put some suggestions immediately into practice, and continue to implement suggestions to this day. Three major pieces that have impacted staff wellness at BGSD are:
Our support staff members were feeling left out and isolated because they weren’t always at the table for important school-based conversations and professional development (PD). This was mainly due to how many hours we were paying them to work each day, which conflicted with when our staff meetings and professional development opportunities were happening. In the 2022-2023 school year we completely changed our PD model to support the feedback from our teachers and administrators that they were feeling rushed and exhausted when meetings were on early-out days, and instead incorporated a model where a full day each month is devoted to PD at the school, division, and Alberta Teachers Association levels. With this change we have also offered to pay for half-days on our PD days for our support staff members so they can be present. We are excited that in our upcoming school year, this model has morphed further into providing pay for four full days of PD in conjunction with teachers and administrators, and the option for additional paid half-days.
Inclusion of our support staff remains an issue at the forefront of our minds, as many continue to feel isolated from their colleagues or underappreciated in their buildings. Having this brought to our attention allows us to continually move forward in our decision-making with this as a priority.
In 2021, we introduced funding for a 0.1 FTE Wellness Instructional Teacher (WIST) in each building to support Wellness initiatives for two years. These amazing teachers use data collected in their buildings to inform their wellness focuses for the year. We truly believe that a one-size-fits-all approach does not work when it comes to wellness, especially as our district has a huge variation of school populations, from large urban high schools to small rural schools.
The WISTs record their action plan and the ensuing results throughout the year, and these are stored in a repository that everyone has access to. This sharing of best practices and strategies (and the ones that weren’t as effective) allows other WISTs who are new to the role, or who have identified a new area of focus, to learn from the work of others and hit the ground running.
Our board has witnessed the power these positions have had to impact culture and overall wellbeing in each building, and has decided to continue funding for the upcoming 2023-2024 school year.
A full-time Division Wellness Teacher position was created for the 2022-2023 school year, and I was the lucky candidate who was awarded the job. At first, I was unsure of the direction to head in, so our Well at Work Advisor’s feedback was invaluable, as was the Well at Work K–12 Leadership Course online. They became my roadmap.
I quickly realized how to segment my work (individual, community, and systemic supports and changes), and how to streamline my communication surrounding the definition of wellness in Black Gold. My ultimate goal, right off the hop, was to ensure that the position was visible and had a measurable and immediate impact (that low-hanging fruit we often hear described). For us, this amounted to the golden oldie of bi-monthly Wellbeing Newsletters going out to everyone, and within that, individual challenges for the month. September, for example, was a step challenge, as it coincided beautifully with the Terry Fox Walk/Run that all of our schools participate in. The goal of the newsletter is always to provide information, research, and conversation surrounding best wellness practices in a way that is easy to incorporate into a busy life. The feedback I got from people was supportive, as one teacher wrote, “Your newsletter has been super useful, and I am really appreciating that it has things (recipes, challenges, etc.) that I can actually use/do. I like the tangible aspect of it, and the fact that it doesn’t feel like it’s just adding one more thing to my plate.” Ensuring that I wasn’t adding to the plate was vital and I feel like my own experience as a teacher allowed me to balance on the fine line between challenge/fun and creating extra work. Even with this goal at the forefront of my mind, I did have two people ask to opt out of my newsletters because they felt they were reminders of all of the things they “should” be doing. Of course I honoured their requests, and also remain cognizant of the number of times I am communicating with everyone each week.
The purpose behind the challenges was two-fold. In our Well at Work report, it was very clear that people were experiencing a sense of a loss or minimization of community (due to both COVID-19 and the siloing that occurs when workload intensifies), both at their own schools, and between schools and departments. Each monthly challenge has a team prize; the school or department with the highest percentage of participation wins a prize for everyone. I was hopeful that this shared incentive, and conversations around the competition and wellness practices, would re-engage people with one another.
Another community prong of support I offer is professional development. Each month I lead a 90-minute virtual session that coincides with the wellness focus of the month. These happen during designated time on our PD days. By allowing teachers the opportunity to log in virtually from their own buildings we minimize commuting stress. We anticipated that having wellness sessions run congruently with curriculum-based PD, especially with new curriculum currently being implemented in Alberta, would be challenging, but my sessions have had high attendance rates, which demonstrates the need educators feel for wellness-based learning.
I also work closely with administrators to create sessions for their staff-specific needs. Usually this begins with a conversation about what they are noticing, or what is worrisome for them about the wellbeing of their staff. In any form of PD I deliver I adopt a workshop model, where people are conversing and working through ideas together and individually to find ways to increase their own individual wellness capacity, and elevate the wellness of the community within their building. This work creates a common language and series of shared expectations between staff members, and also allows administrators to feel supported in their quest to support their own staff.
As suggested in our Workplace Wellbeing Review and Recommendations, I also looked for any opportunity I could to create fun and bring people from various locations together. As we all have experienced, going through COVID-19 has created a sense of separation and isolation. To bridge that, I created a BGSD Challenge, which is a smaller-scale corporate challenge-style event. This allows everyone’s talents to shine as they earn points for their school or department, and also hosts three in-person events (pickleball, yoga, and a softball tournament) for people to meet at.
