Teacher's demands for a new contract are nominal: smaller class size, fewer special needs children per class, concerns with the classroom environment,. These demands are for the students and do not revolve around a heftier pay cheque. The teaching "industry" if it can be called that, is unlike any other career. It cannot be treated like other civil servant jobs. Why you ask? Because teachers are only the tip of the iceberg with their students extending below them like an extension of themselves, a pseudo-limb of sorts.
Now, I may be biased because my mother is a teacher in BC, my aunt is a teacher in BC and my sister is a teacher in Alberta, but that has given me the opportunity to be immersed in these reoccurring issues that teachers have been wading through for YEARS. Let's not forget that students are the way they are because they have been carefully raised by teachers who care enough to want to raise human beings who will be successful. As in all careers, there are teachers who are in the job for a pay cheque, but take it from my experience as a teacher's daughter, teachers are a different breed.
My mom teaches grade 1 in a primary school in interior BC. She started teaching 35 years ago and was the sole teacher in a one-roomed school house. Her career started just after the "strap" was ousted (if that gives you any indication of how long she has been teaching for). I've grown up watching her raise children with a skill that has been honed over many years of practice.
My mother has made a difference in 35 classes of children, imprinting them each in a different way. Even going to the grocery store becomes a social event. A chorus of "Hi Mrs. Gagatek" follows us down the isles and she can barely walk due to the children who flock to her, hugging her legs. Grown men who tower over her now, offer her a "Hello Mrs. Gagatek." She's beginning to teach the children of children who she taught nearing the beginning of her teaching career.
She knows her students inside and out: the names of each sibling, each pet, which activities each child is interested in, who's going where after school. She know when some kids are having bad days, she knows which parent's weekend it is with their child and she knows who forgot their book bag last week. She sings to her students and for those 6 and 7 year olds who are now "too cool" to listen to anything besides Eminem and Miley Cyrus, she gets them singing to Raffi, to Sharron, Lois & Bram, to Fred Penner, to the kinds of songs and messages young children should be listening to.
Oh no, a wasp has flown into the classroom and the students are having a panic. "Boys and girls, don't worry, it is a learning wasp. He has come into the classroom to learn." The panic among the children subsides. My mom quickly grabs a cup and transports the wasp outdoors.
Teachers teach students empathy, teaching children how to feel, how to act, how to learn. Reading and writing are necessary skills, but learning to function as a person in the world is (you guessed it) also taught by teachers. Teachers often spend more time with their students than their parents themselves. My mom washes hands, she wipes tears, she teaches manners to children who haven't learned such practices at home. Parents pick up where teachers leave off.
My mom powers through grade 1 printing like it is her second language. Despite the backwards letters and the missing vowels, she reads the printing fluently. I have tried and failed at deciphering grade 1 writing, in fact, I can't even read this writing sample but my mom breezed through it like nobody's business.
Teachers are selfless human beings who take curve balls daily and transform them into a learning experience for their students.
And that is just my own mother. My mother is an amazing teacher, but she doesn't stand alone in the club of amazing teachers. She is one in over 30,000 BC teachers fighting for better education standards. I can look back more recently and comment now that my high school teachers were amazing human beings, Ms. Brown, Mr. Norquay, Mr. Lucas: their assistance in physics, biology and calculus made university scholarships and acceptance possible. I can't tell you how many hours I spent early in the morning with those teachers who without hesitation, promised to be there in the mornings and after school to help me understand difficult topics.
So it is now that is offer this:
Dear parents: I'm sure that the cost of childcare for one day a week will be reclaimed through scholarships your child earns due to the constant support from their (you guessed it), teachers. Quit your yapping and look at the bigger picture. Teachers are fighting for a better environment for YOUR kids. This means from kindergarten until grade 12, your children will have a better opportunity to succeed. Stop whining and complaining and get on the side of quality public education. Think about your children's children. Think about the future of education. Teachers fight for quality education because they want the best for their students, not because they want a few thousand dollars more per year. How many times have you heard the phrase "go find another job then?" Well if our teachers found another job, who would stay after school to help struggling students? Who would share their lunch with a child who forgot theirs? Who would mould the humans of the future, today?
BC teachers need our support.
Teaching isn't a job; it's a lifestyle.