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?


  1. Thank you! You have put in words what so many of us teachers feel/think. Merci!

    1. I hope you continue to have such quality articles to share with everyone! I believe a lot of people will be like to read this article! By LyricSoUp

  2. As a teacher, I'd think you'd know better than to use a run-on sentences... But all joking aside, more people should respect your profession and its significance to a healthy society.

  3. Cayla, this time 'round I hear and read about more people upset with the Province than with the teachers. Who in the public school system wouldn't want smaller class sizes? Why not protest with your votes at the polling station?

  4. Very well put, Cayla. Sadly, the kids will pay the price for this in the end. Keep up the great work!

  5. Saying: "sadly the kids will pay" is one approach and it's the same approach taken by the TDSB as of late which puts our community green space and parks at risk - TDSB is selling off parks to force governments hand to provide more money. I think some of the hostility towards teachers comes from this approach. Another approach would be to pressure your own leadership - unions and federations to change their tactics. Another would be to vote for a change in government. I'm sure that not all teachers voted Liberal but from what I witnessed leading up to the last election, the Liberals were heavily supported by the teachers.

  6. Really ?? Being married to a LRT teacher with special ed, I am aware of the work load and things required of teachers and their profession. However when I read your blog it really sounds like you are whining ! As a professional you should perhaps proof-read your blog first. To state that you do all the sports etc. as non-paid work, then why did you go into the profession ? Everyone knows that all the extra -curricular activities may not be mandatory for the position but it is, has been and always should be part of the profession. You may consider it over and above the job but the general public considers it part of the job. so stop whining about it. Next ...don't try to make everyone feel sorry for by saying you have 90 students. Please be specific and tell the whole story. How many in each of your classes ? Do you see them at different times like most LRT's or are you trying to tell us that you have them all at once together with 45 kids with special ed program ?Tell the truth!!
    I know the current strike action is not about salaries but at the end of the day , try getting that kind of a salary outside of teaching ....its very tough ! You are still a LONG way aways from "middle class" salary. I agree that class size is very important. they should be small. Maybe if you guys didn't demand such high salaries the government could afford to higher more teachers so that class sizes could be more manageable. Sorry but your blog really made you look like a whiny teacher . Perhaps you should have focused on pointing out the deficiencies within the TDSB at the administrative level. Such as the ridiculous high salaries of the Director and the wasteful spending on trips to China, the Afro-centric school, where only black children can go which was grossly below capacity, or how the trustees refuse to sell of assets that are completely under utilized in order to balance the budget. Focus your energies on explaining that, instead of whining about what you don't get paid for. Its the 80/20 rule where 80 % of the work is being done by 20 % of the teachers. Your union protects those that should be out , and it makes you all look bad.

    1. Dear "Anonymous"

      As a person with very strong opinions, you should perhaps attach your name to your own post, to legitimize your position (and also proof read your own post before posting, as you have published some homonym, punctuation and factual errors yourself).

      Explaining and whining are two very different things.

      Regardless of your claim that the "general public considers it part of the job", jobs do have descriptions. I am a teacher and nowhere in my job description does it state that I must do ANYTHING above and beyond what I was hired to do, which is to teach. I do extra-curricular activities if and when I choose to do so, as many or as few as I like. Some years I do none at all. Some years I do several at once. It all depends on one thing: MY CHOICE.

      As an example: If the "general public" considered cleaning toilets part of your job (and we have no idea what your job is) would you do that? Thankfully teachers are not asked to do that. What about working an extra 1-2 hours per day, unpaid ("off the clock"). Would you do that? Where does one draw the line?

      Administrative shortcomings cannot be changed by teachers. Considering the jobs that teachers do, they are not "demanding such high salaries". Each and every teacher in Ontario has AT LEAST two University degrees. Some have more. The "high salary" is at the top of a grid, which takes at least 11 years to reach - Does it sound like I'm whining yet? In fact, you are correct when you state "try getting that kind of a salary outside of teaching ....its very tough !" Indeed, it is very tough to get a salary that LOW when you have at least two degrees and you are working in the private sector. Most dual-degreed private sector professionals earn six figures. Teachers will NEVER make that amount of money.

      I will "tell the truth", since you didn't get it from the original post. I have 361 students. I see them in groups of 20 - 33, each class comes to see me twice a week. It is much easier to work with 20 than with 33. The lessons are received much better with 20 than with 33. IF you want the best for the new generation, it is in everyone's best interest to have smaller class sizes. Teachers have no control over the number of students in each class. Governments do. Voters do.

      I'm curious to know where you got your statistics (the "80/20 rule"). This is pure fiction. Anyone can create statistics to strengthen their argument. In fact, the general public knows that 92.4% of all Anonymous posters are actually jealous of the perks of the teaching profession, although they would never actually consider working as a teacher themselves.

      Yes, teaching does have perks. As a result, teacher-bashing is a very popular contact sport. It's especially easy to do when you are posting from the comfort of your anonymity. Too bad the other 80 percent of my colleagues are making me look bad. They must be fooling everyone else, but they're not fooling you. And I know that after reading my rebuttal your opinion will dramatically change and you will be on the side of logic and reason. And all it took was this discourse to do so.

  7. Anonymous, if you want to be critical of someone's blog, possibly leave your name. Your endless use of exclamation points, accusations and desire to be anonymous only detract from the credibility of your comments. She's not whining. She's offended by the onslaught of negativity she's receiving from the general public whose complaints should be directed straight at the unions and the Province. If you were verbally attacked at your job (rightly or wrongly) you'd comment as well. What I'd like to hear more from Cayla and other teachers is anger towards their own leadership including the Provincial government they've helped keep in power for so long. The Liberal government has been in power since 2003 and have spent so much of their time and our money on wasteful projects (ehealth, Orange, cancelling power plants and the list goes on). There is no money left and no real ability to borrow. Look at what is happening in US cities as they continue to borrow - their debt is downgraded and the interest on their existing debt increases. The Province is in serious financial trouble and the result will be felt first in the areas controlled by the Province namely Health Care and Education. It's extremely frustrating for everyone but until we break the cycle of leaving the same party in control for as long as we have I don't know how anyone can expect things to begin to improve. All the "whining" and your apparent anger should be directed at Queen's Park, not Cayla.

  8. I hate that when teachers try to defend the "lazy" title that was placed on them, by listing what they actually do, they are called whiny! You can't win against people who refuse to know the truth and would rather cling on to their ignorant beliefs.

  9. So now what do you have to say? 3% raise and cost of living demand?

    Also, stop deleting my comments you coward

  10. You have to also focus on providing some classes of e learning. Its easy to do this thing, you can make them learn anything and offer the Udemy e-learning classes which improve the way they are studying previously.

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  25. I would like to say
    1. Although it may not be you, many teachers ARE very lazy. They leave before students do, and come just as the first bell rings. Although you may be an expecting, the teacher population is very underworked.
    2. No raise in next theee years? I know lots of people who haven’t gotten a raise in 15 years.... not to mention the luxurious benefits an teacher gets.
    3. As a teacher who’s pay is around 70000-80000 dollars WITH two months off in the summer (that’s a LOT) you SHOULD work more then 9-3!(that’s only 6 hours) many people work 9, it’s only right to work during lunch and to stay late
    4. Next time you say something about students wanting... don’t feed it. As a student at your old school, I can say that class sized don’t matter if teachers suck as they often do

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