The first day of school is the most important day of the school year. As a teacher and principal, I came to appreciate all the promise and possibility a new school year brings.
As president of BC Principals’ and Vice-Principals’ Association, I have the honour of representing more than 2,300 principals and vice-principals who positively contribute to students’ lives and ensure our public school system remains one of the best in the world.
A recent Supreme Court of Canada ruling regarding class size and composition has resulted in an influx of thousands of new teachers to BC’s public education system. As an association, we applaud the restoration of resources and services to support all students, and in particular, our most vulnerable learners.
This is a time of exciting and positive change within public education. I wish to remind parents that the changes are ongoing. BC has been touted internationally as an education superpower and our principals and vice-principals are committed to building upon that success.
Since the announcement in March, school districts, principals and vice-principals have been working diligently to staff schools to meet the needs of all students. However, despite concentrated efforts throughout the end of the last school year and the summer, many teaching positions in the province remain unfilled.
As a principal, I never slept well the night before the first day of school. Many hours and weeks of work to prepare a school for a successful opening created a combination of part excitement and part anticipation, with a little anxiety tossed into the mix that thwarted restful nights.
With the unprecedented hiring of new teachers this year, I know the anxiety level is higher than usual. With that in mind and as September gets underway, parents should keep the following in mind if they come face to face with surprises later this year.
If your child’s school opens without a full staff of teachers, a reconfiguration of classes may become necessary later. Principals and vice-principals will work diligently to ensure all children have the smoothest and most successful start to the school year.
At the secondary level, timetables for students may be incomplete. As the hiring process continues, classes might require a reshuffle and timetables could change.
Teaching-on-call lists are thin as many on-call teachers were hired into full-time positions. Teachers have excellent attendance records, but as we enter the cold and flu season, it may be difficult to find on-call teachers to replace absent teachers (in many instances, principals and vice-principals will cover classes).
With an unprecedented number of new teachers in the system, principals and vice-principals will spend more time coaching and mentoring their newest teachers to ensure a successful start to their careers and a stable and nurturing learning environment for children.
For many years, challenges in public education have been to do more with less. Our new challenge is to use additional personnel and resources to ensure they have maximum positive impact on student success.
While this system-wide change may create some short-term challenges, I am confident the able and compassionate principals and vice-principals of this province will ensure children in their care are well taken care of. The challenges will be short-lived, but the benefits will be enduring.
Kevin Reimer is president of BC Principals’ and Vice-Principals’ Association.