Tag Archives: underfunding

The Reasons we are Fighting for Public Education

boy reaching for stars
http://www.gratisography.com/

 

This is a reposting of my friend Cecelia Griffiths’s  post on her blog, Especially About Students. This is a long read but after you read it, you will have a comprehensive understanding  of why we teachers are willing to forgo salary for this fight we are in with a government that does not seem to care about our most precious “resource” – our children.

As everyone probably knows, when doctors become qualified physicians, they take the Hippocratic Oath, in which they are required to vow never to do any harm. But doctors are always having to do harm. They have to cut into people’s bodies to repair what lies within, or they have to poke needles into their arms to get information to help the person. Sometimes, in horrible circumstances, usually with mass casualties, they have to choose between patients, knowing they can save only one of two or more. These are the life and death situations that face doctors routinely, and nobody expects that they would do other than what they do: their very best to help people to survive to continue their lives.

Nobody will ever confuse teachers with doctors. Nobody will ever see teachers as performing a life or death service (except, of course, when they’re shielding children with their bodies in mass shootings and things), and nor should they. Teachers don’t maintain life; they contribute to its quality. At their best, they give their students broadened horizons, wider ranges of thought, and deeper compassion. But they don’t, by and large save lives. Not in a measurable way, anyway.

But teachers do have to make choices, and some of those choices feel very, very important. For me, as a special education teacher, although I probably do not singlehandedly keep anyone alive, I do indeed make choices that have the power to truly affect kids and their parents. About fifteen years ago, when I taught a tiny class of five students with profound disabilities, and had three Educational Assistants (EAs), I made a whole lot of choices. I experimented with different communication strategies for the nonverbal teens (all but one had no speech). I, together with my EAs, used sophisticated technology to work out how much they did and did not understand. We thought carefully about ways to teach them to cope in public places, which they often found frightening or uninteresting. We dug deep and explored the ranges of their capabilities, and as we worked, we learned. It was a wonderful time. One of the EAs in that class told me, a while back, that another had remarked to him that it was the best job he’d ever had.

It was exhilarating to see the kids learn, and grow. We wanted to teach some of them how to take control over their environment, because their disabilities were so severe they’d had no way of making anything happen independently. So we brought in a whole lot of green fabric of all sorts: green whole cloth, green jeans, green tshirts, anything green that we could get, and we wove a jungle. We hung long braided cords of green from the ceiling to simulate jungle vines. We made draping leaves and created a fantastic jungle world in our classroom. Then I went out and bought a bunch of battery operated toys; parrots, and monkeys, and snakes, which we hung strategically amidst our fabric foliage. We ran wires from the battery cases, carefully hidden, to a bank of large, colourful, switches. If you went up to a switch and hit it, something happened in the jungle: a parrot cawed, or a monkey chuckled and spun, or a snake hissed, or whatever. Soon we were wheeling the kids up to the switches, and they would hit one and watch the result, and one would smile, and another would laugh, and laugh. They could make things happen!

We went on to experiment with a whole bunch of fancy technology. We tried galvanic skin switching, with which a severely disabled person can use biofeedback to change the switch by controlling the surface of their skin. We tried mercury switching, where the slightest movement changes the position of the mercury and closes the switch. Always, the switches were attached to things the kids loved: recorded music, or special toys, or a visual treat.

Those kids thrived. They were happy, and we knew it, because they laughed, and smiled, and lit up when they saw us. Their parents were happy because their children were happy. It was a wonderful time in my life, and although those kids were never going to be elected to office, or granted degrees, or even live independently, we knew that we were making a difference, and they knew they could, too. I only left that job because an amazing opportunity arose for me to go off to Australia to get my Masters degree in Special Education.

When I resumed teaching in British Columbia, it was 2002. That was the year that the current run of attacks on our public education system began. I had a lovely little class of primary aged children (5-9 years old) with significant special needs. We did some good things with that group, and many have gone on to do very nicely. But there were clouds gathering on the horizon.

