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Tuesday, August 28, 2012

The TDSB Teacher Rant 2 days and 148 comments later...

Wow.  I had no idea that my little rant would get so much attention.  I've read through all of the comments & wish I could personally respond to each and every one to say thank you for caring about education in Ontario…whether you are for us teachers or not.

The good news?  Everyone seems to care passionately about education in Ontario. And that is the most important news.

The bad news?  There still seems to be quite a few misconceptions about the Putting Students First Bill, the teaching profession, and in general, me.  

Thus, this post is a blanket response to all those comments I didn't get to.

To those of you who agreed (or mostly agreed with me):  thank you for understanding.  Thank you for understanding that teachers care about more than summers off & our king's ransom of a salary.  Thank you for understanding that we care about our kids and that we are dedicated to our jobs. Thank you for understanding that teaching is a noble profession and not a glorified babysitting service.

To those of you who don't agree with me and/or offered criticisms of my blog, I've got a few things I'd like to clear up.

1.  Those of you who commented on my grammar and punctuation.  You're right.  I messed up a couple times.  I take full responsibility for not properly editing my work.  And I bet you I'll mess up a few times in this blog, too.  I'm human. 

2.  Those of you who think I'm bitter and hate my job, you could not be more wrong.  I really, truly love my job.  There has not been one day since the start of my career when I felt bored, jaded, or bitter. When I'm at school teaching, I'm happy.  I love reading picture books to my students. I love watching that lightbulb turn on.  I love marking tests & getting to put a big honkin' 100% in the top right corner when its well-deserved.  

Do I get angry? Of course!  Do I get frustrated?  Of course!  Do I get stressed out? Of course!  But no matter what your job, everyone gets angry, frustrated and stressed out sometimes. It's normal.  In my 30+ years of teaching, I am bound to have days when I'm lovin' my job less than others. Don't you?

2.  I have never once said nor has any other teacher who commented that we deserve and/or expect a raise.  We completely accept that a wage freeze is necessary but that wasn't enough for a lot of you.  A lot of you think we are grossly overpaid.

Question: why exactly do you think I, and other teachers, get paid too much?  I have a 4-year Honours Degree from one of the best universities in Canada, received my teaching degree from another one of Canada's top schools, completed 6 additional qualification courses in order to become a specialist in Special Education and Reading.  I am constantly attending workshop and courses to further increase my knowledge base and teaching abilities.  How do I not deserve a salary that is on-par with other educated professionals and trades, such as nurses, policemen, electricians, and accountants?

3.  How do you still not understand that we were NEVER intending to strike.  Perhaps its true that a "strike vote" was being called by some boards, but let me clarify what that means:  it means that we vote whether or not we will strike if it comes to that many steps and months down the road.  The first major action is "work-to-rule" where teachers just do their regular school-day job and also decide not to volunteer for extracurricular activities, such as coaching sports teams. Did you see the key word here? VOLUNTEER.  I do not get paid to coach cross country running, track and field, the spelling bee, the environmental club, and student announcements.  I do them because I love it and I see what an amazing impact it has on the lives of our students.  And I will always continue to do those volunteer jobs because they are some of the best parts of my day.


Essentially, work-to-rule means that we arrive and leave work at a specific time of day; sort of like all those Ontario Government office workers.  Have you ever been in a government building one minute after quittin' time?  It's a ghost town. Sounds like your Ontario Government workers are on permanent work-to-rule, doesn't it?


And PS., we're allowed to strike.  At least according to a little bit of Canadian legislation that amended the original wording the the Charter of Rights and Freedom.  In its June 8, 2007 decision, Health Services and Support – Facilities Subsector Bargaining Association v. British Columbia, the Supreme Court of Canada held that “the s. 2(d) guarantee of freedom of association [in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms] protects the capacity of members of labour unions to engage in collective bargaining on workplace issues.” 1  

4.  Those 3 unpaid days.  Professional Activity does not mean "sit home and watch soap operas"  It means we are in school or at a workshop for the entire day. Why is it fair that I have to go to work without getting paid?  Now I know some of you in the "private sector" will say that you do it all the time, but its not right for you either.  Everyone, whether they're a teacher, taxi driver, receptionist, or cashier or anything else, deserves appropriate remuneration for work completed.  That is why we have labour laws and unions, to ensure that we are all treated fairly and guaranteed certain rights.  That is a huge part of what makes Canada one of the greatest democracies in the world and why immigrants flock here: because they know that in Canada, they will be free, they will be treated fairly, and their voice will be heard. Sadly, Laurel Broten has decided that for some reason, us teachers are the lowest of the low in society and we don't deserve the same rights as other Canadians, as outlined in tons of Canadian case law.

