Teachers: Don’t doubt yourselves.

     As we realize that negotiations are getting nowhere with the provincial government, teachers are implementing Phase One of job action. I’d like to remind my colleagues (and anyone else who cares to read this) about some facts. Don’t worry about the spin that the government puts on things (and that the press reports). Here are the facts.

1. We care about the children we teach.

How could we not? The greatest moment for us as teachers is the “aha” moment when we see it in children. Of course we care! In fact, there are some kids in every school for whom we are the only adults who care. We volunteer our time. We actively try to engage the kids in various things, trying to hook them into education (and some of them are tough to hook). We pick them up when they fall. We volunteer far beyond the expectations of our job.

We should not feel shame that we are asking for smaller class sizes. We want to be able to do our jobs well. We won’t work less hard just because our classes are small, but we will be able to do more – to teach better. This will make our jobs more satisfying.

Our schools are currently funded at $1000 PER CHILD lower than the national average. This is unconscionable.

2. We are not greedy.

If we were greedy we would never have become teachers. We should not feel shame for asking for a substantial increase in pay to match teachers in other provinces. Most of us are primary breadwinners. We don’t make that much money. We’ll certainly never be rich. Our pension plans won’t put us in yachts. And it’s damn hard work. Most of the guest speakers who visit classes leave wondering how we do it. I hear this over and over again. Most people can’t do what we do.

3. Our union is not militant.

Believe me. I grew up in a steelworkers town. You want to see militant?  I’ll show you militant. For us, it is one of the most dismaying things in the world to take up a job action, because not only does it affect our own families’ wellbeing; but it also affects the wellbeing of the kids at school THAT WE CARE ABOUT.  In fact, I become very, very distressed over it.

A strike is the last thing we want, but when the government is as intractable as this one, we have no other way to fight. If they had their wish, we would continue to lose ground against the cost of living. That’s an awfully strange wish for a government to have for its people. We made much more money relative to the cost of living twenty-five years ago. A simple fact.

4. We should not feel ashamed to make good pay just because we belong to the public sector.

The fact that we are funded by tax dollars doesn’t make our service less valuable. We generate wealth by keeping kids off the streets and by educating them. Paying tax dollars is the same as paying for bread. You pay something and you get something. An educated society is the key to happiness, harmony and democracy. It also produces a huge savings in health costs.

5. We should be respected and not belittled by our government.

The current BC government has been cited numerous times by the International Labour Organization for disrespectful treatment of teachers. The government’s job is not to keep people’s taxes low; it is to make sure its citizens are well cared-for. We are citizens too.

6. We are the vanguard of the human rights movement.

We have stood up to a brutal government in gut-wrenching labour disputes. At the heart of these disputes was the issue of contract-stripping, which has been found to be unconstitutional. The Bill 28 ruling was never appealed, and it is a precedent for Canadian constitutional law for all of the future. Who else but the BCTF could have taken on this huge burden? Every union in the province — even in the country should thank us for affirming their rights. We can be proud of this!

Furthermore, our working conditions are also the children’s working conditions. When we stand up for ourselves, we stand up for children. Of this there is no doubt. This is true symbiosis.

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15 thoughts on “Teachers: Don’t doubt yourselves.

  1. Thank you for this post! Would you allow the Greater Victoria Teachers’ Association to reprint it in our newsletter, The Advocate? You can email me at community@gvta.net if you like. (And I agree with Geoff – you should consider submitting to Teacher Newsmag 🙂

  2. Jane, your reply, while it is true I am sure, does nothing to detract from my comment. I have seen many children make demands while being very polite about it. It’s not the word that are said that bother me so much, but the underlining tone every time a teacher or their representive opens their mouth that drives me up the wall. They also tend to talk down to outsiders of their profession, at least that is what I have experienced from 5 of the 6 people who I used to be friends with until they had taught for a couple years. Now I loath being around them and their friends.
    I want teachers to get what they want, because I want my son to get the best education possible, until I hear them speak and then I just want to send them to their room with no dinner.

    1. Wow,….who are your friends?? Yikes….Perhaps I work with incredibly caring colleagues. I have seen my colleagues work incredibly hard under very, very difficult circumstances. 20 years ago when I first started teaching, the conditions were so much better. Libraries were open and there were services for children with special needs. All of that is gone now. My daughter, who is now in grade 3 has always had very kind, understanding teachers. Most of us teachers are parents too. I think perhaps teachers get incredibly frustrated as there is such a lack of knowledge about our jobs- we are in the public domain. I try not to get too worked up about it because I think when people complain about ‘those teachers wanting more and more’ is a reflection of how most people find their lives- we all work incredibly hard, and are often not ‘paid enough’ as the cost of living is so high in B.C.
      I just chatted with my daughter’s teacher regarding professional days- she told me how she had to explain to her dentist, that no, she could not make an appointment on a professional day as she was at work….it is incredible to me that people would even ask that! And personally, I always job share- I am human too! and I want to spend time with my children-and besides which, daycare is so expensive that it is barely worth me working in the afternoons. But the amount of ‘flack’ from parents I get is insane! Again, it shows such lack of knowledge- as my kids have always been in ‘split grades’ and job shares, and have had very positive experiences. I can only guess that perhaps your friends were ‘venting’ frustrations regarding people’s misconception….and that you were not at all open to honestly hearing the ins and outs of a teacher’s job.
      That said, I hope everyone in the public never assumes anything about anyone’s jobs- no one ever knows what it is really like to work as anyone else, and so every time I get on a bus, or get my mail delivered, I have total respect for these people.
      I will never deny the excellent benefits we get- thanks to our union- the same holidays as my children is gold, and the pension and health benefits are almost the only reason I stay at my job. I adore the children I teach and their families, but the stress, the long hours, and the pay when I have to put my kids into before and after school care is barely worth working- my husband is self-employed so my family needs those benefits.
      Whatever the case, I can unequivocally tell anyone that children’s needs are not getting met in the public system, that class size means everything, and that there are children and teachers suffering in our system now.
      Perhaps Christy could pull her son out of St. George’s for a year and see what it is really like for children in the public system…..