Since that time, year, after year, after year, the cuts have come. Relentlessly, the services we could provide became fewer. Wait times for evaluation became longer. I went to work for an online school, thinking it could help kids who has been medically excluded because of their severe behaviour. These were children and teens with acting out, due to disabilities, so severe, that they could not be housed in the education system, and they had been offered hospital home bound services instead. But for these children, mostly with autism, hospital home bound was a poor fit, so we tried something innovative, called blended learning. It involved some carefully chosen work in a centre with behaviour management staff, and a lot of online study and interaction. It showed real promise for children who had huge trouble attending to human faces, but who did well with computer screens.

When the focus of that online program changed in the direction of catering for paying foreign students, and more ‘typical’ students looking to pick up some coursework at home, I went to work as a Learning Support Teacher in an inner city school. What I saw there was devastating. In the online school, we had had a good budget, which I now realize was partly because various people were looking to commercialize it. But this little elementary school had very, very little. The children were mostly immigrants, and many, immigrant or not, were living well below the poverty line. It was routine for most of us to keep healthy snacks at hand, because so many came without breakfast or lunch. Many of the children spoke little or no English. Some had no winter coats. School supplies? That wasn’t on anyone’s radar, so a lot of us bought them ourselves. One year, we ran out of white photocopy paper in March. A friend of mine taught her class to garden so they could grow their own food.

Things were getting worse. It was taking longer to get kids evaluated by the school psychologists, and the wait list was growing. In a given year, we might have up to twenty five names to propose for urgent assessment, but we could get maybe three or four completed at best. The psychologists, you see, were being spread thinner and thinner, covering more and more different schools. One little girl whom I knew for sure would qualify as learning disabled, never did get assessed while I was there, and I know there were many others.

At that point, the commute was killing me, as it was an hour and a half each way, as long as there were no road accidents. I chose, therefore, to switch to a semi-rural high school. By now, so much damage had been done due to underfunding, that the job I took would have been two and a half people’s work, fifteen years previously.

Now, there are three counsellors for fifteen hundred students. Three. And they do all of the necessary timetabling and juggling of courses for all fifteen hundred, so that everyone will be assured of taking what they need to graduate. This means, that if a student is suicidal, or if a student is grieving, or if they have a very serious illness, or depression, or bipolar, or an addictions issue, or teen pregnancy, or any of the myriad issues that can befall teens, that they must wait to get in to see a counsellor who is tasked with four hundred and ninety nine other kids. When they do get in – and the counsellors do their utmost best, working crazy hours day after day – they mostly get triaged, and referred. There isn’t much counselling anyone can do with those caseloads. But of course, the same cuts that are literally destroying the public education system, are also attacking other social services. The social safety net is very, very thin, and many young people are falling through the holes.

Now, there is one consistent Learning Assistance Teacher, to support the needs of a school of fifteen hundred. There is a little more time allotted, so the rest is filled by various teachers who have a block in their schedule for working with the kids with learning disabilities. That teacher, an extraordinarily passionate and dedicated person, is often in the building after six o’clock PM, because in addition to her teaching load, she has a massive case management load.

Now, we have no sensory room to help our student, who is so easily overstimulated, soothe himself and calm into a state where he can learn. The building is just too full. I actually bought a tent this year from Canadian Tire to try to give him his own comfortable space. We lined it with foam padding on the floor and put in bean bag chairs, but it didn’t block out noise so it wasn’t really what he needed.

Now, students with learning disabilities receive no funding at all. Neither do students with mild intellectual disabilities (what used to be called “mild mental retardation”), or those with mild to moderate behaviour or mental health concerns. These children are supposed to be ‘managed’ without funding for EA support, specialist teacher support, or any extra mental health services. So children with anxiety attacks, for example, or depression, are left without any funding for services at all. Teachers and counsellors, who know and care about these kids, move heaven and earth to try to ‘fit them in’ as best they can.

Now, it is much harder to get a ‘designation’ that will get funding for a child. The Ministry of Education requires that any child with special needs who will receive funding, be ‘designated’ according to the nature of their need. So a student can be designated ‘dependent handicapped’ or ‘chronic health’ or ‘severe behaviour/mental illness’. There are fixed amounts attached to these designations, no matter what the particulars of the circumstances actually look like. So, for example, a student designated ‘chronic health’ receives roughly the amount of money it would cost to hire a half time EA. What we do, then, is whenever we have a child who gets that kind of funding, we load his or her classes with other students who urgently need help, but are not funded. We try very hard to take into account how this will look for the classroom teacher, but essentially, because so many students have high needs but do not qualify for funding, we have to group these with kids who do qualify, to get them any help. This means that the students who have funding often share their EAs with those who do not. The EAs can be stretched pretty thin, and so can the classroom teachers.

