The chatter around the coffee table turned to the challenges the teachers are facing. It is important to note that none of the people in this conversation had children in school any more, so whether the teachers were teaching class or not was not of any real concern to us.
That may be a factor in the dispute. If the folks on the other side aren’t personally affected, then you can hold out a bit longer. If their spouses were yelling at them about the kids being home all day, things might get settled a bit quicker.
Our coffee house debate went around the arguments from both sides and I don’t think we came up with a cause or solution but we did generate some ‘in the good old days’ stories.
For instance, let’s talk about class sizes and make-up. I have an old black and white Grade 5 class photo of 35 scrubbed and smiling kids standing with Mr. Braun in his suit and tie. I think that was a pretty average class size.
I don’t know if any of those kids were ADHD, had peanut allergies, were dyslexic or had special needs. We were all West Coast white kids and so there was no need for English second language classes and if we did have an Asian or East Indian classmate, they weren’t Asian or East Indian, they were just classmates.
We had some physically disabled kids at Langley Central but they were brought in by Easter Seal buses to the Tillicum School. Tillicum was built on our school site in 1963. It was uniquely constructed to handle the physically or mentally challenged students in the Langley School District and was spearheaded by the Langley Association for Retarded Children.
By 1966, the Tillicum students were sharing our gym, our playground and our lunch programs and the program was considered one of the first successful integration programs of disabled students into the general school population.
We all knew where we stood. In elementary classes we were divided into Rabbits, Squirrels, Bears and Turtles and it was understood that the Rabbits were better readers and spellers than the Turtles. In High School, there were classes, 9A,9B, 9C, 9D, 9E,and 9F.. You knew the kids in 9A were going to be better mathematicians than the oafs in 9F.
But along the way they found it was causing self-esteem problems to brand students as retarded or class them by IQ, so they brought in some sweeping changes that were certainly more civilized but maybe less manageable.
Today, our teachers no longer have just those clean, white faces staring back. Their classes are a melting pot reflecting our immigration policies. A physical disability no longer keeps you out of a classroom and suddenly there are students with allergies, asthma, Chrohn’s disease, attention deficit disorder, diabetes, epilepsy and many other challenges, all integrated into the same classroom. Let’s not even begin to address the drug problems.
Our coffee group conceded the cause was us — the PACs, the politicians, the parents and the teachers. We all just tried to do the right thing, the civilized thing and we let it get away on us. We didn’t come up with a solution but I suspect the same groups that caused it ought to fix it. At least that’s what McGregor says.