Friday, May 8, 2015

I Am A Teacher and This is What I Do

If you are a parent of a school-aged child in Ontario, there is no doubt that you are aware that as of Monday, May 11th, all 76 000 elementary school teachers will be commencing strike action.

And from many of the comments I've read on the internet  and heard on the news, many of you think that most, if not all 76 000 of us are lazy, overpaid, selfish, glorified civil servants who are holding your children's education hostage.

Much like my first post on this matter almost three years ago when I felt physically sick about the offensive nonsense being spewed about my profession (yes, it is a profession and I am a professional), I feel compelled to respond to the gross misconceptions that seemed to rapidly spreading like a virus.

And much like my first post on this matter almost three years ago, in no way do I claim to be an expert on the bargaining process or the issues at hand.

But, much like my first post on this matter almost thee years ago, I do know a few things about a few things.

For example, contrary to what many of you believe, this strike has little- to-nothing to do with us getting a raise. We haven't had one for three years, and we don't expect to have one for at least another three years.

We aren't asking for more sick days.

We aren't asking for an increase in our health benefits, an increase to maternity leave benefits, or an increase in our prep time.

In fact, the only "increase"-related issue at hand is an increase in class sizes. Something the government is demanding and something we (and I am assuming you) definitely do not want.

Unfortunately, an increase in class size is only one of the many ways the government thinks that they will be able to save money and yet still maintain the highest quality education possible. Apparently, their "experts" say it can be done.

What experts? I don't remember any experts dropping into my classroom for an observation period and subsequently concluding that more kids, less support teachers, and less time to plan, prepare, and mark would be a good thing for any of my 90 students, half of which require a Special Education program.

Before you make a decision to side with the government and their "experts", I ask you to do one thing: hear what one more expert has to say.

And that expert is...me.

I may not be one of the government's "education experts", or the Minister of Education, or even a union representative, but I am an experienced teacher. And a darn good one at that.

For the past ten years, I have been a teacher for the Toronto District School Board. I have a four year undergraduate degree from the University of Western Ontario. I got my Bachelor of Education from OISE-at the University of Toronto, the program that QS University Rankings deemed the number one school for education in North America. After graduating with Honours, I returned to OISE to become a specialist in both Special Education and Reading with Adolescence. Each year, I attend numerous workshops to gain additional knowledge about the latest and greatest ways to teach our kids.

I did all that so I could learn to do the job I know I am fortunate to have.

In addition to the job I was hired to do, I have also volunteered to do a whole bunch of jobs I was not hired to do. I coach cross country and track and field. I lead our school's Eco-team and was chosen to be a demonstration classroom for Eco-literacy. I've mentored new teachers and have been a host for Bachelor of Education students during their internship periods. I  have taken hundreds of kids on overnights trips for up to a week at a time, spent my Saturdays watching my students compete in Spelling Bees, and spent countless evenings at open houses, literacy nights, talent shows, music nights, and school plays. I've woken up way before the crack of dawn to take students on ski trips, and to water and weed the vegetable and herb garden our eco-team planted.

I do all that not because I was hired to do it, and not because I am at all getting paid to do it (because I'm not), or even because I might get a raise or a promotion (because those two options are not even a possibility), but simply because I think they're important and I love doing it.

And on Monday, when we evil teachers commence strike action, none of that will change.

I will still come in an hour early for extra help.

I will still stay an hour late to coach.

I will still spend my lunch hour marking students' work.

I will still spend my morning break talking to one of my colleagues about how to better help a student I'm struggling with.

I will still give my students the business and make them write letters of apology to the supply teacher after they've been rude to her.

And I will still shake their hands and say,  "Thank you for showing responsibility for you behavior," when they do so.

I will beg Starbucks for coffee cups and bake muffins and bring in coffee (chocolate milk) for our classes' poetry coffee house to make it as authentic as possible.

I will still give kids a little treat when they leave detention so that a sour day end with a little bit of something sweet.

I will still uphold the promise I made to call the mom of the kid in my class who can't read the board but is scared to tell her mom because she knows her mom already works so hard and doesn't want to burden her by asking her take her to the eye doctor to get glasses.

I will still spend my weekend and my money at the dollar store to make sure that there is always enough pencils, pens, markers, paper, highlighters, tape, erasers, rulers, and even Kleenex in my classroom in case a student ever needs it.

I will still spend my weekend and my money in the bookstore making sure that my classroom library is always stocked with the latest and greatest books so that no one ever has to feel bad that for whatever reason, they weren't able to come to school with their own book.

In a nutshell, I will still do the job I was trained and hired to do and am being paid to do. And I will still do all those other jobs I was not trained for, or hired for, and am certainly not being paid to do.

I will do these things because like almost every one of the 76 000 Elementary school teachers in Ontario, I am an educated professional who takes pride in her job, who cares about her students, and who deserves to be treated as such, by both you, the parents, and the "experts" working at Queen's Park.

If there's one thing you take away from this rant, it's this: before you make a decision, get educated. Get educated on how the strike will (not) affect your kids, on what we're fighting for, and on what we teachers really do in a day.

Get educated...would you really expect a teacher like me to ask anything different of a student like you?