I had dinner with a teacher friend of mine last night - a very caring, passionate person who has invested a vast chunk of her heart in taking care of her kids. She has an extremely stressed-out, difficult class this year - kids with attention problems, kids given to acting out, kids that hit, kids that sit slumped and miserable and unresponsive, glowering at her, kids that, in the way of our heartless and stressed-out world, bring all manner of baggage into the classroom and have no way of dealing with it, and who will have less capacity to do so as class sizes grow, programs and resources get cut and special needs children get dumped unhelped into the mainstream. It's already emotionally exhausting as it is, but besides teaching, she strives to reach them, to lift them, to take care of them, to inspire them, to help them feel good about themselves and to get them to be nice to each other, and to fill them with a positive attitude towards learning and themselves. This friend cares enough about her kids that she has saved the more brilliant stories they write and pictures they draw - often in huge, crooked Crayola strokes - and shares them occasionally with me, once even sitting myself and a visiting musician I was hanging out with for a complete storybook narrative that a child of hers had assembled, reading it aloud to us and showing us the pictures. (He was ultimately as compelled as I was - but he has kids himself, and has put their art all over his albums, so that makes sense). Sometimes (I don't ever tell her this, but I imagine she can spot it) it takes a bit of effort on MY part to connect with her passion - she'll be praising things done by her students and I'll be sitting thinking, "yeah, but it looks like a kid did it," requiring her to kinda help me along in SEEING the creativity and potential there, but she always eventually gets me there, because these are skills she's cultivated; she sees in her children's work their developmental potential, the first flourishings of new minds, something it is her responsibility to recognize, reward, and nurture. This person is - I have no hesitation in saying it - EXACTLY the kind of person I would want looking after my children, if I had any; someone who puts her heart into the job, who actually CARES about teaching her kids. THAT, more than test scores, standardization, an appropriately industrialized curriculum, a passion for uniformity, or the strict following of regimental discipline is what I would look for in a teacher, is what I would want for my hypothetical children, is what I think MAKES A GOOD TEACHER: someone who sees her job as a matter of helping her kids become autonomous, fully-realized, self-respecting and creative human beings, and not of presiding over the creation of a society of disempowered worker-units, where only those born with money have a hope of flourishing.
What kind of teacher do you think Christy Clark would wish for your children?
Do you see her brimming over with care for children? Do you honestly think the Liberal government has any concern with the creation of "autonomous, fully-realized, self-respecting and creative human beings?" Nevermind what they're trying to do to the teachers - does their battle against the teachers and schools of this province actually seem like it is being waged in the best interests of the children?
It sure doesn't seem that way to me. It doesn't seem that way to the authors of the following memorandum about the impending job action, either, which I urge you all to read - the deceptively named "cooling off period" being imposed by Bill 22 is all about hamstringing the teachers from being able to take any effective action at all in defense of their jobs or kids. It's imposing, for instance, a clause that there be NO PICKETS - which means in effect that the schools will be kept open so that children can be baby-sat by non-teachers for the duration of any strike. This will make the strike less disruptive; it won't make it more effective. Also imposed are a three-day maximum for the upcoming job action (two days notice required) - three days which will commence on Monday. It's a Draconian, nasty piece of legislation, asserted and imposed as part of a general campaign of destroying unions; it shows, if you look at it carefully enough, just how cold and calculating the Liberals are in their approach to negotiations. Cooling off period my ass - I'd as soon be a miner under Thatcher as a teacher in British Columbia right now.
My friend was crying at some points over dinner last night as she described the current state of things. She's thinking that it may be time to get out. I didn't say it, but all the while talking with her some voice in the back of my head kept echoing, thank Christ I didn't decide to pursue a PDP and get involved in public education. I had considered it, as a natural next step from my ESL teaching, but frankly, I'm not sure what sort of person would WANT to teach in a BC public school system under the Liberals. The message is being sent very clearly by the Liberals that if you have a heart, that if you care about kids, that if you care about education - you'd best stay far far away from our public school system, because its back is about to be broken.
Maybe that's their ultimate aim? Maybe at some point, like our natural resources, our transit system, our liquor distribution, the Liberals envision the privitization of the education system, so ONLY those who pay for it can access the system? (Pause to shudder).
If you KNOW in your heart who in this conflict has the best interests of your kids in mind - speak up. Send a message to the Liberals that what they are doing to our teachers is NOT WELCOME and is NOT BEING DONE IN OUR NAME. Show support and solidarity with our teachers however you can. SPEAK OUT, because what's happening in this province right now WILL affect you - maybe not immediately, but - do you really think breaking the unions is the final stage in the plan we're seeing unveiled?