Friday, December 18, 2015

Generational Change in Leadership

This fall's federal election was remarkable for many reasons, one of which is that it resulted in more "Generation X" MPs elected than ever before, about 88, not to mention about 19 "Generation Y" or Millennials, depending on how one defines their generations.

There are 8 MPs born during WWII (the Silent Generation or the "Lucky Few"), and all the rest are Baby Boomers, still the dominant group in terms of numbers if not influence. While the average age in parliament is a respectable 51, it is without a doubt a youthful and fresh set of faces.

This turnover includes our first ever Gen X Prime Minister -- Justin Trudeau was born in 1971; he is two years younger than me. Shortly after the election, we had our first Gen X Leader of the Opposition -- Rona Ambrose is the same age as me. This certainly makes me feel what I already know, that I am officially older rather than younger than most (the median age in Canada is 40).

The other remarkable things about the election is the fervour (and fomentation) for change. Canada's relative disdain for "The Harper Years" hit a new level on election day, and seems to have risen since. The gagging of scientists (and destruction of scientific archives), erosion of social programs, embarrassment on the world stage (including our record on carbon emissions reduction), vilification of environmental groups, use of taxpayer dollars to promote The Harper Government™, mocking of parliamentary procedure, role in the senate scandal, misuse of stimulus spending, and the generally controlling/manipulative nature of our former prime minister (that's the start of a list) has left a bad taste for many Canadians. In short, we're tired of autocracy, rule by fear, and regressive policies. To be sure, there are positive contributions to Canadian life by the government in the last decade, but even hard-core Conservatives are anxious to move on and focus on what's next for their party.

Countering the negativity is a remarkable and swift set of actions by the new government to re-establish Canada's heart and vision both at home and abroad. We'll have to wait and see how much is "new values" and how much is optics or politics, but the response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, the acceptance of Syrian refugees, the commitment to action at the Paris Climate Conference, and the lifting of gag orders on federal scientists are all good signs that all the talk of change may actually result in change.

Closer to home, we learned a couple of weeks ago that our Prince George School District 57 superintendent has resigned. The staff room/water cooler discussions about the "The Pepper Years" are very interesting (some amount of analysis and judgment is inevitable), as is the speculation about who our next permanent superintendent will be, and what kind of changes we can expect. With a province-wide search underway, the odds are reasonable that our next superintendent could be Gen X, and thus, again, I can feel what I already know, that I am on the older side of the teaching profession. Will a Gen Xer handle things differently than a Baby Boomer? Are there management styles or educational philosophies that are tied to the generation to which one belongs? No doubt other factors are more important, such as vision, character, honesty, or abilities to communicate, problem-solve, and collaborate. Whatever kind of generational change we see, I'm looking forward to comparing the change that gets talked about versus the change that actually takes place.

Monday, November 02, 2015

Draft Curriculum Feedback

I thought I'd post an edited version of what I posted on the BC Ministry of Education site for curriculum feedback <> on Nov 2.  Like the curriculum itself, my thoughts about the 10-12 Drafts are a work in progress. The stuff below is specifically about Social Studies 10 and Human / Physical Geography 11/12. While these are my own views, I have developed many of them in collaboration with other Social Studies teachers.

Please leave your own feedback on the new curriculum -- they have a lot to work to do and will take their cue from the teachers that offer feedback.

1. What do you like about the proposal? Please comment on the core and optional curricula.

I like that the proposal is an attempt to carry the streamlined ideas of the K-9 courses forward for 10-12. Requiring students to take one "Socials" elective after Grade 10 is a bare minimum -- it should be two. Alternately, students should be required to take a set number of credits from Humanities (e.g. English and Socials electives) as well as Math/Science, such that it is natural and encouraged for students to take more than one post-Grade 10 Socials elective.

I appreciate that Social Studies 10 is in a tight position -- does it simply replace the old SS11 minus WWI, allowing it to "breathe" a little in the absence of a Provincial Exam, or does it try to be something new, a true "Social Studies" course that employs multi-disciplinary inquiry to examine Canada and the World in the last 100 years? At this point it is not quite doing either.  Ironically, this is due, in part, to the admirable (but very much history-based) competencies.  The irony is that the heart of the competencies (the so-called "benchmarks of historical thinking" developed by Peter Seixas of UBC among others) are a great way to study history and other related subjects, but as a day-to-day "skills" guide for Social Studies students they might be too much -- they may cloud the other joyous offerings of history (such the art of storytelling) and also cloud the strong role that geographic thinking (and other "competencies") should play in Social Studies. Nonetheless, I'm glad to see the "benchmarks" present as I (and many others) have been using them in Social Studies for years as a way to shift the focus from content-for-content's sake to content as a tool for developing thinking.

I like that Geography has been split into Human and Physical, although this will make it tough for smaller high schools to "fill a block of geography" with an even more specialized choice of courses. I think some teachers will be tempted to combine them where possible, just like some teachers will likely want to combine First Peoples Issues and Social Justice, or will want to include them as part of a larger program. Will this be possible? We don't know enough yet about the Grad Plan, funding model(s), cohort-based programs vs course credits, opportunities for blended learning, etc. It is difficult to apply for an innovation grant or envision how a new program will play without knowing if the proposals will even be possible -- schools have a hard enough time figuring out when their lunch time should start, let alone whether they are ready to upend the timetable to launch something like cross-curricular learning inquiry time/spaces.  I like that geographic thinking and literacy are mentioned (once) in the draft proposal -- this needs to be built on and used in both (new) geography courses.