There are a very great many more changes in the BC public education system that I have seen over the past twelve years, and none of them are good. Many, many teachers are genuinely exhausted. I have always been pretty healthy, but this year, towards the end of the year, just before the job action began, I got a bad cold. Not wanting to stay home, because my students are all intellectually disabled and the uncertainty of the situation needed a familiar face to provide support, I pushed through what became bronchitis, then laryngitis, and finally pneumonia. Long before the school year would have ended, had it ended normally, I was far too ill to work. Ultimately, I seem to have had pneumonia or its precursor illnesses for around two and a half months when I was finally hospitalised. I am not unusual; more and more teachers are getting physically ill. There is a great deal of stress in knowing you work with some of society’s most vulnerable people, and you cannot possibly meet their needs.

However, like physicians, we make the best choices we can. And after an enormous amount of distress, a great deal of pain and a lot of guilt because we see no other way, we chose to strike. Unlike other public sector workers, we are told that the cost of EAs is one of our ‘benefits’. Unlike other public sector workers, the conditions under which we work directly affects our ‘clientele’. You won’t see car salesmen on strike for bigger show rooms. You won’t see plumbers and pipe fitters striking to raise money for their clients to afford pipes. But we are on strike because we know that the kids, our kids, need books, and rooms, and smaller classes, and timely assessments, and specialist teaching, and libraries and so much more. And only we have a way to stand up, draw a line in the sand, and say, ‘Enough. This is enough. The children need your help.’

So we are on strike. And no matter how many people say that we are greedy, and we are lazy, we know the truth. We walk together, and we write signs, and we grieve. We grieve that children are hurt by our action, but that we know no other way to prevent continued ongoing harm. We grieve that we know how to help, but cannot. We talk to each other, and we hold each other up, and we take turns supporting our colleagues in their fear and sadness. But we strike, we make the hard choice, because it is the right thing to do. Even if it hurts.

Costs and Benefits…

helen and anne s 2
Helen Keller and Anne Sullivan

Did you know that the BC government now considers learning supports for students with special needs in public education a “wage benefit” for teachers that is “too expensive” for taxpayers to afford?

Better read that again… I know it’s a bit of a mindtwist.  It would make sense though if you remember that this is the same group of people who have redefined what “essential” means… but I digress.

Back to benefits. Now you and I may expect employee benefits to be about medical coverage or a dental plan or a car or travel expenses. We’d be wrong, according to Premier Christy Clark. Benefits now include having other workers around you to do the work that must be done. By this definition, a nurse is a salary benefit to a doctor; a secretary is a salary benefit to an executive, and a dental assistant is a salary benefit to a dentist.

So, according this framing of our proposals for a wage increase in an attempt to decrease the blow our salaries have taken over the past 8 years due to the increase in the cost of living, if an Education Assistant helps a student in our classrooms, or if our school has learning specialist teachers, their work in the school is costed as a benefit to our salaries.

I wonder if the Premier counts the cost of her assistants in the same way, or are they just considered the perks of the job like dining out and iTunes purchases?

But what if we looked at the whole concept of benefits in a different way. Who actually benefits when we support students whose brains work differently?

We all do…

In fact people who ‘think differently’ have completely changed the world in the past. They are also presently changing the world and, if we give the students in our classrooms now the support they need, they will change the world of the future.

Take Michael Faraday for example. As a child he stuttered and struggled in school at a time when the very concept of support for students with special needs was unheard of. Luckily for us, his mother took him out of school and provided what she could in spite of their poverty.  When he grew up, even with an incomplete formal education, he discovered electromagnetism.

Now I’m not a scientist, but this much I know thanks to the television series “Cosmos”, that without Faraday’s discovery the very act of reading this blog post via the internet would not be possible.

Just sit with that fact for a moment…

Imagine what more Faraday might have given us if he had had support at school?

