Massaging the Message

massage the message
http://www.imcreator.com/free/people/nyc-20

I like massages. I like the complete and total relaxation they give me. I like that for an hour at least, there is less labour in breathing, in being. Once after a particularly stressful semester, I had to have massages weekly just so that I could sleep at night. My body was in so much pain, having twisted itself into several knots in response to unrelenting stressful situations in the classroom.

At first when the tweets and comments about the $3000 massages began to surface I ignored them. That was such a preposterous accusation surely everyone knew that teachers would not be asking for a luxuries like spa massages. But the tweets persisted, not unlike the pain I experience when I know I need a massage!

And then I began to pay attention to them. I could not believe the malice, the meanness in the deliberate twisting of our proposal to increase the amount of massages someone who experienced chronic pain and discomfort could claim.

Why would anyone want to deny someone who was suffering from fibromyalgia some relief so that they could do their job?

But the disparaging remarks about massages kept spewing all over social media.  The taunts about them could  not be quelled. The onslaught came to a peak when the Premier took to broadcast media to amplify the discrediting of teachers who dared to request physician-prescribed massages.  She was so indignant about this proposal from teachers she displayed her disdain over and over again throughout the broadcast.

But her disdain was based on incorrect information.

Teachers had not requested unlimited massages. That was what was already granted to another public sector union. A union that the Premier had already signed a contract with. A public sector union whose unlimited massages was somehow well within the “affordability zone”.

When they learned of this, citizens were confused…. If unlimited massages were within the “affordability zone” for one public sector union,  why was the teachers’ request for a modest increase in the number of massages available to them outside of this  “zone”?

If the Premier was insisting that the teachers’ proposals were in line with what other public sector unions were getting, how did the unlimited massages she had granted to other public sector unions make sense in light of her response to the teachers’ proposal?

So much confusion for the BC citizen/taxpayer as they watched the premier massage her message about fiscal constraints.

I can imagine that it could cause quite a few knots of tension to develop in the bodies of citizens who voted for a premier who would at the very least be well-informed about the salient issues at stake in the billion dollar negotiations with teachers.

One would expect, given all the assistants and secretaries who work on her behalf, that the premier would have accurate information available to her. One would expect that at the very least those assistants ensured that their boss did not make a fool of herself in front of the entire province.

But on Wednesday, 3rd September, 2014, it became clear that one would be expecting too much.

Information is an interesting thing. It can so easily be manipulated and twisted and turned into something that does not actually inform but instead misinforms, disinforms. Orwell had much to say in this regard.

Information can sometimes reveal the truth but it can also distort it, turn attention away from what is actually going on.

Information can be a distraction. Pay attention to what the Kardashians are doing and you will miss the civil war in the Congo.

Pay attention to what the  BC government calls the unaffordable demands of  teachers and you may miss the fact that the government considers Education Assistants and Learning Specialist teachers as salary benefits for teachers. A salary benefit in the same way a nurse would be considered a salary benefit if doctors would allow the premier to get away with that twisted logic.

And if you pay attention to all the ruckus about massages, you may miss the fact that teachers are being asked to give up their Charter Rights in exchange for a promise of better learning conditions for students.

No amount of massaging a political message can detract from that fact.

But are you paying attention?

Based on Faith

multifaith

I have previously appealed to BC Liberals of conscience to help us to get a fair deal for our public education system. This appeal is addressed to faith leaders from all our faith traditions – Sikhism, Islam, Hinduism, Judaism, Buddhism, and Christianity to shed some light on this dark chapter of our provincial history.

Premier Christy Clark’s son has begun the new school year at St. George’s, a very expensive private school. She has said that he attends private school for “faith-based” reasons. I am happy that she is able to make this choice for her son but what “faith-based” reasons can there be for denying the right to attend school for the 500 000 children whose parents cannot afford to send their child to a private school for whatever reason?

What “faith-based” reason can there be for insisting that teachers give up their constitutional rights before they can return to their classrooms?

Minister Fassbender also attends church regularly. What does his faith teach about how to treat others, how to treat children?

When it comes to the treatment of children in this province, I am at a loss to understand why nothing is being done by our politicians about the fact that we have the highest childhood poverty rates in Canada.  How is it possible that this situation exists, that children go hungry in a rich province like this?