Additionally, we hosted a half-day in-person Wellness PD day, complete with food trucks, massages, and amazing personal wellness sessions. This day provided us with an opportunity to reach out to in-house presenters to share their passions and wellbeing habits. One teacher, who was asked to present a fly-fishing session, commented that he “never considered doing any sort of PD presentation and enjoyed the experience immensely.” We found that the uptake on wellness sessions wasn’t as high during this day, when we were meeting in-person, as it is when our sessions are delivered online.
My work at the systemic level took a little longer to nail down, because I needed to get a sense of how all of the pieces and people interacted before I could begin to identify which direction to head in. At the Pan-Canadian Summit on K–12 Workplace Wellbeing, I had my lightbulb moment (actually, a teeny tiny little spark that eventually grew to a lightbulb a few weeks later). Dr. Vidya Shah gave a keynote address on “Wellbeing for Whom?” and that question, and subsequent information, stuck with me. It quickly became apparent that we needed to learn about the Black Gold experience from everyone, including members of our staff from traditionally marginalized groups. Our journey into Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion began there, and while it is still in its infancy, it has already begun to spark vital conversation and change. We have administered a survey to all staff members, and the data collected and amalgamated from that has been analyzed first by senior administrators, our administration association, and our board of trustees. I have also developed a process that principals will take back to work through the data with their own staff.
One quick, instantly visible piece of this section of the work was creating and marketing Black Gold Pride shirts for our staff to wear. This movement grew legs, and we were able to benefit our in-school GSAs with a portion of the proceeds from each sale. As one teacher commented, “I just wanted to say I loved seeing a pride shirt order form in the newsletter today! I’ve always gotten my own shirts like that to show my support because the division has never put out their own shirts or even had emails regarding where to buy them. This is huge! And to have money donated back to school GSAs is awesome too! One step at a time to getting Black Gold more inclusive across the division.” An action that felt small was actually very big for many, as one of our trustees let me know that wearing her shirt not only got her a bunch of comments and kudos at a meeting she was at, but also opened up a really personal conversation with a young cashier scanning her groceries. She was moved by the impact something so small could have.
With Wellness listed as one of the three priorities of our division, it has been vital that we incorporate a wellness focus into all of our decision-making and meetings. I lead leadership-specific PD at each Administration Association meeting, and alternate between personal wellness for leaders, and ways to support staff with their wellness. I went into these sessions hyper-cognizant of the workload our administrators feel, and was very conscious of ensuring that my work with them was quick and beneficial, but as time has gone on, I have received lots of feedback that our work together is both appreciated, and a change from the usual flow of the meeting.
Our senior administration was encouraged, through our Workplace Wellbeing Review and Recommendations, to visit schools to increase visibility and remove perceived barriers in communication that were identified. They have been following this suggestion and have been present at schools more frequently.
Our board has also incorporated wellness discussions into their meetings, constantly ensuring their decisions align with Black Gold’s priorities. Our forward-thinking trustees have led the charge in this realm and we are extremely grateful for their commitment of funding and their willingness to converse about the employee experience at Black Gold.
I do not have a finalized roadmap moving forward into our next steps, as they need to be flexible and responsive to needs that are identified along the way. But I do know that providing psychological health and safety to all of our employees is at the forefront of our minds at Black Gold. I have three major questions I will be focusing on in the upcoming school year:
We are treading slowly, carefully, and in the right direction to best serve our employees. What I do know, without a doubt, is that focusing on staff wellbeing is powerful and important, as encapsulated by a teacher in our division: “I just wanted to express how grateful I am for all that you have done this year to encourage me, and all the staff, to take care of ourselves. It has been a tremendous gift to be given permission to practice self-care in real and many practical ways. You are a blessing!”
Our work with EdCan and our Well at Work advisor has kick-started a lot of phenomenal conversation, change, support, and growth already in our division, and it is exciting to consider where we might be a few years in the future. Our financial investment (0.1 FTE in 31 schools and 1.6 FTE at Division Office), coupled with the investment in the Well at Work Advisors foundational analysis, has been minimal in comparison to the insight and momentum gained. The impact at this point is immeasurable and multi-faceted, and we are so grateful to have had this opportunity to increase the wellbeing of all of our employees.
Photo: Courtesy Black Gold School Division
First published in Education Canada, September 2023
When I reflect upon my career in education, I am humbled, but not surprised by the amazing students, families, educators, and leaders with whom I have worked. As educators we are in the people business, and our students are our clients. And what could be more valuable or rewarding than helping children become compassionate and globally competent citizens who care about each other and our world?
But the pandemic turned that world upside down, and if we have learned anything from this unprecedented experience, we are reminded that taking care of our people matters and is foundational to educational success. Our schools represent our future, and our teachers, support staff, and leaders need to be well so that they can bring their best selves work every day and, in turn, bring out the best in their students. Education is a social experience and the way we interact with those around us matters. In our daily interactions we often ask others, “How are you?” and take interest in their wellbeing. But do we ever stop to reflect on our own wellness and ask, “How am I?” and then, “What I am doing about it?” As educators, we often put the needs of others before ours, and our own wellbeing suffers.
