I shared this as a facebook status, and I wanted to share it here as well:
Teachers fight for students everyday. Fight for smaller classes, more support, specialist teachers and a safe place to learn and grow. My union fights for me. Fights for improved salary, benefits and better working conditions. Don't get it confused... Teachers always 'do more with less' so just because we ask for a fair wage to catch up with teachers across Canada (many with lower cost of living) doesn't mean we are greedy. We care about your kids, but have families of our own too. Funding needs to go into education, for better working conditions for teachers, which is better learning conditions for kids. Thank-you to everyone who supports public education. We will keep fighting until this government makes it a priority!As the struggle continues in British Columbia for public education to become a priority for the BC Liberal government, I find myself constantly having to defend my job, my union, and my students. For some reason, there is this divide... just because teachers want better working conditions including salary, benefits, prep time and smaller classes, they are somehow greedy and not passionate about teaching. Many somehow believe that improving things for teachers doesn't positively impact students.
I can't even count the number of times, in the past two weeks, I have been asked, "Why don't you choose a different career?" or "Well, why do you keep teaching then?" or "Have you thought about moving somewhere else to try teaching or moving to the private sector?" Like that is the answer?
I am a teacher because I care about education and kids... but that doesn't mean I don't also care about my own well being and my family's security. Like any person, in any job, there is a balance of wanting what is best for your clients, colleagues, business, whatever the case may be... as well as your own family and personal life too. I am passionate about education and that means I stick with it, through thick and thin, always trying to improve it for my students as learners and for myself and my colleagues as teachers.
About me...It has been a roller coaster ride... I graduated from university and was hired that summer to start in September as a Teacher-Teaching-On-Call [TTOC] in the district I still call home. After three years of slow work and struggling to make ends meet as a TTOC, I obtained my first part time temporary contract. It was outside my subject area, but I took it because contracts were hard to come by. After that, I had a temporary contract, of some sort, for a few months each year until, in year seven, I finally "rolled over" into a continuing part-time contract. This meant, although 'owed a job' I would be laid off each year until I obtained enough seniority to find a secure position, a classroom and school to call home.
Last year I was laid off and out of 480 or so teachers, I was right in the middle. I was recalled to a part-time job, outside my subject area, the day before school started, and on-call the rest of the days. This year, of our 632 teachers laid off, I am in the bottom 100. Because I am part time, many full time teachers have jumped ahead of me on the lay off and recall list. With a cut off point of 8 years and 4 months, many teachers who have not been laid of fin several years are laid off this year. I have only 2 years and 6 months seniority because much of my on-call teaching time is not included in calculation so I knew I would be laid off this year, however, I didn't expect to be so low down the list. I don't expect to be recalled in September, if at all next year. This is one of many difficult cuts my district has had to make because of lack of funding from the Provincial government!
I don't mean to sound greedy, or selfish, [why do teachers always apologize when speaking out against injustices?] but as I enter my ninth year teaching, I wonder when I will escape this tumultuous procedure? Where else does nearly a decade of service lead to facing this much uncertainty? If I continued to work just my part-time, 2 day a week contract and the lay-off level stayed as it is this year forever, it would take me almost 15 MORE years to get above lay-off line.
Depressing as that is for me personally, it is not as depressing as losing all our teacher-librarians next year, among other major cuts. My district is not alone in facing these difficult decisions, across B.C. school boards are struggling to balance budgets as the provincial government continues to download costs. B.C. invests $1000 less per student compared to the national average which, if corrected, would resolve most of the cuts school districts are being forced to make. These cuts are devastating and will change public education forever. I fear, once cut, these positions, services and programs will never return and my daughter and her future children, will not be given the opportunities they deserve in school.
It isn't just about me and my family, although that is very important to me, it is about everyone's family and future. Although cliche, it is true, these kids are our future... the government talks about a 'strong economy' but is squashing our young future decision makers' opportunities. Our future nurses, teachers, plumbers, tradespeople, parents, bankers, doctors, cooks, lawyers.... losing important support in school.
It frustrates me that there is no money for classrooms, but our premiere can spend frivolously. It isn't about there being no money, it is about the allocation of money and the priorities this government has. Clearly education is not one of them.
It upsets me that we are bullied and bribed in the public instead of respected at the bargaining table. There is a fair deal to be made, but the media parade won't help us get there.
Teachers elsewhere in this country are negotiating and being recognized as important figures in children's lives. Why can't B.C. see the same? An investment in education now, will pay off in the future.
This isn't about being adversarial, this is about coming to the table... the government and the BCTF... and discussing, proposing, negotiating. Teachers working conditions are students learning conditions and both need to be protected.
Education is worth the investment. Quality education should not be reserved for the rich and elite. Everyone deserves the opportunity to learn and grow in a safe and nurturing environment.
So, I apologize if my outcry against the deterioration of public education bothers you, but I think it should bother you more that this government is treating teachers and students this way. Everyone has a right to quality education and as a teacher and a parent, I will keep fighting for public education and the educators who work hard every day to teach our children. I won't give up on their future and neither should you!