2. What do you think should be improved? Please comment on the core and optional curricula.

First -- the proposed Social Studies 10. Too much content has been squeezed out of the old Social Studies 9, 10, and 11 into the new SS9, and as a result the new SS10 is, in part, too vague on content. Yes, teachers can now pick and choose the content they will use to address the big ideas and explore the develop the competencies in SS9, but there is too much history that will be glossed over -- if anything it encourages SS9 to be more of a survey course than ever. Speaking of which, the competencies rely so heavily on Seixas' history benchmarks that it takes away from other aspects of Socials, particularly Geography. I think that geographic literacy should have a more prominent role in the SS K-10 curriculum. Assuming SS K-9 will not receive further edits, one thing that can be done is to adjust the new SS10 -- it needs an additional content item: "development of Canadian Identity in the 20th Century at home and on the world stage." This will help make it clear to teachers that events of note in 20th Century Canada will still be something students get to learn about -- the Great Depression, WWII, Canada and the Cold War, Quebec Nationalism, etc. As it stands, there is nothing compelling in the content that suggest teachers need to pay attention to what was once the heart of the old SS11. At present, SS10 looks like a contemporary civics, issues, and human geography course (in fact very much like the old 3-part pre-2004 SS11 without explicit reference to the History section), and yet relies on history-based critical inquiry for competencies and mandates a timeline of 1919-present. If we are to do the job of teaching human geography effectively in the new SS10 (just like we did in SS11), there needs to be a term added to the content item "interconnections between demography, urbanization, environmental issues, and globalization." Between urbanization and environmental issues add "stages of development." Additionally, for the content item "development, structure, and function to Canadian and other economic systems" add "...and their impact on standards of living." This line of inquiry in the old SS11 (why are some nations better off than others and how do we close the gap) was for me, along with "why bother voting," the heart of the course. As for the SS10 Big Ideas -- they are quite generic and basically reiterations of the content and competencies -- they lack the nuance of the SS9 Big Ideas. As such they are not very useful as course organizers or even themes that could guide the construction of units.

Next -- the optional content. Geography 11/12 courses have a few serious issues that need to be addressed. I see that most of the competencies have been copy-and-pasted from other SS courses (the benchmarks of historical thinking plus statements about inquiry). These ones specific to historical thinking should out rather than suggest they should guide geography studies. To a lesser extent, the competencies for 20th Century World History 11/12, Contemporary First Peoples Issues 11/12, and Social Justice 11/12 will also need to be adjusted to make them more discipline-specific. Interdisciplinarity is great, but requires it's own "competencies" separate from those specific to the study of History. As an aside, I would suggest that the biggest support for interdisciplinarity comes from the 3 Core Competencies.

So what to do with Geography 11/12? First the Human Geography 11/12 has too much overlap with the "human geography" aspects of the proposed SS10. It is a rough (and in my mind inaccurate and outdated) survey of topics from post-secondary "human" geography programs put through the filter of the bits of geography that currently exist in Gr 10-12 curriculum. It reads a bit like the chapter headings from a 1980s Geog text, or a list of old Geog courses (Economic, Regional, etc.) prior to the extensive use of technology in gathering and interpreting geographic data, and prior to some wicked developments in Geographic thinking and post-colonial inquiry. There is too much emphasis on resources and not enough on "environment." Content items 3 and 4 should be combined (they are really the same thing). The imbalance can be corrected with more emphasis on place-conscious learning, making sense of human interaction with place, and the prompt to use of many types of texts and data in order to explore themes and thinking in geography (literary sources, photography, video, and especially maps).

The Physical Geography 12 course is primitive but not far from what would be expected -- it is all the "physical" bits from the old Geog 12, especially the geomorphology. I think what it is missing is a window for the inclusion of geology and ecology, two important "subtopics" (arguable of course) in a holistic study of physical geography. A geographer worthy of his or her dirty dirty fingernails will relish the opportunity to share a bit about rocks, plants, and soil. Some colleagues (who stare at clouds) will also want to see a stronger role for atmospheric science in the new course (beyond the existing mention of human interaction with the atmosphere). As mentioned, a discipline-specific set of competencies is needed, as will a decision of whether Physical Geography 12 will count a lab or science credit towards university admission.

In neither geography course is there mention of how technology has shaped geography (e.g. GIS, GPS, satellite imaging). This relates to the need for data literacy, for the need to make geographic data more important in the Geog courses. The Human Geog proposal misses this, although it is mentioned in the Physical Geog competencies -- it appears as if there was the beginning of an attempt with competency #2 to adapt benchmarks of historical thinking to the realm of geographic thinking.

Beyond tech, maps, and discipline-specific data, the other side of the missing coin is sense of what these courses are for. "20th Century World History 11/12" is, arguably, about how our world is still dominated by conflicts and cooperations based on ideas with incredible realizations in the last 100 years.  Why take Human Geography 11/12?  The content (and still-to-be written competencies) need to convey the profound questions about how we relate with place, about the deep impact of environment, about how we read landscapes, and about how we conduct ourselves as humans on the planet. The new curriculum does not prevent this from being the basis of the course, but it does not go very far to encourage it either.

So what do competencies look like in Human Geography (and perhaps Physical Geography)? They could be based on the "five themes of geography" (Location, Place, Human-Environment Interaction, Movement, and Region). They could be based on the "six elements of geography" (The World in Spatial Terms, Places and Regions, Physical Systems, Human Systems, Environment and Society, and The Uses of Geography) or some kind of synthesis of the two. See my blog post about these for references:

Following is a list of focus areas for the application of geographic inquiry. They are somewhere in between "Big Ideas" and "Competencies." If I get around to it, I'd love to work these into specific competencies, but here is where they were at when I blogged about it in 2012.

  • Structure of place - form & function of human and/or physical systems
  • Use of Evidence - selection & interpretation of phenomenon related to human and physical features of past and present landscapes
  • Causality and Change - function of space & time in the evolution of human and physical systems
  • Human-Environment Interaction - mutual impacts and dependencies, modes of adaptation
  • Multi-Disciplinary Perspectives - role of history, sociology, biology, economics, geology, etc. in the study of geography
  • Responsibility and Sustainability - resource ethics, interconnected issues, planning & management

3. Does the core curriculum require anything further to meet the needs of students graduating from BC schools? Please provide details.

Yes -- see comment above for #2 (SS10 needs an additional content item: development of Canadian Identity in the 20th Century at home and on the world stage). Students should not graduate without this basic grounding in Canada's history in the 20th century. As well, "development" and "standards of living" need to be retained in the new SS10 curriculum in order to fully realize the human geography component.

Thursday, October 01, 2015

BYOD if you dare

Some observations related to the state of BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) in School District 57:

1. Since a series of cuts began in 2010, our school district has seen a reduction in:
  • technology leadership (district tech team, tech coaches, key tech contacts, tech innovation grants, tech coordination, etc.)
  • technology options available to teachers (single platform, lack of teacher-directed customization, purchasing restrictions, wifi restrictions, banned devices)
  • school technology budgets (ours is half what it used to be)
  • communication about technology (for example, many of the "decrees" that guide technology decisions can't be found in print)
2. We have not had a "tech plan" since 2005, although in 2011 there was a district meeting in which we learned that cloud computing, support for mobile learning, and BYOD would be the new normal, and a way to address shrinking budgets and "21st Century Learning."

3. We have lots of talented tech analysts who are quick to respond to tech issues, who are experts with networks, and who are able to balance security, stability, and function.

