Don McRae Teacher Letter Comes Back To Haunt Education Minister

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B.C. Gov
B.C. Gov

B.C.'s education minister complaints when he was a teacher have come back to haunt him as the provincial government looks to finalize a long-term contract with the province's educators.

Don McRae was a social studies teacher at a Courtenay high school when he wrote a letter in 2008 to then-minister Shirley Bond complaining of overwhelming class sizes.

He wrote that about having to manage classes of up to 34 students with four special needs kids, and how he wasn't sure how effective he would be with his workload.

"If I continue to teach classes of this size and composition, I do not see how the system will get 18 more years of service from me," he wrote. "I would eventually break or stop caring, and then it would be time for me to move on."

Matt Pearce, president of the Prince George District Teachers Association, presented the letter to Prince George school trustees at a Tuesday board meeting, the Prince George Citizen reported.

"Don McRae was a classroom teacher, and like most of us, the conditions that are present in some of our classrooms are simply beyond managing," Pearce told the newspaper.

The B.C. Teachers' Federation (BCTF) featured the letter in an "X-Files"-themed YouTube video titled "The BC Liberals Truth is out there." It shows a teacher writing at a desk while a narrator reads McRae's letter.

The letter re-surfaces as the province is trying to find labour peace with the BCTF by getting teachers to sign a 10-year contract.

Union president Susan Lambert called the province's plan "ludicrous," adding that it could derail the BCTF's plan for collective bargaining reform, the Vancouver Sun reported.

Text of Don McRae's letter:

"Currently I am teaching four different classes with the following composition: socials 11 with 33 students and one IEP; socials 11 with 30 students and four IEPs; socials 11 with 34 students with four IEPs; and military history with 31 students and nine IEPs.

I endeavour to be a good teacher. I try to create a positive learning environment to create relationships with my students, be available outside of class time and effectively teach the courses in a meaningful manner. This semester I have 128 students and 18 IEPs in total. This does not include my advisory group, with whom I meet once a month and try and assist their progress through the school year.

My concern is that I do not know just how effective I will be as an educator this year. With large classes, management becomes a bigger issue, and more time is spent trying to get students on task rather than teaching content and skills. I find it difficult to create positive relationships with my classes when there are so many students of varying needs and issues. It stretches one's ability to have students reach their full potential when you can spend so little time with each individual.

I will do my best to work with the students and give them the skills and knowledge they will need to be successful in my classes. My concern is that I may not have the ability to be as effective a teacher as I have been in the past. There is only so much time one can spend marking (an additional three more students adds 10 percent more marking load on a teacher per class), prepping, doing the paperwork, making the phone calls, answering the e-mails and learning new programs like BCeSIS.

If I continue to teach classes of this size and composition, I do not see how the system will get 18 more years of service from me. I would eventually break or stop caring, and then it would be time for me to move on.

Many thanks for listening to my concerns."

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