February 1, 2015
Teachers Talk - Come Together
J. Scott MacDonald, Teacher, Kingsway College, ON

"Again I say to you, that if two of you agree on earth about anything that they may ask, it shall be done for them by My Father who is in heaven. For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst” (Matthew 18:19, 20).
 
I really had a fantastic opportunity this past November; I participated in the Education Summit in Toronto as one of Kingsway’s representatives. Normally, I like to take a back seat to volunteering for new situations, but this time it seemed like a comfortable fit.  I arrived on Sunday, and by the time Wednesday rolled around, I felt like we’d discussed some serious issues and strategized effectively to create a “game plan” for our Canadian SDA education system. Beyond the deep ideas and issues, though, was the part of this summit that I truly appreciated: collaboration.
 
As a self-proclaimed introvert, it took some internal push to interact and discuss with other participants. I normally prefer to take the observer seat in a group discussion until I feel the burden to contribute; however, with this group it seemed to work naturally.  Maybe I’m becoming an extroverted introvert, or maybe there was more present than met the eye, but the teamwork resonated with me. The information sessions were engaging, but it was the breakout groups that made the experience the most memorable.
 
Working with other advocates of Adventist education in Canada was a “spirit raiser” for me. I felt enthusiastic about returning to my classroom; energized by the words and ideas shared between colleagues over the period of three days. It really reinforced the true need for professional association in my profession.
 
I first started teaching, many years back, in beautiful Peace River country in northern Alberta. It was a two teacher school and we divided our students into elementary and junior high groupings. It was busy, but rewarding. The only area that could have been improved is the isolation I felt, despite having another SDA teacher in the room across the hall. So many times I felt alone, needing to be creative and innovative to connect best with my students. Many times I wished that I had another teacher of the same grade levels with whom to talk, discuss, and generate lesson plans.  Collaboration in the mid-90s was either by phone or face-to-face in conferences; the geography of my teaching assignment hampered my ability to connect with others. I felt drained at the end of each week, wracking my brain for fresh ideas on how to teach my subjects, build my lesson plans, and develop my classroom management skills. It was for this reason that I looked for my next posting which was located closer to a larger body of people, where I could find professionals and colleagues with whom to liaise.
 
Flash forward to the 21st century. With the internet and Google at our disposal, our classes are easier to plan, and connecting with other teachers is much easier. Still, I’m worried that many of our teachers in smaller schools in isolated communities are feeling the seclusion I felt in Peace River. Bringing our teachers together digitally, if not physically, should be a paramount focus of our system. Building an online resource for teachers of all levels and disciplines is crucial to the health and well-being of our taxed educators. Having an opportunity for educators to connect beyond the classroom, wherever in Canada, is critical for solidarity and better teaching practices. The good news that I learned from the summit is that this dream is becoming reality. Learning about the newly launched Adventist Learning Community was one of the highlights for me from the Summit. Here is an opportunity for true, Adventist collaboration to happen; it just needs a buy-in from our educators. I, for one, look forward to contributing to the English section, sharing and hopefully receiving new ideas back to use in my classroom to make the experience all the better for my students and for me. With reference to the scripture from Matthew 18, I cannot help but fathom the incredible things that can be accomplished in our education system when collaboration between Adventist educators, pastors, and laity is encouraged; for where God is present, how can we fail?