4. We have, in the last two years, had surveys and meetings about renewing technology leadership and support for BYOD & mobile devices.

5. The BCEdplan and various Ministry documents suggest that the internet, not texts or traditional learning resources, will be the main source for curricular material.

Given the above, and that we are well into the 21st Century, is it unreasonable to expect that teachers should be able to access stable wifi on a BYOD in order to a) teach using the internet, and b) print?

This functionality is spotty in our school district, but is available in most public institutions and corporate environments, as well as other school districts. As one of my colleagues puts it, "I get better wifi on a greyhound bus than I do at my school." I would encourage those who are still connected to the decision-making processes around district technology to raise this item up a few notches on the priority list. Our wifi, to put it lightly, has lots of room for improvement.

Monday, September 28, 2015

The new curriculum

BC is part way through a "transformation of the education system" which has, at its heart, curriculum revisions throughout K-12.  Having sat through a number of "new curriculum" sessions in the last year, and even delivered a few, I find it interesting how teachers and other educators talk about it.

"The new curriculum is about _______ (fill in the blank)." It seems to have become all things to all people, even if ________ has little basis in the actual new curriculum. It is a tabula rasa on which educators are placing all of their dreams, goals, and fears about the future of education and all of the justifications for the way they conduct their practice, or wish to.  I know I have done this at times, perhaps influenced by dozens of examples from others in BC. The version I like the best is where teachers (with cause) cite the infinite Choice that the New Curriculum offers. Basically we can now do absolutely anything we want whenever we want, as long as we reference inquiry and/or personalized learning. The curriculum will "allow" more depth, more authenticity, more PBL, more inclusion of Aboriginal learners, more time to follow passions. The teachers that say these things are awesome teachers who do this stuff anyways, so maybe the "NC" just affirms that they will continue to be supported. The open-endedness is reinforced by a curriculum process (e.g. the Ministry process) that has been sufficiently vague along the way about how it will all work, and is still vague regarding where it will end up (the grad plan).

I suppose this speaks to latent hope, and a legitimate need for new approaches to teaching and learning, but is also a bit disturbing as it gives the "new curriculum" a mysterious lustre and the function of an oft-quoted (or alluded) but poorly understood religious text within the milieu of education change. This metaphysical approach shifts curriculum from a guide or a track that has been laid down to a series of interconnected, fluid, and subjective feelings. This work is done by the priests of the new curriculum who are involved in conversion experiences -- from the "old" way of teaching and learning (whatever the heck that is) to the Transformed Way. The conversion is considered to be successful when the inducted teacher can use "21st Century" jargon convincingly and with effect.

I mock it a bit, but I am also intrigued to see where it all ends up. After all, "fervour" is hard to manufacture, and is often a necessary step on the path towards "transformation" in all its forms.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Whither SPSS

Once again the school year dawns and we hear about the elusive School Plan for Student Success (SPSS) -- the annual document that the school submits to the school board office about goals and objectives. My understanding was that our SPSS was not supposed to be a compliance document but should invite and reflect willing, authentic involvement, a "reflection of the conversations that occur in the school" (to quote a former Director of Instruction). Having seen a draft of this year's SPSS, it appears that we are moving away from the SPSS having site-based goals/objectives or local conversations and replacing these with ones from the school district accompanied with statements about 21st Century educators and so on. The examples and data may come from the school, but the overarching goals and questions do not.

In theory the SPSS is a document submitted by the School Planning Council and principal to the Board on behalf of the school. There are a variety of formats and processes behind the SPSS, and they differ substantially from elementary to secondary. Some secondary schools use the SPSS to develop department goals, some have select-area goals, some have school-wide goals, some SPSS documents are made primarily by principals based on data available from the Ministry of Education. We've had all four kinds in our school, and there is no act or policy that governs how this goes, although the district has supplied a variety of suggested templates over the years. The School Planning Council and SPSS are School Act requirements, at least for now, and the requirements listed mention nothing about department goals and so on, although they do contain rules that have fallen out of practice at most schools. Perhaps because of this, the BC Liberal government's Bill 11 actually does away with much of the reporting requirements and mechanisms, including School Planning Councils which have not met for many years.

In the past, department and school involvement came with time in the form of department leadership blocks, "Special Responsibility" blocks, or the use of the administrator's non-instructional day. The time required to build a plan was acknowledged and funded. In the past 11 years, with one or (arguably) two exceptions, we have not had board feedback for staff on the school's SPSS -- these plans have been largely shelved and forgotten. An analysis of past SPSS documents from secondary schools has shown a plethora of problems, including invalid use of data, confusing correlation with causality, statements or data that do not reconcile with parent goals and objectives. I also note that we have not, as a staff, rigorously discussed or reviewed a SPSS in many years.

In short, the SPSS process is broken. There should not be any obligation downloaded on teachers to fix it. We should also be careful not to confuse the SPSS with other successful processes, plans, and discussions we've had at in school over the years, nor does this take away from individual teachers or departments that have found some use in developing plans for the SPSS as a way of focusing their collective intentions for students.

How then to proceed? What's the vision? First, a staff discussion on the value of collective planning and goal-setting is needed. Staff meetings would be one appropriate place to have this discussion, but our staff meetings have avoided having real discussions or decisions and focus instead on information items. Second, time or supplementary pay should be offered for those that want to develop reports based on school or department goals -- keep in mind that this is voluntary work up to the point where the SPSS becomes the mandatory responsibility of the principal. The current leadership group that meets in exchange for a few lieu days does not have an adequate structure or time for facilitating, implementing, and reviewing the planning process. We only have to look at the last job action to remind ourselves that teachers should not be volunteering to fix broken systems or fill the gap left by underfunding. Remember that teachers were locked out from, and then lost 10% of their pay for voluntary duties such as meetings and planning. I for one am not eager to put my own time during lunch and before/after school into a SPSS; there are far more valuable uses of my time including marking, planning, professional development, and collaboration with a diverse learning network in and outside of the school. There are many other ways to move forward, many ways to produce a SPSS or something like it, but I have written and talked about this so many times in the past for staff that I should stop now and leave this theme for others to pick up.

