This is an open letter to columnists and small thinkers who enjoy depicting teachers as lounging around in deck chairs at the cottage while lesser mortals toil. They applaud legislation that will allow government to dictate the terms of a “collective agreement”when there is nothing either collective or agreement about it.
In the interest of full disclosure, I was elected to a school board twice and served six years as a trustee, and I have a school teacher in my family. I learned how hard school teachers work and how long their days can be.
To those who write columns – how long is your vacation? How long does it take you to grind out your prose and how many people do you answer to while you accomplish this? How often are you kicked, punched or bitten while you work? How much of your work do you do at home after hours and how much do you contribute financially to your workplace? How often are you exposed to illness by those around you? How many sick days do you receive?
Teachers contribute heavily to their own pensions, do you?
A reality is that many teachers agree totally to a two year wage freeze. It is the fringe benefit packages that are at issue – all negotiated in the past in the full gaze of the public.
It is important to have the facts right. For many, many years local teachers have NOT been able to amass sick days for a payout at retirement. This was negotiated OUT of the agreement years ago in this and several other jurisdictions. It may still apply to Toronto boards.
Teachers are constantly exposed to illness because parents do not keep sick kids at home and germs spread in the close quarters of the classroom. They need sufficient sick time to account for this. One minor surgery would wipe out the time offered by the government.
These days governments run schools and parents run schools and public opinion influences schools. Teachers are subjected to all of this.
Your children are in the care of teachers more waking hours than you as a parent. They are expected today to teach the curriculum and to impart life skills that used to be taught by parents. In some places their safety is a consideration as more and more violence invades schools.
Teachers hear a lot and see a lot and care a lot. They have been known to feed and clothe kids in need and they strive to find help for those who have trouble learning. This aid comes from educational assistants who work with kids facing their own challenges. These EAs will also have their meager salaries frozen.
Does this recent government initiative encourage anybody to join the profession? Are we taking any steps to reward initiative or are we enshrining mediocrity. What do we want from the educational system and how are we encouraging it?
As for influencing byelections – be careful Mr. McGuinty. You may think people care little for teachers and you will be applauded. You may be surprised to learn people care even less about you.
Teachers are not the enemy.