The Hub is pleased to offer the second part of a thought-provoking three-part series on education from the perspective of a current local teacher. Part One can be found here.
With two months to go before school begins again, negotiations with teachers continuing, a new leader of the Opposition, and three years to go before both a school board and a provincial election, it may be the perfect opportunity to step back and give the education system some real consideration. Send us your take on the subject at owensoundhub.org.


-by John Fearnall

#4 on my list of Top 10 ways to immediately improve education:
Eliminate the adversarial system.
How we say/do something has as much or more of an impact than what we say/do. Because of this, we must eliminate, or at least try to reduce the conflict in our school system. Everywhere I turn, there is conflict: Ministry vs. Board; Board vs. Federation; Board vs School; Admin vs. Teacher; Public vs Teacher; Teacher vs. Student; Teacher vs. Teacher; Student vs. Student.
If we are going improve education we must end this conflict and realize that we are all in this together. Only a collective effort will get us through these difficult times. And, perhaps this lesson will move beyond the school system and help our future leaders solve some of the problems our world is currently facing.
Eliminating/Reducing the school boards (#1) will go a long way in achieving this goal, but teachers also have to do their part. In my opinion, our federation plays as big a role in this as boards and should also be eliminated/reduced. It has become another bureaucratic mess that has lost its way.
One way to reduce this conflict is to pay teachers a fair wage with guaranteed cost of living adjustments. Doing this will eliminate the fairly regular battles that have slowly eroded many of the extras in our schools.


#5 on my list of Top 10 ways to immediately improve education:
(Here's where I lose some of my teacher friends)
Institute a meaningful and fair teacher evaluation system that includes a bonus based on performance. Our current teacher evaluation system is okay, but not great. In order to get a better picture of a teacher's effectiveness in all aspects of the job, our evaluation should be based on reports from as many people involved in the system as possible - principals, vice-principals, department heads, peers, students (yes, I think a random sample of students should be included - I have my students evaluate me regularly), parents, colleagues and anyone else in the system. To do this properly will be expensive, but the savings from my other suggestions should be more than enough to cover it.
Once we have this evaluation in place, pay teachers a bonus based on performance. We currently have a 4-step grid based solely on education, which I am not convinced is the only indicator of an effective teacher. This 4-step grid could be replaced with a 'teacher evaluation' grid. All teachers receive the same pay based on experience. At the end of the year, a bonus is paid based on 4 categories:
Unsatisfactory - No bonus, plus help provided to increase effectiveness. Two unsatisfactory appraisals in a row could lead to termination.
Satisfactory - + $5,000 (this is approximately the current difference between grid steps)
Good - + $10,000
Excellent - +$15,000, plus incentives to mentor struggling teachers.
(The last part is just a very rough suggestion. I am sure there are other ways this could be better organized.)


#6 on my list of Top 10 ways to immediately improve education:
A return to Principals as Master Teachers
Through no fault of their own, the role of a Principal has been dramatically changed over my teaching career. What once was a leadership role (Principal Teacher) has been slowly turned into a management role. We have also lost our department heads - usually senior teachers who often acted as mentors in their department.
An easy way to return some educational leadership is to make the current Administration the Business Managers for each school. In addition, each school staff elects a Principal from their own ranks who takes on the educational side of the job. The position lasts for 2 years to a maximum of 4, to ensure the person does not lose touch with the class room.
It would take far too long to list all of the new Principal's responsibilities. Basically, they are there to support staff and students in all ways educational - finding cross curricular opportunities, helping struggling staff and students, dealing with parental concerns, etc


John Fearnall has taught high school for the past 22 years. He is a founding member of MendEd (Mending Education) and will continue to ask the question, "Does anyone care about education?" until he retires.





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