Why aren’t we in this together?

 

I hope you don’t mind me starting with this: I am so disappointed right now, I find it hard to even know how to say what I feel needs to be said.

I am a parent. My kids are missing out. So many things are spinning out of control and no one seems willing to take control, or even attempt to gain control. My home province has gone from Canada’s Ocean Playground, to a playground where it has become acceptable to berate and chastise friends, family and people you don’t even know. I honestly never imagined I would see this in my lifetime.

I had the ‘pleasure’ of sitting in the staff room eating my lunch the other day and listening to a small group of coworkers talking about the current contract negotiations with teachers. One woman, who has no children of her own and hasn’t set foot in a school since she finished approximately 40 years ago, was quite vocal with her abuse of teachers. I won’t go into details, that serves no real purpose, but I will tell you how it made me feel.

First you have to understand – those teachers that she was berating, those are some of my best friends. And my one true love; my husband. After listening for a few minutes, I chimed in a comment on how much our schools have changed since we were in them and it truly is difficult for us to understand the issues. She continued on with her very abusive tirade and after another five minutes I left, not quietly though. I emphasized why I feel those teachers will never return to the same level of good they have been doing, and how our education system is going to be far worse off in the months and years to come because of the disrespect thrown at teachers.

Then I went into my office, shut the door, and cried. Why? Because I know how much my husband puts into his kids. Yes – his kids. Not ‘our kids’ – but his kids. The ones he sees five days a week for ten months of the year. The ones he jokes around with and creates a fun environment for so they will want to learn with him. The ones who cry in his office because something is going on at home and they have no one to talk to about how they feel. The ones who have been called into that same office because they have been bullying someone, or being disrespectful, or cheating on a test, and they need someone to show them the right path.

The same kids that years later, walk up to him at the grocery store or even an office party and thank him for everything he did. The ones who thank him for being there when their friend was killed in a tragic accident. The ones who thank him for helping them figure math out, so they could feel smart when they never thought they would. The ones who went on to do something with themselves because he showed them they had the ability and that they didn’t need to act like a class clown to get somewhere.

Why, all of a sudden, is it okay to publicly berate people? I grew up learning some pretty good rules. “If you don’t have anything good to say, don’t say anything.” That one proved very useful for most of my life. I admit, I have been ignoring it a little lately. When people attack my husband about his work, I get pretty defensive.

It’s really not surprising. I have watched him coach team after team and run more clubs than I could name. “There’s no parent to coach basketball? Okay fine, I don’t have time but I can’t see the kids miss out on playing.”

One year, he coached three different sports, one with a very long season, and ran an after school club that was in such demand it had to run on several days each week. Did he mind? Nope, not at all. Would he have preferred if parents had stepped up and done it? Sure thing. Why? Because he has a family of his own. But the reality is, parents have not been stepping up to do these things.

We have seen it in sports, where teachers have been picking up the slack since I was in high school (that’s 30 years ago!!). It can be seen in parent-teacher groups, where a small group of parents does the work for an entire school. A few years ago I was involved in an elementary PTA in a school with 320 kids. There were four of us moms who were the PTA. We organized everything. The fall fair, the Christmas dinner, the fundraisers to pay for class trips. And with the assistance of teachers, we were able to make things good for our schoolchildren.

But this new reality of parents turning a blind eye is catching up with us. Few of us are putting in the effort to coach. Few of us step up and ask the school if we can help. It also appears few of us are teaching our kids about respect. We are allowing our children to ‘be the man’ instead of ‘respecting the man.’ Or woman. I’m not sexist.

There are examples all over social media of adults berating, chastising and showing no respect for the very people who could be the difference-makers in their children’s lives. From inside homes to our government representatives, everyone feels it’s fair game to attack teachers.

I would ask you to remember that when you are attacking that teacher, you are attacking your friend, perhaps someone in your family, perhaps the spouse of the person sitting next to you at the staff room table. And you are setting an example for our children that will shape the future of this province.

Show them some respect. It’s okay to disagree and it’s wonderful to ask questions. But the only way to a solution is to work together. Alienating your friends, families and co-workers is not going to help us.

The solution is out there in the middle of long conversations and heartfelt respect. I hope we find it soon so we can all get back to normal in my house.

 

 

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20 thoughts on “Why aren’t we in this together?

  1. Thank you for sharing your story, difficult as I know this must have been … It was exactly what I needed to read today. Thank you for reminding me that there are people out in our communities who see us, the people, not just the teachers.

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  2. Wow! You have said it all. Thank you. I am in my 32nd year of teaching and have never felt so deflated. Your voice has put a little, “wind beneath my wings”. Once again thank you

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  3. Very true and we’ll said.We trust our teachers with our most precious gifts – our children – so in my eyes we should all stand proud and strong and support our teachers for all the caring and hard work they put into our children. Personally I can’t thank them enough.

