I am a learning support teacher who retired last year, the truth being that I did not want the underfunded educational environment and recurring struggle to change it to affect my health. It was the best move for me at that time. However, I do miss teaching so I tutor and run parent support groups. My thirty-four year career has been as a classroom teacher and a special education or resource teacher, my Master’s being in reading remediation and special ed. Throughout these years, I have been actively involved in my union as a representative but above all else in advocating for the learning conditions of students. Many of my letters to editors on the subject have been published. I could not sit back during this round of “no-bargaining” on the part of government. I picketed alongside my friends and past colleagues, wrote letters, and attended rallies. At the rally in Victoria organized by parents, I was delighted to see that many parents finally understand what is at stake – the future of the next generation – and that a fully funded, excellent public education is a democratic right in Canadian society. We heard over and over that class size, composition, and specialist ratios have to be dealt with even from voices of children! To my dismay, none of it was televised that night.
Very few trustees, administrators, and DPAC leaders have taken a stand during this strike; most sat back and pompously asked for the parties to settle it, while board after board continued with cuts for next year. Standing on the sidelines, as far as I am concerned, should be seen as passivity, not leadership. My view on education is that if we are going to have excellence, we need everyone to get on board and we need dialogue devoid of fear or superiority or top down models which thwart ownership of the problem and its resolution. There must be respect towards or between all stakeholders; otherwise, what are we teaching our children? The educational community needs to come together, set goals, and make improvements for students. For these reasons I will be running for trustee in my district. You may have heard that in Finland, the country with top education rankings, teachers are in charge of the curriculum and administrators and the ministry are there to support them. Perhaps here we have things backwards.
What also motivates me is the endless hard work of teachers through impossible working conditions in the last decade and their resolve to make things right for students despite personal hardship. I say to them, I salute you and not because I walked in your shoes, but because every day you show your humanity by putting children first. You volunteer, you fund, you raise Cain, give up pay (time and again), and as we saw, you are the ones who take bullets for “your kids” when you must. We need to respect and retain our teachers and not lose them to stress or other provinces and professions. Teaching cannot be a creative, intellectual, joyous process under existing policies. Lastly, what motivates me is my love of children including my own who as a gifted child had no supports or special programs. We don’t want our children to just “survive”, we don’t want our children to “drop out”, and horribly, we don’t ever want to live to see them “end it”. We want them to flourish and be the best that they can be, striving for excellence and becoming lifelong learners and successful citizens. I urge all involved not to stand on the sidelines but to fight for well-funded public education. Our kids deserve none other!