I ended yesterday by lamenting the fact that the agreement reached by the Ontario English Catholic Teachers Association and the Ontario Ministry of Education calls for teachers and administrators to take 3 unpaid days during the 2013/2014 school year. By scheduling this time on PD days, the government figures that it will have no impact on classroom instruction. By fixing these days as Fridays before existing holidays (Thanksgiving, Christmas and March Break), the political impact is also minimized.
I have to thank fellow tweep, @RChids, for reminding me that professional learning is most effective when it is self-directed. It was our exchange on Twitter last evening that got me thinking that this is a perfect opportunity to reclaim what should be both a right and a duty as professionals. So here’s my proposal:
1) We urge our union negotiators not to ratify the agreement as it stands.
2) We demand that the 3 PD days in question be moved away from the cusp of major holiday periods.
3) We plan to flood each of these days with as many edCamps, unconferences, PLN meetings, webinars, and other professional learning structures that we can possibly organize!
In other words, let’s agree to use these days as true professional learning opportunities, planned by teachers and administrators to meet the needs of teachers and administrators. The content will be ours, the format will be ours and the cost will be covered by members.
Instead of taking our protests to the streets, let’s take it to conference rooms, pubs and cafés, auditoriums and living rooms. Let’s show the government, our unions and the public that we are serious about professional learning and that we can actually do a pretty good job of it on our own.
This is serious stuff. Professional learning days have already been cut back, and the ones that remain have been appropriated for purposes that have little to do with professional learning. If we let this part of the agreement go by unchallenged, then what appears to be a temporary fiscal strategy this time could very well become a permanent reality.
I don’t expect that everyone will agree with me. Some may balk at the idea of giving up “unpaid” time to engage in something related to work. But I suspect that there are enough of us out there whose imaginations are tickled by the idea to give it a try.
But we have to respond quickly. We need to get on the phone to our union locals and present the idea as a possibility. There is a council of presidents meeting at OECTA central early next week, and if we could get enough support by then, we might be able to make a change and turn the tide on the erosion of our right to have professional learning opportunities built into our contract.
So, what do you think? You can find a list of local unit offices by visiting the OECTA website. Let’s act quickly. Let’s tell our association and our government that professional learning is important, and is not on the table when it comes to contract negotiations!
Make a call. Make a comment. Make a difference!