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  4. Perfectly said, and the truth surely does hurt, as this is how (increasingly) so many teachers experience their profession outside of their classroom – often taken for granted, our own time undervalued, expected to do so much and rarely thanked. But I know I make a difference, like teachers everywhere, and for that smile from a shy student, the thank you from the ones who struggle so much, the happiness of “getting it finally!” – it is worth it and I hold my head high. Thank you for your words showing others the way it is…and why it needs to change!

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  5. another sob story about teachers, do you know how many parents and children are living in poverty in cape breton and nova scotia and how many are living on minimum wage and trying to raise a family. sorry if I don’t feel bad for the teachers who make 80,000 and up per year and only working 10 months with a 2 month vacation. I feel sorry for the mom’s and dads who work really hard for very little money because they do not belong to a union or professional organization. I think the teachers should be glad they are making a very good living because if the teachers get everything they want, mark my words the NS government will raise our taxes to pay for it and then the poor people who are just making ends meet will struggle even more to support their family’s

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    1. Funny thing is, this is not about making more money, nor looking for vacation time. Regardless of how much money you personally make, has no bearing on “education.” You should be thankful there are people/teachers that care about you child’s well-being in school. Teachers are now faced with so much more than 20-30 yrs ago. Look at class sizes, or the number of children with “disabilities.” How many kids in the 70’s 80’s and 90’s do you remember in your class, diagnosed with ADD/ADHD? Not many I bet, but the teachers are suppose to go on teaching, like these kids don’t exist, or may need a little bit of extra help? Then how is it you help everyone when “some” other may need that little extra with a class of 30-40 kids? You can down play all this to your hearts content, but the fact is, teachers are looking for help!

      P.S- by the way, I am not a teacher, but I do respect them for what they have taught my kids.

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    2. Every teacher works hard at their job. Every teacher I know puts in overtime with no overtime. Every teacher went to school for 4 years and is a professional. No teacher gets paid for those two summer months. You are entitled to your opinion, but make sure you know the actual facts before speaking.

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  6. Thank you or your comments, However there is another side. Individuals with no children have the right to share their opinion even if it is harsh. They pay taxes, & may have family with offspring in the classroom. When teachers will not write recommendations for deserving students who are seeking scholarships or bursaries etc. It is upsetting for parents & students. Pupils who cannot get extra help are stressed & worry about “outcomes.” for them. Kicking Santa Claus out of school when he was part way through his visit was petty, & many negative comments began. Parents and other volunteers do coach school hockey, basketball, volleyball, lacrosse & other sports sometimes when no teacher is present. I think school boards require a teacher to be present when citizens coach their teams. Even before work to rule some teachers did not show up with the school team. Now they close down all school extracurricular activities including rinks,& basketball courts at substantial expense to communities & school children. Teachers going to a conference in Hawaii did not sit well with some parents whose sons & daughters were locked out of rinks & courts. There are other issues that are upsetting families with this work to rule tactic. Also, let it be known that the Teachers Union representatives, & some teachers are making harsh comments about politicians who work extremely hard to do the very best they can for their constituents & province.
    This situation is stressful for many including me, a grandfather.

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  7. I love this – I was a NS teacher for 8 years and moved to NL 2 years ago. I feel for my friends and former co-workers, who all became my family during my time in NS. I can’t imagine how difficult this is for them, especially dealing with this level of disrespect from many people in the public. Sending 💗 And hoping this is resolved soon!

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  8. I completely agree with what you are saying! However, I have watched as many Nova Scotian teachers have taken to social media to publicly berate the Prime Minister, The Education Minister and many members of parliament! Many of the students that they teach are able to read these posts and see the example these teachers are setting with social media! Just as I know it’s not all teachers, believe me when I say I know it is not all parents or Nova Scotian Citizens making comments! I think both sides need to reevaluate how they are dealing with the issues and maybe act in a more professional manner as a group!

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  9. How about this? Make the teacher day a mandatory 8 hr day. The student day stays at 5 hrs. The additional hours can be decided upon but one a minimum of one 3 hr set must be in coaching another 3 hr set must be scheduled for extra help. One for staff meetings and 2 for PD time. This would eliminate the need for PD days with schools closed. It would eliminate the need for hearing about all the ‘extra’ hours teachers put in. Finally, they would actually work what the average person works and still be paid more than the average Nova Scotian.
    Also, don’t tell me you should be paid more for all your degrees. You need an under grad and a bachelor of ed degree. Anything more is because you want to get another degree and you are immediately compensated for it and a very large part of the cost of obtaining said degree is paid for by the taxpayer as part of your collective agreement money found in article 60 money.
    Yes, perhaps boards may have to run some late busses. I think there are folks around who could price thatbout for us.