Saturday, August 01, 2015

Journey of the Hathlo

Where to begin? My friend Adrian Barnes, author of Nod ([update:] and Satan à la Mode!) had some sound advice for procrastinating writers (like me) who find elaborate excuses not to write; who, when faced with the greatest story ideas, bury themselves in tangential projects. He said the thing to do if you want to write a novel is to stop waiting for the conditions to be perfect and just start writing. I have no idea how far this will go, but I think I have waited long enough and need to start putting some of my story ideas down on (virtual) paper if only to show an attempt. Amongst the hundreds of story ideas that have occurred to me (as they do anyone with an imagination) I have hatched four big schemes for novels with the potential for more than a nodding interest by myself and an imagined audience. None of them has ever proceeded past an elaborate concept phase, excepting perhaps the "Journey of the Hathlo" as evidenced by a box in my basement filled with notebooks, sketches, jottings, and maps. One of the other ideas for a novel has a narrative that jumps between the near-present logging camps and fishing boats and late 18th Century British Columbia (sea otter trade, Nootka Crisis). A third idea was about a near-future society where the ability to scan thoughts through technology (mind-reading) becomes commonplace and, of course, disastrous for the fundamental unwritten rules of society and the construction of the self. The fourth idea was about differing cultural portrayals (and purposes) of the afterlife from a geographer's perspective. So there it is, an unrealized quadruple threat: fantasy, historical fiction, sci-fi, and non-fiction.

Stories, like plans, are nearly perfect before they are written -- flaws and failure have not been demonstrated, plot and character holes are only temporary abstractions, and the possibilities are endless. They can be pitched in short form without having conclusions in place, and can change direction at the whim of the storyteller. However, the longer one waits, the longer one risks that death will precede publication, or, more practically, that the basic story idea, premise, names, context, title will be used by another. While originality is not always the greatest concern of an author, it is an important part of my procrastination cycle. One of my story ideas involves the journey and saga of a people across ice age landscapes to reach a new home. Should I be staking a claim to the internet address It is troubling to consider (especially in light of Adrian's advice), that I have probably spent more time thinking about domain registry than I have actually writing this story that has been swirling around me for over twenty years. I have also spent more time pouring over maps, studying glacial landscapes (in particular, sea level change and post-glacial ecology), and drawing my own maps than I have in writing, at least in a form that can be shared with others.

The origin of this story goes back a long way for me, perhaps in broad terms to my close reading of the works of Tolkien as a youngster, but more specifically to a period in the early 1990s when I began to think about what a mythology for British Columbia might look like, or more accurately what it would sound like. A number of events and thought experiments coalesced during that time, some of which had been building (as they do in all stories) from a rootmass of older self-moderated tales and memories. The machinery of the story as I see it today took on form as a result of three peculiar events -- a vision, a dream, and the lingering impressions of a daytrip. There were other events that fed this story, but these three stand out to me as significant.

1. The Vision
As I recall it now, I drove up alone in the failing light of a fall night in 1992 to a friend's rural property south of Chilliwack in the Ryder Lake area. After letting myself in the gate and parking my truck, I walked across the property past the fields and forest with my sleeping bag and a pillow to a one-room cabin tucked on a wooded knoll, a place I helped build. To the south lay the Chilliwack River Valley, known by a low rumble coming up from far below as I approach the knoll. The sound of a youthful river is like a rushing wind or rolling thunder, but comes mainly from rocks dragging, shifting and tumbling along the river bed. Rising beyond the Chilliwack River are the first mountains of the Skagit Range, the Canadian part of the Cascades. Somewhere up on the flanks of Church Mountain, I saw a light, perhaps from a dirt bike or 4x4, a spark against the canopy of dark forest and night sky. Maybe this was some late-evening adventurer looking for the way down or some dirt road campers looking to settle in for the night.  In my mind's eye, the lights multiplied, and came from many fires or torches. The river's rumble became the low notes of a great song, and the fires began to move downslope. It was a clan of warriors and families of warriors, the Hathlo, descending the mountain with joy and terror. They had awoken from some great sleep and were roaring towards the coast, as if they had waited a thousand years to begin their song and complete some quest. In my jottings and drafts this later became a great thawing set toward the end of the last Ice Age, and behind the singing warriors came a great flood of meltwater that would destroy much of the forest along with their enemies.

2. The Dream
This strange night occurred in late Spring, 1994, while camping in the Kootenays. I was tenting along on the edge of lake at a Forest Service Rec Site (was it Mabel Lake?), most of the way through a solitary road trip, and on that particular night I was having a hard time getting to sleep. I suppose I was at a turning point on the journey, no longer rapt by the lakes and streams, the forest and mountains, the towns and sites of interest.  On my mind was the letting go of the school year, my last in at the University of BC, and coming to terms with the Summer work ahead and the decisions I would have to make about the Fall. Should I aim for more work with the forest consultant firm, or was it time to put in that application to teacher training? That night, when I finally left for the Land of Nod, I had a dream that haunts me to this day. The scene, emerging slowly and inconsistently as they sometimes do in dreams, was set mostly around a campfire in a dense wood, near to a stream but very dark save the the bright flames in the pit and the stars above. There were a few people around the fire, sometimes they were friends but at parts of the dream they became strangers; for some moments I noticed that I was alone. There was music. It came from our voices, and from a guitar someone produced, and from echoes in the forest that returned our song in the form of new instruments. At some point we realized the music was not coming from us anymore but from another guest at the fire, an enormous Sasquatch. The music had the complexity of a symphony, and a story unfolded about the last 100,000 years of the Pacific Northwest, each part about a different time and location. I've come to understand this to mean that each movement dwelt on an Age of the late Pleistocene and Holocene Epochs, moving progressively south along the coastal regions of Alaska, BC, and Washington State. If there were words for the music, I'm not sure they were audible; perhaps the Sasquatch spoke to us directly beyond the song, but there was definitely a narrative woven through the entire piece. Sasquatch strummed away at his guitar and hummed or did something like singing, and we came to understand the untold tale of the land as witnessed by a vanished people and a collective of Sasquatches, of whom this one was likely the last. As so often happens in my dreams, the details turned towards each other, a proliferation of resemblances, and were known as much by what I didn't remember as what I did. When I woke, or rather when I was aware that what I was experiencing belonged more to my conscious reality than something deeper beneath, a great sadness came over me. I wept from the beauty of the song, and also the realization that the deeper themes, story, and meaning of the song was slipping away from me and could only be experienced once. Over the years I have built up the story of the Hathlo around the bare fragments of that song that remain. More importantly, at times when I am present and connected to, I feel that I am singing that song still,  adding some small part to the ongoing whole, making some small impression on the Holocene. If this all sounds too serious, just google image search sasquatch playing guitar and things will actually seem quite silly.

