Editor: I am a Langley teacher.
Ten years ago, the Liberal government enacted legislation that took away teachers’ democratic rights to negotiate class size and class composition. Then-labour minister Graham Bruce and others repeatedly expressed how wonderful it was to pass legislation that would give school districts control over class sizes and put “students first.”
What has happened to the public education system over the last 10 years is anything but in the best interests of students. Year after year, we have had classes with disproportionate numbers of special needs students, a depletion of texts and other resources, and a severe reduction in the number of teacher librarians.
Every September, countless teachers have sat through meetings with principals and said that they disagree with having five, six, eight or 10 special needs students in a class. We have explained why we disagree, have been thanked for engaging in the process, and then essentially been ignored.
The ship we are sailing on has been leaking for 10 years. Teachers, the creative and resourceful sailors that we are, have been running around, plugging the leaks as best we can. In the meantime, we are either ignored or scolded.
We have alerted the ship’s captain of the danger, but he steers blithely on, characterizing the warnings as alarmist and self-serving. He prepares to enact a new education plan, one in which teachers will have even less say.
Contract stripping was brought in under Gordon Campbell’s leadership to save money. The same means to achieve the same end is being pursued under Christy Clark’s leadership. Under all the rhetoric about greedy, selfish teachers holding children hostage, this government relies on teachers to continue performing miracles, all the while having no say in how important decisions are made.
Thanks to the stripping of our collective agreement, the people who should have the most say have the least. What kind of professional am I when I have no voice? Teachers have been reduced to a reactive mode, apprenhensively awaiting the next crisis in public education.
I’ve found myself using the word “lucky” a lot. I’m lucky to have a teaching assistant in one of my classes, I’m lucky not to teach in five different classrooms, and I’m lucky not to move from school to school each year.
Is this what public education is being reduced to? Teaching and learning conditions that are based on the luck of the draw?
Yes, education is expensive. This is precisely why it should not be subject to the political ideologies of the day. We have seen what happens when teachers’ right to be involved in important decisions is taken away for political expediency.
Everyone, no matter their status, deserves a good education. Schools are not charities. A decent education is a fundamental right. Teachers need the means by which to deliver a decent education. Let us do our job.