Your ELAC President's Message
It is an interesting exercise to stop occasionally and reflect on how one got to this particular time and this particular place. We don’t often have, or take, the time for this reflection - especially during the school year when we are inundated by the many tasks that are part of our profession. I am writing this in August, during the proverbial calm before the storm: another year of teaching, and also my year as President of the English Language Arts Council. How ever did I get here?
Early in my teaching career, veteran teachers made sure I knew about ELAC and encouraged me to join it as my specialist council. Over the years, I attended a conference or regional event here and there, and looked forward to my copy of Alberta Voices. I recognized the value of ELAC, and a desire to be involved in some form hovered around the edges of my mind but there always seemed a reason to hold off: a difficult teaching load; dealing with ill parents; having babies; switching boards; taking courses. In other words, life happened.
In 2016, I decided that I was ready to commit to working with ELAC. Many of my colleagues were involved, and I could see how valuable and enjoyable the work was. Unfortunately, when the AGM and election came around, the only position that was available for me was President-Elect. It seemed preposterous to even consider putting my name forward for this position as I didn’t have any previous experience on the executive council. I was put in touch with a past president who had come into her role similarly – jumping into the thick of things without having been on the executive previously. After speaking to her, learning more about what the role would entail, and being reassured that other council members would not be appalled at my presumption, I put my name forward and was elected.
ELAC has provided me with so many opportunities to develop professionally: attending the National Council for Teachers of English Annual Convention; being involved in curriculum redesign with Alberta Education; as well as learning how to include and empower LGBTQ and FNMI voices in the English classroom through mini-conferences hosted by the council. ELAC has also allowed me to connect with other ELA teachers from across the province, rural and urban, across the spectrum of grades, and from a variety of teaching experiences: the traditional classroom, outreach, distance learning. And finally, ELAC has, and continues to be, revitalizing. I believe we all reach a point in our careers when we are comfortable and cruising along, and we need an impetus to challenge us to move beyond our comfort zone and question what we have always done.
During the school year, when we are swamped, it is almost a knee-jerk reaction to say “no” when asked to add something to our already full plates. We couldn’t possibly take on anything else! And while we are undoubtedly busy, there are many ways to be involved in helping the newest members of our profession and to continually improve our own teaching practice. Whether you can give just a little time occasionally or are able to provide a larger commitment, the right opportunity is out there: host a session at the Beginner Teachers Conference or your local Teacher Convention; contribute to Alberta Voices; attend a regional ELAC event; become a member-at-large of ELAC or even consider being on the executive. The rewards of being involved are worth the time!Shelley-Grey Sortland