The EdCan Network has been amplifying the importance of workplace wellbeing for several years. Now we are excited to be welcoming thought leaders and educators from across Canada to the Pan-Canadian Summit on K–12 Workplace Wellbeing in Edmonton on November 7–9. This will be an opportunity to connect in person and share the “how” of making schools compassionate and vibrant learning communities where we strengthen mental health and wellbeing through intentional strategies to build system-wide resilience and culture. Innovative and thoughtful school districts across Canada have realized that championing this important work has far-reaching positive impacts. It is the right thing to do if we want to sustain our world-class Canadian education system, and our students deserve our best. I would argue that investing in the wellbeing of our staff is no longer an option; it is our mandate. I look forward to meeting you at the Summit in person!
First published in Education Canada, September 2022
Welcome to Flight 2022! We are taking off into this new year with our positive attitude and gratitude secured in the upright position. We have turned off and stowed away all self-destructive devices, like worry and negativity. Our leadership, activated by hope, connections, strategic planning, and grit, will be assisting other passengers in activating their leadership. We will celebrate our efforts and enjoy this flight!
Educational leaders are trying to refuel their well-being and mental health while in full flight. Part of the flight path for Saskatchewan is shared here.
The Ministry of Education in Saskatchewan has established a two-year plan to address mental health and well-being in K–12 education. Led by a committee of senior educational administrators in partnership with the provincial Ministry, the plan includes:
At the school division level, school leaders are working within their local context to support students and staff. School-based well-being plans include local committee initiatives, specific programs, surveys, and community partnerships. Schools are supported by system-level initiatives including professional development, speakers, strategic messaging, system need surveys, and various grants.
The EdCan Network, via its Well at Work staff well-being initiative, has come into Saskatchewan as a welcomed “objective, critical friend” to support our mental health and well-being efforts:
Educational leaders need to support each other to meet the challenges of staff and student well-being with wisdom, strength, and confidence. There is a hunger for economical and proactive supports that educational leaders can readily apply and share. Educational leaders also want to know if their pathways and initiatives are really positively impacting as intended. The exciting part is that there are “beacons of brilliance” that exist across schools, school divisions, and provinces.
The authentic, safe connections and networking of educational leaders onsite and in virtual ways to face these challenges together is a brilliant opportunity in 2022. Our leadership connections will inspire us and help us be that needed steady light for our students, staff, communities and for ourselves as we rebound in 2022–23.
Have a safe landing!
First published in Education Canada, March 2022
K–12 staff experience chronic stress and burnout at a greater rate than in other professions. This not only impacts their own health, but also their students’ well-being and academic success, all while leading to significant costs for school districts, reduced workplace morale, and leadership recruitment challenges. With the extra stress of the pandemic, schools and school districts are looking for ways to support their staff now more than ever, and they require solutions that will address underlying problems such as heavy workloads and toxic workplace cultures.
Since 2019, EdCan has been leading an awareness-building platform called Well at Work to increase knowledge about the need to make K–12 staff well-being a top policy and investment priority. Since then, our organization has built a network of Canadian educators, researchers, practitioners, and stakeholder groups who are passionate about and dedicated to advancing K–12 workplace well-being.
From 2021–2023, EdCan will continue to build awareness, while shifting its main focus toward catalyzing action with a wide variety of partners through Well at Work 2.0. Through a non-prescriptive approach, education leaders across Canada who are ready to take action will be supported to develop and implement individual, organizational, and systemic strategies to improve K–12 workplace well-being through four key solutions:
EdCan is grateful for the 75 stakeholders who generously shared their time, expertise, and perspectives in conceptualizing these programs. We look forward to working together to build capacity and coordinate impact among education leaders to enable them to develop their own context-specific solutions, which will sustain our collective efforts in the long-term.
Stay tuned for more details on Well at Work 2.0. In the meantime, you can browse our growing catalogue of K–12 workplace well-being information resources at www.edcan.ca/well-at-work.
First published in Education Canada, June 2021
When we were offered the opportunity to partner with the EdCan Network on this special issue dedicated to the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), we did not hesitate for a moment. When we look to translate our high ideals into concrete action, teachers are natural and key allies.
The Canadian Commission for UNESCO is the link between Canadians and the essential work of UNESCO – the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. Through our members, networks, and partners, many of whom are directly linked to the education community, we play an active role in promoting UNESCO’s values, priorities, and programs in Canada. We also help to ensure that the voice of civil society is heard internationally, so that our good ideas and practices also benefit the rest of the world.
While it is states like Canada that are ultimately responsible for implementing the United Nations’ ambitious Agenda 2030, all of us need to commit to sustainable development. Ensuring that our economy and our society develop in a more sustainable and equitable way, while respecting the environment and the limited capacities of our planet, requires thinking globally and acting locally. And this is the extraordinary strength of the networks gradually built up by UNESCO over the decades: they encourage innovation and new forms of intellectual and moral cooperation among peoples, including the advancement of quality education that leaves no one behind, as called for in SDG 4.
