(I am going to warn you now that this is pretty much a soapbox post. So, if you aren't in the mood for a rant, just move on to the next blog you like. I won't be mad. I promise! But if you are so inclined, just scroll down past the picture and start reading! Oh, and word of warning, this post is looooong!)
I have been away from this blog for much longer than I intended. I would love to be able to say it is because I have been so busy living my incredible life that I just haven't had the time. Not that I haven't been living my incredible life... I have! I've had a wonderfully relaxed summer filled with reading, yoga and family time. Interspersed with a few stressful moments dealing with my mother who has Alzheimer's. But, overall, things have been good...really, really good.
No, the reason I haven't been posting is because my heart just hasn't been in it. My heart has been heavy. It still is.
I need to say upfront that I love teaching. And when I say love, I mean L-O-V-E teaching.
I love working with children every day.
I love that I can be creative in how I teach concepts.
I love writing here about the students I teach and the wonderful things that happen on a daily basis.
Teaching is in my blood.
Teaching is deep rooted in me.
But these past few months with our contract negotiations and job action have been tough. As in T--O--U--G--H...
Without teaching it is like a part of me has been cut off or taken away. This leaves a hole. And it leaves me feeling sad and not a little angry at the reasons I am not allowed to teach right now.
It was so depressing and heart wrenching to not be in the classroom at the end of June. To have to finish off what was a wonderful year with a wonderful group of students by going on strike and walking the line. Having to spend hours walking around my school with a picket sign on instead of being in the school teaching the children I love. Thank goodness for the students who came to visit and give hugs. They made it all more bearable.
It was depressing not being able to spend my own time in the summer setting up my room for September. Most years I would have gone in for a bit every week to clean, organize, plan, and decorate the class. (Don't even get me started on the primary book room which has not been cleaned or inventoried yet. Something else I do in my free, unpaid time every summer.)
It is depressing and infuriating having to listen over and over to government rhetoric about education and all that they are already doing for it. Feeling frustrated and angry that we have won a court case against the government's illegal stripping of our contract not once but TWICE and yet they still will not step up and admit that they were wrong and take steps to right that wrong.
It is frustrating and saddening to know that tomorrow morning I will be back on the picket line and not back in my classroom. More so because I don't see an end in sight. Not with a government that doesn't see the worth in funding our future. That doesn't see the value in funding, not just the people educating, but the children receiving that education.
But I know my value. And I know the value in providing the children in this province with the educational setting and supports that they not only need but deserve. I know the value, not only for those individual children, but for our society as a whole. And I believe in that value. I believe that our children deserve to have someone see their worth and back it up with action.
When the government keeps saying that they don't have the money to fund education they speak of education broadly, as pretty much a service that is provided in our province. It is a concept. Our premier, Christy Clark, and our Education Minister, Peter Fassbender, don't see the individual students who are impacted by their decisions and lack of willingness to do what is right. Or, if by some miracle they do (I wouldn't hold my breath), then they just don't care. Which, in my opinion, would be even worse.
Education may be a service but it is a service made up of individual real people, real children with real needs who have the right to have those needs met.
I see the results of decisions made by government. I not only see but I KNOW the grade 3 student who is reading at mid-grade 1 level because life got in the way of his learning in grade 1 and he only got 50 minutes of resource teacher support a week in grade 2 because extra staffing has been cut so much over the years that there are too many students who need help and not enough staff to fully help them. Is this his fault? No. Is the "system" failing him by not meeting his needs? Yes.
I know the students with fine motor difficulties (a growing epidemic in the early grades by the way) who struggle to print but haven't got an OT (occupational therapist) to come in and work with them since they were cut too. Is this their fault? No. Is the "system" failing them by cutting services? Yes.
I know the student who I think may have a reading disability but who will sit on the wait list to be tested for close to THREE YEARS because budget cuts have made it so only a handful of students get tested from any one school in any given school year. Is it the student's fault that they learn in a different way? No. Is the "system" failing them by making them wait years for help? Yes.
I know the student who has a very hard home life, who comes to school each day angry at the world and feeling like no one cares but who can only see the school counsellor once a week for 20 minutes because that counsellor works at three schools each week and has over 50 kids on their caseload. Is it the student's fault that his family life is in turmoil? No. Is our "system" failing him by not helping him learn to deal with his emotions so that he can begin to learn? Yes.
I know all of these students and many others with a variety of needs. I know them because I live with them each and every day. I watch them struggle. I see how little support we are able to provide and how that support has diminished a little bit more every year. I know this system and I have been trying to do more with less for years and years. All teachers have.
This system that fails these students (and many others with a variety of needs) is the system created by our now premier, Christy Clark. She started the downward spiral when she was Education Minister and stripped our rights to negotiate fully and she has continued to create a system that is failing students by refusing to fund education properly.
Enough is enough.
I know each and every one of these students up close and personal. I struggle each year, on a daily basis, to provide the children in my care with everything that they need emotionally, intellectually, physically to be better people. I bring these struggles home with me. I dream about certain children I am having trouble reaching (just ask my husband!) I worry about children in my care whether I am at work or not.
Enough is enough.
How many times is Christy Clark going to have to be told that she has behaved unconstitutionally and has acted illegally where our contracts are concerned? How many more cuts do our children have to take before the people of this province stand up and say "No more!!!"? How many more children have to fall through the cracks that our government is busy cutting in our education system?
Enough is enough.
I am not on strike for me. I am on strike for the children I see day in and day out who are being shafted by a system that cares more about money than it does about people. I am on strike against a government that has shown time and time again that it does not want to follow the letter of the law.
Do I want to be on strike? NO!
Did I ever want to be on strike? NO again!
Do I wish we could have resolved this without ever having to strike? Double YES!
But, will I remain on strike even if it means losing salary and worrying about how to keep a roof over my head and food on my table? YES!
Enough is enough.
So, if you're in my 'hood tomorrow, and see me circling the school, give a honk and a wave. And if you live in BC and haven't written to your MLA's and premier's office, please do. Whatever your point of view (you don't have to agree with me!) your voice matters. Together we may just be able to end this strike and get on with the classroom learning.