Be there for every student, deputy education minister tells teacher candidates
Education can ‘change the arc of someone’s life,’ keynote speaker at this year’s EdCon notes; says helping difficult children most rewarding
The first school that Gerald Farthing attended was a one-room schoolhouse with only nine other children. But when the deputy education minister sent his own children to school, theirs had 800 students, he told Faculty of Education teacher candidates during his keynote speech at EdCon, held during Reading Week.
“It was a totally different experience than what I had. As a teacher you need to be really mindful that your students will bring different experiences,” Farthing told a packed auditorium of teacher candidates on Feb. 17 during his speech, which was peppered with inspiring advice and tips about their chosen careers.
Farthing also told the crowd that one of the most important things they need to remember when they begin teaching jobs roles is that they should try to be there for every student, no matter how difficult or challenging that student is.
“It is really hard not to turn away from that kid.” But if a child is struggling, help from a caring and supportive teacher can actually “change the arc of a student’s life,” he said—making teaching one of the more rewarding careers out there.
Farthing also spoke about the huge demands placed on teachers in the current climate. Teachers face many expectations on their time and a huge curriculum, he said. “You are going to feel that there is not enough time to teach everything there is to teach. You will have to manage that.”
And he noted that there may be proposed changes coming to the curriculum this fall. Farthing said the government has taken notice of teachers who are saying that the curriculum is just too big. “There are teachers who do have that as a legitimate concern.”
While he acknowledged that perhaps some changes need to be made to those expectations by the government, he urged teacher candidates not to become cynical.
Farthing said some of the most pressing issues in the field include improving graduation rates of Aboriginal students and addressing the recent PCAPP scores.
He also told students a surprising fact – he does not have an education degree, which he said provides him with both advantages and disadvantages as a deputy education minister—the longest serving in Canada—but does have four university degrees.
“The reason I am telling you all this is I am bringing all of this experience to bear [in my position],” he said.
Farthing gave students many other tips about working in the field of education, including enjoying learning and seeing others learn.
He said the field of education is an area where people can affect change and improve lives.
“Some people refer to our department as the department of hope. In education lies hope—lies possibility.”