3. The Daytrip
This memory of a quick trip up Knight Inlet and back has stuck in my head for years. It was less about advancing the stories in my head and more about the physical and emotional tones that would influence my understanding of setting. The sights, sounds, and smells of this day did more to affect my ongoing vision of a story taking place than the thousands of other experiences I have had in the wilderness. I need some time to put this day in perspective, and will come back to this on a later date. I think the story of that day might be a nice way to remember some of the time I spent doing forestry work, even if it was a one-off along the BC Coast compared to the years I spent in the interior of BC and Northern Alberta as an ecosystem geographer.

So, there it is, either a commitment to get some of my stories down in print, or perhaps an elaborate scheme for further procrastination. Jotting the ideas here for my unknown audience (I'm not sure I really blog for anyone but myself, anyways) feels pretty good, though. It reminds me that stories can be be beautiful (and yes, perfect) even when incomplete and unrecorded.  Storytelling is something we do, something that fashions our individual and collective identity, even when the process is internal. If I remember my Daniel Dennett correctly, consciousness itself can be understood as a narrative centre of gravity; the stories we tell ourselves about our own experience that eventually wear "identity paths" in our brains.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015


Here's a photo from a student Social Studies project showing five generations in one family, the youngest in the photo being the student's mother. It is remarkable to think about the potential of intergenerational wisdom; in fact this idea is what formed the foundation for two kinds of student Heritage projects at my school. Not just wisdom but also humour, purpose, shame, awe, controversy, destiny, grief, and inspiration.

I've worked with our school's teacher-librarian over the years to encourage our students to interview their elders, and to think about how their generation might see things differently than the one(s) that came before. Not everything works along generational lines, but it is a practical way for students to conceptualize the last 150 years.  One of the things my teacher-librarian and I chat about is what to call the next cohort of students in our school -- the generation that follows the so-called Millennials.

Here's a list of the generations previous:
  • Generation Y / The Millennials / The Echo Generation -- c.1982 - c.2006
  • Generation X -- c.1965 - c.1984
  • Baby Boomers -- 1946 - c.1964
  • The Silent Generation / Lucky Few -- c.1925 - c.1945 
  • The Greatest Generation / G.I. Generation -- c.1901 - c.1924
  • The Lost Generation -- c.1883 - c.1900
Here's what we came up with so far for the next generation -- c.2005 - ?:
  • Generation Z
  • The Quantum Gen
  • Hyperconnected Gen / Networked Gen
  • Meme Gen
  • Post-Carbon / Green Gen
Characteristics: Those born after the creation of popular online social networks, after global acceptance of climate change (and the gloom therein) but also after global shift in growth rate from exponential back to linear. Most of the world's poorer nations of the world have transitioned from early expanding, underdeveloped status to become newly industrialized with declining birth rates. China overtakes Japan and Germany to rival the United States in economic status. Globalization and pervasive, hyperconnected mobile technology dominate all aspects of life. Advances in science have given us insight into the cosmos as well as the basic building blocks of life and matter.

Why the name choices?

Gen Z - for Zombie of course - a revived symbol of deathlessness to go along with Vampires, Werewolves and such. These timeless denizens underwent a revival since the publication of Twilight in 2005, but do we really want that event to mark the beginning of a generation?  In 2005, Aubrey de Grey predicted, in a TED talk, that the generation that will live forever has already been born. While he didn't have Zombies in mind, the idea fits -- the focus is on the next 100 years and not the last.  In education it is around 2005 when educational marketers and pundits start pushing the "21st century" learner, teacher, education system and so on.  Better late than never.  The students of the new century are supposed to be less concerned about fixed states of learning (including subject areas) and more about creativity, collaboration, and critical thinking.

Quantum Gen - a quantum is essentially the smallest entity that comprises some larger whole, it is a reduction of complex systems down to the basic parts.  This is a fitting metaphor for the way in which modern sciences (including social sciences) have growing confidence that we can actually understand ideas that were previously immutable, particularly as it relates to the brain, genome research, biotechnology, and different kinds of physics. This is the generation that will see transhuman experimentation (cyborgs), mind control, and perhaps interstellar travel. Read Asimov's Foundation series for the blueprint.

Networked Gen / Hyperconnected - Speaking of 2005, this is also the year that Youtube is created.  A year later it's Twitter.  During these years, Facebook turns from a college online yearbook to a wide-open social network.  These three form the unholy Trinity of Social Media that would shape the existing generations and create new conditions for the one that follows.  Sorry, Myspace.

Meme Gen - This is also the generation that saw the rise of memes, both as a philosophical/psychological/linguistic term about cultural transmission, and of course the popularized meme which is about mimicry, deconstructing (or debasing) cultural detritus, and use of familiar images, catchphrases, and media in order to be witty on the internet.

Post-Carbon / Green Gen - The Earth is witnessing affects of environmental crises, notably as a result of climate, but also the possibility that exponential population growth is turning back to linear.  Nations are finally taking carbon emissions seriously after mixed results of the Kyoto Protocal.  Bali and Copenhagen Summits set new goals, and governments have shown a new willingness to put controls on carbon and seek energy alternatives.  Alas, much wishful thinking here and Greed could stand in for Green often as not.

Please feel free to critique these or suggest some new ones.

Sept 2015 update: just read an interesting article about the extent to which Americans identify with their generational labels:

Thursday, April 09, 2015

What's the deal with teacher Pro-D days?

What's the deal with teacher Pro-D days?
...some Q&A related to teacher Professional Development (PD)

What kinds of things do teachers do to develop professionally?
  1. Attend a conference/workshop locally.
  2. Attend a conference/workshop regionally/provincially/nationally/internationally.
  3. Attend a workshop/conference or summer institute/course.
  4. Be a sponsor teacher for a student teacher.
  5. Become a BCTF PD associate, and carry on the Teachers Teaching Teachers Tradition.
  6. Become a BCTF Program Against Racism or Status of Women Program associate, and carry on the Teachers Teaching Teachers Tradition.
  7. Become active in your local association.
  8. Becoming a facilitator, and give a workshop locally, regionally, or provincially.
  9. Begin/continue university studies.
  10. Develop innovative programs for use in your classroom.
  11. Develop an annual personal PD plan, and maintain a PD portfolio.
  12. Explore the possibilities of bringing the BCTF’s Program for Quality Teaching to your local.
  13. Form/join a teacher research group.
  14. Participate in group planning.
  15. Hop on the Internet through BCTF Online or another PD site.
  16. Job-shadow in a related work situation.
  17. Join a professional organization/network: Provincial specialist association (33 within the BCTF),  Local specialist association/Local Chapter of a PSA, International network (ASCD, MSCD)
  18. Mentor a beginning teacher.
  19. Observe another teacher, and talk together about the lesson/program.
  20. Participate in curriculum development.
  21. Pilot curriculum/program.
  22. Read professional literature.
  23. Reflect, discuss, and research for the purpose of planning individual or group ongoing professional development.
  24. Develop the discipline of reflective journal keeping.
  25. Serve as your school’s PD representative.
  26. Share with colleagues what you found at a conference/workshop.
  27. Subscribe to/read professional journals.
  28. Watch professional videos.
  29. Work on a provincial committee (MoE or BCTF).
  30. Work on the Local Ed-Change Committee.
  31. Work on your local’s PD committee.
  32. Work with a colleague to discuss, observe, and critique a lesson/program (peer coaching).
  33. Write professional articles for your local’s newsletter, your PSA’s publications, or Teacher newsmagazine.
Source: Tools for Self-directed Professional Development -

Do teachers only do PD on PD days?

