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Educators Learn to Make a Difference (From the President)

David Clegg

It is gratifying to be able to provide you with the second special edition of Voice dedicated to professional learning. You will recall that last year’s special issue celebrated the work that you do both in the classroom and collaboratively with your colleagues. The issue featured the many different kinds of professional learning activities in which ETFO members are engaged.

This second special issue examines professional learning in the context of educational opportunities for children whose families live in poverty, children who are less likely to achieve academic success. The articles in this issue examine what educators can do to improve the outcomes for these children. Although the issues these children bring with them result from factors over which schools have no control, what happens in schools can make a difference.

As a result of funding from the ministry of education, ETFO has been able to make unique opportunities for professional learning available to members. Teachers and schools that took part in these special projects designed their own professional learning. They studied the issues that children from poor families face, and they looked at what they could do to improve the educational experience for these children and for all their students.

These members took part in the best kind of professional learning: they freely chose to take part and  collaboratively designed their own learning. Their learning built on what they already knew about how children learn and grow and allowed them to take that knowledge further. Their learning involved a mix of theoretical understandings and practical applications. It allowed them to ask ques- tions about practices in their schools and classrooms and to determine how to make improvements. It is important to reiterate: nobody told them what to do.

This kind of professional learning may not be the model that your school board has adopted. There are still many school board administrators who believe that only they can determine what learning is appropriate for educators. They are mistaken. The time when it was appropriate for teachers’ professional learning to be determined by school boards and administrators is long past, if in fact there ever was such a time.

ETFO is the top-rated teachers’ union in Canada when it comes to delivering professional learning programs for our members. Thanks to our partnership with the ministry we have been able to bring you a broad range of such opportunities. We appreciate what we have been able to do with ministry funding, and we know that you appreciate the learning opportunities ETFO provides.

Today, committed educators are working together to determine what it is they need to know to improve the academic outcomes of all of their students. They know and we know that teacher choice and independence in professional learning is the best way to improve our schools and the best way to make sure all of our students succeed.