Here’s another example.  I’d never heard of Dean Kamen, the inventor of the iBot wheelchair and the Segway, before I watched an interview with him.  In it he explained how he struggled in school because, he said, as soon as the teacher opened her mouth he felt like a fire hose was coming at him. His  mind would be still processing the first thing the teacher said while she kept moving on, and he felt flooded with information. I imagine that this is how the mind of an incredible inventor works – taking a tiny bit of information and seeing infinite possibilities.

Thomas Edison’s inventions provide another example of how much we have gained from creative thinkers. The way Edison learned in school was so different to what other students did that his teacher said his mind was “addled”.  Despite only three months of formal schooling, he gave us the light bulb, the phonograph and the moving picture camera.  All inventions that radically changed the world.

We are very lucky when people who think differently have mentors or people who support them.   How much poorer in ideas would our world have been without the mind of Helen Keller, who although deaf and blind contributed so much through her writing and talks.  Her success due in no small way to the support she received from her teacher, Anne Sullivan.

Temple Grandin is another example of someone who has contributed much to the world after having lots of support as a child for her autism and speech difficulties.  What she has done is so amazing, Hollywood made a movie of her life. In fact Hollywood seems to have more interest than politicians do in special thinkers, given movies such as Radio,  A Beautiful Mind, Little Man Tate, Rain Man….

In this century, when all our chickens are coming home to roost in the form of dramatic climate change sparking the rapid spread of diseases once limited to small areas of the planet, we are going to need out-of-the-box kinds of  thinking that students with special needs do naturally all the time.  We are going to need special solutions to the special challenges we all face. Students with special needs may grow up to be the very people who will help us solve our most intractable problems.

So I guess in some sense, the BC government is right when they say that support for students with special needs is a benefit.

The part they got wrong however is that it’s a benefit for us all, not just to teachers. Supporting students with special needs will benefit humankind in ways we can’t even imagine yet.

But what about the costs if we don’t support these students? Well, apart from never knowing what the inventions or discoveries of students with special needs could have been, we will also continue to spend billions of dollars on a population of incarcerated people, many of whom are illiterate or have learning disabilities.

Since 2002  the number of Learning Specialists in BC schools has been cut by 20% and the cuts will increase again in 2014/15, a direct result of chronic underfunding. I’m not sure how much our Premier believes she is saving and for what purpose when she continues to cut approximately $250 million per year from the education budget, but that money is not really a savings if it has to be spent dealing with the costs of the consequences of those cuts.

Supporting all our students in all ways possible is not a cost when seen in this light. It’s an investment in benefits that we will all share.

Dear Christy…

door into school

Dear Christy,

It must be so difficult being Premier of the province these days. What with having to deal with all the complaints about  oil sands pipelines, and worrying about the changes in the LNG market, putting all your plans for our economy in jeopardy.  It must give you many headaches to have to think about all that.

I can imagine also that you must be very busy and hardly getting any sleep as you fly around the province to the various fundraisers for your 2017 re-election campaign. It can never be too early to work on the next election campaign, can it?

But what I wanted to write to you about was this fight you’re having with the teachers and the BCTF.  See, I’m not a politician but you may want to re-think your strategy with the teachers. Something happened when you locked them out of their classrooms in June….

Usually during lunch time they are too busy photocopying and working with kids and they don’t have much time to talk to each other but when the lockout forced them to eat their lunch out on the sidewalk, they suddenly discovered that they had lots of time on their hands and that they could have conversations in a way that is not possible in a busy school day or even on a Pro-D or in a staff meeting.

You see, normally in a typical secondary school that has a teaching staff of about 80 teachers, most teachers only ever talk to about 5 teachers daily and then perhaps about 10 others on other occasions but during the lockout, that changed. There was lots more conversation and, I’m sorry to say, those conversations were mostly about you and what your real agenda is when it comes to public education. Teachers shared information and experiences and built up relationships that had not existed before.

The other thing the lockout did was that it freed up time on weekends that would normally be used for marking and preparation of lessons but because you forbad teachers from doing any of that, they found it very difficult to break old habits.  They were so used to the kinds of tasks they had done for years on weekends, they looked for outlets for all that pent-up energy and that’s how they discovered social media in a way that was unprecedented.

