The Albertan experience: uLead Conference 2022
Queensland Teachers' Journal, Vol 127 No 6, 12 August 2022, page no. 23
This is the final article in a series about the Queensland Teachers’ Union delegation’s Albertan experience earlier this year. This article will focus on the Canadian Association of Principals uLead Conference, held in Banff, Alberta. This year’s three-day conference was organised by the Alberta Teachers’ Association’s Council of School Leadership, with more than 1,200 school-based leaders, district-level leaders, and provincial and state education leaders attending.
Strong recurrent themes from the conference included staff wellbeing, staffing shortages, increasingly complex student behaviours and mental health issues, and the increasing politicisation and commercialisation of education. There was also a strong focus on the impact of the pandemic on education and leadership. The conference is a series of keynotes, panels and workshops focusing on current education and leadership issues and is very conversational in tone. It is attended by educators from around the world.
The opening keynote address of the conference was one of the highlights, offering a conversation on reconciliation, human rights, citizenship, and a call to action for school leaders everywhere. Chief Cadmus Delorme, a Cree and Saulteaux, is a citizen of and is currently Chief of the Cowessess First Nation. Chief Delorme had a powerful message to share about truth, reconciliation, and how school leaders can ensure that we move forward together for the betterment of all.
The conference provided a huge range of workshops each day. To deliver a workshop or present at the conference, presenters must put in a presentation proposal which focuses on school leadership. In submitting a proposal, there needs to be an understanding that the word “principal” has its roots in the idea of a teacher who serves in the role of “principal teacher”. The ATA looks for presentations that support and expand on the idea that school leaders are “teachers first” and “lead learners”, as opposed to being “administrators” or “managers”. Presenters need to identify the learning or leadership narrative that their presentation will speak to, the thinking and intentionality that is involved in responding to that goal or challenge, and how other leaders might take what they are sharing and put it to use in their own schools or systems.
The QTU delegation presented two workshops.
Valuing the changing role and complexity of principalship – 3 years on: This was about Queensland’s attempts to develop a new salary system that recognises the dramatic changes to school leadership over time. It highlighted not only the good but also the negative of implementing this massive change in recognising the changing role of the principal. Chris Capra and Paige Bousen facilitated this workshop.
Principal health and wellbeing: This discussed how the increasing complexity of the role of the principal, as well as the unsustainable workload, have left the health and wellbeing of our principals at crisis point. It focused on key challenges facing principals in Queensland and how we are attempting to deal with them –identifying and implementing supports and processes that will enhance the work of principals, their health and wellbeing, and help them to be successful in leading a positive and safe school for teaching and student outcomes.
Paige Bousen was also asked to be part of a panel called “Leadership within the profession – working together supporting leaders as members of a unified profession”. Other members of the panel included former presidents of teacher unions as well as deputy ministers of education from other Canadian provinces.
Our time in Alberta provided an opportunity to experience a deep level of professional learning and cooperation and assistance with our Canadian colleagues and truly appreciate and learn, from not only our differences but the many similarities that we have in terms of leading schools.