When negotiations between government and the
BCTF bargaining unit broke down after an intense weekend of talks, and teachers set up full-time picket lines around schools on Tuesday, the rhetoric really ramped up – on both sides.
On the one hand, we have government trying to rein in costs of delivering a program of education that should produce students able to compete on a global scale in an economy that is evolving at warp speed. These are the peo- ple to whom we entrust our tax dollars and expect them to steward them wisely.
On the other hand, we have the people responsible for actually implementing the program, and year after year pro- ducing a cadre of educated students amidst the challenges presented by that evolving economy. These are the people to whom we entrust our children and our society’s future for a significant portion of the week. We expect stewardship from them, as well.
And in between those two hands is the student body, be- ing spun about as the two sides wage a war of words.
Since June of 2013, when the previous contract expired, teachers continued to show up to work, cover extracurricu- lar activities, administer and grade exams, identify learning challenges and counsel children and parents. It’s not an easy job, and it’s not for everyone. How many of our gentle read- ers would enjoy the opportunity to be shut into a room with two dozen squirming nine-year olds from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily? Teaching, as a profession, is evolving at the same pace as our society and technology. Delivering the province’s education program effectively, takes up a sizeable portion of the teacher’s day.The classroom time is just the bones; keeping up with the kids and the curriculum requires hours of prep time, and monitoring extracurricular activities adds more hours. Many teachers arrive at the school as early as 7 a.m., and leave at 4 or 5 p.m. with a bag full of ‘homework’ of their own to complete in the evening. With hours and responsibilities like these, why would anyone choose teach- ing as a profession?
The five-year contract term will encompass a period of exponential change, and so the teachers are asking for more flexibilityinhowtheeducationprogramswillbedelivered to a computer-literate and screen-obsessed student body – with smaller class sizes and more resources for children with learning challenges. This seems to be the real crux of the disagreement and so far, neither side will budge.
Until both sides return to the table and bargain in good faith, the system that delivers our children’s education is closed for the duration. But hey, Playland is open!
Heather Jeal, Editor