In July this year the governor of Massachusetts successfully appealed to communities of faith to help him to provide shelter for the 1000 migrant children as young as 3 years old who had travelled illegally to the US from countries in Central America. Help for the children was being mired in political debates about immigration and there were 50 000 children who needed to be fed and sheltered. Leaders from the Christian, Jewish and Muslim communities all offered to help.

The presence of these leaders, shifted the focus away from  what was a partisan political debate toward an awareness of the fact that there were real, living children who needed help, immediately.  They could not wait for politicians to score ideological points against each other.

Though diverse in philosophy, all faith communities share The Golden Rule which is a version of: Do unto others as you would have done unto you. Woven within The Golden Rule is the concept of justice and fairness.

Pope Francis and the Dalai Lama, leaders of very different faith traditions, are partners in the fight against injustice and poverty. They lead by example, showing their followers what their words mean. They, like all faith leaders, are also teachers.

Right now political leaders in power in BC are in need of the kind of lessons that faith leaders teach so well.  Today, teachers in BC are being asked to give up their Charter Rights in exchange for the government agreeing to provide learning support for students in classrooms. This is unconscionable and demonstrates a significant ethical and moral lapse on the part of the government. Faith communities are well positioned to point this out.

One faith leader, an Anglican Minister, has written the following open letter to the premier:

Letter from Donald Grayston, Anglican Minister and Retired SFU Professor,

AN OPEN LETTER TO PREMIER CHRISTY CLARK

Dear Christy: when you started out you said that your motto was “Families first!” What a joke! What is going to happen to thousands of BC families when school doesn’t open on time? The bribe of $40 a day–because that is what it is, a bribe–if you add it up over a couple of months would come to enough to cover the cost of what the teachers are asking for in relation to class size and composition. Think of your legacy, Christy. Think of what the historians are going to say about your role in all this. Think of your grandchildren reading what the historians say, which will not be pretty. My hunch is that this is ideological for you: that you are still angry that the teachers resisted what you did in 2002 when you were education minister. This is ego at its worst.

My strong recommendation: that your government appoint an arbitrator, Vince Ready or someone similarly respected, and take the issue to binding arbitration. Our society is too complex, too interconnected, for this kind of dislocation. Teachers are suffering, parents are suffering, the students will suffer, and the government’s already tattered reputation will suffer. Action, Christy, decisiveness, involvement: families first, remember? Over to you.

Donald Grayston, once a student, father of a teacher, always a citizen

I was raised in the Christian tradition and so am only familiar with stories from the Bible but I am sure there are variations of those stories in other traditions. The Miracle of the Two Fish and Five loaves of bread is what always comes to mind for me when teachers are being asked to do so much with so little.  When we have 8 or more students in a class of 30 students who have various levels of learning difficulties or special needs and there is only one Education Assistant to help, we are being asked in effect to either perform a miracle or to play God and decide who gets the help and who does not.

We do not want to have to make those decisions. We want to be able to provide all students with what they need in order to learn in school.

We are hoping that faith community leaders will help Christy Clark to find her moral compass so that she can do what is right for the 500 000 children  who are affected by her decisions. Faith-based or not.

The government’s mess in BC education: How it affects negotiations

This blog explains the history of how the conflict has unfolded over the past 14 years…

The Coal Mine

Make no mistake. The BC Liberals have got the province into a terrible mess. It’s not unlike their BC Hydro fiasco in which years of lack of oversight of the crown corporation have led to retroactive costs that will need to be funded by sudden massive increases in citizens’ Hydro fees. In education, the problem is similar. Bad policy has led to a huge burden on taxpayers years later.

The trouble started on January 26, 2002, when Education Minister Christy Clark stood up in the BC Legislature and proudly announced the new Bill 28, which removed class size and composition limits from the teacher contract and enshrined them in law.

In effect, what Christy Clark was announcing was that the government was reneging on its part in a contractual agreement, and creating a law that prevented the teachers from ever even asking for such an agreement again.

Naturally, the teachers’ union took the government…

View original post 1,034 more words

What Taxpayers Can Afford

640px-Pieter_Brueghel_the_Younger,_'Paying_the_Tax_(The_Tax_Collector)'_oil_on_panel,_1620-1640._USC_Fisher_Museum_of_Art
“Pieter Brueghel the Younger, ‘Paying the Tax (The Tax Collector)’ oil on panel, 1620-1640. USC Fisher Museum of Art” by Pieter Brueghel the Younger – Artdaily.org.

Dear Christy,

I’m sorry that you did not take my advice in my last letter when I suggested that you should get teachers back into classrooms as soon as possible.  I’m sure your government would have much more support right now if you had taken my advice but I understand that sometimes the right message just comes at the wrong time.