Mobilizing the education sector, especially teachers, is critical to advancing the entire set of SDGs. This sector has the unmatched potential to raise awareness and develop the critical thinking skills of young people in relation to the greatest challenges facing our humanity, including the climate crisis. Indeed, the world of education can serve as a powerful lever for changing behaviours and lifestyle habits. The strength of schools also lies in their capacity to act in a very holistic manner, and even extend their reach beyond staff and students.
It is our wish that this issue will inspire you to learn more about SDGs and how you can help our world achieve them. Present and future generations share an interest in – and the right to – successful implementation of the goals.
Thank you in advance for your commitment, and I hope you enjoy reading these pages.
Secretary-General, Canadian Commission for UNESCO
Photo: Adobe Stock
When the beginning of the pandemic closed schools and left district leaders like me in a constant state of disruption, I joined a small working group of EdCan Network staff and colleagues from our Advisory Council for an important virtual planning process. We engaged in a series of sessions to get to the heart of the impact that our Network can achieve to support K-12 educators across Canada. After many iterations, our creative team wholeheartedly endorsed the following three priorities to respond to the rapidly evolving opportunities and challenges that our education systems are currently facing:
These priorities were the focus of our virtual December 2020 EdCan Advisory Council Meeting. (The first ever gathering of the CEA was in 1891 in Montreal.) We will continue to explore how we can align our focus with supporting Ministries of Education, faculty, and school district leaders, principals, teachers, and staff throughout 2021 as we strive to increase the capacity, self-efficacy, and well-being of our 110,000 members, and through them, to heighten every student’s well-being and opportunities for meaningful learning to help them discover their purpose and path in life.
For more information about EdCan’s Theory of Change, Intended Impacts and Strategic Priorities, please visit: www.edcan.ca/aboutus
For a list of the education and philanthropic leaders who serve on EdCan’s Advisory Council, please visit: www.edcan.ca/council
First published in Education Canada, January 2021
Joanne was a Grade 3 teacher in a high-need rural school. She was an incredibly conscientious person and she worried a lot. She worried about how good a teacher she was, how her colleagues perceived her, and what her principal was thinking, as well as being concerned about each student and how she could help them progress. This worry led to her doubting herself and working even harder, and over time she became emotionally exhausted. This, in turn, affected her family life and her health. Then a new principal arrived and set social and emotional learning as a central goal of their school.
Joanne was mentored in the use of an evidence-based Social emotional learning (SEL) curriculum and the staff created a reading group on SEL. They then began to work on their own social and emotional awareness, which included some short and practical mindfulness practices. The staff also worked to create a more compassionate, caring culture for their school, children, and parents. Joanne found a new reserve of inner strength, loosened the grip of her worry, and celebrated the new sense of partnership with teachers and other staff. She developed closer relationships with her students and parents and she slowly gained back the joy of teaching.
This story illustrates the power of community, leadership, and self-inquiry in supporting a teacher’s own journey as a professional. All three components supported Joanne and nurtured her abilities as a teacher. Over the past few decades, research has shown that teachers who develop and compassionately nurture their own social and emotional competencies are those who create caring classrooms and support their students’ SEL. Further, when children’s social and emotional competence is facilitated and the school nurtures healthy relationships with colleagues, students, and families, students become more engaged as learners and increase their school success.
In the time of COVID-19, there are important lessons for us to remember. First, we need to nurture ourselves and make realistic plans for self-care. Second, we need to nurture our relationships with our colleagues, and especially reach out to our students and families. Third, secure and caring relationships are the base for learning and success and the more secure and confident we all feel, the more learning and growth will happen.
First published in Education Canada, September 2020
In this issue, Education Canada looks at the role our public schools do, could, and/or should play in exposing students to these career pathways, preparing them for future labour market needs, and facilitating their transition to trades training. Are students given adequate experiential learning opportunities to consider trades, adequate opportunity to learn about them, and adequate support in negotiating entry to post-secondary programs and apprenticeships that will take them there? How can we shift the narrative, counter the stigma and articulate the value of skilled trades to youth and their parents? How does our education system embrace the multiple roles of fostering the skills and knowledge students require to become informed, active, citizens of the world, and also preparing them to meet the workforce needs of tomorrow?
On behalf of the EdCan Board and Advisory Council, I would like to wish our network members across the country continued safety and well-being during this challenging time. If you’re feeling over-Zoomed, over-burdened and isolated, you are not alone.
We recognize that the stressful uncertainties associated with the “new normal” back-to-school awaiting teachers, staff and students will place even more strain on their mental health and well-being.
When the pandemic arrived in Canada, EdCan temporarily pivoted our Well at Work initiative – which aims to shift mindsets by showcasing research, policy and practice that results in healthier, happier, and more resilient K-12 staff – to Well at Home. We continue to offer our original, and carefully curated, tools and tips to help you (the front-line first-responders and system leader heroes) to take care of yourselves.
We unfortunately have had no choice but to postpone our Pan-Canadian Summit on K-12 Staff Well-Being that had been scheduled for November 2-4, 2020, but we continue to feature the foremost experts on this topic in an ongoing series of free webinars over the next few months with the goal of maintaining momentum on this crucial issue. I also encourage you to consider using our Well at Work Professional Development Discussion Kit, which offers group discussion and self-reflection guides that can help you and your colleagues unpack how you can strengthen social and emotional well-being together to achieve healthier schools.
