As a first-year teacher, I feel really lost and confused, not knowing where exactly I fit into this whole situation. I don't feel like I personally have the right to complain about my salary, or the pay increases that my colleagues have been deprived of over the past few years.
I can't speak of deteriorating classroom conditions because I haven't actually witnessed what it was like to teach in an environment before class size and composition language was illegally stripped from our contract. And lastly, I'm not jaded from all the past labour disputes and strife between the B.C. Teachers' Federation and the provincial government.
My first year has not been easy. It has been a huge eye-opening experience as to what my job actually entails. I've realized that teaching is not just about lesson plans and marking. The majority of my time and effort on a daily basis has been about discovering what it is that each individual student needs from me at that current moment.
It's been about constantly finding and switching my role from teacher to counsellor, mentor, coach, event planner, coordinator, role model, or motivational guru. Sometimes, it's been about simply being there as a friend for a student who really needs someone to talk to.
On a good week, I manage to get my working day below 10 or 11 hours and try to save one whole day for myself on the weekends.
Please don't take this for whining or complaining. I love my job, and I do it happily. I "signed up for this." But what I've been blown away by most in my experience thus far is how surrounded I've been by so many other amazing individuals who work incredibly hard and care just as deeply about their jobs and students.
It's an incredible feeling to look around and realize that I am now part of a very special community of people who share my similar passion. I'm constantly amazed and inspired by the educators around me, as if I'm still a student looking up to them and not actually a teacher myself. I wish everyone could see and understand what I have this past year.
Why does Christy Clark feel the onus is on me to prevent my students from being caught in the middle of this dispute? I'm trying as hard as I can, but my hands are tied. Since the government's lockout, I've been struggling to keep my class running smoothly, and, admittedly, I'm basically "winging" every lesson I teach.
I have no time to mark anything, nor do I have time to give any crucial feedback to my students about their learning or anything they do. My lessons are boring and being whipped together at the last minute, straight out of the textbook or videos off YouTube.
I wish I had more teaching experience or lesson plans from years past to fall back on, but I don't. I struggle to keep things together, and all the inspiration I've built over the past year is slowly being eroded away. I try to put on a smiling face for my students, but my morale is taking a beating. This isn't what I signed up for.
None of us teachers want our students to get caught in the middle, but what choice do we have? If we allow the government to have it their way, It means that we begin down a path similar to what has taken place in the American public school system -- a path of slippery slopes that include chronic underfunding and the gradual chipping away of our public school system.
As things deteriorate, corporations swing in to "save the day" with their advertising dollars and special interests. "Inadequate" teachers (not chronic underfunding and lack of support) are the ones blamed for lower student achievement, and teacher evaluations and salaries become linked to student "success" based on standardized tests and curriculum. Schools in lower socio-economic neighbourhoods or composed of high ESL populations are seen as less desirable to teach in, because teachers can't be as "successful" there.
Teachers are no longer viewed as creative individuals who can use their strengths, talents, and time to nurture and guide their students towards success. Instead, they are seen as low-skilled workers whose job is to hand out packaged material and prepare students for standardized tests in cookie-cutter fashion.
If you can afford it, you can send your child to a private school where they screen out children with high needs or behavioural issues. There, they will be in small classes and receive the support and one-on-on time with their teachers that is critical to success. We end up with a society of haves and have-nots, where the gap between the rich and the poor only continues to grow.
To my Grade 7 students: I'm sorry if you don't get to have your Grade 7 leaving ceremony. I'm sorry if the end of your elementary school experience is interrupted by a strike. I know you don't fully understand this now, but I hope that when all this is settled, it means that the next five years of your education is better because of it.
I hope that it means you graduate high school having been given the funding necessary to provide you with the support you need. I hope that it means you go on to higher learning institutions and become critical thinkers in the world of tomorrow. One day, it will be your educated minds and voices that will speak out and fight to keep what we have for your children.
I hope that one day you'll understand.
More blogs on the B.C. teachers' strike:
- Christy Clark's High School Clique Won't Stand Up For Public Education - Louise Wallace, mother, blogger
- I Shouldn't Have To Make This Choice - Ashley D. MacKenzie, teacher
- I'm Calling For A Parents' Strike. You In? - Louise Wallace, mother, blogger
- Dear Parent Of The Average Child: One B.C. Teacher's Confession - Genevieve Hawtree, teacher
- A Kindergarten Student Told Me Teachers Are 'Lazy, Greedy' - Caroline Cho, teacher
- What Happens After A Teachers' Strike, From A Student's Perspective - Ramesh Ranjan, former student
- Why I'm Still A Teacher After 20 Years - Carla Friesen, Teacher