5.  Last but not least, what's with the giant hate-on for teachers?  What did we ever do to you except try our best to teach your children every day?  Is it the Winter and March break and summers off?  Because we weren't the ones who came up with that one.  If you want to blame someone for us getting our summers off, blame the farmers.  You see, when Canada was first being settled, farmers needed as many hands as possible helping during the growing season and harvest time and took to keeping their children home to work. So many, in fact, that the government decided that schools should shut down for those two months.  You'd know that if you were in my 7th grade History class.

Is it that our day "officially" ends at 4pm?  Is it that we have some of the smartest minds managing our pensions and (even though I pay an arm and a leg for it right now) when it is time to retire, I'll actually be able to retire? Is it that I get to go to school and laugh at silly jokes and eat the cupcakes Kevin's mom brought in for his birthday and get a new mug every year with a sweet little card declaring "you're my favorite teacher ever?" You're right, that's all pretty sweet.  In fact, its damn awesome.  I have an awesome, awesome job.  But you know what?  Instead of being angry and resentful because you don't get the same perks with your job and if you think our jobs are so easy and our pockets are overflowing with money, why don't you quit your job and become a teacher too! 

Next Monday is Labour Day, a day which was established to recognize the economic and social contributions of workers.  All workers.  Even us teachers.

24 comments:

  1. Glad you clarified all of those self evident points. Please keep in mind that many people use blog commenting as a way to release their ass-hatedness.

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  2. Well said!!! Not even when a former Minister of Education created "a crisis in education" has respect for teachers been this low. I hope that when the teachers stand up to the bully others will realize that you were fighting for their rights, too. This is not about freezing wages or sick days, but rather a government determined to dictate the terms of collective bargaining where they are neither the employer or the employee. Who will they target next?

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  3. I think you need to understand that we all value teachers and the work they do. What we don't understand is the union mentality.

    You all have to get paid the way our kids get taught....

    Classrooms are taught to the "average" learner. Those that struggle fall behind and those that excel get bored.

    With teachers, those that are great get pulled down by the ones that are less than mediocre. Those that are terrible get to ride on the coattails of the great teachers. At the end of the day, they get paid by the average. The union mantra is "all for one and one for all". This doesn't recognize greatness and it doesn't penalize mediocrity.

    You sound like a great teacher. However, another teacher with the exact same number of years of experience and same additional qualifications but less heart will get paid the same as you (and that is unfortunate).

    What is even more unfortunate is that there are a lot less teachers like you sound to be and a lot more teachers content with mediocrity. I think it is these teachers and their expectations that irk the rest of us - and unfortunately you get lumped in with them.

    I would love to be able to pick my kids teachers, but unfortunately I can't and so some years my kids get great teachers and most years they just get through the year. And while I understand that in the real world we don't always get to pick who we work with, it is unfortunate that the person teaching them and shaping their lives for that year are doing a huge disservice to my child and the other kids in their class with their lack of motivation and, in some cases, true ability.

    Keep up the good work!

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    Replies
    1. Thank you for your support. I think that there are actually a lot more teachers like me out there; unfortunately, the media and government chooses not to focus on them.

      As for those teachers who are becoming jaded? If you beat down a horse long enough, he'll eventually believe he's dead.

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    2. I think this is a valid point, but how would one go about measuring a teacher's value? The only way is to base it on students grades, and we all know that circumstance, social identity, home-life, stress...etc. all play a role in the success of a student.

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    3. You cannot only measure a teacher's value by the student's grades because lets face it, cause lets face it sometimes parents "help" with homework, and some teachers teach to the test. How about judging their value by a few indicators including the student's "engagement" as well as the teachers.
      I agree with the above reply, Teaching should be a vocation, but perhaps the perks are attracting the wrong people. When there are so many wrong people, you may never meet the good ones. My daughter has only been in school for 3 years, but I am still waiting to be "wowwed".
      I know a few people from my own life that went to University and didn't know what to do with the degree's they earned and then decided to go back and become a teacher. To those people it is a job.
      And in response to your comment about Canada being a great country with labour laws, you are right, but the teachers, and other unions do not have standards in line with labour laws. They have standards levels above what labour laws direct.
      Lastly, It is part of life and work, that you upgrade your skills. Going to University doesn't make you brighter or a better teacher than someone who didn't. It gives you what the hiring person is looking for. Many teachers in many schools around the world were never University educated and the students come out better. Better motivated, better engaged, better equipped.

