02/08/2015 01:39 EST | Updated 04/10/2015 05:59 EDT

Why I Can't Just Quit Teaching Physics and 'Get a Proper Job'

When I wrote the original "Enough's Enough" article on Medium, it gained a lot of extra attention. Huffington Post Canada asked if they could reprint it, so I said "Yes", because I wanted the story to get extra traction. So it was was reprinted on Huff Post with a new title "I Teach University Physics, but I'm on Government Assistance". That wasn't my editorial decision, but it adds an air of sensationalism to the article.

Some of the comments made on Facebook and listed after the article, are (being polite) sceptical of the veracity of my claims. For the record, we get the Trillium benefit. I'll explain why in a minute.

The second set of nay-saying commentators are the "Huh, he can't be that dedicated, he's refusing to do something for the students". To those people, I issue a challenge. Come and take my introductory algebra based Physics course in the summer at Carleton. Then you can see me in action, and you'll find out why I'm an award-winning Physics teacher. I have had nothing but favourable comments about my stance from current and former students, who are actually in a position to judge me as a teacher. So, what do you say? Make my day. Take the course and learn something. See what University teaching in the 21st century is like. I can guarantee that you will not have had a class taught like I do. As one of my students said "He has a unique teaching style".

And then we get to the "Why doesn't he quit and get a proper job?" people. The answer is, I'm 52 years old. There aren't that many job opportunities coming my way. Have you tried getting a job in Ottawa these days? And I can't move elsewhere. My younger son is in a fabulous Special Needs School here in Ottawa, with wonderful teachers, we have the specialist doctors at the Children's Hospital, and a pool of wonderfully talented therapists to work with him. He needs to be here, and so I need to be here in Ottawa. He needs round the clock attention, so I need flexible working hours, which University teaching gives me.

The beef I have with the University is that people like me are working de facto full time. If we were really full time, we would be paid a lot more, have much better benefits and even a pension. I have colleagues who have been teaching for 13 years, and the University is still trying to call them "temporary appointments". This is blatant hypocrisy, we are working full time, but the University maintains a pretence that it is a "one off, special contingency" every year. Nonsense!

I strenuously object to the University taking a lot of public money in a block grant to pay for teaching and research, while making a substantial number of the teaching staff work in poverty level jobs. The University is getting the Ontario taxpayer to subsidize them twice, once from the grant and once for financial assistance to the working poor staff they employ. Then there is the ever-increasing tuition fees charged to the students. Increases have been regularly justified because of "increased teaching costs". I can tell you, that the front-line teaching staff who are in the classrooms are not the cause of this. We got the magnificent increase of 0 per cent this year on our already miserable stipend.

Now I'm not just singling out Carleton University for these practices, since virtually every University in Canada does the same thing, to lots and lots of people. So, I'm making my case, but there are a large number of other people, who haven't got the opportunity to speak out, and so I have to speak for them too. It could cost me my job, so I take this very seriously, I assure you.

And finally, to those of you have supported the position of we precarious University teachers, a heartfelt "Thank you", it is so nice that there are people who understand. We are trying to do a good job, to educate our young people. It is a pity that the Universities, those institutions that should prize teaching and learning the most, are the ones who value us, the teachers, the least.

This article originally appeared on Medium


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