Sunday, 3 November 2013

I am an award winning teacher and I quit.

My name is Darren Cannell, I am a 31 year old veteran teacher. I have been a teacher and will always be a teacher no matter which career the future brings. During my teaching career, I was an elementary school teacher, inner-city educator, physical education and art high school teacher, assistant principal and administrator and builder of the largest online school in Saskatchewan. In my final year of teaching I was honoured with the STF Arbos Award for my contribution to Education and the teaching profession. It is the highest honour that the Saskatchewan Teaching Profession can confer upon a teacher.

In my life I went to school for 13 years (Ontario School System) to get my secondary school diploma or my grade 13, then Brock University for 4 years for my Physical Education Degree and another year for my Education Degree. Then 3 years to get my Masters at Athabasca University. Then 6 years working on my Doctorate. That is a total of 27 years as a learner, I only taught for 31 years.

I am 53 years old and hope to work for a minimum of 13 more years, the sad part of this story is that I came to the conclusion a few years back that I could not continue as an educator in the current education environment that exists in Saskatchewan. I make that statement with sadness because I believe in the people involved, I had the opportunity a few years back to travel around the world. My family and I visited 39 countries and it opened my eyes to how much I was being sheltered and forced to work within a box which was getting tighter and tighter.
My decision to change professions was not because of teacher`s salaries, it was the lack of faith that people have in me as a professional to do what is right for the employees and students in my care. This statement is in no way directed to any single individual it is directed towards a system which has reached as far as it is able. I, like all other individuals involved have made the same mistakes and enforced the rules which will be the downfall of the educational system. The mistake is the underestimation of the professionals which are the foundation of the third best education system in the world. The current system does not allow the respect of teacher because it is being designed to protect itself from the 1% of bad teachers in the system. But in this protection and rule making it is limiting the system’s ability and teachers ability to reach the potential. The only two educational systems which are rated above Canada education system is the Finland school system and the Singapore school system both of which do something which is not possible with the current education system in Saskatchewan. What Finland and Singapore do is allow the educator the free to educate, assess, and determine the needs of their learners. This autonomy is supported with a very well-funded educational system which is designed to give them the supports, equipment, professional development time and almost anything else they need to be successful. The respect which is afforded to the teaching profession in both countries is next to none. Teacher are valued and support because they are recognized for their worth and hence there is a line-up of interested talented people who would like to enter into the profession. This is not the climate which is currently happening in Saskatchewan as 72% of teachers are not happy. It has created building of very unhappy, passionate, talented, caring people who are forced to teach in a fashion which they know is not correct.

Knowing this made me evaluate whether I was going to be able to continue to work within a system which was lowering the respect offered to the educational profession. My answer was no, to have a government which believes it needs to micro-manage professionals in doing their chosen vocation hand-cuff the creativity, passion and individuality of teacher. To not allow them to do their job of creating life-long learners, to bury them under administrative tasks, assessment models, latest professional flavor of the day and show them no respect in the educational system decision making process. Life-long learners are what are society needs to continue to grow.
Administrator's job at any level should be to remove barriers which will allow educators to reach their potential and support their desire to educate. This is not happening in Saskatchewan, in the last 10 years of my career I notice more and more good teachers burning out, administrator`s stressed out and school becoming no fun. The flames of passion are slowly being snuffed out as the opinions of non-educator are being forced upon the people who really know what is needed to educator children, the teachers.
So, I am entertaining job offers outside of the education world, in which I will be respected and in which the administrators above me will allow me to apply my talents and maybe be recognized for my post-secondary education and the effort that I will apply. I will enter my new career with the same passion as I have my education career, I am sure it will have drawbacks but I will bet it will not have as many angry passion people who are not being respected.
So a final note to those of you that are not teachers. You have no idea what a classroom is like until you stand in an educator`s shoes. You have no idea what it is like to have every other teacher sharing their idea on how to do your job, every other parent sharing their idea on how to do your job, to have assistant and vice principals sharing their ideas how to do your job, consultants sharing their ideas, superintendent sharing their ideas, the media sharing their ideas, the government sharing their ideas and in some school systems God sharing his ideas. In the end when you close your classroom door, you stand in a room which is under equipped, over-crowded, and if you are unsuccessful it will be your fault. I respect anyone who chooses to be an educator and anyone who is not should do everything in their power to give them respect and support they need and then get out of their way and let them be the passionate, talented and beautiful educators that they are. Finland and Singapore have it right, check it out, and let educators do their job.
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