Today I’m writing to you about what you’ve said in response to the breakdown in talks to end the teachers’ strike. You said that you want a negotiated deal that taxpayers can afford.  This has left me with a lot of questions.

Firstly, your use of the word taxpayers. I’m sure you realize that parents who want their children in school are taxpayers and that teachers are taxpayers and some are parents too?

Secondly, in a rich province such as ours, is it fair that  teachers have been spending an average of $1200 of their AFTER tax income to provide resources for classrooms?

I think you and I have different perspectives on what taxes should be used for. I see taxes as public funds, our collective contributions to the public good,  the spending of which should be prioritized for what our most vulnerable citizens need. Correct me if I’m wrong but you seem to think that taxes are best spent on providing corporate welfare. Do I have that right?

And while we’re talking about paying out large sums of taxpayer money, I’m still stunned that your your government said it was a good deal for taxpayers when you agreed to pay $750million to settle legal claims in California against Powerex.

I think we disagree on what a good deal for taxpayers is.

When you were elected, I’m not sure the citizens who voted for you also voted for an  increase in your staff’s salaries and the items on your credit card bill.

Citizens of BC are still not sure how they were roped into paying for the new roof on BC Place Stadium or the Winter Olympics while your party was in power when there are so many other needs in the province.  Like childhood poverty.

Does it ever bother you that BC has such a high number of children who are starving every day, where the only meal they may get for a day may be the one they get at school through the breakfast or lunch programs?  Or that so many teachers store extra crackers and cheese for those students who can’t attend to learning because they are so hungry?

I know you and your son wanted to work on a Free The Children project in Kenya but what about working on freeing the children in BC from hunger?

But if that’s too big a task, how about freeing up their teachers  so that children can go to school? At least there they’ll get a meal, one way or another.

During the election campaign you promised voters that BC would be  “debt free” under your leadership so how do you explain the  huge debt you have incurred since becoming Premier?

I wonder too if BC can really afford to entice corporations here with such low corporate taxes when corporations like Imperial Metals leave taxpayers with huge costs like the one that we have to bear for the Mount Polley tailings pond spill.

As you can see, there are many things that confuse me when you talk about what taxpayers can afford.

I am also puzzled by who you mean when you talk about taxpayers. Currently in BC the  following groups of citizens/taxpayers  are registering their dissent with the way you are governing the province: ferry users, seniors, midwives, nurses, health care workers, doctors, truckers, environmentalists, fishermen, parents who want daycare, parents who want their children in school, paramedics, anti-pipeline activists, climate change activists, lawyers, farmers, poverty activists, people with disabilities, and of course teachers. That’s a big group of taxpayers/citizens who disagree with you about what taxpayers can afford…

Today would have been such a different day if you had used the pickled vodka to toast the end of the teachers’ strike and the reopening of schools .

Instead, parents all across the province are pondering the costs of not having schools open on Tuesday and the costs they have to bear while you are Premier.

With kind regards from a taxpayer,

Lizanne

For the children

for the children
https://www.flickr.com/photos/waagsociety/

After the original BCPSEA was fired in August 2013 when they were close to a deal with the teachers,

and after the government has now twice been found guilty of violating Charter Rights,

and after teachers have been sitting at the table for 18 months trying to get a deal with the government,

and after the government locked teachers out of their classrooms in June 2014 during lunch time, forcing them to eat their lunch on the sidewalks outside their schools,

while imposing a 10% punitive daily salary cut,

the government is now asking for a “cooling off” period before it will agree to mediation,

and is using social media ads that promote the Cisco corporation inspired BC ED plan to persuade parents that the obstacle standing in the way of getting children back into the classroom

are the teachers.

I am incensed at the insistence  by BCSTA that “both sides” are equally to blame for this dispute. I am incensed at the massive disrespect I am experiencing at the hands of this government.  I am incensed that BCCPAC, the parent body that claims to represent 80% of the voices of parents in this province, demonstrates only support for the government’s position.

Since those who use the divorcing parents analogy also claim that both sides are ignoring the children, let’s examine that.

It is teachers like Carrie Gelson who have raised the issue of childhood poverty in this province. It is teachers who spend an average of $1200 of their after-tax income on classroom resources. It is teachers who often spend more time with their students than with their own family during the school year, giving up holidays and weekends to accompany students on field trips.

