07/21/2015 12:24 EDT | Updated 07/21/2016 05:59 EDT

Teachers Are Spending This Summer Fighting for Your Kids

Teacher pointing to raised hands in classroom
Jupiterimages via Getty Images
Teacher pointing to raised hands in classroom

How do teachers spend their summer vacation?

If you believe a recent editorial, Ontario teachers and their labour unions are lounging at the beach and "putting their already-booked summer breaks before the kids' welfare."

But anyone who knows a teacher, has one in their family or has benefited from their efforts in the classroom knows this opinion does a massive disservice to the men and women who dedicate their lives to educating young people.

Most teachers I know spend much of their summer break upgrading their credentials, attending conferences and taking courses. By August, many are already spending their personal vacation time preparing lesson plans and creating amazing bulletin boards to beautify their classrooms and improve their students' classroom experience.

This summer, most Ontario teachers have also been without a contract with their employer for more than a year. It's hard to relax when you don't know the status of your employment, or what kind of conditions you'll find when you return to the office.

So I'm spending my summer fighting to maintain the quality of education in this province -- something that can only be protected through a fair deal for teachers. In July, I sat down at the bargaining table to talk about real issues and find a meaningful path forward that would protect teachers and the classrooms where they work.

We walked away from the table two weeks ago because our employer -- the Liberal government and their elected trustees -- seemed uninterested in, and unprepared for, these conversations.

It's a tried and true cliché to say negotiations "shouldn't happen in the media" -- but nor should they occur in the dark. Parents deserve to know what we're fighting for and to understand that it is teachers who have their children's best interests at heart.

We are all eager to go back to school with a contract in place, and to avoid any disruption to students' learning experience.

But if parents are worried about disruption, they should also ask questions about the measures the Liberals are trying to push through under the guise of austerity. Many of the bargaining demands being made by the provincial government and their elected trustees would result in major disruptions to the classroom experience and the quality of education in Ontario.

The truth is, the Liberals are facing a huge deficit of their own making and want to balance their books by making cuts to public education, while consolidating power with elected Catholic trustees who are trying to wrest control from teachers so they can decide who's hired in our schools and how teachers spend their time, regardless of the impact on students.

These parties are relying on the fact that Ontario families are enjoying their own summer vacations, unplugged and spending well-earned time with their families.

As "back to school" gets closer, the Liberals are hoping the public will say "take the deal" to avoid the inconvenience of work to rule measures that will be initiated by our teachers on Aug. 17, if no contract has been reached.

Work to rule is hard on students and their parents -- and it's hard on teachers too.

Teachers take no joy in reducing their workday to the standard hours and duties outlined by their employer.

And if you look closely at the work to rule measures our organization released to members, it's a list of things our teachers already do above and beyond their classroom duties. Add those items up and you'll get an idea of how much weight our teachers are carrying from government cuts.

Yes, work to rule will be hard on students -- but so will the measures our employer wants to introduce while the public is focused on summer fun.

The Ontario English Catholic Teachers Association understands that teachers matter, and how they're treated matters too.

This week, I'll sit down with the Premier and the Minister of Education and encourage them not to balance their books on the backs of teachers. We're doing our best to avoid a strike action this fall, but not at any cost to education.

No matter what season it may be -- the summer vacation season or the fall election season -- teachers care deeply about their students and their schools. And Ontario parents should care deeply about the deal teachers get from their government, too.


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