***** If you don’t support the teacher side of the argument in Ontario right now, that’s fine. I am expressing my opinions. This is my side of the story. This is the way I see it. Please refrain from personally insulting me on my own blog. Please be an adult and keep your nasty comments to yourself. I welcome and encourage healthy debate, as long as it is not insulting or attacking. If I can expect mutual respect in a classroom of 6 year olds, I can certainly expect it here.
As many of you probably already know, I am an Ontario Public Elementary School teacher. What you probably don’t know is that I decided to become a teacher in Grade 12 after an amazing Senior French teacher rescued me not only from almost quitting taking French altogether (the Jr. teacher was not fantastic), but showed me what it meant to be a fantastic teacher, and made me want to be like her. After I made that decision in Grade 12, I only hesitated briefly. I only hesitated because of the politics. Embedded in those politics is a public opinion of teachers that views us as lazy, greedy, whiny, and ungrateful.
And, you know what? Maybe, if everyone who’s ever said that was specific and said “teacher’s unions are….” I might agree. However, that is what unions are for. Does the Elementary Teacher’s Union need less power? Perhaps, not really my area of expertise, so I kind of lack an opinion, but more on that later. Also, fun fact: I don’t get to choose whether or not my profession is unionized. That’s legislated. I must pay union dues and therefore must belong to ETFO. I don’t have a choice, and whether I want to be in or not is completely irrelevant.
Allow me to shed some light on the truth behind these public opinions.
First… I say public opinions, allow me to be clear. I mean… the public that is not in education. It would do us all some good, I think, to remember that teachers are ‘the public’ as well. I pay taxes, just like you do. Because of the tax bracket I’m in, I pay loads of taxes. I fund social services, just like you do. The fact that I have a unionized job does not pull me out of the tax-paying Public Work Force. Portions of my taxes go to support Public Education as well. I pay a part of my own salary with my taxes.
Second… lazy. Lazy!? Teachers? None that I’ve worked with. I’ve seen a few who I’d maybe peg with that label… MAYBE…. but I find it incredibly difficult to be a lazy teacher. I show up at school at 7:30-7:45 every morning. I’m up at 6-6:30. Well… except for Mondays now, but that’s another story. I work from 8:40-3:00 pm in classrooms, on yard duty, and presently… I’m still running Cross Country, because as much as ‘taking a pause’ on voluntary activities is the only way we have to protest what’s been done in the recent past, I had already sent home permission forms, and I’d already told the kids I would. I won’t take that back. I get 40 minutes to an hour to myself between that time, daily… luckily. This year I do. Last year I had a day with no prep time in my schedule and I left exhausted. When I’m done teaching, I have to make sure I’ve got my marking done, I have to make sure any phone calls I needed to make are done, and… if it’s too much to do in the morning, I need to prep the next day. There are days that I’m at the school until 6 pm. I could be at the school way longer. I could never leave the school and still feel like there is more that I could do, but I vowed to myself after my first year of teaching that I would not burn myself out in this career, and so I will pace myself, and I will not take on more than I can handle. That means I’ve taken on less extra-curriculars than some of my colleagues (may I remind you, these are voluntary), and it means that I don’t always have popping, flashing, amazing lessons. I don’t always have amazing computer programs and games etc. ready to go. But I know many who do. On weekends, I try to only bring things home if I need to. There are some times of year where this is completely possible. In September, I don’t bring much home, but I’m not a homeroom teacher, either. I don’t teach math or language or social studies. I teach French and the Arts.
Third… greedy? I don’t know how many times we can say this. I’m getting tired of saying this. What I’m upset about right now is NOT the money or the benefit cuts. I can only speak for myself, but let me assure you that what bothers me the most is that the Premier of this Province and the Minister of Education can go above the law, and legislate changes that are in violation of Ontario Labour Laws and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and no one can stop them. That’s what has me perplexed. Who’s next?
To speak to the ‘greedy’ stereotype a bit more clearly, allow me to explain why I became a teacher.
I became a teacher for:
1. The kids
2. The lightbulb that goes on over a kid’s head when they’ve been struggling and fighting with a concept and they finally get it. The sheer joy that crosses their faces when they understand something they were having a hard time with.