Please continue to follow our social media accounts and subscribe to our e-newsletters for our latest blog posts and podcasts with a pan-Canadian perspective, from some of our country’s leading education thinkers, about how we move forward together. We encourage you to add your voice to this ongoing dialogue and please let us know how we can continue to support you and your colleagues to be at your best. Most importantly, please continue to be mindful and kind to yourselves by acknowledging how quickly this situation was cast upon us and how well we’ve all done to ensure that all children continue to learn.
Quiet classroom. No kids. It’s officially the end of the work day. She sits at her desk and revisits all of the things she would have liked to get done today. There’s a new activity she recently found online that sparked her interest, but she questions whether it’s something that could actually apply to her classroom: “Is it outdated? Authentic? Could it actually work?” But before she can answer those questions, she realizes she has a Math lesson to plan for the next day and that some of her students who are having a tough time are in need of extra support. She sighs and thinks to herself, “Maybe tomorrow.”
Educators are juggling multiple demands, leaving very little time for them to put the most recent educational research into daily classroom practice. Despite advances in research over the years that have shown which teaching and learning strategies are most effective, school leaders and front-line teaching staff continuously face challenges in implementing evidence-based research due to a lack of time, the complexity of research that’s available, and the overload of information in our digital world. Yet much of this research, if implemented, would actually yield greater student outcomes, and especially so for our most vulnerable and disadvantaged children.1
That’s where The Facts on Education comes in. Thanks to the continued support of the Desjardins Foundation and the Canadian School Boards Association, our one-page fact sheets unpack complex research into easily-understandable answers and concrete strategies towards some of today’s most pressing questions in K-12 education, including:
Keep an eye out for these new fact sheets – and many more – throughout the year. EdCan members will receive copies in upcoming issues of Education Canada magazine, including online access at edcan.ca/facts-on-ed. Be sure to download, print, and share with your colleagues – we all play an important role in bridging the gap between research and practice.
Photo: Adobe Stock
First published in Education Canada, March 2020
1 Canadian Education Association – Association canadienne d’éducation, Research Use and Its Impact in Secondary Schools: Exploring knowledge mobilization in education –L’utilisation de la recherche et son incidence dans les écoles secondaires : une étude examinant la mobilisation des connaissances en éducation (2011).
Despite the fact that stress and burnout are on the rise among staff in Canadian K-12 education systems, investment to support their well-being isn’t keeping pace. As the leading independent national voice in Canadian K-12 education, EdCan is pleased to officially launch “Well at Work” – a new research and public awareness campaign that calls on education leaders to make teacher and staff well-being a top priority.
“The well-being of K-12 staff is a high priority for school districts across Canada. As Director of Education, I look forward to the learning from Well at Work to inform our Board’s focus on staff well-being,” says Denise Andre, Director of Education for the Ottawa Catholic School Board and EdCan Chair.
With 128 years of experience convening stakeholders from across the entire spectrum of Canadian K-12 public education, EdCan is hosting a series of national events to build a common vision for workplace well-being, including:
This free one-hour webinar presented insights gathered through a large-scale survey of educators and the general public on how to better frame the issue of teachers’ and principals’ well-being. Replay the webinar here: www.edcan.ca/workplacewebinar
This exclusive professional learning session brought together ministry and faculty of education representatives, directors of Education/CEOs, and other K-12 leaders from across Canada.
This gathering will bring together champions, changemakers, and key stakeholders from across the country to learn more about ways to advance workplace well-being in K-12 education.
Well at Work is all about giving schools and school districts the tools they need to improve working conditions for the long term, through amplifying educators’ stories and lived experiences that get to the heart of what well-being actually means and looks like at work.
For educators, schools, school districts, and ministries of education looking to take their first steps towards creating a healthier workplace, a growing collection of free resources are available for download at: www.edcan.ca/wellatwork.
First published in Education Canada, December 2019
Please support the EdCan Network as we continue to Build, Amplify and Support all that it means to have publicly funded education in Canada.
We are on our way to our goal of $24,000. With your help, we know we can get there. Please, share this link via email on your social media to spread the word about this wonderful day and our very important cause.
*EdCan is not responsible for any additional travel costs in association with the all-inclusive Toronto-to-Montreal New Year’s Eve bash. Winners must arrange and pay for their own travel to and from Toronto.
Two return tickets from Montreal back to Toronto in Via Rail dedicated economy class are included in this package.
The prize can only be used by the winner drawn by the EdCan Network. If the person cannot accept the prize, the EdCan Network will draw another winner.
