Shouldn’t investing in education be a good thing?
There are no winners in this latest provincial dispute in public education. We all lose. Students lose time and valuable experiences at school. Parents lose faith in the public school system and sick days. Teachers lose morale and wages to pay the bills. Even the government loses some public support. The only winner here is the media who has a constant source of highly contentious drama to feed upon.
I am a very proud product of the Richmond school system and now I’ve taught in this district for more than 16 years. I knew I wanted to be a teacher when I was enjoying my Grade 10 English class at J.N. Burnett (thank you, Mr. Rance!). Little did I know that following in the footsteps of my teaching mentors presented challenges that were so incredibly varied: trying to be teacher, parent, counselor, doctor, therapist, motivational speaker, entertainer, historian, organizer, security, custodian, and chauffeur all in one. Juggling these hats is just a part of our regular days.
Like countless classrooms around the province, my Grade 6/7 class is like a slow, simmering crockpot of society. The recipe includes behavioral challenges, intellectual disabilities, autism, ADD, ODD, ELL, IEPs (and if you know what these are, you must be a teacher), along with a sprinkle of gifted here and many social/familial issues that arise each and every day (many of which leave a deep stain). Oh, and for a little extra seasoning we add governmental changes to curriculum that just do not add anything to the recipe.
And of course, we set the table each day with our lessons neatly placed and within our heads we have visions of adding something a little special to the meal like coaching teams, sponsoring clubs, mentoring young teachers, and planning with our peers. Marking and report cards are like the vegetables that we need to include in the meal but it’s a challenge to fit them in. Somehow, like my colleagues, we make it all palatable, knowing full well that not everyone is a fan of the meal and that the table will be a mess afterwards.
Once the metaphorical daily meal is over, I often spend my evenings and weekends marking assignments, planning lessons, and writing reports for the kids. During seven months of the year, I coach basketball, volleyball, and track while balancing various staff committees and attending meetings; most of all, I take immense pride in the classroom lessons I create for my students. I’m not self-indulgent enough to think that we are the only difficult job in the known universe. Every job comes with its challenges and everyone has issues with their employer. I get that and I appreciate that. It’s just that when teachers seek changes to the education system and dare we say it, ask for a raise, we are much maligned for it. That hurts.
I realize that our system of bargaining is often a propaganda monster and a highly publicized mess. I’d be foolish not to see that as it stands it is fractured and flawed. I also see that some of our “demands” in bargaining seem outlandish (some of which the membership were not consulted upon). But that is a part of the legal maze that most of us never, ever imagined would be a part of our job description. What we have always wanted was for public schools to be properly funded to support all the students in the best learning environment possible.
I write this letter because I’m one of the thousands of passionate teachers in this province that care deeply about the kids and an educational system that allows for every student to succeed in a future that will shape our society for the next generation. I owe a great deal to those teachers who spent time nurturing me. Now, I’ve had the opportunity to teach some wonderful kids and I will never forget any one of them. I’ve spent many days and nights worrying about each of them and how they would function in the future.
But, that leads me to the one question in all of this mess just never leaves my mind: Shouldn’t investing more money into educating children always be a good thing?
If not, eventually we will all lose.
Garden City School