One day I hope to look at learning again but I am afraid that the BC government forcing teachers here out on strike and keeping them on strike for two weeks in June and now two weeks in September plus rotating strikes for several days prior to full out strike and locking them out during non instructional time and docking ten percent of their pay, has made it hard for me to think of much else on the learning front.
Now conservatives (or to be exact B.C. Liberals and their supporters here) could say it is the teachers who are choosing to go on strike but I won't bore you with all the details but here are a few.
Public school budgets are less and less each year. Class sizes have gotten larger with no limits on class size or looking at composition so that you may have many special needs students in your classroom. New classrooms are smaller so you trip over your students regularly when you teach grade seven. Teachers haven't had any raise in three years. Teachers spend their own money on supplies, their own computers, even food for hungry students, to basically subsidize the school system, We have less school nurse time, school psychologists etc. With just a few of the facts you can see how teachers are literally fed up and feel they can't take it anymore so that they are willing to give up thousands of dollars in salary and not do the job that they love to do. Anyone who thinks teachers are greedy just doesn't get it.
I retired just over a year ago after 40 years after I began teaching. All last year I volunteered two mornings a week at my old school plus coached two girls soccer teams and a basketball team (any note I would never call myself athletic) because I love kids and I felt for my wonderful former staff, especially the grade one teacher with whom I mainly worked because she had a class that had to be seen to be believed! We loved them but how one teacher was expected to meet all their needs is beyond imagination.
When the strike began I tried to help by baking and delivering treats to the picket lines. Through my career I felt as if I had written many letters to newspapers etc. but I kind of had it with almost thinking anyone would listen. I used to worry if I described what public school teachers deal with, more people who could afford it would just send their children to private school, and I so believe in public education and that it should be supported by all.
But last Friday I seemed to snap! I could not believe that the schools were still closed and we had a government refusing to even look at binding arbitration which teachers had asked for. I couldn't focus on much else.
I spent Sunday just trying to think what more I could do. I wrote up how one business woman wanted to support teachers and tried to get the message out. I took to Twitter and I ended up with sore fingers. I tried to contact BC celebrities to see if more of them would support teachers and my biggest hits on twitter were when former Sex and the City star, Kim Cattrell and her fan club expressed support for teachers and "favorited my tweets". A personal highlight was when children's entertainer Raffi retweeted my tweets. Susan Braverman, the owner of The Flag Shop, was interviewed on CBC radio to champion teachers and challenge other business people to help, and my tweets of my blog on her to various local media I hope helped make that happen. I picked up bumper stickers she made and donated them to local schools Thursday and Friday. The strike drags on but apparently there is conversation between the two sides this weekend. One can only hope.
It has been often utterly depressing. On the positive side, the message is out that schools are underfunded and teachers really do have an almost impossible job. NDP MLA's have been great! Some journalists have done an awesome job on this. I treasure the CBC in particular and Stephen Quinn and his humour and probing questions has become a bit of a hero of mine. Also The Tyee, The Observer and Georgia Straight online have reporters who are awesome. And The Globe and Mail has done some good work as well. The Vancouver Sun generally has made me wonder why I have a subscription and I am probably going to cancel it.
But I can only wish these messages came out much earlier because many British Columbians don't have much to do with public schools currently personally. And the government has delighted in spinning out misinformation.
The last few days I have read so many wonderful letters and heartfelt messages by teachers and parents and people who are neither, but value teachers and the education that they have received because teachers keep on teaching no matter what! I want to share a few here because I know they often don't feel listened to by Liberal MLA's and the cabinet, a government that spends little time in our actual parliament in session, but seems to have a lot of time for fundraisers etc.
But thank you to all who value public education! Keep the faith that change is possible!