Borden Ladner Gervais (BLG) Conference Room
Bay Adelaide Centre, East Tower 22 Adelaide Street West Suite 3400
Toronto, Ontario M5H 4E3 Canada
Join ministry and faculty of education representatives, Directors of Education/CEOs, and other K-12 leaders from across Canada for this EXCLUSIVE professional learning session, where you will:
Can’t make it? Stay tuned for our Spring National Summit on K-12 Workplace Well-being
All attendees will receive FREE class passes to:
Toronto’s preeminent meditation studio
Led by the EdCan Network and the McConnell Foundation
The Business Case for Workplace Well-Being: Rationale for an Upstream Approach
Led by Leanne Keyko, Health Strategies Liaison & Trudy Lakusta, School Jurisdiction Liaison, Alberta School Employee Benefit Plan (ASEBP)
The Legal Case for Workplace Well-Being: How Health and Safety Legislation Can Help You Achieve the Best Return-on-Investment
Led by Anna V. Karimian, Associate – Labour and Employment Group, Borden Ladner Gervais (BLG) LLP
The Student Achievement Case for Workplace Well-Being: Raising Student Outcomes through a Whole-System Approach to Well-Being
Led by Dr. Bill Morrison, Professor of Educational Psychology & Co-Executive Director, Health and Education Research Group (HERG), University of New Brunswick; President, WMA Wellness
Followed by a plenary Q&A
The “How” of Workplace Well-Being: Key elements of a systemic approach
Led by Dr. Charlie Naylor, Affiliated Scholar – Simon Fraser University; District Well-Being Coach; former Senior Researcher – British Columbia Teachers’ Federation (BCTF)
Small group facilitated discussions will support participants to consider and share “Where they’re at,” “What they learned,” and “What they need to do to move forward” to lead greater investments into workplace well-being in their own school communities.
In 2018, the Raise the Bar report was released outlining recommendations for a coherent and responsive administrative education system. Consultations were conducted with multiple stakeholders via in-person meetings and online surveys. The report proposed six catalysts for change:
The N.W.T. Government released an Indigenous Languages Action Plan with the following goals:
Health and physical education curricula are providing resources and supports to include students of all sexual orientations and gender identities, while “opt-out” or “alternative delivery” policies give parents greater control over how learning expectations are met
Maths curricula is becoming increasingly oriented towards everyday needs and workplace skills, with financial literacy a key component of secondary education attainment
Education systems are moving towards integrating Indigenous perspectives and reconciliation education into all grade levels and aspects of schooling, although implementation remains a challenge
Digital skills and citizenship education is becoming increasingly commonplace as ways to support students in using digital tools to enhance learning and participation in democratic life while avoiding technology’s potential negative consequences
Quebec released its Cadre de référence de la compétence numérique (Digital Skills Reference Framework), which represents an investment of $1.2 billion over five years and aims to equip classrooms with the latest technologies in addition to reviewing teacher training. A digital file will also be implemented in order to track students during their education from Kindergarten to university, and the framework will address important issues such as fake news, sexting, and social media use. The Framework allows teachers and school leaders to have autonomy over the choice of digital products and pedagogies that are used in their schools and classrooms.
Nova Scotia’s final report of the Commission on Inclusive Education consisted of public consultations and reviews into the current practice and policy of inclusive education in public schools, including implementation challenges faced by educators. A new model has emerged that is comprised of three tiers: (1) Classrooms: universal core curriculum and core instruction for all students; (2) Small groups: supplementary interventions for some students; and (3) Individuals: intensive interventions for a small percentage of students.
Following a 2016 Supreme Court decision affirming the right of B.C.’s teachers’ union to determine class size and composition, there has been a teacher shortage within in-demand subject areas, especially French immersion. French immersion recruitment has taken place in Montreal, other parts of Canada, and France, Belgium and Switzerland in Europe. The Ministry has reported great strides in closing the shortage while the B.C. teachers’ union has continued to push and critique for quicker progress.
Discussion about the importance of social and emotional wellness on the job has increased substantially in recent years. As the leading national voice on education issues, we want to understand how you view teacher and principal workplace wellbeing to help us understand perceptions on this important issue.
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This report by Frontier College, a national literacy organization, reveals how increased literacy enables Canadians to move out of poverty and recommends that governments should recognize literacy as a human right. One in five Canadians struggle with reading, writing or math, and millions more do not have the essential skills to succeed in today’s economy. The stigma surrounding low literacy, and the everyday systems and tasks that assume strong literacy skills, may affect a person’s ability to find and use the services they need to lift them out of poverty. Key findings include:
A dramatic rise in enrolment at Ontario’s colleges and universities over the past two decades has done little to achieve equitable access for those students who have been traditionally underrepresented in higher education, argues a new report by the Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario (HEQCO). Successive federal and provincial governments have sought to boost participation of underrepresented students by encouraging enrolment growth, expanding student financial assistance, capping tuition fees and providing targeted funding to institutions to recruit and support these students. Yet there is scant evidence that enrolment growth has reduced the participation gap between advantaged and disadvantaged students. The report argues that a new approach to access is needed, one that focuses limited provincial resources on helping underrepresented students rather than continuing to expand overall enrolment. And it argues that truly effective access policies and interventions must be applied at the K-12 sector. Read the report.
This report by ArtsLink NB, an Anglophone arts sector organization, discusses the status of K-12 arts education in New Brunswick and provides recommendations for improvement to match the success of the province’s Francophone system. This project builds on recommendations from David Campbell’s report, Sustaining New Brunswick’s Arts and Culture Workforce, as well as the province’s cultural policy, Creative Futures, and the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development’s 10-year education plan, Everyone at their Best. This report is intended to contribute to a broader province-wide dialogue on enhancing arts education in the K-12 system. Read the report.