It is a growing number of teachers whose health is suffering due to the enormous load they continue to bear in an underfunded public education system.

And what has the government done “for the children”?

It has refused to subsidize daycare, the $40 bribe notwithstanding.

It has refused to do anything about the fact that BC has the highest childhood poverty rate in the country. In fact, a representative of the government, Marc Dalton says that childhood poverty does not exist.

It is planning to not just cut but to completely eliminate designations for special needs in classrooms.  If you don’t have students with special needs, then clearly you don’t need to provide support for students with autism, with learning disabilities; students who are gifted, students who are deaf.

This government has gone to a corporation, Cisco, an organization of dubious ethics whose main purpose is to create profit, for the ideas that it implemented into its new BCED plan.

In what ways can the Cisco corporation have the best interests of students in mind?

Teachers do not hold the purse strings to public funds in this province. Teachers cannot pass legislation. Teachers cannot ignore Supreme Court rulings without risking jail.

The government can and has done all these things.

It is the government who can end this dispute. It is the government that can ensure that each student in a BC public school is funded at least to the Canadian average. It is the government that can stop spending millions of dollars of taxpayer money on litigation and instead invest that money into public education.

Doing these things would demonstrate that the government does indeed have the children’s best interests in mind as far as public education goes.

But it would not be enough to indicate that the government was anywhere near considering helping the millions of children who starve each day and whose parents cannot afford daycare.

This government has many opportunities to do something “for the children”.

If they need any ideas about which opportunities they should consider first, they can ask a teacher.

Expect Us

AFrican woman
African by Luigi Morante ( http://www.imcreator.com

We are a growing chorus of parents who have been newly awoken to the effects of 12 years of education funding cuts.

We are immigrant families who came here because of the great public education system.

We are the parents of students of special needs who are incensed that our children are being cut out of funding for their learning support.

We are reading.

We are writing.

We are sharing what we know with each other.

This is what we know:

  • Support for student learning is not a salary benefit for teachers.
  • If pipelines are in the “affordability zone” so are students’ needs.
  • Although funding for education has increased since 2002, those increases have been a fraction of the cost of the increases in MSP premiums and BC Hydro costs for school boards. They have not compensated for the government’s insistence that schools buy carbon credits for heating buildings. They have not made up for the $250million gouged out yearly from the education budget since 2002
  • A balanced budget is a fiscal fallacy. This government has increased the debt by billions since it came into office.
  • If there is money for corporations, there is money for children.
  • Teachers are not lazy and greedy. They are hardworking and have sacrificed much for our children.
  • Ignoring two Supreme Court decisions means that the BC government has no respect for the Charter of Rights or for the law of the land.

We are a resilient network of social media connections, exchanging information revealed by hours of research into public policy.

We are grandparents who will not be idle if our grandchildren do not get the kind of education they deserve.

We are members of the public who are experiencing moral outrage as we watch our leaders bully teachers and bribe parents and ignore the law.

We are taxpayers.

We are voters.

We are citizens.

We know what our duties and responsibilities to the next generation are.

We will not watch passively as our province is hijacked by those who value pipelines above children.

We have written to our MLAs and received twisted lies in response.

We have rallied outside the legislature and have been patronized.

We have stood on picket lines.

We have written letters of protest.

We are not done yet.

Expect us.

The Reasons we are Fighting for Public Education

boy reaching for stars
http://www.gratisography.com/

 

This is a reposting of my friend Cecelia Griffiths’s  post on her blog, Especially About Students. This is a long read but after you read it, you will have a comprehensive understanding  of why we teachers are willing to forgo salary for this fight we are in with a government that does not seem to care about our most precious “resource” – our children.

As everyone probably knows, when doctors become qualified physicians, they take the Hippocratic Oath, in which they are required to vow never to do any harm. But doctors are always having to do harm. They have to cut into people’s bodies to repair what lies within, or they have to poke needles into their arms to get information to help the person. Sometimes, in horrible circumstances, usually with mass casualties, they have to choose between patients, knowing they can save only one of two or more. These are the life and death situations that face doctors routinely, and nobody expects that they would do other than what they do: their very best to help people to survive to continue their lives.

Nobody will ever confuse teachers with doctors. Nobody will ever see teachers as performing a life or death service (except, of course, when they’re shielding children with their bodies in mass shootings and things), and nor should they. Teachers don’t maintain life; they contribute to its quality. At their best, they give their students broadened horizons, wider ranges of thought, and deeper compassion. But they don’t, by and large save lives. Not in a measurable way, anyway.