No.  Teachers have a formal focus on PD during PD days but they continue this work all year long.  Teachers are life-long learners and PD is something that comes with the job along with planning and assessment even when this is above and beyond the working day.  Outside of PD days, almost all PD that teachers do is voluntary and their our own time.

Where do these PD days come from? 

Teachers have 5 PD days per school year -- these were added provincially to the year by mutual agreement (employer/union) a long time ago in recognition of the need for teachers to take the time they need to improve their practice. This is separate from inservice or training that the employer provides for things like learning required software, first aid, discussing district plans or new programs, or getting certified for tasks required by the employer.  It is also different than the yearly "Ministerial Orders day" or "Implementation Day" that is used to study and act on school, district, and provincial goals. Most districts schedule this "Admin Day" at the beginning of the year.  All of the "non-instructional days" are placed in the school calendar by school boards, usually by mutual agreement between the teacher union and school district staff.

Are all PD days the same? 

One Pro-D day in October is designated as a "provincial day" with many Provincial Specialist Association conferences taking place. Another day is usually set aside for some kind of district or regional conference. The other three are considered "school-focus" days although these can feature individual pro-d as well as mini-conferences or multi-school activities. Some districts have a mid-year "semester turn-around" day for secondary teachers but this, too, is a PD day in which teachers engage in professional learning. On all PD days, there are often a variety of PD events taking place, some planned (small group, school, and district level) and some impromptu (usually individual or small group).

Do teachers have to attend on a Pro-D Day? 

Yes, every teacher must engage in professional development on PD days, but it looks different between teachers and between schools. On all PD days, PD is teacher-directed and voluntary in nature -- teachers decide on their PD and do it. Many schools make specific plans for PD days, and while participation in these school PD events is recommended, it is not mandatory. This ensures that teachers are also free to design their own PD specific to their classroom needs and so they can attend PD events in other schools or districts.

What constitutes acceptable PD on a PD day? 

Simply put, good PD is something deliberate and learning-focused that improves a teacher's practice, makes him or her a better educator, and will benefit students. As a local PD committee chair, I ask teachers to consider the following suggestions: teacher study group, action research (inquiry project or learning team), attending or presenting at a conference, participating with a LSA or PSA (specialist associations), mentoring a new teacher, building curriculum, reading professional journals/books related wither to teaching or your subject area, watching professional videos (e.g. podcasts/online talks), taking a non-credit online course, gathering evidence for your own submission to an educational journal, attending or presenting at a workshop or share session, facilitating a staff or small group discussion on a relevant topic, doing a make-and-take with colleagues for a new lesson idea, visiting another school to inspect programs or review resources, connecting with a district expert in your field, have a teacher do a demo lesson for subject-area teachers, creating a learning resource for use with your students, inviting a guest to speak to a group of colleagues about a relevant topic, conducting an Ed Camp or Open Space meeting (google these), having a Critical Friends or Socratic Dialogue with other teachers (google these). Some teachers find that good PD can be finishing a curriculum or assessment project that was started but never finished, or just sitting down with colleagues to discuss what is happening for them in their classes and seeing where the conversation leads. Other teachers prefer formal activities with specific learning intentions. Teachers use professional judgement and end up with something that is meaningful for them and their students.

What does not constitute acceptable PD on a PD day? 

Teachers know that they should not use PD days for marking, lesson planning for the upcoming week, cleaning and organizing their classrooms, and parent or student meetings. Teachers avoid extra-curricular activities on PD days including coaching and tournament set-up. Teachers that need to give up their PD days (like any other working day) to coach or do something else must submit a leave application and seek a release or lieu day from his/her administrator. Teachers avoid working on school or district improvement plans during PD days because the employer should provide time for this or do it on their "admin day" or in-service time. There are also some grey areas. Teachers working on a Masters Degree, for example, will find that many of their tasks involve professional reading, research, dialogue, writing, and technology. Teachers use their professional judgement to draw the line between coursework-inspired PD that benefits their practice versus specific tasks required in a course (e.g. writing a paper or participating in an online meeting). School or department meetings can also be a grey area -- if they advance the individual professional goals of teachers and have a learning focus, they can be considered PD, but they can also eat up time that teachers might wish to spend doing PD they've designed for yourself. It's an individual teacher's call to make, not the school or department's call.  Principals do not need to approve teacher PD plans, although it is fair for principals to request information about where teachers will be and what they'll be doing, as long as it fits the description of PD. In some districts teachers build and submit PD plans to their principal, but in most districts this is voluntary.

Does PD have to take place in a school? 

It depends. PD usually takes place in schools, but some events are planned for other spots such as a conference centre, rented facility, field location, Native Friendship Centre, museum, college or university, etc. PD can take place outside of a teacher's district, but this goes through an application process with a local PD Committee, School Principal, or Board Office, and requires a leave application. With very few exceptions, PD does not take place at a location that is not intended as either a worksite or a meeting place (e.g. someone's house). Teachers use this Rule of Thumb: If your out-of-school PD activity is not an organized/advertised event within the school district designed primarily as teacher PD, you should be at your school or joining an activity at another school.

What does the BCTF say about PD days? 

See background reading at

Here is a key bit: 30.A.19 — "That the member, as an autonomous professional, determines, in concert with BCTF colleagues and/or the local union, the content of professional development activities scheduled for professional development days, and further, that professional development days are not used for school goal setting and/or School Improvement Plans, marking accountability assessment tools, or voluntary activities (e.g., sports tournaments, science fairs, music festivals, drama productions.)"

