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BC teachers educating one driver at a time

June 16, 2014


The sudden barrages of honking this morning on West Broadway Avenue at South Granville Street weren’t from impatient drivers, or maybe they were.

From about 8 a.m. to nearly 10 am. members of the BC Teachers’ Federation stationed themselves on all four corners of the intersection and displayed information pickets to the morning rush hour traffic.

They waved signs with slogans like “Teachers defending public education” and “Christy, our children are BC’s most important natural resource!”

There was no way of knowing which drivers were honking because they supported the teachers and which were venting their frustration at a labour dispute which has seen rotating strikes and a partial lockout of teachers.

It was unlikely that BC’s Premier Christy Clark, the object of one of the signs, was among the morning rush hour commuters (can you even get to the BC Legislature in Victoria using West Broadway?).

Tomorrow teachers across British Columbia will probably be on strike, barring any last-minute breakthrough in negotiations between the BCTF and the provincial government. The BC Teachers’ Federation has served notice to escalate job action on Tuesday, June 17 to a full withdrawal of services. Today the teachers are having a “study session.”

June 10 the province-wide BCTF membership voted 86% in favour of escalating job action to a full strike if necessary.

A long-simmering dispute finally boils over


One of the information sheets BCTF members were handing out this morning.

The teachers have been without a contract since last year and they say their last salary increase was in 2010. Their union, the BCTF, is asking for a wage increase of 9.75% over four years plus a cost of living allowance. The government has offered 7.3% over six years.

In addition to the wage increase, the BCTF is arguing against rules that promote a one-size-fits-all approach to public eduction.

They want the necessary funding to be able to provide specialist teachers and one-on-one support for students who need it. In particular they want to restore class size limits abolished by the BC government in 2002.

In 2001, the class size for Grades 1–3 was limited to 20 students and in most school districts Grades 4–12 were capped at classes of no more than 30.

In January a BC judge actually ordered the BC government to restore the pre-2002 class size limits.

If they can’t stand together education just falls apart

Raising children is probably the most important job a society has. It is a job that is far to important to be left to parents alone. Society must be there to help parents in any meaningful way it can. Parents in turn must understand the important long-term interest society has in seeing to the proper and correct development of children.

Teachers personify society’s interest in educating children.

Obviously there is going to be ongoing disagreement over what constitutes “proper” and “correct.”

And while I can certainly see people arguing about the direction education should take, I can’t see them arguing about the need to fund it…generously. And it’s laughable for me to hear the government of one of the richest places on earth cry poor.

As much as anything else this looks like a power struggle. The government wants to weaken the teachers’ union and is fanning the flames of parent resentment at the notion of teachers usurping the parents’ natural prerogatives to inculcate values into their children as they see fit.

Parents, teachers and government — the so-called stakeholders (the children being the stakes) — are supposed to be working together. They should be able to cooperatively evolve the goals of education. They should be able to do this understanding that they are all equally essential to a successful education system.

In BC the three of them can’t get along for any length of time.

As with any broken and abusive relationship, the children suffer.

It should be apparent teachers are fighting for students

I blame the government for dictatorial thinking and short-term penny-pinching. I blame the parents for acting like they exist in a vacuum of self-interest and I blame the teachers for empire building and believing they know better than everyone else.

Basically I see each group as looking to their own self-interest as much as they’re looking after the interests of children.

Honestly though, I don’t blame the teachers or the parents nearly as much as the government.

I strongly side with the BCTF in their fight against the British Columbia’s government’s willingness to skimp on education funding to save money now regardless of the long-term costs to society.

And from my personal experience with both AcTal and regular public schooling I do not believe in cookie-cutter public education. I applaud teachers for pushing for individualized instruction. In this case the BCTF is truly advocating for the rights of students to a better education.

Education is all about delivering positive results in the term of a person’s life. In the area of education as with health care and many other things, the long-term needs of society are not well served  by today’s government bean counter mentality that can think no farther ahead than the next election.

The BC government is casting theirs as a fight against teachers and wasteful spending, not to mention, an out-of-control activist union.

Any few grains of truth in their argument should not disguise the fact that they are again pursuing their ideological bent of union-busting for its own sake not for the sake of parents, students or the future of the province.

They are indulging in partisan politics and ducking their responsibility to govern by consensus for the good of all British Columbians.

Ironically, if the BC government can pull the wool over parents’ eyes and successfully pit them against their natural allies, the teachers,, this will not be to the credit of the BC teachers who educated those parents in the first place.

Teachers are in it for a long time not necessarily a good time

Teachers make a difference in the lives of their students that cannot properly be quantified on a spreadsheet.

I believe that the pennies taxpayers may encourage governments to squeeze out of their children’s education inevitably become dollars spent on many of those same children later on in their lives.

I can say from personal experience that a teacher’s influence can reach across the years and the kilometres to guide a person’s development long after they’ve graduated.

My teachers never knew that their selfless — and seemingly hopeless — efforts to engage me through the noise and turmoil of my home life really helped make a difference in the long run.

And the benefits of the education I received in Saskatchewan accrued far more to British Columbia where I have spent the majority of my life.

Consider my near decade of homelessness any way you wish. But the 24 years I was in British Columbia before getting turfed on the street was spent very productively indeed, employment-wise and otherwise. And whether I’m homeless, employed, self-employed or whatever, I conduct myself in a way that I believe does credit to the efforts of my best teachers and mentors.

Sometimes you can care too much

Everyone knows from personal experience the impact teachers can have and surely we all have memories of all the important things teachers contributed to our school lives after the last bell had rung, when they weren’t being paid.

Everyone knows — or they should — that public school teachers devote ridiculous amounts of their free time to their students’ education: coaching, working with student clubs, mentoring, designing class materials and re-educating themselves.

One of the problem with doing things for free — all freelancers figure this out — is that far from than appreciating the extra service, clients will generally come to expect it as their due and withdrawing the freebie is worse than never having offered it.

Plus, working for free does not earn the respect of your employer.

Teachers are being punished for caring too much, for seeming to come between parents and their children, for daring to think they know better than the government and frankly for being too damned essential for their own good. Nurses get a lot of this also. Click the images to enlarge them.

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