But teachers do have to make choices, and some of those choices feel very, very important. For me, as a special education teacher, although I probably do not singlehandedly keep anyone alive, I do indeed make choices that have the power to truly affect kids and their parents. About fifteen years ago, when I taught a tiny class of five students with profound disabilities, and had three Educational Assistants (EAs), I made a whole lot of choices. I experimented with different communication strategies for the nonverbal teens (all but one had no speech). I, together with my EAs, used sophisticated technology to work out how much they did and did not understand. We thought carefully about ways to teach them to cope in public places, which they often found frightening or uninteresting. We dug deep and explored the ranges of their capabilities, and as we worked, we learned. It was a wonderful time. One of the EAs in that class told me, a while back, that another had remarked to him that it was the best job he’d ever had.

It was exhilarating to see the kids learn, and grow. We wanted to teach some of them how to take control over their environment, because their disabilities were so severe they’d had no way of making anything happen independently. So we brought in a whole lot of green fabric of all sorts: green whole cloth, green jeans, green tshirts, anything green that we could get, and we wove a jungle. We hung long braided cords of green from the ceiling to simulate jungle vines. We made draping leaves and created a fantastic jungle world in our classroom. Then I went out and bought a bunch of battery operated toys; parrots, and monkeys, and snakes, which we hung strategically amidst our fabric foliage. We ran wires from the battery cases, carefully hidden, to a bank of large, colourful, switches. If you went up to a switch and hit it, something happened in the jungle: a parrot cawed, or a monkey chuckled and spun, or a snake hissed, or whatever. Soon we were wheeling the kids up to the switches, and they would hit one and watch the result, and one would smile, and another would laugh, and laugh. They could make things happen!

We went on to experiment with a whole bunch of fancy technology. We tried galvanic skin switching, with which a severely disabled person can use biofeedback to change the switch by controlling the surface of their skin. We tried mercury switching, where the slightest movement changes the position of the mercury and closes the switch. Always, the switches were attached to things the kids loved: recorded music, or special toys, or a visual treat.

Those kids thrived. They were happy, and we knew it, because they laughed, and smiled, and lit up when they saw us. Their parents were happy because their children were happy. It was a wonderful time in my life, and although those kids were never going to be elected to office, or granted degrees, or even live independently, we knew that we were making a difference, and they knew they could, too. I only left that job because an amazing opportunity arose for me to go off to Australia to get my Masters degree in Special Education.

When I resumed teaching in British Columbia, it was 2002. That was the year that the current run of attacks on our public education system began. I had a lovely little class of primary aged children (5-9 years old) with significant special needs. We did some good things with that group, and many have gone on to do very nicely. But there were clouds gathering on the horizon.

Since that time, year, after year, after year, the cuts have come. Relentlessly, the services we could provide became fewer. Wait times for evaluation became longer. I went to work for an online school, thinking it could help kids who has been medically excluded because of their severe behaviour. These were children and teens with acting out, due to disabilities, so severe, that they could not be housed in the education system, and they had been offered hospital home bound services instead. But for these children, mostly with autism, hospital home bound was a poor fit, so we tried something innovative, called blended learning. It involved some carefully chosen work in a centre with behaviour management staff, and a lot of online study and interaction. It showed real promise for children who had huge trouble attending to human faces, but who did well with computer screens.

When the focus of that online program changed in the direction of catering for paying foreign students, and more ‘typical’ students looking to pick up some coursework at home, I went to work as a Learning Support Teacher in an inner city school. What I saw there was devastating. In the online school, we had had a good budget, which I now realize was partly because various people were looking to commercialize it. But this little elementary school had very, very little. The children were mostly immigrants, and many, immigrant or not, were living well below the poverty line. It was routine for most of us to keep healthy snacks at hand, because so many came without breakfast or lunch. Many of the children spoke little or no English. Some had no winter coats. School supplies? That wasn’t on anyone’s radar, so a lot of us bought them ourselves. One year, we ran out of white photocopy paper in March. A friend of mine taught her class to garden so they could grow their own food.

Things were getting worse. It was taking longer to get kids evaluated by the school psychologists, and the wait list was growing. In a given year, we might have up to twenty five names to propose for urgent assessment, but we could get maybe three or four completed at best. The psychologists, you see, were being spread thinner and thinner, covering more and more different schools. One little girl whom I knew for sure would qualify as learning disabled, never did get assessed while I was there, and I know there were many others.

