My Hour on a Teacher Picket Line

This week I spent an hour with teachers from my son’s school on the picket line.  It was an interesting experience, and one that has left me thinking about it for days.

While there were the occasional honks from drivers passing by, there were also the drivers making rude, or impolite gestures at teachers.  While both of these stand out, the more I thought about it, the thing that really stood out was the general apathy of those driving by.  Most didn’t care one way or the other, or at least they didn’t express support with a honk, and disdain with a gesture.

I have to wonder if it were nurses, firemen, or policemen on that picket line if people would have made rude gestures or been so apathetic.  Why is it we see teachers differently than these other occupations that provide valuable and often lifesaving services.  Why is education not seen as life-changing, valuable, and honourable?  The BC Government is sure drilling home the point that they aren’t worth it by their media sound bites and propaganda.  How much are those ads on Facebook costing us anyway?

The Government is spending $9 million dollars a day, according to a recent CTV article by Harvey Oberfeld, http://harveyoberfeld.ca/blog/ctv-exposes-myth-of-no-money-to-settle-teachers-dispute/.  This is just the money they are paying for daycare for parents of children under 13.  As one of the commenters added, this doesn’t even consider the money that they are paying to CUPE members to stay at home, which was a deal they negotiated in their contract at the end of May.

The Government is totally ignoring the high school students.  The ones whose entire futures are on the line as they should be focusing on applying for scholarships and university right now.

How did we get to the point where educators, the people parents partner with to shape the minds of our children and prepare them for adulthood mean so little?  Why do we see them as less important than our child’s doctor?  The doctor doesn’t shape the mind our of child or prepare them to maneuver the rigors of adulthood.  They treat our child when they are sick, they make sure they are overall healthy once a year during a routine physical, but they have very little contact with our child in general.  Yet the adults, the ones they spend nine months of the year, five days a week, six hours per day with seem to be dispensable and easily cast aside. At least in the minds of the BC Liberal Government, in my opinion.

How do we expect strong motivation from teachers to continue to make strides in the way they teach and offer curriculum when they are constantly being told they are undeserving of improvements inside the classroom, and to funding increases for education?  Would any of you feel like staying in a relationship where your partner belittled you constantly, threatened you, and made you feel worthless repeatedly?  This is the legacy the Government is leaving for teachers.  A wound that is so deep it can’t properly heal. It is a wound that will fester and inflame further as time goes on.  While we will eventually get a settlement; the pay raise, the increase in classroom support and funding will do little to ease the hurt that this on-going dispute will leave behind.  Brokenness does not lead to innovation. Anger doesn’t produce gains in education.

The Government’s short-sightedness in saving a loonie today leaves us with a stream of brokenness, littered with un-kept promises of families first. The reality is, they haven’t even saved a loonie when it is costing the taxpayers $9 million dollars per day in daycare subsidies.  Money that should have been paid to the schools to educate our children who are getting further behind their peers in other Provinces every day they remain at home.

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Open Letter to the British Columbia Government and BCTF

September 4, 2014

 

An Open Letter To:

Honorable Peter Fassbender, Education Minister

Honorable Christy Clark, Premier

Jim Iker, BCTF President

Kathy Corrigan, MLA Burnaby-Deer Lake

 

From:

Concerned Parent and Taxpayer

Disclaimer: The opinions and other references in this document are my own.  They do not represent the voice of my school district, school trustees, Parent Advisory Councils, teachers, or my child’s school in anyway.

Concern is an understatement at this point in the bargaining discussions. I passed concerned in June. Disturbed and frustrated is closer to where the consensus lies now. I have kept up with the various bargaining issues since this latest round of job action started. I have tried to keep an open mind to both side’s point-of-view, but at this point, I am disgusted with this dispute. My outright disbelief is leaning toward the government and their bargaining stance.

While the teachers have a right to strike, and I am not remotely suggesting they don’t, the children have an equal right under Article 28 of the UN Charter of Children’s Rights to a publically funded education. While I understand the UN Charter hasn’t been incorporated into domestic law, the charter was ratified by Canada on December 12, 1991, and therefore, this government should be making every effort to support it. I think we can all agree that children have a right to a free primary and secondary education. I also feel the government has a responsibility to the parents and taxpayers of this Province, to provide that free education, especially in lieu of the fact they are collecting our tax dollars for this very purpose.