3. The laughter. The giggles. The hilarious things kids say. I couldn’t get that in any other workplace.
4. Teaching. I enjoy imparting knowledge and wisdom. My favourite piece of wisdom lately is: “The wrong thing is still the wrong thing even if everyone is doing it. The right thing is still the right thing even if no one is doing it.” I think I saw it on Pinterest but I’ve adopted it into my work vocabulary.
5. To impact lives the way mine was impacted by several amazing, caring teachers, and…
6. To show kids who may not hear or see it from anyone else that someone cares about them, and that they’re valued.
I did NOT become a teacher for the pay. I did not become a teacher for the weekends, the summers, March Break, or Christmas. I did not become a teacher for the pension. Those things are all great, but I’d teach without them. In fact I have taught without them.
Fourth: Whiny? No. I haven’t heard whining in either of my staff rooms. Argument does not compute.
Fifth: Ungrateful. Really? I’m pretty grateful for the incredible opportunity I have to work with kids. For the unbelievable salary, benefits, for the holidays that allow me to see my family who lives far away from me. I’m very grateful for all of those things.
Lately, as you’ve probably heard, things have gotten heated. A false crisis was created in education by recalling the legislature to force a bill through and make it a law that removed all sorts of things with disregard for the rights allotted to Canadians in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and to Ontarians in Ontario Labour Laws. The Education Minister and the Premier spent the last couple weeks of August claiming that they were ensuring kids would return to school on September 4th and that there would be no strike….
I must have missed something. There had been no mention of strike by anyone I work with… we weren’t even in a legal position to discuss it until September 1st. We were legislated that we didn’t have the right anymore ON September 1st. There was no good faith there.
Provincial Discussion Table… you know, the one we walked away from? Yes, we walked away from it, because under Ontario Labour Law, we negotiate between our Unions and our School Boards, not with the Province. The Provincial Discussion Table was set up a few years ago to decide between the Province, the Ministry, and the Boards what to do with a surplus of money that they wanted to funnel into education. When the Premier and the Education Minister came to the Provincial Discussion Table and said “here are your terms, accept them or we’ll legislate it,” you bet our UNION walked away. And I don’t blame them. Show up hostile, that’s what you get.
I teach my students to fix their own mistakes and not to point blame. I understand that Ontario is broke. I understand that cuts had to be made. I do. Like I said, the cuts were not my issue. Dalton McGuinty dug us into this 15 billion dollar deficit with scandals and mismanagement and poor decisions…. and now it’s my job to bail him out. And according to many people, I need to suck it up and be OK with that. Why? His salary has not been cut. His pension has not been cut. He hasn’t stopped spending like a 15 year old who found his parents’ credit card. Why do I have to bail him out? And yes, I get that others have experienced wage freezes and cuts and haven’t had raises in several years. I get that when there isn’t money, people don’t get raises. Quite frankly, I didn’t expect one this round of negotiations strictly for that reason. I expected things to be different. And I will acknowledge this: Teachers’ Unions have created a very poor image for themselves. Every round of negotiations, public opinion of teachers gets a little less favourable because every round of negotiations they fight for more money. They fight for increased benefits. They threaten to strike when the Boards say they don’t have the money (provided by the Province). Perhaps if in other rounds of negotiations, the Unions hadn’t bit the hands that fed them, we would not be looked upon as greedy, lazy, and whiny. But again, I beg of you to keep in mind that the man or woman who teaches your 5th grader did not choose to be in a union, and has no say in the decision to ask for more more more more. That’s done without our input.
Campaigning. Need I say more? When this started to come down, I became slightly disillusioned with politics. It didn’t last long. As you can probably tell, I care a little too much to let this scare me off. But the thing I find the most ironic about the entire thing is that my Union almost came right out and told us to vote Liberal in the Provincial Election last year. Why? Because the Conservatives have made it clear that unions would be on the chopping block and that there would be cut after cut after cut. Dalton McGuinty marketed himself as the Education Premier and a Friend of Education. At least the Conservatives were honest???