At that point, the commute was killing me, as it was an hour and a half each way, as long as there were no road accidents. I chose, therefore, to switch to a semi-rural high school. By now, so much damage had been done due to underfunding, that the job I took would have been two and a half people’s work, fifteen years previously.

Now, there are three counsellors for fifteen hundred students. Three. And they do all of the necessary timetabling and juggling of courses for all fifteen hundred, so that everyone will be assured of taking what they need to graduate. This means, that if a student is suicidal, or if a student is grieving, or if they have a very serious illness, or depression, or bipolar, or an addictions issue, or teen pregnancy, or any of the myriad issues that can befall teens, that they must wait to get in to see a counsellor who is tasked with four hundred and ninety nine other kids. When they do get in – and the counsellors do their utmost best, working crazy hours day after day – they mostly get triaged, and referred. There isn’t much counselling anyone can do with those caseloads. But of course, the same cuts that are literally destroying the public education system, are also attacking other social services. The social safety net is very, very thin, and many young people are falling through the holes.

Now, there is one consistent Learning Assistance Teacher, to support the needs of a school of fifteen hundred. There is a little more time allotted, so the rest is filled by various teachers who have a block in their schedule for working with the kids with learning disabilities. That teacher, an extraordinarily passionate and dedicated person, is often in the building after six o’clock PM, because in addition to her teaching load, she has a massive case management load.

Now, we have no sensory room to help our student, who is so easily overstimulated, soothe himself and calm into a state where he can learn. The building is just too full. I actually bought a tent this year from Canadian Tire to try to give him his own comfortable space. We lined it with foam padding on the floor and put in bean bag chairs, but it didn’t block out noise so it wasn’t really what he needed.

Now, students with learning disabilities receive no funding at all. Neither do students with mild intellectual disabilities (what used to be called “mild mental retardation”), or those with mild to moderate behaviour or mental health concerns. These children are supposed to be ‘managed’ without funding for EA support, specialist teacher support, or any extra mental health services. So children with anxiety attacks, for example, or depression, are left without any funding for services at all. Teachers and counsellors, who know and care about these kids, move heaven and earth to try to ‘fit them in’ as best they can.

Now, it is much harder to get a ‘designation’ that will get funding for a child. The Ministry of Education requires that any child with special needs who will receive funding, be ‘designated’ according to the nature of their need. So a student can be designated ‘dependent handicapped’ or ‘chronic health’ or ‘severe behaviour/mental illness’. There are fixed amounts attached to these designations, no matter what the particulars of the circumstances actually look like. So, for example, a student designated ‘chronic health’ receives roughly the amount of money it would cost to hire a half time EA. What we do, then, is whenever we have a child who gets that kind of funding, we load his or her classes with other students who urgently need help, but are not funded. We try very hard to take into account how this will look for the classroom teacher, but essentially, because so many students have high needs but do not qualify for funding, we have to group these with kids who do qualify, to get them any help. This means that the students who have funding often share their EAs with those who do not. The EAs can be stretched pretty thin, and so can the classroom teachers.

There are a very great many more changes in the BC public education system that I have seen over the past twelve years, and none of them are good. Many, many teachers are genuinely exhausted. I have always been pretty healthy, but this year, towards the end of the year, just before the job action began, I got a bad cold. Not wanting to stay home, because my students are all intellectually disabled and the uncertainty of the situation needed a familiar face to provide support, I pushed through what became bronchitis, then laryngitis, and finally pneumonia. Long before the school year would have ended, had it ended normally, I was far too ill to work. Ultimately, I seem to have had pneumonia or its precursor illnesses for around two and a half months when I was finally hospitalised. I am not unusual; more and more teachers are getting physically ill. There is a great deal of stress in knowing you work with some of society’s most vulnerable people, and you cannot possibly meet their needs.

However, like physicians, we make the best choices we can. And after an enormous amount of distress, a great deal of pain and a lot of guilt because we see no other way, we chose to strike. Unlike other public sector workers, we are told that the cost of EAs is one of our ‘benefits’. Unlike other public sector workers, the conditions under which we work directly affects our ‘clientele’. You won’t see car salesmen on strike for bigger show rooms. You won’t see plumbers and pipe fitters striking to raise money for their clients to afford pipes. But we are on strike because we know that the kids, our kids, need books, and rooms, and smaller classes, and timely assessments, and specialist teaching, and libraries and so much more. And only we have a way to stand up, draw a line in the sand, and say, ‘Enough. This is enough. The children need your help.’