While I think it is a nice gesture that you are providing “daycare” money to parents of children aged 5 to 13, what about the secondary students? They don’t need daycare, but they do need an education. What about the futures of those students you cavalierly cast aside under the guise of saving taxpayers money? What about the seniors trying to apply to international universities? I doubt Stanford or Harvard is going to make exceptions for BC students. You are preventing them from their right to pursue the post-secondary education they need, and have chosen, which allows them to become income earners and tax payers. For those students needing sport scholarships to help pay for this post-secondary education, you are preventing them from playing and earning this source of funding. Does this fact not weigh heavy on your conscience? Do you not have a legislated obligation to these students and their parents, the taxpayers of this Province?

Why is it that the private schools are receiving government funds for education while the public sector is not? It this justifiable? I am sure there are many rationalizations for allowing this to occur, but the simple fact of the matter is, why should my tax dollars fund private schools while my child stays at home? The simple answer is that they shouldn’t! The private schools should have to wait for funds until the public sector has access to those same funds. I want a refund for the taxes I am paying that are not going to my child’s education!

The BCTF has made concessions in what they are asking for. The teachers of this Province deserve a raise. I propose those in the government take a percentage pay cut for every year the teachers haven’t had a raise. Government hasn’t had an issue with increasing their pay by over 7% in the past several years, while allowing teachers to go with 0%. Why is it alright for taxpayers to pay a 7% pay raise with their tax dollars for government, but not for teachers? You seemed to find money in the budget for your own raise, I am sure you can be equally creative for teachers.

The biggest tragedy is the level of government funding for education. Let’s take a look at the numbers. While I applaud you for providing the $195 million for the Learning Improvement Fund (LIF), it is the proverbial drop in the bucket. This only addresses the need for learning improvement issues inside classrooms for composition related matters. It does nothing to compensate for the three year negligible increase on actual overall funding. I am curious how you can explain the legislation for increasing the amount taxpayers pay for education by the rate of inflation in the Province, when in fact the education system hasn’t seen any of these increases?

Outside of the LIF, overall funding in total has increased 1% from 2010 to 2014. We had been in a decreasing enrollment situation for some time, but that is now no longer the case based on the enrollment numbers for K to 4. In fact, from 2005 to 2014 we saw an 8.25% decrease, but when you look at the percentage from 2010 to 2014, it is only 1.6% decrease. The numbers are climbing, yet funding is shrinking. The math on this just doesn’t make any sense. Perhaps you can explain to me how you can increase education based taxes at the rate of inflation, yet not pass any of that on to the schools? Is this where the money is coming from for the government’s pay raise?

It is unconscionable that you are holding negotiating a contract for the appeal hearing on the constitutionality of your previous legislation (this appears to be what you are doing from my point-of-view). I have to side with the BCTF on this one, you are not negotiating in good faith.

Now let us look at the class size numbers:

BC School Act 1996         Bill 28 – 2001         Bill 33 – 2006                Bill 22 – 2012

K: 19; 22 max                      19; 22 max               19; 22 max                      22

1-3: 21; 24 max                    21; 24 max               21; 24 max                      24

4-7: 28                                  30                             28; max 30                      max 30

8-12: 30                                30                             30                                    30

The number of IEP students (composition component) has not changed from three per class. Bill 22 removed class sizes of Bill 33 and those from the school act.

So while the government has maintained that going back to 2001 levels is not feasible, I am just wondering why not? There hasn’t been that drastic of a change in the numbers since 1996. In fact the numbers for 8-12 haven’t changed at all! I understand with school closures that we may not have the infrastructure for some of these increases, but I think there is an easy compromise here. I don’t think it is that difficult to go to 20 max for K, 22 max for 1-3, and 29 max for 4-7. I think the BCTF compromise that can happen here is the need to approve every class size and composition over the limit. School districts do need some flexibility. With Bill 22 extra compensation to teachers in this situation was provided for. The teachers had to give permission for their class to be over the limit. Albeit, it is possible that administration could strong-arm a teacher into accepting, I have found this to not be the case in my experience (I don’t have access to every teacher). While it is good to have hard and fast rules, there does need to be some allowances for special circumstances. For instance, a secondary school wanting to add an honours class where they have 32 enrolled. There aren’t enough students in this case to feasibly break it into two classes, but having to strictly comply with 30 means they can’t offer the class at all, as how are they to decide which two students don’t get in? Isn’t this a case where the teacher should get to make the call and not the union?