Tina Fontaine might always be known for the tragic way in which she died, but it is her life that is an important story worth knowing. It was on August 17, 2014, when most people would learn her name, but Tina’s story began long before that day. It began even before Tina was born on New Year’s Day in 1999. To know Tina’s story, to really understand how she came to symbolize a churning anger of a nation enraged, each of us can look as far back as the arrival of European settlers, and as close to home as the depth of our own involvement or indifference in the lives and experiences of Indigenous youth. Read the report.
Building Connections: Student Parent Support Worker Pilot Project
Via Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario (HEQCO)
School and Society in the Age of Trump
Via UCLA’s Institute for Democracy, Education, and Access (U.S.A.)
From a Nation at Risk to a Nation at Hope
Via The Aspen Institute (U.S.A.)
Balancing the Scale of Student Data Deletion and Retention in Education
Via Center for Democracy and Technology (U.S.A.)
How Parents and High Schools Can Cultivate Ethical Character and Reduce Distress in The College Admissions Process
Via Harvard Graduate School of Education (U.S.A.)
Do Developer-Commissioned Evaluations Inflate Effect Sizes? (working paper)
Via Johns Hopkins University – School of Education – Center for Research and Reform in Education (U.S.A.)
Mindfulness in the Classroom: Learning from a School-based Mindfulness Intervention through the Boston Charter Research Collaborative
Via Center for Education Policy Research (Harvard University), Massachusetts Institute of Technology & TransformEd
Understanding Environmental Education in secondary schools in England
Via King’s College London – School of Education, Communication and & Society – Environmental Education Research Group (U.K.)
From policy to pupil: why do teachers matter?
Via Cambridge University
Horizons report on emerging technologies and education
Via Jisc (U.K.)
Research on the Educational Psychologist Workforce
Via Department for Education England (U.K.)
Education and Socio-Economic Status – Estonian Case
Via Network of Education Policy Centers (NEPC) – Zagreb; European Union (Estonia)
Indigenous languages: knowledge and hope
Via The UNESCO Courier
Since the release of the Final Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in 2015, school systems across Canada have been grappling with how best to embed Indigenous perspectives into all grade levels and aspects of schooling, including lessons on the history and legacy of residential schools. This has included diverse approaches to curricular reform and staff professional development plans, which have revealed that schools are progressing at varying paces along their journey towards reconciliation as they work to implement the Commission’s education-related calls to action.
While many educators find themselves at the how-to stage and fearful of committing cultural appropriation in their teaching, numerous more are still asking, “Why should I do this?”, “Why is this my concern?” and “Even if I’m now obligated by curriculum, where would I begin since I know little to nothing about Indigenous histories and cultures?”
On October 12th, in an effort to address this tension, the national EdCan Network organized a professional learning event for over 200 teachers at the University of Lethbridge called “Truth and Reconciliation in Every School: What we know, what we don’t know, and what we need to do to move forward respectfully” – an acknowledgment that the road to reconciliation is not only an ongoing process that everyone is called to take up, but also a challenging personal investment that will unfold differently for each educator. The event catered directly to teachers and teacher candidates – regardless of where they might be along their journeys – and convened authors who had written for the recently-published Education Canada magazine special focus on Truth and Reconciliation in the Schools, which maps the progress Canadian public schools are making on this front.
“It’s not so much about the individual teacher,” explained Dr. Leroy Little Bear, the University of Lethbridge’s Special Assistant to the President. “Rather, it’s about the institutional aspect that teachers are a part of, which has played a large part in history in educating those superintendents, those Indian Agents and those ministers who brought about policies that led to residential schools.”
During the event’s main panel discussion, speakers affirmed the need for educators to assess their intentions and work towards navigating from a place of heart, in lieu of “walking on eggshells” and remaining stagnant out of fear of asking a silly question that could offend someone.
Grounded in the view that not doing anything is likewise wrong, speakers accentuated how no one will ever feel 100 percent ready to take up this challenge – that teachers need to be brave enough to say “I don’t know,” which is critical when working with Indigenous peoples and marginalized communities, according to panellist Dr. Pamela Rose Toulouse.
Beyond those three words follows a willingness to reach out to valuable human resources – school district Indigenous consultants, Elders, Knowledge Keepers and those with authentic expertise – so that teachers can advance their own knowledge, build trust-based relationships, and work collaboratively with Indigenous peoples to teach all students about treaties, residential schools and long-standing issues facing Indigenous communities.
“Our biggest obstacle to reconciliation is ourselves,” emphasized Dr. Pamela Rose Toulouse, Associate Professor at Laurentian University and author of Truth and Reconciliation in Canadian Schools. “On the one hand, educators have their fears, misunderstandings and pride, while on the flipside it could be a question of indifference.”
