As a parent whose son has started his second year of school, I'll admit I was out of touch with our public education system until last year. My last experience was over 10 years ago when I was still in high school and let's face it, as a teenager I wasn't fully engaged in the inner workings of the system at that time either.
But things were different then; our schools were better funded, our classes had more than enough resources and materials, our classes were smaller, the children who needed help had it full time and the teaching profession in general was a respected one.
In just over 10 years our schools' funding has drastically been cut, with parents and teachers now funding from their pockets to keep the system somewhat propped up. Classes have limited and out of date resources. Classes are overflowing and your average class now has multiple children that require extra help but receive none, leaving it to one teacher to try to balance all of their students' needs. And then there's our government's constant attacking and condescending attitude towards teachers in general.
The saddest part to me is how much of the public buy into the "lazy, greedy" teacher persona that our government portrays in an effort to justify its constant underfunding of our public schools.
Teachers are not the enemy, they never have been. Sure, as with any profession, there are a few bad ones out there but generally, people get into this career because they are passionate about teaching and want to pass their knowledge onto the next generation.
Teachers attend at the very least four years of university (although most have six-plus years), and I can't think of anther profession that requires that level of education and dedication yet is constantly criticized and scrutinized for their salary -- especially in B.C. where we have some of the lowest paid teachers in Canada.
Ironically the same government officials who often perpetrate the criticism make a way higher salary, receive better benefits, do way less work and have nowhere the education that a teacher in B.C. has.
Doctors, dentists and lawyers all have around the same education levels as teachers. These other professions can all basically pick and choose their clients and determine their own workload. They see one person at a time and get one-on-one time with each client. Teachers on the other hand, have to balance and teach 30 or more students, all with different needs and learning styles all at one time.
Lawyers are similar in the sense that they often take their work home and work a lot of outside hours; however unlike teachers they can often bill someone for that time. Also, despite my best efforts, I cannot come up with any other profession where employees spend money out of their pocket on resources and supplies without some kind of reimbursement like teachers do.
These are people who went to university for four to six or more years (and most have the students loan debt to prove it). They work long hard hours. They volunteer their own time for sports teams, Christmas concerts and other after school activities. They take money out of their own pocket to buy supplies for their classrooms.
There are many cases of teachers bringing in food every day for the students they know aren't getting enough otherwise. These are the people who we entrust with the very future of this province. What part of this sounds greedy?
Our children spend around 30 hours a week with their teacher, who not only teach them but inspires them and has a big part in moulding and shaping what their interests and passions in life could be.
I can trace my passion for writing to my high school English teacher Mr. Mac who saw a talent in me that I couldn't see, and pushed me to accomplish more with my writing. My art teacher Mr. Sulley was amazing and inspired many of my artistic passions that I still carry and use to this day. My social studies teacher Mr. Hornett was a huge reason I became interested in political issues and awareness even before I was old enough to vote.
These teachers all had a huge influence on who I have become and I cant help but wonder if I was a student today in these overcrowded underfunded classrooms, would these teachers have the resources and time to inspire me as they did back then? Or would I simply fall through the cracks like so many students today?
Teachers are not the enemy. They are doing the best they can with the overcrowded and underfunded system they are stuck in. If you want to blame someone for your child not getting the support they need, or for the out-of-date resources, broken down playgrounds, loss of field trips, programs or extracurricular activities, overcrowded unmanageable classroom conditions, never-ending school supply lists, or increase in Pro-D days and lengthening of spring break, look no further than our provincial government whose incisive cuts have forced boards to cut every "extra" component of our public schools leaving them with nothing more than barebones.
It's time to stop blaming the teachers. It's time to stop buying into this government's anti-teacher propaganda and start realizing that if we don't fight with our teachers to get the resources, funding and classroom support they need, the ones who are really losing in the long run is our children.
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