Editor, The News:
Re: Teachers start strike on Monday (The News, March 2).
I am writing to express my indignation and disbelief towards the treatment and attitudes currently being shown to the teachers of British Columbia.
I have been a student for 15 years, in various provinces and institutions. Two years ago I proudly graduated from Thomas Haney secondary and set forth to make my mark on the world, starting with a scholarship to Simon Fraser University. I attended Kanaka Creek elementary and Thomas Haney, and enjoyed the coordinated district initiatives by taking AP English at Maple Ridge secondary. I have also volunteered at Blue Mountain elementary, in addition to feeling involved with other district school communities through my peers.
I have seen firsthand, like every other student, the effort, passion, and emotional connection our educators invest in their jobs and students and have no doubt that this job is more than the average 9-5.
I am amazed that some people still think with the current job action that teachers are the bad guys, here. Just for reference, in 2002 the B.C. government introduced Bill 27 and 28, that essentially ripped up the contract the teachers were working from. The government removed class size limits and reallocated $3 billion of education funding to other, seemingly more important areas of government.
Those cuts lasted for the entire duration of my education experience in B.C.
Now, Education Minister George Abbott is introducing a new ‘learning improvement fund.’ Unfortunately, this is the money that the Supreme Court of Canada ordered the B.C. Government to return to the education budget, after having declared Bills 27 and 28 unconstitutional. And the money being returned is less than the amount originally seized in the first place.
Clearly, teachers are owed the right to be heard.
Through personal experiences and interactions, I can assert that teaching is so much more than your average full-time job. So many of my teachers have stayed after school or forsaken their lunch break to hear presentations, clarify difficult concepts or even just to hear out a personal problem. If I needed a reference letter for the next day (Sorry, I forgot that scholarship deadline, Mrs. Godfrey) I had one, no questions asked. Didn’t finish my project? No big deal, I could work on it at lunch and Mr. Connolly and Mr. McIlroy would hear it after school. I had a bad grade from freezing up on tests? No problem, Mr. Hussey would evaluate my knowledge through a lengthy discussion on the unit’s topic and boost my grade. Mme. Ryan, the teacher who was concerned about my progress in French 12 possibly jeopardizing my timely graduation? She harangued me until I turned in those last few assignments. In fact, I can’t think of a single teacher I had throughout my primary and secondary education who wouldn’t (and didn’t) stick their neck out for me when I asked, or even when I didn’t.
See, the thing is, teachers care. They don’t just care about their wages. They’re not in this for the money (God knows they would have picked a more lucrative profession if they were). They’re fighting for their class sizes, so that the quiet child isn’t sacrificed to the louder one. They’re fighting for limitations on class composition, so that the child that needs more attention and focus to learn doesn’t detract from the education of those who learn in a different way – equal quality of learning for all types of learners.
Yes, teachers are fighting for a wage increase – the cost of living in B.C. is one of the highest in Canada, and B.C. teachers are amongst the lowest paid. Of course, they’re fighting for a wage increase, the effect a teacher has on a child ought to be at least minimally reflected in their paycheck.
I suppose a big reason that drove me to write this letter is those who oppose the teachers’ job action because ‘the teachers are being selfish’ and ‘my child’s education is at stake.’ Your child’s education is at stake. Due to the cuts and the lack of funding, there are little to no challenges for gifted students and few provisions taken for special needs students. Yet, people complain about the education system in B.C. being lacking for students.
Teachers aren’t miracle workers, and they’re doing the best they can with a stretched budget and governmental limitations. So, at this point, all teachers want is the right to a fair deal. You tell me, is that selfish?
That is why I supported my teachers in the 2005 strike. That is why I will support them in this strike. That is why I advocate the spread of information among my fellow students. That is why I wrote this letter.
I would like to pose a final question, to Clark, Abbott and the rest of the B.C. Legislature – I realize it’s been a long time since you’ve viewed the world through the eyes of a scholar, but I ask, do you think you’d be where you are today without your education?
Perhaps it would remind you of one of the most basic of schoolyard lessons – if you’re going to be a bully, eventually someone’s going to take a stand against you.
But, hey, what do I know? I’m just a humble student.