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Beware, Christy Clark, B.C. Teachers Are Talking To Each Other

07/29/2014 02:12 EDT | Updated 09/28/2014 05:59 EDT
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Dear Christy,

It must be so difficult being premier of the province these days. What with having to deal with all the complaints about oil sands pipelines, and worrying about the changes in the LNG market, putting all your plans for our economy in jeopardy. It must give you many headaches to have to think about all that.

I can imagine also that you must be very busy and hardly getting any sleep as you fly around the province to the various fundraisers for your 2017 re-election campaign. It can never be too early to work on the next election campaign, can it?

But what I wanted to write to you about was this fight you're having with the teachers and the B.C. Teachers' Federation (BCTF). See, I'm not a politician but you may want to re-think your strategy with the teachers. Something happened when you locked them out of their classrooms in June.

Usually during lunch time they're too busy photocopying and working with kids and they don't have much time to talk to each other but when the lockout forced them to eat their lunch on the sidewalk, they suddenly discovered that they had lots of time to have conversations in a way that's not possible in a busy school day or even on a Pro-D or in a staff meeting.

You see, normally in a typical secondary school with a staff of about 80 teachers, most only ever talk to about five teachers daily and then perhaps about 10 others on other occasions but during the lockout, that changed. There was lots more conversation -- mostly about you and what your real agenda is when it comes to public education. Teachers shared information and experiences and built up relationships that had not existed before.

The other thing the lockout did was that it freed up time on weekends that would normally be used for marking and preparing lessons. Even though you forbade teachers from doing any of that, they found it very difficult to break old habits. They were so used to the kinds of tasks they had done for years on weekends, they looked for outlets for all that pent-up energy and that's how they discovered social media in an unprecedented way.

They started pages on Facebook, and wrote and blogged and tweeted. They sent letters to the media, wrote to MLAs. They commented on each other's posts. Their blogs were published by alternative media like The Huffington Post and Rabble.ca. They started Twitter tags like #thisismystrikepay that went viral across the world. Bit by bit, they built up this network of connections and information that's proving to be quite resilient and resistant to anything that the B.C. Public School Employers' Association says or does.

I'm afraid that your lockout, the one they tagged #Christyclarkslockout, has been the catalyst for a network focused on resisting any attempts to privatize public education in B.C.

I'm sorry to have to tell you this, but all the work you've been doing for the past 12 years to save taxpayers money by shifting dollars away from the education budget and toward other investments may be all for naught as this network continues to grow and strengthen.

You should see what they're talking about on all the pages! They've dug up all kinds of facts and statistics and information that make a compelling case that a well-funded public education system is critical to a democracy. They're now also attacking your economic policies and referring to studies that show government austerity measures actually kill economies.

This is dangerous information when you've been trying so hard to focus on balancing the budget. Do you know that they have the audacity to suggest the whole concept of a balanced budget is just a myth and that there is enough money for schools if there is enough money for investments in mills and pipelines?

I think the best thing for you to do is to get teachers back into classrooms as soon as possible. Start the year early to make up for all the time that was lost in June! Get teachers busy with lesson preparation and teaching again so that they can stop talking to each other and to the public about public education. It's actually quite scary the number of parents who are now talking to teachers!

Some of these parents are really very angry that they are only now realizing what has been happening in schools for the past 12 years! They have been talking about working on a recall campaign and they have started so many petitions!

Oh! I should not leave out the students! Have you seen the letters they've been writing in support of teachers? And all those videos on YouTube? Some of them are quite clever and funny.

So you see, if you get teachers back into classrooms you may be able to stop this network from growing and getting stronger.

I don't want to tell you how to do your job, I know it must be quite stressful, but I really do think that you poked a hornets' nest when you attacked public school teachers and their union.

To save yourself and your party's chances for re-election, you should do whatever it takes to get those hornets back into the nest. Give them whatever they need for their working conditions, because you know they've argued quite successfully that their working conditions are students' learning conditions and now parents agree with them. I don't think you'd want to have thousands of parents angry with you when you promised to put their families first during your last election campaign. Best to do what you promised last time before you work on your promises for 2017.

I hope this helps and that you have a good rest before your next fundraiser!

Sincerely,

Lizanne

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