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  4. While I agree that what you do is one of the most important jobs there is, there are SOME things that bother me about your job. It's not the summers off, no way. It's the whole Banking Sick Days bit. It's not fair. Unions don't make everything better for everyone, they only make things better for the people who are a part of their exclusive club. Why should you be allowed to bank Sick Days when every other working individual doesn't have the same right? You already get summers off! Why do you need to bank your sick days, so that upon retirement you get to cash in a year-and-a-half of them for the salary you received upon retirement? Well that ain't fair. I'm a tax payer, my taxes pay for your salary, and I don't think that's fair. Also, 20 sick days? No way. The rest of Ontarians only receive somewhere between 5 and 10 legally covered sick days where you don't get fired - there is no guarantee that you'd be paid for those sick days unless your employer decides to contract you that right. The government only prevents us from being fired for being sick. But you guys want TWENTY sick days that you are paid for? No way. That's not fair either.
    You have a VERY tough job, you do. I'm not denying you that. But you DO get summers off, March break off, AND Christmas/New Years off. That should more than make up for the 20 sick days and the banking of sick days.
    Otherwise, I'm with you. You guys have the right to strike, and to take it away makes the government a lawbreaker.

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    1. You do realize that banking sick days was part of the negotiated settlement of contract issues right?

      So in exchange for getting the ability to bank sick days the teachers gave up other rights. Now the legislation is just taking those away. Those sick days have a value. Imagine you wanted the ability to bank sick days and your employer came to you and said "listen if you want that I can't afford to give you as big a raise - which do you want?". You say sick days. Then several years later when you have a lot of banked days your employer comes back to you and says "gee you know when I agreed to that - turns out it was a bad idea and I want to take it away... oh yeah you don't get that raise you would have gotten... oh yeah one other thing - you don;t get any decision in the matter as I am unilaterally changing this and forcing you to accept it..."

      How fair does that sound. And before everyone gets very upset at how unions in public sector get too sweet a deal... who is to blame for that. Not the teachers - who are negotiating for themselves. If you don't like the fact that the government is negotiating the way they are then take it up with the government not with the teachers.

      Everyone thinks it is the teacher's responsibility to say - "thanks for offering me this money and these perks but you know what - I really think I should take less because I am not worth it." Who would ever do that? You always negotiate the best deal for yourself. The fact that people may think the government has done a bad job of negotiating should bring that up with them - not blame teachers.

      It seems the only way the government can get negotiate is when they unilaterally set the terms - and that is just sad... and very scary.

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    2. I am not sure I follow your thinking: since I have March break off, I don't need sick days? And what you're saying is that if I happen to get the stomach flu a week before March break, I should just try to suck it up and hold off getting ill until a more convenient time?

      With that being said, you're right…20 is a lot, which is why we're not debating the cut to 10. But sick days aren't just sick days, they're also moving days, funeral days, religious holidays, I gotta take my kid to the orthodontist days, and any other days off. When I need to go to the doctor and I can't get an after school appointment, I can't just come in a bit late or bolt off for a couple hours or take a bit of a longer lunch, I have to get either a half-day or full day supply teacher and use a sick day.

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    3. Let's clarify "banking sick days" ... there are 2 issues here. 1 Rolling over sick days, and, 2 cashing out sick days.

      1. Teachers can roll-over their unused sick days to the following school year. In your first year of teaching, you start with 20. If you are lucky and start with a good immune system, you might have a few left over at the end of the year to contribute to the next year, making it say 24 sick days to start year 2 of teaching with. And so it goes.

      2. The cashing out you hear about currently happens once, at retirement, for only a small current portion of old teachers. As an 11yr teacher, I have never had the option of (even dreaming of) cashing out my sick days at retirement. I am not sure when that was grandfathered out ... perhaps a more knowledgeable teacher here can fill in the details? It is simply a fact that I, and most of the teaching population, will not be able to cash out sick days at the end of the career nor anytime before. No. Not possible. The Liberals are making this issue - which concerns just a small percentage of teachers who still have this option - a headline issue, implying that all teachers have this perk. Not true. Good spin though.

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  5. Great points Cayla. Sadly they have a tendency to fall on deaf ears. People really have a hard time understanding that every perq in a contract has value and is agreed upon in a negotiation by both sides. Part of the decision when picking a career is compensation. Teachers don't get paid as much as they could with the same level of education in a different job. Those sick days and their bankable nature are part of how teachers justify the lower salary.

    I find it so ironic that we live in a country that claims to value education do highly, but does not value educators.