I think where the government is having the biggest problem is the funding of class composition, as this group of students has increase substantially over the past twelve years. I am curious as to why EAs have to work a second job because they can’t get a full-time job in classrooms? Clearly we have the need for more EAs, teacher assistants, learning support staff, specialists, counsellors, etc. You recognized this need partially with the LIF, which is $75 million for 2014-2015, but with the overall general funding changing only 1% in 4 years, it is simply inadequate no matter how you want to manipulate the numbers.

Teachers provide a valuable service to society. They have a tough job, I know, I’ve been in the classrooms. I’ve been behind the scenes on PAC and SPC, and I know the amazing things schools are doing with shrinking funds. I have to wonder how many amazing student accomplishments we are missing out on due to the lack of funds. I have to wonder if the government thinks it is acceptable to limp along with average, or if we really want to strive to be an internationally recognized place of excellence.

The taxpayers of this Province should be very upset with the state of affairs we are in now. Are we really alright with the government “starving” the teachers into negotiating? Are we really alright with allowing the government to negate the hard won battle in court to contract language that doesn’t restrict teachers’ bargaining rights?  Are we alright with having to continue in this vicious cycle of strike action every two years? When will it be enough? When will the taxpayers take a stand against this injustice for the children of British Columbia?

Christy Clark, how can you allow this mentality and lopsided funding to continue? As far as this taxpayer is concerned, none of you have earned your over 7% pay raise!

 

 

Barley, Oat & Raspberry Pancakes

Barley, Oat & Raspberry Pancakes

Recipe Makes 8
1 C. barley flour
1/2 C. Quick Oats
1 – 1 1/4 C. milk (I substituted coconut milk and cream when I made these)
2 eggs, beaten
1/4 C. butter, melted
1 Tbsp. sugar
1 Teas. baking powder
1 Teas. baking soda
1/4 Teas. cinnamon
Pinch of nutmeg
Pinch of salt
1 C. of fresh raspberries
Maple Syrup

Add flour, oats, and other dry ingredients in a bowl and stir to combine. Add milk, eggs, and butter and stir until just combined. Mixture will be thick but it shouldn’t be clumpy. Gently fold in raspberries.

Spray pan with cooking spray on medium heat and add 1/3 C. of batter for each pancake. Cook until set on bottom (1-2 minutes) and then flip and cook for an additional 1 – 2 minutes until browned and cooked through. Serve with warm maple syrup.

A Rival Friend

Her cry bursts forth

A bond destiny forms

Blood ties—

Two lives entwined.

 

Center stage no longer

Her light eclipses

Favor fallen

She arose.

 

No harm to befall her

Your rival: she

Your life to give

Secrets entrusted.

 

Time wages separation

Paths not connected

Your heart beats

A lonelier tune.

 

She can’t walk alone

Bruised and bent

Never broken

Alongside you join.

 

Pain knocks and scars

Tears freely flow

Souls bear witness

Love mends.

 

An anchor that stabilizes

As the waves crash in

The rainbow breaks

Hope sings again.

 

Strength formed in sorrow

Inspiration born

An inseparable bond

My sister, my friend.

Top Ten: Some things no one tells you about writing

Chazz is a great source of inspiration to struggling authors everywhere. This blog is an example of why you need to follow him. I think there are more than ten things no one tells you about writing, but these are key to start with.

C h a z z W r i t e s . c o m

1. Nobody cares about your book at first, even if you think they should. Even if you think they care about you, they’re indifferent. It’s maddening. For you, each book is a magical dream made real. For them, “Nice hobby, but so what?” 

2. Since typing looks a lot like writing to the casual observer, you don’t get extra respect for being a writer from a lot of people. Anybody can type, so don’t think you’re special. “Who do you think you are, anyway? You think you’re better than me?” Oh, they won’t really say that. That’s silly. But some may as well say that by the way they’ll treat you.

3. A lot of people can read, but don’t. They care even less than the casual observers in Items #1 and #2. I don’t understand these people. Why live? It’s a mystery.

4. Some people do read, but they’re…

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My Life: Best Seller or Dust Collector?

This post is inspired by Wordpress for listing some great ideas for blogging.  The idea was, if your life was a book, would you read it?  If you chose to read it, you have to read it from cover to cover.

This made me think.  I’ve had some “interesting” things happen to me in my life.  However, is it a story of amazing tragedy, triumph over the impossible, or an unforgettable love story?  Nope!  While all three of these things happened in my life, do these single or multiple episodes make up a scintillating best seller?  Probably not.  Would it be a dust collector?  Depends on my level of commitment to market the heck out of it, and I don’t see that happening.