  3. I just can’t bring myself to wholeheartedly agree with you. Context: I’ve been a public school teacher (Cowichan Valley) for over 20 years. I agree with the sentiments of your post, and as I was not sitting at the the table, I can’t attest to BCTF negotiating teams’ demeanor (though I am sure they were polite!). My concern, with Iker, and before him Lambert, is perhaps not the “militancy” (which I see as “passion”) but the outdated thinking. We are no longer in a world where negotiations HAVE to go like a used car negotiation in the 1960’s. It is difficult for us to get our message out with the Libs in power and the mainstream media so clearly anti-teacher, but now, more than ever before, using social media and what I call guerrilla teaching, we could, and should, be sending out positive spin. We should be having our own “open houses” to welcome parents, we should be sponsoring community events (like read-a-thons, craft tables, marking-at-the-mall sessions), anything to show what we love about our jobs, not freaking cutting extra-curriculars and then trying to convince people we are as sad about it as the kids but “our hands are tied”. I am in the middle of report cards right now. Did you notice I did not say “I am spending MY Easter break doing report cards”? That’s because it is PART OF MY JOB to do that, part of my salaried job, and if we carry on whining about how much of our “free time” we devote to the job, we are going to find ourselves on an hourly program, with even less professional autonomy, and looking more and more like steelworkers and longshoremen. In fact, all whining should stop, all propaganda should stop, all political lobbying should stop. I don’t want to be told how to pray or how to vote, I want to celebrate what I love about my job, and I want to hold myself up as a role model. That also means that when I hear of an incompetent colleague, my first thought is not “How do we protect him/her!?” but rather…. “How are they still in my profession?” We don’t do ourselves any favours protecting the useless, whining about how hard we work, complaining about the government and THEN saying “Oh but it’s for the children….”. Please. Also, this article is a few years old, but still with some valid points. It also highlights that we ascribe to the definition of insanity–Continue to do the same things the same way, yet be surprised that the outcome never changes: http://thetyee.ca/News/2012/03/26/Fix-Teacher-Bargaining-Ideas/

  4. Saddler, our negotiators are very respectable at the table. When were you at the table to see how our proposals are made?

    1. My dad used to negotiate with the Steelworkers. He said that union negotiators would accuse and curse throughout the negotiations while management would try to act in a more “refined” way. It got a little personal. I doubt very much that our negotiations could be characterized in this way. We’re generally a pretty well-mannered bunch. I don’t think any of it matters, though. Negotiators are pretty adept at just focussing on the cards dealt, and ignoring any bravado.

  5. Maybe it’s not what you want, but how you ask? Your negotiators sound more like children making demands then adults trying to find a viable solution.

  6. Thanks. It helps me not feel like a greedy piece of trash which has how I often feel after watching got listening to the news.

  7. I also believe (in respect to number 5) where the government decides to put our tax dollars- so far, it is fighting BCTF in the court system. I don’t think citizen tax dollars need to be higher by any means. I do think government needs to stop mismanaging tax dollars and be responsible and put it into Education because you bet, it ends up saving in the long term. A study (I believe it was done by TD) showed that for every dollar in early intervention put into children with learning disabilities, $7 is saved in the long run in health care, and from keeping kids off the streets. Right now because of such huge underfunding in the school system, children with special needs get so short-changed as the services have been disolved.
    And as a teacher and parent, if I don’t get a pay raise soon, I will barely be able to keep up with childcare costs, making it almost not worthwhile to work- a shame because many other people must be in my shoes, and that means less people for the government to tax.

  8. Wish ECEs were included with you guys. We don’t have the same education but there are still some of us working for minimum wage and we do become school staff sometimes, would be so nice to have a bigger child based education and care union! Or we at least need our own but it could be a partnership.

  9. Re: Anonymous on March 5, 2014 at 7:46 am – Hmmmmm! Perhaps “We should not feel ashamed to make good pay just because we belong to the public sector.” should read “We should not feel ashamed to make a decent standard of living just because we belong to the public sector.” In my opinion, it is not greedy to receive a small salary increase to at least try to keep up with the skyrocketing cost of living – especially in the lower mainland and province of BC. (and no, I am not a teacher, although my children are taught by some absolutely phenomenal ones!) The gap between the rich and poor kids growing – WHY?

  10. Nice post! Too bad this will never be posted on or shared by any of the MSM because we all know who controls the MSM.

Note: Comments must focus on issues. Any comments containing derisive tone or insulting language will be deleted. You may disagree vociferously, but you must be respectful. For example, no sarcasm is allowed.

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