Tuesday, September 2, 2014

What was supposed to be the first day of school!

Okay!  I retired a year ago.  This is my second time that I didn't go back to school since 1980 when I first moved out here so that meant 32 times in Vancouver that I went back to school in September.  Of course normally I was in several days on my own time getting my classroom ready before the students arrived.  I always loved how neat and clean my classroom would look before those pesky students would mess things up!

I loved the beginning days of school when I got to meet my new students and try to figure them out.  I loved those new school supplies (some of which I would have purchased with my own money).  I loved getting to see my colleagues again and catching up and hearing all about their summers.  I might have moaned and groaned a bit and I even had a party most years saying good-bye to summer. But I was honestly as excited the first day of school of my 40th year of being a teacher as I was my first day of school as a student.

By the end of the first week I was usually totally exhausted but still there was a satisfaction that I was doing real and very important work.

This year is very different.  There are no teachers nor students in the public schools of BC.  Teachers didn't get to even tidy up their classrooms at the end of the year and no decorating has occurred.  They also haven't been paid for a couple of months and due to the strike the last couple of weeks of June plus rotating strikes and the government locking them out at lunch hour and recess and docking their pay for that that last pay check was very little.

One reason I was always happy to go back to school that was I knew I would get paid in a couple of weeks!

I haven't really written about this strike, partly because I am not directly involved.  And one reason I retired when I did was I figured that this would happen (although not quite as dramatic as this).  Our contract was up two years ago and we were out three days then and basically went back in and our contract was just renewed for another year so it was inevitable that this would happen last year.

Teaching conditions have gotten worse ever since 2002 as has been mentioned repeatedly as we lost class size and composition guidelines that we had had previously.  Ironically the government made new classrooms smaller because classes were supposed to be smaller-but they weren't.  Young student teachers didn't get jobs because of those lost guidelines causing fewer teachers to be hired.  Back to smaller classes-try getting 31 seventh graders into these small classrooms especially if you happen to have a special needs student who needs special equipment!

Also even though the government has found by courts repeatedly not to have had the right to take away those guidelines, they refuse to comply to the court's decision because they can't afford it!!! Hmm...

Salary-well I think I was better off in my first years of teaching what with cost of living.  And if you compare teachers' salaries to other professions', I think only musicians do worse.  Many unions have much better benefits than we do.

I remember years ago, hearing someone on the radio saying what a great job teachers do, and I was amazed that it was the Minister of Education at the time, Moe Sihota.  I never remembered any education minister ever saying such a thing.  Sad but true.  Even though I think we did end up on strike then, he will always be my favourite education minister.

I have been asked by strangers if I felt that the BCTF really represented me.  I said that I may not always agree with everything my unions do, but yes I support the BCTF.

Money for education always seems to be being taken away and the working conditions in BC shocked me when I moved here in 1980 because they were so much worse than my conditions in Quebec.  One prep compared to seven a week for elementary teachers.  And I have a special education diploma and a Masters' in Education and these were basically almost fully funded by the government in Quebec.  That would never happen here.

We pay a price for living in beautiful British Columbia.

So I support my teaching colleagues all the way.  I feel so sorry for them trapped in a room with apparently no door out.  Or perhaps I should say, trapped on a picket line with no door into the school.  Just when I visited a picket line today, someone said it really got them how devalued our government made her feel.

Last year I volunteered two mornings a week at my old school and that was because mainly because of the incredibly difficult teaching load one friend in particular had.  Looking in at what I did, I wasn't sure how I did it.  Teachers generally love teaching and love their students but they are so tired of trying to do the impossible!

That is my rant today!!!

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