They started pages on Facebook, they joined pages on Facebook and they set up blogs and wrote and blogged and tweeted.  They wrote letters to the media, they wrote letters to MLA’s. They commented on each other’s posts on the various pages set up to support teachers. They shared blog posts so much, they were noticed by alternative media like Huffington Post and Rabble.ca. They started Twitter tags   like #thisismystrikepay that went viral across the world.  Bit by bit they built up this network of connections and information that is proving to be quite resilient and resistant to anything that BCPSEA says or does.

I’m afraid that your lockout, the one they tagged #Christyclarkslockout on Twitter, has been the catalyst for the creation of a network focused on resisting any attempts to privatize public education in BC. 

I’m sorry to have to tell you this but all the work you’ve been doing for the past 12 years to save taxpayers money by shifting money away from the education budget and toward other investments may be all for nought as this network continues to grow and strengthen.

You should see what they’re talking about on all the pages! They’ve dug up all kinds of facts and statistics and information that makes a compelling case for their assertion that a well-funded public education system is critical to a democracy.  They are now also attacking your economic policies and are referring to studies that show that government austerity measures actually kill economies. This is dangerous information when you’ve been trying so hard to focus on balancing the budget. Do you know that they have the audacity to suggest that the whole concept of a balanced budget is just a myth and that there is enough money for schools if there is enough money for investments in mills and pipelines?

I think the best thing for you to do is to get teachers back into classrooms as soon as possible. Start the year early to make up for all the time that was lost in June!  Get teachers busy with lesson preparation and teaching again so that they can stop talking to each other and to the public about public education.  It’s actually quite scary the number of parents that are now talking to teachers!

Some of these parents are really very angry that they are only now realizing what has been happening in schools for the past 12 years!  They have been talking about working on a recall campaign and they have started so many petitions!

Oh! I should not leave out the students! Have you seen the letters they’ve been writing in support of teachers? And all those videos on YouTube? Some of them are quite clever and funny. Sorry, but they are! And they’re getting lots of views too!

So you see, if you get teachers back into classrooms you may be able to  stop this network  from growing and getting stronger.

I don’t want to tell you how to do your job, I know it must be quite stressful, but I really do think that you poked a hornets’ nest when you attacked public school teachers and their union.

To save yourself and your party’s chances for re-election,  you should do whatever it takes to get those hornets back into the nest. Give them whatever they say they need for their working conditions because you know they’ve argued quite successfully that their working conditions are students’ learning conditions and now parents agree with them. I don’t think you’d want to have thousands of parents angry with you when you promised to put their families first during your last election campaign. Best to do what you promised last time before you work on your promises for 2017.

I hope this helps and that you have a good rest before your next fundraiser!

Sincerely,

Joan Swift

Let’s make some money!

CC

 

You know we really don’t understand what all you parents and teachers are upset about! You’re complaining all over social media, being so critical of all the wonderful changes we have planned for the education system in B.C. You make it seem so personal! We wish you could see that it’s nothing personal, it’s just business.

Let us just tell you a bit about how business works. It’s all quite simple, you see.

We all participate in a capitalist economy, the kind of economy that thrives when corporations make profits. Now, profits are based on economic growth which comes from investing in places that yield profits. Unfortunately, since the 2008 recession, growth worldwide has slowed down… you must have heard about this on the news? But the good news is that one of the “sectors” that is still ripe for investment/growth/profit is the “education sector” as the billionaire Rupert Murdoch calls it.

What’s so annoying and frustrating though is that standing in the way of corporations making profits in this “sector” are old fashioned institutions like unions! The BCTF has for many years been fighting the privatization of education in the province. So annoying!

And, by the way, we really don’t understand why people think that public education should be free in the first place! Why should public funds be used for public education? That’s such a stupid idea! We need public funds to stimulate the economy.  It’s public funds we use to bail out corporations that stop making profits. We need to keep helping them! Can’t you see that?

If you could just do your own research, you will come to see that what we’re doing is the best thing for our province.