I think it is hard for us to look at our own lives and think that it would be an interesting read for others.  The grass is always greener effect seems to be in play here.  There are those amazing stories you hear about, like war heroes, hostage situations, abuse, love that conquered all, and inspirational comebacks, but again, these are time stamps on the fabric of what makes up a lifetime.  Does it mean that person’s entire lifetime is remarkable?  Most likely, the vast majority of us are not Mother Theresa’s, Nelson Mandela’s, or Ghandi, and thus fall short of a lifetime of remarkable.  However, that doesn’t mean we don’t have something valuable and worthwhile to share, even if it is a little snippet of your life line, and not the entirety of it.

I look at imparting what I’ve learned to my children as a way of making all of the good and bad things that transpired in my life to be meaningful.  I look at imparting to others, whether it is words of wisdom, encouragement, sympathy, or constructive criticism as a way to bring my past experiences richness, fullness, and worth.  The greatest joy of being a parent is when you hear your child share with one of their friends words of wisdom you have imparted to them.  It brings validation and a sense of purpose to all that forms the story of your life.  It is in these living pages, where reality isn’t fiction, but a hard won truth that will live on long after you are gone; these are the moments that make your story worth reading, even if that is the only page anyone ever sees.

As an author, I love words.  I love holding a book in my hand and being transported to another place.  What I realized though, while contemplating the blog post suggestion of a book of our lives, is it isn’t the words that make the story of our lives; it is the people we encounter and leave changed, or that change us that are the real story.  The living pages of what shapes our personality, our character, our integrity, or our future.  When you look at it like that, my life is an open book.  Easy to read for the most part, with drama, intrigue, passion, vulnerability, struggles, temptations, short-comings, joy, and triumphs.  All the messy bits of life that make us unique, special, and worth knowing.  People through the ages have tried to have their name memorialized in stone, in music, in print, etc., but I think the real legacy is how many people have been positively impacted by us.  They carry a tiny piece of us with them, and in turn, mix it with a part of themselves and pass it on to another.  We keep living long after we have ceased to draw breath.

While I have no desire to write the story of my life, I certainly want to keep adding living pages to my timeline on this earth.  If it indelibly touches another, then it is the most powerful story every told.  In that way, I will be a best-selling author, even if I never collect a single royalty from it.

Cultivating Joy While Life is Kicking the Sh** Out of You

We have all had those years in our lives when everything seems to turn into hell in a hand-basket.  Every time we think we are seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, we realize it is just the next train about to hit you head on.  Whether it is something you personally are being challenged with, or a member of your family, it hurts like crazy regardless.

Then there are those years where everything seems to be turning up roses.  You get the promotion you wanted, you get married, you have a baby, or you win the lottery (still waiting for this to happen).  This is usually followed shortly thereafter by some calamity, big or small that drops you on your butt and leaves you scratching your head.  That was my year in 2013 in a nutshell.  If it was the only year it happened, I wouldn’t be writing this blog.  Mind you, I didn’t say leaves you crying.  I’ve done that too, but for the most part, I choose to laugh rather than cry.  However, I’m not made of steel, nor am I a super-hero, so I do have those days when crying seems the best option.  I don’t pride myself on the fact that I choose not to cry, I just try and look at the situation from a different perspective; that of the stand-up comedian.  These are the situations that make for great jokes and super funny punch lines, well not initially anyway.  I laugh because I just can’t believe another situation hit me like a two-by-four to the side of the head.  However, after the initial disbelief, you have to be able to change the focus, or it will suck you under and drown you in a wave of depression the size of the Titanic.

I would like to claim I am an all-star at being positive and changing the perspective of things, but I am not.  Some days I am better at it than others.  If I made resolutions for each new year, I think mine would be to cultivate joy regardless of what is happening around me.  Joy comes from a place of gratitude.  In a culture of entitlement, gratitude appears to be in short supply.  I want to grow a frick’in acre of gratitude this year.  It will produce a bumper crop of joy, and joy is infectious.

Attitude is the key to unlocking the reservoir of gratitude and joy.  Most people would say I am happy.  They always see me smiling.  For the most part, that is true.  In fact, when I am not smiling, people have come to know that something is very, very wrong.  I am reminded of when I was pregnant with my daughter.  I was twenty-seven weeks along and this agonizing pain started one morning every time I moved.  I was not smiling that day.  I got an emergency appointment with my doctor.  She took one look at me and said, “You’re not smiling so I know that something is really wrong.”  It turned out to be a five day stay at the hospital and later a horrendous four day delivery at thirty-seven weeks and five days gestation.  I was crying then, I assure you.  I was in agony and left with complications I wouldn’t fully realize until I was pregnant with my son, but that is another story.