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  6. I was sent this link by a friend who is a teacher. I have high respect for teachers and not for a second do I think I would be able to perform your jobs. I do question the notion that teachers need to justify what they consider to be a lower salary. I'm an engineer with 10 years experience and I make just over $10k more than an friend of mine who is a high-school teacher. With 2 weeks vacation. And no pension. So please don't assume you are earning way less than the rest of us. Maybe vets and stock-brokers are earning tons of cash, but most of us are struggling in the same salary range. While I am supportive of most of the points raised in your blog, the sick day issue continues to be a sticking point. Please try to understand how this sits with those of us who have no such thing. I realize there are other personal issues besides just being sick that necessitate time off, but couldn't this be parceled out differently? Take a set # (10 seems like a lot, but whatever) of days as sick days, add 5 for bereavement, and another couple for random personal issues. Surely no one would be using all of these days every year; hopefully rarely - if at all- for bereavement. If you had proper provisions when you actually do need them, then why would you need to bank days? The paying out of banked sick days is never going to sit well with anyone outside the public sector. Sick days are a way preventing income loss WHILE sick; not a way to stockpile an extra year of pay. Unless the teachers union can view it this way, this seems one issue they will be destined to lose.

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    1. That's just the point: our 10 sick days aren't just sick days, they're everything days. And as for the payout? We don't get it; that's a grandfathered program that only applies to teachers who've been teaching for 11 years for more. Do I think its a fair program? Not necessarily…but I do know two things: 1. We're not the only ones to have it (or not have it), Policemen and firefighters have it too. 2. As "unfair" as it may be, many, many teachers have had knowledge of that payout for decades, their whole careers in fact. And with financial planners, have been planning their retirement with that in mind. Taking it away messes with when they can afford to retire & thus these teachers who are the top earners in our profession will work for a few more year while brand-spakin' new teachers-who get paid about half of what the older teachers make-won't be getting a job. If the government wants to save money for at least the next 5-10 years, make it easier for the higher-salaried teachers to retire and let the young, cheap teachers take their jobs.

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    2. Right on, Cayla.

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    3. I'd like to add a couple of points.

      1)Regarding too many sick days. Teachers work with 20-40 kids, all day, 5 days a week, who come in sick, sneezing, vomiting and wiping their snot all over every surface of the classroom and often the teacher. If you don't think teachers are going to get sick more than someone working in an office, you're wrong.

      2)Sick day cashout: Teachers have no severance pay. Dalton will receive over $300,000 when he retires for severance. Teachers? $0. Sick day cash out was in place as SEVERANCE PAY. Rollover seems pointless now that there is no cash out.. I'm sure that would've been tossed without a fight.

      3) Vacation time: Most teachers I know (I know a good few) work straight through their holidays, weekends and every single week night. Teachers are paid for 10 months of the year. If everyone is concerned about summer's off, pay teachers 8-9% more salary, and I'm sure they'll be ok with being there year-round.

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  7. You sound like a wonderful educator, but why do you refer to differences of opinion as "misconceptions?" Believe it or not, most of us understand the issues just fine; we just disagree with you. This isn't "hating-on" teachers as a profession, it is just disagreeing with their position on these issues. Do you "misconceive" the government's arguments because you disagree with them? Does anyone think you don't respect MPPs and the work they do because of this disagreement? Of course not. So, I have to wonder, why the defensiveness?

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  8. Hi Cayla,

    Hey Cayla,

    I'm writing on behalf of NewsTalk 1010- Canada's largest talk radio station. We are based in Toronto and are a CBS affiliate. I read your comments in The Globe & Mail and wondered if we might be able to secure you as a guest on our program this afternoon. Can you give me a shout at the number below at your earliest convenience for a quick chat?

    Warm regards,

    Britt Aharoni
    Producer of The Jim Richards Showgram
    NewsTalk 1010
    Astral Radio
    2 St. Clair Ave West 2nd Floor
    Toronto, Ontario M4V 1L6
    Tel : 416 924-5711 ext. 7412
    britta@newstalk1010.com

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  9. While I am not in favour of the banking of sick days, I really think McGuinty's legislation is short-sighted with respect to sick days, and is actually going to end up costing the government more money. Here's why:

    I work in the private sector and we all get 6 paid sick days per year. If we don't use them, they don't roll over to the next year and we don't get to bank them, we just lose them.

    Now when I first started my job, the company treated us really well and everyone was happy. We were given lots of perks (free coffee, ice cream treats in the summer, a lavish company picnic in June and a fancy holiday party in December), and we also got generous year-end bonuses. As a result, if someone had left over sick days at the end of the year, they didn't care...