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    1. Arthur,

      I think you would be very disappointed with the outcome of a mandated 8-hour work-day as most of the teachers I know work FAR more than that (I have many close friends and relatives in the system). Just to put on a drama production, there is rehearsal Monday-Friday from 3:30-5:00 for three months…the coaching also runs at those times each day plus there are always evening tournaments and meetings. Teachers do most of their planning and assessment and parent-communication in the evenings after teaching full days and coaching after school. To say that three hours would meet your extra-curricular expectations is very underrated. “PD” time is also much different from preparation time. PD time is where teachers learn about the new things they have to implement in the classroom (like learning new grade-books, required technologies, mandated assessments) whereas preparation time is where they actually plan their lessons and assess student work. You have not accounted for this time, yet it is a HUGE endeavor. It is clear that you are very-much underestimating the time that teachers put in as you would still have immense programming cut-backs with this 8-hour work-day ~ no evening and week-end productions, pageants, tournaments, class trips, evening parent-meetings or communications. Two of my closest friends are at their respective schools round-the-clock, it seems. Be careful what you wish for.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. As a non parent but someone who went through the NS public school system(be it 40+years ago) it is my opinion that public wrangling and mud slinging accomplishes nothing….compromise on both sides…and thinking about the reason one should enter the teaching profession…..not for money or long summers off….but to better enable our youth to lead this province into better times

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  11. Thank you for your thoughts. A month ago I would totally agreed with you. I don’t want to lump all teachers together, I have a bother who is an amazing teacher and have been through the system with my daughter for 11.5 years. I have seen the good, the bad and the ugly. At this point, with a daughter who is approaching graduation I wish the union had just gone on full strike in December. It probably would be over now and my daughter wouldn’t be listening to some teachers berating the kids and telling them they are lazy. The teachers who promised her recommendations for school and scholarships would have done so. The graduation and prom would have been a sure thing, extra help she appreciated from teachers who selfless gave of they own time would have happened. Instead she has teachers who are piling on assignments while telling them they won’t be marked before exams. She and her classmates are wondering how out of province schools will address their applications without recommendations. I understand the union is taking a stand but the people who are hurting are those the teachers went into the profession to help. Instead it is leaving a bitter taste for all students and their parent. Kids who have become pawns in a game of chicken. My daughter is a good student who respected her teachers and valued her education, now she just can’t wait to get out of dodge. No one wins in this situation.

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    1. Thank you for the very well-articulated concerns Alice. As a teacher of one grade 12 class I know that what you said is exactly how many good students are feeling. The thing is, this is how many students feel everyday in the school system. For a long time, teachers have been trying their hardest to patch up this broken system so that is doesn’t negatively impact students as much and for students like your daughter, it has helped them a little bit. It has helped them get through. But that’s not enough.

      Teachers are making a stand now for those students who have always felt this way in the system, the students that they haven’t been able to reach and help the way they helped your daughter. The students that may not be as vocal, but might need more support. Students who are disadvantaged by the system.

      We’re making a stand now so that students like your daughter who have been able to just get through the system with all the extra help are, instead, able to learn in the classroom without having to go to all that extra help. So that they are able to not only get by, but also to learn more skills to actually help them in their new paths that they will take after school instead of just graduating and getting their scholarships and then going on to university or work or whatever and facing a huge shock. We want to be able to set them up for the future, not put in hundreds of hours of volunteer time for extra help just so they can get by!

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  12. So if this truly was about the children why are the teachers not ok with a wage freeze for the duration of this contract and allow the 3% the government. Has offered, plus the money offered for classroom improvements all go towards improvements? Many employees in all professions have had wage freezes and no cost of living raises for years and years. We are not a province of unlimited funds and therefore the expectations of teachers of the wages is unacceptable! Now my next question is why are classroom conditions part of a collective agreement? They should fall under labour standards and let the collective agreement be only for the wages and benefits.. would we still see WTR happening then?

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    1. Jennifer, it seems that really DO understand the difficulties of the negotiations in the fact that in no other profession or workplace does an employee have to negotiate both their own working conditions AND what is best for the client. Unfortunately, students’ learning conditions and teachers working conditions are one and the same and are, therefore, negotiated together.

      Also, you should understand that teachers are taking on more and more responsibilities with less and less support (classroom support, administrative support, etc.) and so, of course they are asking for some compensation because they are expected to do more and more with less and less; at the same time, in fighting for a wage increase, they are also trying better education in that they are trying to attract more and better teachers. The turn-over rate for teachers is enormous because beginning teachers (much like the public) are often drawn to the holidays and seemingly-short work-days ~ once in, they realize the enormity and complexity and burn out very quickly. If teachers are expected to take on more and more responsibilities and duties that used to be supported work, then they should receive a wage increase of at LEAST the cost of living. How is the province going to attract the brightest and the best teachers for our children if the working conditions are deplorable and the pay isn’t in line with the work-load and responsibility? This really IS about the kids, but it is more complex than just “wages”.

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  13. A government that says they will only talk about workload outside of contract negotiations is trying to strip a contract. It is the lack of support from the Nova Scotia government that has so many Nova Scotia teachers teaching with me, here in Alberta.

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