All that to say, you can choose to let the tragedies and hardships of life keep you crying, or you can change your perspective.  Who hasn’t complained about the cost of their heating/electricity bill?  While your complaining, be grateful you have heat and electricity, as there are millions of people who don’t have that luxury.  How about the mom complaining about constantly picking up her kid’s toys?  There are thousands of women who can’t have a baby, or thousands more who have lost a baby, and would love to have that problem.  It isn’t fun picking up after a two-year old, but at least you have that blessing.

I recently saw a post on Facebook that I reposted to my wall about a 92-year old woman who is blind.  I loved her life philosophy, and I am going to share excerpts from it here.  “Happiness is something you decide on ahead of time. It’s a decision I make every morning when I wake up. I have a choice; I can spend the day in bed recounting the difficulty I have with the parts of my body that no longer work, or get out of bed and be thankful for the ones that do. Each day is a gift, and as long as my eyes open I’ll focus on the new day and all the happy memories I’ve stored away, just for this time in my life.”

She went on to explain, “Old age is like a bank account, you withdraw from what you’ve put in. So, my advice to you would be to deposit a lot of happiness in the bank account of memories Thank you for your part in filling my Memory bank. I am still depositing.”

And with a smile, she said: “Remember the five simple rules to be happy:

1. Free your heart from hatred.
2. Free your mind from worries.
3. Live simply.
4. Give more.
5. Expect less

Thank you Mrs. Jones, your wealth of experience is a great lesson to us all. 

What are you depositing today?  It brings to mind the Bible verse in Matthew 6:19-21; “Do not store up for yourselves wealth here on earth, where moths and rust destroy, and burglars break in and steal.  Instead, store up for yourselves wealth in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and burglars do not break in or steal.  For where your wealth is, there your heart will be also.”  I am not suggesting you shouldn’t save for the future, but the focus of this verse for me is the last line.  What is more important to you, hordes of money that can be gone in an instant, or hordes of joy that can’t be stolen; you have to choose to give it away?  I will save money, but more importantly, I will be depositing heavily into my “happiness bank account” this year by cultivating gratitude and reaping joy, regardless of what train is heading directly in my path.

 

The Dark of Light

ImageSuffocating. The ebony fingers stroke your senses, play with your fears–your desires.  Your hopes and dreams flash with the beat of your heart, then fade as panic’s stress entwines itself into the very fibers of your muscles, making automatic reactions spasm and twitch as they fight for control.  As much as you want to manipulate the scene and its outcome, you are helpless and blind, groping for the light that will erase the doubts–the nightmare.

While this may seem like a description for a number of things; a panic attack or heart attack, for instance, it is neither.  It is also not a crime scene in progress.  It is the dark tunnels of life.  The point where we have no idea where we are headed at the end, but know the only way to get to the end, and to the light is to keep moving forward even in those dark moments of doubt. 

For some, life starts fairly easy.  Nice flat terrain that stretches for miles.  At some point, perhaps at high school, the terrain begins to climb as decisions have to be projected further into uncharted territory.  We may find a small tunnel running through our hilly landscape.  There is a small degree of uncertainty, but the darkness is short and we are on the other side of this tunnel quickly.

Life seems to create these changes in terrain to condition us, transform us, and prepare us for what lies ahead, but that doesn’t mean the journey through the dark tunnel of doubt or fear is easy to manage.

The longer the tunnel, the greater the doubt, the more questions we ponder–rhetorical or otherwise–the harder the journey through the blanket of night.  We pray the next step will be the point around the bend where the sliver of illumination will appear, drawing us to its source–our hopes, expectations, and goals.

You’ve heard the saying, “Nothing worth having ever comes easy.”  Why the heck not?  Rhetorical question, as we all know that we have to live and experience all of life’s lessons–good, bad, and downright painful to become the unique person we need to be to seize the opportunity that is represented by the light at the end of the tunnel.

While the tunnel may be long and come with twists and turns you struggle to see, you can keep going knowing there is a point to the turmoil that fills your mind as you stumble through the dark.  The key lies in never giving up.  Even when you feel like curling up into a fetal position and letting the fears claim your spirit and will to go on, you must not stop!  You only fail when you don’t keep moving forward.  Stop looking behind you, there isn’t anything to go back to, only lessons to carry forward.

Greatness is waiting to be born, and that only happens when we breach the light that may be long in coming, but is there, even when all you can see is black.