    But then the company hit some rough times and lots of our perks disappeared. There was no more summer picnic or holiday party, wages were frozen and bonuses stopped entirely. So what do you think happened with the sick days? Suddenly, everyone began to view their 6 sick days as extra vacation days. Nobody is willing to let those days go at the end of the year and everybody uses them up. The number of people who wake up with headaches and call in sick during late November and December is astounding! Now my company doesn't care about this because it doesn't cost them extra money. They don't hire temp workers when someone calls in sick, it just falls on the rest of us to pick up the slack...

    Now let's consider what is going to happen with teachers when they're told they only get 10 sick days that can no longer be carried forward or banked. I suspect that many of them will do what my colleagues have done and will simply use up their 10 days every year. I know there's a lot of planning that goes into being sick, but I still think many teachers will plan on using up all their sick days because they will see them as 10 paid days off. And that is where the government's budget is going to be blown, because every time a teacher is sick, a supply teacher needs to be hired for the day and paid.

    Let's assume there are 60,000 teachers in Ontario. If just half of them decide to use up all 10 days, that works out to 300,000 days where a supply teacher will need to be hired and paid EVERY YEAR!

    I honestly don't think McGuinty's legislation is foreseeing this.

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    1. Excellent point. And the question is (at least with many boards out of the Golden Horseshoe) will there be the supply teachers available. There was a real 'crunch' a few years ago when the 'window' was opened to allow retired teachers to teach for a longer period and our Board would not have survived without it.

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    2. Good point. And those days when we do have supply teachers in the class, are they all 100% productive? Not saying that Suppply teachers dont do a good job ( they all try to do the best they can) ; however their role is to " fill in the gap" and kids suffer. so who is benefitting here? I am not sure but maybe Dalton knows better than we all do ( i wish he did) .

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    3. And for all those who have issues with the teachers 2 months of summer breaks : On an average a teacher spends minimum 2 hours every day on extra curricular activities ; after school work; next day course preparations; photocpying; parents meeting etc. Normal school year is 9 months i.e. average of 40 weeks .
      40 weeks * 5 days / week * 2 hours is 400 hours of VOLUNTEER / unpaid work.
      Now divide 400 hours / 7 hours ( average work day hours) = 57 days which is equal to 60 days of summer break.
      Not sure where the issue is with all those people who are so upset about the 2 months of deserving summer breaks for the teacher.

      To Clarify - I AM NOT A TEACHER.

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  10. Here is my "rant":

    - Bill 115 is a strong, possibly undemocratic hammer. I wish the government had found a different way. But the government did manage negotiate a deal with the Catholic teachers and the doctors without resorting to the same hammer. That tells me that there is more to the negotiations that drove McGuinty to do what he did. We will never know what went on behind closed doors. Therefore, I think the public should reserve judgement on this front.
    - The notion that teachers love kids and are therefore dedicated to their jobs is a red herring. Of course teachers love kids .... in general. But MOST human beings do! You don't get any special consideration for that declaration of love.
    - What gets me and other parents is that litany of examples you and other teachers cite to demonstrate how hard your jobs are. Every challenging job comes with such a litany. There is no proof WHATSOEVER that teaching is at the very top rank of challenging jobs. After all, how many teachers commit suicide or leave their positions?
    - Many white-collared jobs require "volunteer" hours. Most do not drop such activities when they are upset about their contracts. The most aggravating thing about your job actions is the total absence of a sincere apology and explanation. When you stop supervising after school activities, you are hurting the kids you allegedly love and you are clearly not changing the government's stand. Therefore, you are saying that you want spite the government more than you love the students. Some dedication!

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  11. A few more points:

    - Teachers like to remind us that they are taking care of "our" kids, helping us do "our" jobs. Please remember that doctors and nurses take care of "you", "your" kids and "your" family. Bus drivers transport "you", "your" kids and "your" family. Construction works build homes and schools for "you", "your" kids and "your" family.
    - Research scientists work (much more overtime than you) to discover cures for diseases that afflict "you", "your" kids and "your" family.

    So please stop that argument about teachers doing our parenting jobs. We live in a community. We all do our parts to help each other. But when I am not happy with my contract, I don't go around hurting those I ostensibly love to spite those imposing my contract.

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  12. When police officers resort to job actions, they refuse to wear their uniforms or give out parking tickets. But they try hard not to anything (or not do anything) that might have serious or lasting impact

    When teachers refuse to coach sports, decline to comment in report cards, refuse to provide after school help or write reference letters, the damage done to certain students cannot be compensated.

    Someone is not getting to the university of his or her choice because of teachers' job actions. Have you all thought through that?

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Thoughts?