On the BC Teachers’ strike

 

Here is a rant I posted on Facebook a few years ago. I am adding it to my blog because it represents me, opens the “politics” side of this blog, and because it was popular/controversial enough to get over 12,500 shares. Enjoy

I’ve had enough!

I’ve had enough. I’m a 31 year old firefighter, who was a high school teacher for 4 years. I have been quiet during this strike and listened to all the media coverage. I have heard nothing but mistruths from either sides in this argument. Like you, I have seen on the news, read in the papers and heard on the radio all sorts of angles on this issue. How it is covered has made me mad. I will no longer listen to “The Fox”, since their dumbed-down position of speaking only to how we (parents/public) are inconvenienced, has no end result other than breeding a lack of patience (from those with no-clue) in the general population. I since turned to CBC radio, for a more leveled discussion. But when you interview Iker, Fassbender, and other idiots, you do not get to the truth. And, since our politicians – who we elect to speak our voice – have no clue how to solve this problem, I am stepping out in hopes that you, the general public, can hear my voice of reason.
Teachers deserve far more than what they are asking for. They deserve both an increase in pay and rules on classroom composition.

On pay:
The teachers are asking for a raise. It was originally 14% over 7 years, or 2%/year. Ladies and Gentlemen, give your heads a shake – we all deserve this! Inflation is 2%/year. If you do not get an increase in pay every year that is equal to inflation you are LOSING money. You are doing the same amount of work for less, every year.
Now that the obvious is stated (something you all seem to have forgotten), let me refresh your memory. The last time the teachers striked they agreed (in order to appease the parents and get kids back in school) to take a raise of 0% over the course of that contract. In reality, that is a 2% decrease in pay every year. Now, they aren’t asking for make-up pay; They are only asking for 2% for each future year in this contract. THIS IS NOT ASKING MUCH!
So if asking for 2%/year is the norm, and that is what they are asking for, AND they agreed to 0% over that last contract term, aren’t they – the people responsible for your child’s upbringing – entitled to the little increase they have asked for?
The government says no. Why? They are appealing the court’s decision to limit class sizes. If they give in, all legal fees will be lost and they will be embarrassed. So, they refuse to separate the funding required for class size restrictions from the amount requested in pay increases to try and convince you that teachers are asking for too much.
When you hear FASBENDER or CLARK say anything monetary about what teachers are asking for, understand that they are grouping both a pay increase and the cost to limit class sizes together. That is what allows them to say that teachers are asking for more than other civil servants. As far as pay goes, they are actually asking for less.

On composition:
This is bullshit! This has already been settled in the court. The teachers are legally allowed to bargain for classroom composition, and this has and must continue to be addressed in all labour negotiations. Composition is everything.
When a teacher teaches a class with no students with special needs, you must understand that this requires multiple lesson plans. There are kinesthetic learners, audio learners and visual learners. A great lesson plan gives multiple opportunities for students to learn the day’s concept. You must also understand that every additional “special needs” student requires a new lesson plan.
I am tired of the media grouping special needs together. We are hearing people speak of “special needs students” as requiring an additional lesson plan to be created, or special consideration needing to be taken for those students with special needs. MISSED THE TARGET ON THAT ONE! Every single kids with a “special need” needs a different lesson plan and each needs their own special considerations.
Furthermore, a lesson plan is more than what a teacher will say, or what resources, props, class room layout, demeanor, group activities, and individual work techniques they will use. It is also putting those lessons in writing for the absent students and for reference next year (one version for each student learning style); a lesson plan is also having different ways to assess whether or not each kid has learned it, and designing a way to accurately, consistently and fairly evaluate each student.
Every student with special needs requires all of these things individually from others.
It has been suggested (on CBC radio, On the coast, September 3rd) that “all teachers are really asking for [with regards to class composition] is more education assistants to help with the growing number of special needs students.” Looking back, in one English 10 supported class I taught, (which was English for those with behavior or learning problems, with 31 students (all but 3 were boys), had I been giving one more student or one more Education Assistant, I would have killed myself or quit earlier.
Education assistants are not teachers. The best ones can take what you are teaching and adapt it to the students who fit one particular need category that they care for. Most require the teacher to do this for them, adding additional work for the teachers. Also, assessment and evaluation is still left to the professional – the teacher.
The ONLY solution to this problem is smaller classes.
Assume each class of non-special students requires multiple lesson plans integrated to achieve a goal and that goal is assessed in multiple ways. Throw in a few special needs students, and lets say the average teacher is juggling 5-7 lessons, per class, per day. That is a full day of work. And we must also assume that the same teacher is coaching – for free – a sport or club after school. And, we must assume that teacher is receiving emails and phone calls from within the school and without as per the progress of that class and individual students during the evenings and weekends. And we must assume that there is marking to do, on evenings and weekends. (30 students in a classroom does not allow time to mark during class time – nor are you, for that matter, paid to mark during class.) Finally, (I hope you’re understanding how much work this is), we must assume this teacher has three more identical classes to teach each day. This is too much work.
If you are thinking “yeah, but they have summers off” I want to punch you in the mouth. I was laid off every summer, and worked a summer job (sometimes, embarrassingly, with my students) in order to lift me above the income that a high school graduate in the government would make. Most of you have no idea what it is like to teach. Know that beyond teaching, there are many other tasks required of us that go without payment or recognition. Like other teachers, I had to confront students with drugs, or drug dealer, break up fights, refer kids to counseling or contacting the law when abuses at home where brought to my attention. I even fed a grade 6 student breakfast because of his ruined home life, at school, away from other students, while explaining to him why I couldn’t come to his place after school to play X-Box. If you have an opinion that is not in support of teachers, you are wrong.
The fact that this has to be said is worrying: Do you want your kid in a gymnasium, listening to a lecturer with 100 other students, or in a tight-knit class/community, where more than the curriculum is being taught? If this government is fine with 30 kids in a class, who’s to say 50 or 100 is too far? I am here to say that is too far. Even 30 is too far!
Class composition is also a troubling discussion since it shouldn’t even be a problem. In a court decision to limit class sizes, the government has been found in the wrong. There shouldn’t even be a strike, there should be legal action against the Liberal government, to obey the law.
The BCTF should have sued, instead of striked

People, hear the truth!

I left teaching because it was too much work, and not enough pay. I was a good teacher. We are all losing good teachers because funding is far too low.
There are too many people being loose-lipped with their uneducated opinions. Parents: If you expect teachers to raise your kids for you, be prepared to pay for it. – OK, that sounds mean. How about this, if you want better education, be willing to pay a few extra dollars to put the best teachers in the best place to do so. Liberal Government: You are in power because of: 1) favorable media coverage (since the Fast Cats); 2) A lazy voting population (probably due to education cuts) who mistake “status quo” for stability; 3) the publics’ misconception that you are affiliated with the Federal Liberals; and 4) The NDP’s choice to nominate a dud as their leader (you may want to learn from this, BCTF). BC Liberals, you are LUCKY to be where you are, so heed the public: Your policy is wrong. You have cut taxes to industry and cut public sector funding – and what have you got: a world-class mine disaster and a teacher’s strike. Listen to your constituents: We want smart kids, not wealthy, foreign business owners. Public: Don’t let good teachers leave the system for better pay and better work, as I did. Pay them accordingly and limit class sizes – put the best people in those positions so that our kids are cared for and the future is bright. Support the teachers!

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