The media… this is a touchy subject for me. Depending on the political allegiance of the paper or news network you get your information from, you get very different information. I read anti-teacher news that read that the rally at Queen’s Park on August 28th garnered 4-5000 attendees. Then I read pro-teacher news that reads 15-20,000 attendees. That’s a drastic misrepresentation of information on SOMEONE’s part. I don’t know whose, but someone is flat out lying. There’s no way to guess wrong with that big of a gap. The media is making me look greedy, selfish, like I’m punishing kids… the media doesn’t seem to care that I just lost a bunch of what were supposed to be irrevocable rights because the government can just legislate over top of them if they have enough support in The House.
Protests… several educators went to Queen’s Park after Bill 115 was passed, and they held a funeral for democracy on the lawn. Casket, skull, black clothes, eulogies, everything. I have a huge problem with that. It seems to me to be a disgraceful disrespect of the dead. I did not jump on the bandwagon of wearing black to school the following day. I wore my brightest shirt.
McGuinty Mondays… this is not a choice I made. This is a choice my Union made for me. And remember, I did not choose to be a part of my Union.
Withdrawing volunteer hours from extracurricular activities. Please note: VOLUNTEER hours from EXTRAcurricular activities. These are not part of my job. They are not mandatory. I could withdraw my support of these programs at any time. They increase school spirit, they get students involved, and they’re great for building better relationships with students, but they are by no means mandatory. I realize that it looks like we’re punishing kids. I do. And it sucks for the kids. I get that. I realize that it looks like we’re taking it out on them. But this is the only legal means left to tell anyone with any influence that we are not ok with this. If you have an issue with it, talk to your MPP about it. Get your MPP to talk to people who can do things. Teachers are an easy target because people hate us for the money we make and the time off we have and the pension and benefits we get, and obviously not enough people will stand up for us. But seriously… what’s next.
**Post publish edit: if anyone’s gonna get mad at me and say it’s all about the money, I see your argument and raise you: NHL Lockout. http://bleacherreport.com/articles/1334445-nhl-lockout-2012-why-gary-bettman-should-lose-his-job-if-a-lockout-happens.
There is something beautiful in all of this though. Something profound. I realized the instant that this started to come through that I truly love my job. I’ve said it before, I’ve known it for a while, but haven’t really faced any struggle other than difficult kids before to make me question it. I know I love my job because even though the stress of today alone (with union meetings and principal meetings to tell us they respect our decisions and won’t make things intentionally more difficult for us…. I cried a little in the VP’s office…) made me stress eat my way into the next pants size up, I’m sure… (Bren, if you’re reading this…… I can probably buy you a pina colada and key lime pie tomorrow, lol)… I still can’t think of anything else I’d rather do. If it gets so bad that I can’t support myself on this (and there is that potential), then I honestly don’t know what else I would do. I’m thankful that I have a Father in Heaven who protects me from needing to freak out about that two years in advance. If I put it in His hands repeatedly, over and over again, He will be faithful and do what’s best for me. He always does.
224. A successful week 1 and 2. I STILL haven’t yelled! Voice has risen, but I have not yelled. I am getting very good at the psychotic smile while repeating an instruction until it is obeyed.
225. Compliments from kids. They always speak such truth. Weird truth sometimes, but such truth…. “that dress makes you look taller!” “hold out your arms. Yup! Thought so! That shirt makes you look like a butterfly! But don’t worry, butterflies are beautiful!” *grade 7/8 quotes*
226. Determination and willpower.
227. Promises that will never be broken (rainbows)
228. I have more than optimism. I have hope. Everlasting hope in everlasting truth. Because I trust — I have faith. Faith without trust is mere optimism.
229. Hilarious kids. I should write a book of elementary kid quotes.
230. Conquering the Centipede……. There’s a good story there. I got the utter privilege of flushing a centipede down the drain in my sink, but it didn’t want to go. There was screaming, and jumping up and down…. all while my grandmother was on speaker phone. It was epic.
231. Fabulous salads that I made myself! (taken on my Motorola Charm)
232. Hard-boiled eggs the old-fashioned way.
233. I’m beautiful no matter what size I am.
234. This too shall pass.
235. I am intelligent enough to be able to understand both sides of an issue, whether I agree with both sides or not.
236. Supportive, reassuring administration.
237. Minority governments.
238. Romans 8:31
239. My Bible study group. Lovely group of kids… erm, young adults…