The guiding principle is that PD choices require teachers to think about what's best for their teaching practice and their students, and engage in professional learning that individual teachers have designed to improve their work with students. As professionals, teachers have both autonomy and responsibility to each other to engage in professional development, and as employees they have a duty to complete professional development activities on PD days because they have agreed to use these work days for this purpose.

What are my favourite forms of PD?
  1. Use a face-to-face get-together with a familiar circle of colleagues to "unpack, mull, and fuse" -- make sense of the professional learning and teaching stories that have occurred over the last month. Learning to trust other teachers to have a role in my practice gives me a sense of community, that I am not alone but part of a larger effort to help students develop.
  2. Use Social Media (like Twitter) to engage with a personal learning network, scan educational links and articles, or join live chats with other educators.  While I like structured workshops or activities when they are well-organized, I often get the most value when my PD time is spontaneous.
  3. Map out an educational ecosystem -- lay out a big poster and make lists, webs, and sketches of what's happening in a teaching context (class, dep't, school): values, goals, evidence of progress, schemes, unifying projects, new roles for parents, observations on inclusion and differentiation, etc.  This really helps lay the foundation for course planning and gives me a sense of purpose when I design lessons.
What does a great PD day look like?

Here's one example -- the big annual educational conference in my school district:

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Thoughts on the 99th BCTF AGM

Intended audience: Prince George District Teachers's Association.  Thanks to other PGDTA delegates who have already shared their observations, vote tallies, etc.

These are my own views here; not necessarily the views of the PGDTA, although I certainly tried to represent the PGDTA!

First, a glossary of terms for those unfamiliar with the internal structure of the BCTF

AGM = Annual General Meeting - c. 700 delegates from across the BCTF debating up 50-80 resolutions (from locals) that each intend to shift the organization in a large or small way. Many of these are tabled or do not reach the floor. This group also elects the EC.

RA = Rep Assembly - 3x/year meeting of c. 350 "Local Representatives" and local presidents to set budgets, receive reports, debate new motions and revisit motions not dealt with at the AGM. They typically "get more done" than the AGM does, although it is still bound by politics, agendas, and debate strategies (e.g. filibustering) employed at the larger meeting.

EC = Exec committee - Pres, 1st VP, 2nd VP, and 10 members-at-large (MAL) who, through meetings and sub-committees, set direction for the BCTF including finances, member services, philosophy, social justice campaigns and projects, PR tactics re gov't and public, and bargaining.

COALITION = a "party" or syndicate within the BCTF - somewhat organized group of district reps who have more or less controlled the EC since 1999 and have built a reputation for the BCTF as a social justice union. They are, arguably, the successors to a left/progressive group called "Teacher Viewpoint" (TV) that was active in the BTCF in the 1980s and 90s but found itself in a minority on key issues around the structure of the union after 1987. The current Coalition is made up of some large locals, mainly from lower mainland, and most of the small unamalgamated locals.

INDEPENDENTS = another syndicate within the BCTF - until recently this was a less organized group of district reps who have built strategic or pragmatic campaigns to offer alternative EC candidates and motions at AGMs and RAs. At some point in they shifted from being a loose alliance of like-minded locals to being an actual voting block like the Coalition. They are, arguably, the successors to a group called "Teachers for a Unified Federation" (TUF) that split from the TV in 1986 and formed a majority on key issues from 1987-1999 (think Kit Krieger). The Independents are often associated with cost-savings measures and placing direct member services ahead of other priorities.

NON-AFFILIATED = AGM delegates or EC candidates that do not adhere to the party system or align themselves with either one. Technically everyone is free to vote their conscience, and many did, but in reality there is a tendency for locals to vote together on key issues -- maybe based on shared values, maybe based on affiliations with a "party." Most of the time, the two "camps" play nice with each other and share many views or common goals. There are annoying individuals on both sides, though, who exaggerate the differences and seek to provoke. Ironically, these seemed to be the ones with emotional pleas for unity at the mic, and suggest that this "yes" or that "no" will tear apart our union. For this reason, many delegates, although ready to vote with their "peeps," are not keen to declare loyalty to one syndicate or the other, or insist that the syndicates do not actually exist as parties, merely fluid alliances.

Observations on the 99th BCTF AGM

1) While there is a party system at play within the BCTF, it does not account for all of the direction taken by the EC, nor does it precisely explain the voting patterns, although it may come close. The intense vote-whipping of the past (often associated with the Coalition) was not obvious here; if anything it seemed the Independents were putting more pressure on their delegates to "think as one." There are many issues where teachers simply recognized that a progressive action was needed, and voting was near unanimous. One could say that there is a financial restraint theme and a social justice theme running through many motions, and that delegates gravitate towards one of these themes based on their own values, many of which are shared with others in their local. Personally, my vote was also influenced by the quality of the motion, including grammatical mistakes and far-fetched assumptions, regardless of the prevailing theme. I voted for most of the cost-savings measures, but I also supported many social justice advocacy positions that did not have costs attached (e.g. agree that BCTF should advocate against cuts to CBC). I spoke against a motion to oppose the "BC Skills for Jobs Blueprint," not because the Blueprint lacks serious deficits, but because the motion contained a convoluted list of problematic conditions for opposing the Blueprint. To fix the motion, amendment by amendment, would have taken all day. Wisely, this one was referred to the EC for further consideration.

2) The "Anti-126" lobby was aggressive and controversial. This was the resistance from small unamalgamated locals (and their Coalition allies) to remove their presidential grants through Resolution 126. An extreme case, Stikine, has only 22 members but has a full-time president paid for by BCTF, although their four schools face extreme isolation and travel time. Lake Cowichan provides a better example of why presidential grants are an issue. This unamalgamated local has 30-something teachers, a full-time president, and is 20 minutes from the Cowichan local with 450 teachers and official recognition by the district's board office. At the last minute Quesnel's Resolution 126 was withdrawn. The rationale given was that the anti-126 tactics were divisive and that the QTA did not want to further contribute to disunity within the BCTF. Two views on this move: a) their point was made; withdrawing the motion was a conciliatory gesture, or b) withdrawing the motion removed a controversial issue that may have stuck to Independents candidates. Another motion on reforming presidential grants, PGDTA's Resolution 130, was rejected.

