If you haven’t heard yet, teachers in SK are looking at job action because their union’s negotiations are not going well. Teachers in the province have been without a contract for a shameful amount of time, and while the action on Thursday is not specifically a strike (it is a rally and study day), people in Saskatchewan are acting like…well, they’re acting like jerks.
I don’t want to engage in a discussion about the worth of unions, because I suspect once we do, we’ll just have to agree that we don’t see eye-to-eye on the issue. But I do want to talk about what’s happening. What’s important here is this:
“The goal of the Teachers’ Bargaining Committee is to return to the bargaining table to negotiate an agreement that affirms the worth of teachers, not to take sanctions,” said Gwen Dueck, chief spokesperson for the Teachers’ Bargaining Committee.
And the important bit in there is the clause an agreement that affirms the worth of teachers. So let’s look at that. I’d like to look at it in a couple of ways. And before I do, I’d like to point out that a teacher at the beginning of their career (right out of University, with a four year degree) can probably expect to make around $45,000 a year. Teachers can make as much as $75,000 a year, with at least a decade of experience. Those aren’t particularly impressive salaries for professionals, but let’s just leave that aside for a moment.
- You don’t pay teachers directly to educate your children. We all of us in the province contribute, through our taxes, to educate your children. You’re more than welcome to choose to send your children to private school and pay out of pocket for the privilege. I have no idea how you can get out of paying the school portion of your property taxes, though. I guess you could just quit paying them.
- Teachers are not childminders. If you want a childminder, send your children to a babysitter instead of sending them to school. They won’t get an education, but you won’t have to deal with having to know your child’s school schedule, either. You’ll be able to go to work every day.
- As an alternative to #1 and #2, you can home-school your children. There are plenty of resources available for home-schoolers. Just remember that there’s a *reason* schools have extracurricular activities for students – as a home-schooler, you should make sure your children have ample opportunity to participate in team sports, arts and cultural activities, and other activities with their peers. Socialising is important.
- Teachers work more than 8 hours a day. They are usually at school before 8am and they usually leave school after 4pm. And that’s assuming they are not on any committees, are not involved in intramurals or in extracurricular activities, or are not on supervision duty. That also assumes they do not stay late or come early to help students who need some extra study time. That also assumes they do not participate in away-from-school trips for sports, band, or academic fairs/competitions. I challenge you to find a teacher who does not do at least one of the above.
- Teachers do not “get the summers off”. They do not get paid for the summer break. If you’d like to take two months off without pay, go right ahead. Many teachers will have their salaries pro-rated so that they receive less each cheque, so that they will receive *some* income over the summers. But it’s not paid vacation.
- Teachers do not take “vacation days” whenever they want. Professional Development days and Teacher Inservice Days are work days. Teachers are at work, usually at school or at a conference. Do you know what they do at those things? They learn how to better educate your children. If you think you can do a better job, see #3.
- If you feel your child is being treated unfairly or that your child’s teacher is not doing a good job of educating your child, you have options. According to the Education Act, you first talk to the teacher about the problem, and try to solve it that way. If that doesn’t work, you should approach the Principal. If that doesn’t work, you can go to the school board. I think you can even talk to someone at the Saskatchewan Teachers Federation as a last resort, although I’m not positive on that last one. If you don’t like what’s happening in your child’s classroom but you’re not proactive about it, you only have yourself to blame.
- through 10. Teachers educate your children. If you’re not prepared to teach your children how to read, how to write, how to do arithmetic, comprehension, music, art, physical education, how to write essays, how the Canadian political system works, why history is important and what our history is, chemistry, biology, physics, algebra, literature, grammar, spelling, heath, family life, sex ed, psychology, law, wood shop, mech shop, home economics, and a MULTITUDE of other things, then, really, shut the fuck up and sit down.
Sure, you have to work. You have to earn a living to put a roof over your head and to put food in your children’s mouths. I get that. We ALL get that. It’s *inconvenient for you* when teachers strike because you have to take time off of your own work. And some people might even lose their jobs over that. WE ALL GET THAT. Go back to point #2. Teachers are NOT childminders.
Go ahead and hate unions all you want. Go on. I’ll wait.
Got that out of your system? Good. Forget about the goddamned union, okay? It outlines their rights and their *responsibilities*. It includes a professional code of conduct. Teachers have a union because it wasn’t uncommon, not so very long ago, for teachers to be paid less than hotel kitchen staff. And it wasn’t uncommon for school boards to just decide not to pay teachers at all. Even now, teachers volunteer for FAR more than for which they are paid. Do you know why they do that?
BECAUSE THEY CARE ABOUT YOUR CHILDREN.
So before you go off the rails and bitch about how teachers have ‘no right to just walk off their jobs and leave my kids with nowhere to go’, and before you start mouthing off about how it ‘must be nice to have the summers off and only have to work 200 days a year’, go and do their job for a year. Hell. Do it for a *month*. You go in and wrangle twenty or thirty children, five days a week, ten months a year. Go in and come up with a way to keep those kids engaged and interested, day after day. Deal with their fights with each other. Deal with their parents who seem to think their own children are the only children attending the school; the ones who think their kids deserve an A because they “tried hard”.
Go in and try to teach children how to be respectful and accepting without talking about racism, because racism is not politically correct. Try to teach children how not to get pregnant or how not to contract social diseases without talking about sex, because sex is DANGEROUS. Get your own butt in gear and try to teach polynomial algebra to a bunch of kids who can’t bloody add because their teachers weren’t allowed to hold them back from grade six. Deal with the bureaucracy that can sometimes be wonderful but can also ruin your life and your passion. Deal with 30 tweenagers, or better yet, deal with 20 fifteen year old boys who think they are better than you, and their 15 female classmates who think they’re smarter than you.
You might not agree with *how much* of a rise in pay teachers are asking for, and that’s fair. I don’t agree with you (I think we should pay them far more than 12% over 1 year), but that’s okay. But don’t sit there and tell me teachers don’t DESERVE to be paid, and paid VERY WELL for their services.