So we are on strike. And no matter how many people say that we are greedy, and we are lazy, we know the truth. We walk together, and we write signs, and we grieve. We grieve that children are hurt by our action, but that we know no other way to prevent continued ongoing harm. We grieve that we know how to help, but cannot. We talk to each other, and we hold each other up, and we take turns supporting our colleagues in their fear and sadness. But we strike, we make the hard choice, because it is the right thing to do. Even if it hurts.

Let’s make some money!

CC

You know we really don’t understand what all you parents and teachers are upset about! You’re complaining all over social media, being so critical of all the wonderful changes we have planned for the education system in B.C. You make it seem so personal! We wish you could see that it’s nothing personal, it’s just business.

Let us just tell you a bit about how business works. It’s all quite simple, you see.

We all participate in a capitalist economy, the kind of economy that thrives when corporations make profits. Now, profits are based on economic growth which comes from investing in places that yield profits.

Unfortunately, since the 2008 recession, growth worldwide has slowed down… you must have heard about this on the news? But the good news is that one of the “sectors” that is still ripe for investment/growth/profit is the “education sector” as the billionaire Rupert Murdoch calls it.

What’s so annoying and frustrating though is that standing in the way of corporations making profits in this “sector” are old fashioned institutions like unions! The BCTF has for many years been fighting the privatization of education in the province. So annoying!

And, by the way, we really don’t understand why people think that public education should be free in the first place! Why should public funds be used for public education? That’s such a stupid idea! We need public funds to stimulate the economy.  It’s public funds we use to bail out corporations that stop making profits. We need to keep helping them! Can’t you see that?

If you could just do your own research, you will come to see that what we’re doing is the best thing for our province.

One corporation that studied how much money could be made in the education sector was Cisco Systems. They came up with this very helpful document. In fact Cisco’s document was so helpful, we incorporated a lot of ideas from it into our BC ED Plan.  No one seems grateful for all the taxpayer money we saved by doing that! We didn’t have to do all that research and writing ourselves! That would have taken so much more time!

Apart from looking to corporations for guidance on how to re-design our education system, we’ve been working really hard to try to save taxpayers money by cutting funding for expensive things like school  librarians and school psychologists.  We’ve saved about $4billion from the education budget since 2002. It was so helpful to have that extra money for the 2010 Olympics! That was fun, wasn’t it?

Oh! And, can we please get some gratitude for our  BC Jobs Blueprint,  our plan to re-engineer education in the province? People should be so happy that we will be ensuring that children are thinking about careers right from kindergarten! Children will no longer have to waste time in classrooms learning about things like visual arts or poetry, or music or anything that will not directly train them for working in industries like LNG. Isn’t that great?

Teachers like to go on about how they educate the “whole” child, intellectually and socially, But, with our plan, it will be parents who will be teaching their children about things like healthy lifestyles and media literacy. We’ve been tweaking all curricula so that complicated things like the environment have been taken out and we’ve put in lots of stuff relevant only to working in industries like LNG!

With all the courses that will be only available online (thanks Cisco!) parents will be spending a lot more time with their children! That’s so good for families!  All parents will need is a really good computer and reliable access to the Internet.

And, can you see how the need to regularly upgrade your computer to keep up with new technologies will provide lots of profit for corporations? Another good thing for our economy! And don’t worry about the cost of all that software – we’ve negotiated with corporations for great deals …

So please, stop the hysteria! It’s not a conspiracy! We actually really like children…we just think that turning children in public schools into pre-workers, starting in kindergarten, is the best thing for our economy.

After all, the real worth of a child is in their potential to buy stuff so that corporations make more profits, but we should not forget their potential also to pay taxes too so that there can be more public funds to ensure that corporations keep making lots of profits.

Of course we don’t want corporations to pay a lot of taxes and that’s why we’ve been cutting corporate taxes over the past decade so that all the profit they make will trickle down to everyone. You’ve all benefitted from that trickle, haven’t you? We certainly have with all those donations to our election campaigns!

So why don’t you just stop all that whining! We really are doing what’s best for the economy. Forget all that stuff about free access to public education being important for democracy. Forget all that stuff about a citizen’s duty to contribute to the common good. Forget all that complaining about Charter Rights! Let’s just make some money!

Kind regards,

Your BC Neo-Liberals,

Working hard to put Families First!