“But I don’t have Indigenous students in my school” is but one of the common excuses Dr. Toulouse has encountered from educators. Her suggestion is to liken reconciliation as a collective endeavour as are other large-scale challenges such as food security, climate change and equity, which touch anyone who has children, grandchildren, nephews and nieces, family and friends who comprise today’s generation and those to come. Confronting indifference and excuses also entails illuminating the contemporary contributions of Indigenous peoples – giving credit where credit is due for Indigenous inventions and inspirations for the “sport of hockey, medicines, potato chips and Dr. Pepper,” as Dr. Toulouse listed. Whereas curriculum will speak about residential schools and treaties, educators are charged with filling-in gaps by leading conversations about positive Indigenous role models and contributions that have been made by Indigenous peoples.
Panellist Julaine Guitton is a novel example of a non-Indigenous teacher who has prioritized the resiliency of Indigenous peoples within her classroom over topics of cultural genocide and residential schools. This approach, entrenched in the viewpoint that Indigenous peoples are not victims first, has proven effective among her fifth and sixth-grade students as project lead for Stavely Elementary School’s “Project of Heart.” The project entails general research about residential schools in Canada, followed by more narrowed research into a particular residential school, meeting with a residential school survivor and a culminating artistic act of reconciliation. In a rural township where many students live on farms and ranches, understanding Indigenous peoples’ connection to land and place was cornerstone to these discussions which, as Elder-in-Residence Francis First Charger illustrated, allows students to understand different people, different worldviews and interrelations.
“I remember where I was when the final report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission was finally released, and I felt especially compelled as a teacher being in a position where I knew that I could help other people,” Guitton recalled. “I didn’t know how I would accomplish that, so I decided to just wear an orange t-shirt to school one day and begin a discussion with my students about what that meant.”
Ira Provost, Manager of the Piikani Nation Consultation, was Ms. Guitton’s community resource person throughout the project. With a career as an Indigenous liaison and cross-cultural educator, Provost found himself astounded by the depth and breadth of learning that had taken place, which transpired through speeches that the students had presented to school board trustees, the superintendent, Stavely’s school principal, FNMI support personnel and Elders from the Indigenous community during a class-organized community event.
All Indigenous peoples want, as Provost highlighted, is meaningful engagement, which forms the derivative of an ongoing commitment to starting early and moving beyond one-off endeavours.
“Reconciliation is about a thousand cups of coffee,” stated panel moderator Dr. Michelle Hogue, Associate Professor and Coordinator of the University of Lethbridge’s First Nations Transition Program, in her recap of the conversation. “It’s about sitting, listening, being present and building relationships.”
Lakeside dock season is a cherished time among educators, when tumbleweeds blow gently through the Twittersphere. In Ontario, this annual respite was interrupted by an emotional and polarizing sex-ed curriculum debate that siloed our beliefs and values about what students should be learning to help them navigate through life. There will surely be similar contentious flashpoints igniting in different corners of the country this school year, leaving many teachers, parents and students frustrated and unsure of what to think.
Our network lets the researchers and the practitioners do the talking. Thanks to the continued support of the Canadian School Boards Association and a new partnership with the Desjardins Foundation, we’re expanding our Facts on Education fact sheet series this year to help ground these discussions in concrete evidence. We ask renowned experts to provide clear answers to teachers and parents on questions like:
We’ve also been connecting the dots between hot-button education issues unfolding in in the media, via our new bi-monthly EdCan Wire news service, to get you up to speed in five minutes or less. www.edcan.ca/signup
This October, we launch the first instalment of our Education Canada Live events series, Truth and Reconciliation in Every School. We hope to influence much-needed discussions on how we can move forward towards achieving reconciliation. Our Editorial Board saw the need to extend the research and ideas from our May issue into a practical co-learning opportunity, so we’re co-hosting this professional learning session and Talking Circle with the University of Lethbridge. The session will support non-Indigenous teachers in their journey towards incorporating Indigenous histories, worldviews, ways of teaching and learning, and contemporary issues respectfully, authentically and confidently in their classrooms.
Our network of education leaders – member voices from across the entire spectrum of K-12 education – believe in the value of what we do because together, our “special interest” is what’s best for students. We look forward to a busy year of making sense of what’s making news.
First published in Education Canada, September 2018
With a commitment to propelling evidence-informed conversations that help bring out the elephants in the room, and in view of mounting debate on the how health curricula can best prepare students now and into adulthood, we are confident that these resources will help inform your discussions on human development, health, sex-ed and gender identity in the 21st century.
Generation Queer: Sexual Minority Youth and Canadian Schools
By Kristopher Wells
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The Gift of Positive Space Groups: A Transformation for LGBTQ Students
By Deirdre Pike
Published May 29, 2012
Boys Do Cry: Why conversations about gender are crucial in schools
By Adam William John Davies
Published March 2, 2018
Men, Masculinities, and Sexualities in Education and Society: A Call for Evolution!
By Douglas Gosse
Published January 5, 2012
Queer and Trans at School: Where do I fit in?
By Adam William John Davies & j wallace skelton
Published May 29, 2017
Opinion: Putting Porn on the Curriculum
By Marilyn Evans
Published May 29, 2017
What About the Girls?
By Rebecca Priegert Coulter
Published June 18, 2012
Opinion: Politically Correct Preschools and their Discontents: One Teacher’s Story
By Leah Wells
Published January 5, 2012
Infusing Some Queer into Teacher Education
By Tom Hilton & Miles Turnbull
Published November 24, 2010