3) A big part of the AGM is the election of the EC. This year the Pres (Iker - Coalition), 1st VP (Hansman - Coalition? -- some say he is now non-affiliated), 2nd VP (Mooring - Independents) were acclaimed. 3 Coalition member-at-large candidates were elected to the EC (Sanyshyn, Ball, and Chaddock-Costello) and 2 from the Independents (Johnston and Steer). I am no expert on the politics, just trying to figure it out really, but my scan of the current EC (3 table officers and 8 MAL) shows 5-6 for the Coalition and 5-6 for the Independents. I imagine this results in great debate at the EC table, but also opportunities for creative solutions and compromises. This reflects the last year on the EC as well, with the possible result being that we did not se fee increases this year and in fact saw a small cap placed on the growth of the International Solidarity Fund. For the most part the competition at this AGM was civil, unlike last year where battles and accusations took place at the mic and in the social media backchannels. One example of questionable politicking this year was a candidate using campaign flyers as draw tickets for prizes, and then announcing draw winners at the mic throughout the AGM. Each day the tables were festooned with campaign swag and pamphlets, although a resolution was passed that next year the candidates are restricted to a written statement and buttons -- no size limit on the buttons, though... I'm expecting some will be a metre across and lit by neon.

4) Aside from various motions aimed at controlling finances, there were some that invited the BCTF to focus more on member issues and member engagement and less on professional/social issues and battles with third parties. Resolution 134 asked the BCTF to only adopt public positions on matters that aligned with the actual Goals of the BCTF. This would effectively limit many of the pet projects like fighting fossil fuels, protecting health care, issuing warnings about the dangers of wifi, etc. I think the idea is that these are all great causes, but lie outside the mandate of the BCTF. Resolutions 141, 143, 147, and 150 all sought a one-member-one-vote (OMOV) system, and were all defeated. I got the sense that this was least popular among the Coalition types. Perhaps this threatens delegates that wonder if they actually represent a majority of their members. There were arguments that OMOV would favour large locals in the urban centres, or that that campaigning would now be perpetual/provincial and would favour the wealthy and the incumbents. It may have also been a non-starter with long-time BCTF activists of all stripes -- if we had OMOV, and kept up with 3 RAs per year, for what exactly would we need the AGM?

5) It seems to me that systemic or at least persistent issues in the BCTF, e.g. the unamalgamated locals, spending priorities, voting procedures, etc. are not easily resolved at the AGM (or the RA for that matter). The process is too unwieldy and too political. Some kind of sustained dialogue, with a mandate to create proposals, and the legitimacy of leaders present, needs to occur. This could and should happen within the EC itself, but does not do so to the satisfaction of all, although they did have a number of useful and logical recommendations on the floor. One fellow I talked to (the Kootenay-Columbia president) had a good suggestion: a gathering pf presidents with the purpose of coming up with new plan for member representation, geographic and demographic allowances, and presidential grant reform. Others suggested a constitutional assembly with the mandate to propose new formulas and reforms. Regardless of the way forward, having one-off AGM motions that chip away at the BCTF's sacred cows has not been generally successful. Many of these motions, while motivated by desire for accountable spending, etc., would also hamstring the EC and limit the BCTF's ability to do some things it does well. Other motions simply overburden the BCTF with new causes, new committees, and "studies." These piecemeal efforts help make individual local's views known, but are as effective as running alongside a moving train and asking firmly that the conductors change direction.

6) One of the elephants in the room (wouldn't be a fun AGM without them!) was the financial situation of the BCTF.  It was not clear to me whether or not we were in deficit mode, nor that we were on track to refill the Collective Bargaining Defense Fund (CBDF) by 2019.  In the past, it seemed the solution to deficit was to raise the member dues, rather than to look for cost savings -- this choice seems to mark a key difference between the Coalition and Independents. The membership dues did not go up this year (although the BCTF has a higher revenue because our salaries have risen).  Currently we pay 1.79% of our salary in BCTF dues. This works out to about $1300 for the average teacher. Ten years ago we paid 1.38% of our salary, or about $1000 for the average teach (in 2015 dollars). This increase is often explained by the costs associated with our Supreme Court challenges since 2002. At some point a few years ago (2012 I think), the EC recommended an increase as a temporary measure, but our dues have only ever gone up, not down, as far as I can tell. The lack of strike pay last year came up a few times.  On the one hand, we held the line based on our convictions and did so despite the strike fund drying up in 3 days.  On the other hand, we sent the message that the BCTF was broke and did not place a high enough value on the CBDF and its members to keep it topped up in the years leading up to the inevitable show-down.  Interesting, a topic that was avoided was whether or not our bargaining strategy and strike were worth it in terms of the deal we got.  I hope that discussion does take place somewhere where it can be of value.  My personal view is that, with a reduced fee level set at the AGM (e.g. 1.5% of salary) we should leave the EC and RA to hammer out the details on how our money should be spent, but they should do so with more active consultation of all members through neutral polling. I believe our union dues are the highest in Canada and our organization has reached "labyrinthine" status -- I think we could accomplish our objectives (including international solidarity, pro-d, bargaining, etc.) with a smaller BCTF bureaucracy and a lower fee level.

7) The AGM is a great opportunity to meet colleagues and have meaningful "teacher" conversations -- not everything happens at the mic. Speaking of which, I went to the mic a number of times; admittedly the main reason was to "call the question" when the debate was going in circles. I was also busy on twitter, and found myself defending the various reasons why the presidential grants needed to change to provide more equity and consistent representation within the BCTF. Serious stink-eye on that one -- these small locals saw this as an attack on a decades-old way of doing union business, and likened it to the BC Liberals slashing services and cutting costs in the Education system. Other members of the PGDTA delegation each contributed in their own way -- taking notes, speaking at the mic, engaging others in dialogue on issues. I think that the delegations do not need to be as big as they are. The Empress-hosted AGM (and 3 RAs) are very expensive and could do with some consolidation. I figure the AGM alone must cost the BCTF $1 million.

8) The AGM also featured a number of special speakers. Besides a First Nations welcome from a Tsouke elder and few different speeches from Jim Iker and others in the EC, we heard from Paul Faoro (CUPE-BC), Teresa Resanzoff (BCSTA - trustees president), Bob Taverner (RTA, retired teacher from PG), Nicole Makohoniuk (BCCPAC - parents), Irene Lazinger (former BCTF president, new BC Fed president), John Horgan (BC NDP leader), Stewart Phillip (Grand Chief, Union of BC Indian Chiefs), Diane Woloschuk (president Canadian Teachers' Federation), some more I have forgotten (i may have nodded off a bit during the pension plan presentation), and a number of award recipients including a lifetime BCTF membership for Jim Sinclair, outgoing BC Fed president. A little something for everyone.

That's probably enough -- if you're still reading this some cap doffing is in order... moved and seconded.