One corporation that studied how much money could be made in the education sector was Cisco Systems. They came up with this very helpful document. In fact Cisco’s document was so helpful, we incorporated a lot of ideas from it into our BC ED Plan.  No one seems grateful for all the taxpayer money we saved by doing that! We didn’t have to do all that research and writing ourselves! That would have taken so much more time!

Apart from looking to corporations for guidance on how to re-design our education system, we’ve been working really hard to try to save taxpayers money by cutting funding for expensive things like school  librarians and school psychologists.  We’ve removed about $2billion from the education budget since 2002. It was helpful to have that extra money for the 2010 Olympics!

Oh! And, can we please get some gratitude for our  BC Jobs Blueprint,  our plan to re-engineer education in the province? People should be so happy that we will be ensuring that children are thinking about careers right from kindergarten! Children will no longer have to waste time in classrooms learning about things like visual arts or poetry, or music or anything that will not directly train them for working in industries like LNG. Isn’t that great?

Teachers like to go on about how they educate the “whole” child, intellectually and socially, But, with our plan, it will be parents who will be teaching their children about things like healthy lifestyles and media literacy. We’ve been tweaking all curricula so that complicated things like the environment have been taken out and we’ve put in lots of stuff relevant only to working in industries like LNG!

With all the courses that will be only available online ( thanks Cisco!) parents will be spending a lot more time with their children! Isn’t that great? All parents will need is a really good computer and reliable access to the Internet. And, can you see how the need to keep upgrading your computer to keep up with new technologies will provide lots of profit for corporations? Another good thing for our economy! And don’t worry about the cost of all that software – we’ve negotiated with corporations for great deals …

So please, stop the hysteria! It’s not a conspiracy! We actually really like children…we just think that turning children in public schools into pre-workers, starting in kindergarten, is the best thing for our economy.

After all, the real worth of a child is in their potential to buy stuff so that corporations make more profits, but we should not forget their potential also to pay taxes too so that there can be more public funds to ensure that corporations keep making lots of profits.

Of course we don’t want corporations to pay a lot of taxes and that’s why we’ve been cutting corporate taxes over the past decade so that all the profit they make will trickle down to everyone. You’ve all benefitted from that trickle, haven’t you? We certainly have with all those donations to our election campaigns!

So why don’t you just stop all that whining! We really are doing what’s best for the economy. Forget all that stuff about free access to public education being important for democracy. Forget all that stuff about a citizen’s duty to contribute to the common good. Forget all that complaining about Charter Rights! Let’s just make some money!

Kind regards,

Your BC Neo-Liberals,

Working hard to put Families First!

Dr Jekyll or Mr Hyde?

If I was a young person contemplating a career in the teaching profession in this province, I would be confused about which version of the Ministry of Education I should prepare myself to work for: the Mr Hyde version that is engaged in an acrimonious battle with the teachers’ union or the Dr Jekyll one that is engaged in discussions with teachers about 21st century teaching?

My confusion would be based on the fact that during the time that the Ministry has presented a new BC Education Plan to the citizens of the province, a plan that acknowledges the “complexity of the teacher’s role” in the classroom, it has been negotiating in bad faith with the teachers’ union. How can these two situations emanate from the same Ministry?

It’s as though the Ministry has two different personalities, one being a kind of Dr Jekyll and the other like a Mr Hyde.

The question is, which personality dominates?

When the Ministry is being lead during contract negotiations by the Mr Hyde personality, it issues edicts that cut teacher’s daily pay by 10%; it locks teachers out of classrooms during lunch so that they are forced to have their lunch breaks on sidewalks and it refuses to raise teachers’ wages to compensate for the rise in the cost of living. The Mr Hyde personality has been systematically stripping teachers’ collective agreements since  2002.

The Mr Hyde personality guts public education funding while it increases funding to private schools. This gutting of public education funding has left many students without any support for their learning difficulties.

The Mr Hyde personality is quite remorseless and  cares not a jot for Supreme Court rulings or for the Charter of Rights.

On the other hand, the Dr Jekyll personality  seems to be guided by a moral compass when it mentions supports for students and for teachers throughout its new plan for education in the province.

The Dr Jekyll personality seems to value teachers and the role they play in students’ lives.

The Dr Jekyll personality not only talks about placing students’ needs at the centre of the learning process but also acknowledges that doing so would require many changes that are not cost free.

