Dear Commissioners of the Manitoba Education Review,
This week, I attended the first Education Review Workshop at the Caboto Centre in Winnipeg. I began the workshop feeling energized. I was in a room full of teachers, parents and community members who had given their time to focus on the future of education in our province. The passion with which participants spoke was undeniable and everyone's aim was clear: Making our education system the best it can be.
The session quickly changed as we moved into the question and answer section. Overwhelmingly, the participants did not feel heard and felt shut out of the process. I attended the workshop with an open mind and I still hope that we are working towards the same goal of improving our education system. With that in mind, I want to outline my concerns as a teacher.
I applaud the structure of the workshops, particularly the participant guided discussions, which were particularly powerful. Hearing many voices is essential throughout this review and I hope you are open to making these workshops more accessible to all. Having Winnipeg workshops exclusively in Tuxedo and Transcona locks out a significant segment of the population. They are not easily accessible by bus and there are significant hurdles that prevent many working families from attending. Moreover, we are concerned that Indigenous communities, newcomers and those with disabilities will not be adequately represented. For some, the online registration format or online surveys are intimidating and create a barrier to participation. I strongly encourage you to go into communities that are underrepresented. Seek out Indigenous elders. Do everything you can to make this consultation process equitable.
While you are going into communities, please take the time to visit schools. I do not mean a five minute snapshot visit, but spend a length of time in many classrooms across our province. Sit down and talk with educators and support staff. You will find that education today is substantially different from even ten years ago. Amazing things are happening in our classrooms and it is not one size fits all. If you are planning on making decisions for our education system, it is essential you become intimately familiar with today's classrooms.
The teachers at the workshop were passionate about improving the education system in our province, but we can't do our job with passion alone. We need supports of resources and training. We need you to acknowledge that we can't wear the hats of a counsellor, social worker, therapist, and other countless jobs, and still effectively teach (although we try our best). Manitoba has one of the highest rates of child poverty and rates of children in care in Canada. When a child isn't sure where their next meal is coming from, when their family is struggling, and they are not in a secure situation, learning takes a backseat. These kids need additional supports to be on equal footing with their peers. These facts need to be part of the review.
In your discussion paper summary, you ask "Is the current system providing equitable learning outcomes for all students?" Probably not, although educators are firmly committed to improving equity. A better question I want to ask is this: Is this Education Review interested in being equitable? Will you make sure that all voices are part of the review? Will you seek out marginalized communities and get their input? Will you make sure teachers have a seat at the table? Will you make child poverty and the child welfare system a key part of the review?
At the end of the day, we all want the same thing. We want our children to succeed in life and we want to improve our education system. I hope you will consider my thoughts and suggestions going forward.