What is public education worth to you?

educationi worth?

It’s easy to watch progress being made when a road is being built. You can look at the whole process as it unfolds through all stages. You can take a photo of what the land looked like before the road was built and what it looks like after the building is complete.

You can drive on a road as soon as it’s completed. Its use is immediately obvious. It’s plain to see where the money went, why it was spent.

It’s unfortunate that you can’t do the same with students. There are no before and after photos of the transformation in their thinking, in their knowledge, in their awareness of themselves, of the world around them.

There is no ticker tape unravelling as their minds shift to accommodate new information, a different way of being. There are no stock market type  numbers to announce each day.

Which is too bad.

We live in an age where the highest value attributed to any accomplishment is measured in dollars.  This makes it problematic to see  and to show the value of what happens in classrooms.

Perhaps an extract from a  Grade 11 student’s self-evaluation would help you to see what I see in classrooms?  She wrote this at the end of a semester in my class:

When I came to the  class and saw my enemy N I was so angry. We had been enemies since elementary school. I wanted to switch out of the class because I couldn’t stand looking at her miserable, lying face.

But I got up the confidence to stay because I had been looking forward to this class all summer and I didn’t want to blow it off over some girl who thought she was all that.

So, H and I decided to sit at a different table from N. But my plan did not work because the teacher moved us all into our Myers-Briggs personality groups and guess who was in my group? N! I got so frustrated and mad. I wondered how she could possibly share the same personality traits as me. I was completely shocked. I talked to my other classmates in my group and ignored her.

The second day N asked me a question about how to do an assignment. I was so close to just walking away but I answered her question and she thanked me! I was really surprised that after all the fights and arguments she had the nerve to ask me a question.

After that day everything changed. The teacher assigned more and more group projects and we would not only get marked on the quality of our work but also we would get evaluated on how well the group worked together. So this meant that if I wanted to get a good mark, I would actually have to talk to N.

At one point I wanted to ask the teacher to switch me or N into another group but again I decided to give it another try. Soon after this we all got together to prepare a skit and everybody got along fine including me and N.

A month into the course N and I were talking like we were best friends, I don’t know if I changed or if she changed but we never brought up the rumour or fights again.

This class doesn’t only help you to work better in academic courses, but it also helps to give other people a chance to express themselves. The more group work the class did, the more I found out about the strengths and weaknesses of everybody along the way.

If it wasn’t for this class I would not have had the chance to know a lot of cool people that I didn’t know before.

What is is worth to society when a teen can learn how to see her “enemies” as humans just like herself and learn to work with them? What worth is it to society when children learn empathy and learn to work collaboratively?

Whenever there is some crisis in the nation, and answers are sought, education is always in the spotlight.

High rates of divorce? Schools should teach relationship  and communication skills.

High rates of debt and bankruptcy? Schools should teach financial literacy.

Huge demand for skilled trades? Schools should provide opportunities for apprenticeships.

Low voter turnout during elections? Schools should spend more time teaching the responsibilities of citizenship.

You task us with the preparation of our young for their roles and responsibilities as adult citizens who will take over the reins of society. We are to prepare them to fix what is broken; to sustain what needs to continue.

But you want us to do this with outdated resources and overcrowded classrooms. You want us to perform miracles when there is no support for students who have difficulty learning  or  who have mental health issues. You want us to somehow teach children who have not had anything to eat in days.

And you want us to do this  for an hourly wage that is less than what you pay your babysitter.

Is that really what public education is worth to you?

If only students were made of concrete and steel that could be moulded into things like roads, bridges, pipelines or sports arenas for Olympic events. Things that would be seen to be worth it, a good investment of  taxpayer money.

The Winter Olympics cost $7billion.

How much is public education worth?

An Unfair Fight for a Fair Deal

Love and Peas Mama

I don’t normally write particularly political posts, but oh, would you just indulge me for a moment? I am feeling incredibly dejected today about this fight for a fair deal for our B.C. students and teachers.

I am sad that my mom, who has seen a 0% wage increase for the last 2 years, may not ever see one before retirement.

I’m feeling sickened that my “little” cousin Wes, who just proudly graduated, has spent his entire schooling in a system abused by our government.

I fear that my daughter will face the same.

I will be grateful if Isla doesn’t need extra resources in school. But, I worry that she will be overlooked, because I know – I know – that right now those kids who can make it don’t get enough attention, because teachers have to focus on those who can’t. There are too many kids in each classroom, not…

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