The Dr Jekyll personality seems to be wanting to move the education system in BC to be more like the systems in Scandinavian countries like Finland and Norway,  systems that are widely studied as a models for education system reform.

In contrast, the Mr Hyde personality seems to be taking its cues from the United States where school closures are disproportionately affecting some communities.

If I were to prepare myself to be working for a Ministry that has allowed the personality of Mr Hyde to dominate, then I would also have to prepare myself to work with textbooks that are 20 years old and to have only 12 of them for my classes of 35 or more.  I should also not expect that my students will have access to 21st century technology, nor that there would be any supports in place for those who had learning difficulties.

For this kind of preparation I would seek guidance from teachers in developing countries like Kenya or Zimbabwe where the sheer lack of resources is the norm. I would learn from them how they cope, what they do when they have little or no resources in their classrooms. I expect that they will be surprised that I will have to adopt their strategies when I live in such a rich country, but I will explain to them about Mr Hyde…

But, if I were to prepare myself to be a teacher when the personality of Dr Jekyll is dominant,  I would excitedly seek out information about how to turn my classroom into a learning environment and how to integrate technology into my teaching practice.  I would read all the research on which the BC Education Plan is based so that I could get a more comprehensive idea of the context for how to structure classrooms to meet the needs of 21st century learners.

I do not envy at all the situation that potential BC  teachers find themselves in.

Those of us who have been teaching for a while have our own dilemma to deal with. How do we continue to absorb the attacks from Mr Hyde while Dr Jekyll engages us in discussions about 21st century learning?

When the education system is on the table, we  don’t quite know which version of Christy Clark will show up – the one that promotes an anti-bullying campaign in schools or the one who orchestrates the bullying of teachers through bad faith bargaining?

We also never know which version of Peter Fassbender will show up – the one who worked hard to save H.D. Stafford in Langley or the one who orchestrates the closing of schools across the province?

Over the past month I’ve heard from a few former students who are pursuing an education degree.  When I see the light of excitement and anticipation in their eyes as they talk about making a difference in the lives of children, my heart aches and I become afraid.  I fear that, given the current situation, Mr Hyde is going to destroy Dr Jekyll.

Thank you Minister Fassbender!

fassbender

Dear Minister Fassbender,

Thank you so much for freeing up my weekends! I woke up this morning feeling so relieved that I won’t have to spend hours marking essays and projects thanks to the lockout!  I will now have the time I don’t usually have to visit friends and to complete  all my errands!

My friends are so pleased that they’ll be able to spend time with me because they usually don’t see me at all except during holidays because I’m always too exhausted from a stressful work week or because I’ve got hundreds of essays and assignments to mark on weekends.

I’m also relieved that I won’t be expected to contribute my thoughts about the new BC Education plan. I had been so excited to read about the new “learning environment” concept and had been spending time on weekends researching ways I could transform my classroom into a learning environment. But now I can free up my reading time for the many novels I have been meaning to read.

I’m so looking forward to getting home early next week! Usually I’m still at work until 7pm. I’ve had many dinners in my classroom when I’ve had to plan lessons and prepare for the next day. But now that my afternoons are going to be free, I can use up that gym membership I’ve neglected. I’m going to be so much fitter by the end of the school year!

Oh! About that! Thank you so much for starting my summer holiday early! My sister will be visiting from South Africa around the time you have set to lock me out of my workplace and so it’s just perfect! We’ll have more time to talk about the differences between the education system there and the one here. She never could understand why, 24 years ago, I gave up 13 paycheques a year, 100% medical coverage and a housing subsidy provided to all teachers by the apartheid government.

Sometimes I wonder that too when I try to stretch 10 paycheques over 12 months…

Between taking a mortgage holiday and using discount coupons provided by friends, I’m sure I’ll be able to show my sister many tourist spots in beautiful British Columbia, one of the richest provinces in Canada. I’m not sure I’ll be able to explain to her why it’s also the province with the highest child poverty rates, why a newspaper has an Adopt-a-School campaign or why our public education system is so poorly funded compared to other provinces. But I’ll try.

I’m a teacher. I’m used to trying to make sense of nonsense…