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!

 

 

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.

Not Homogeneous

Job hunting has drastically changed over the last decade.  Before, you printed out dozens of hard copy résumés on nice bond or linen paper, and then hunted through the few internet job boards or newspaper ads, searching for companies to send those beautiful specimens to.

Today, you look through the numerous internet job boards, placement agencies, or company career sites looking for an opportunity that matches your particular set of qualifications; assuming there is such a thing.  You then hit the “Apply Now” button.  This takes you into what they say will be a twenty minute process, but the reality is that it takes an hour to complete all their fields, upload your résumé, write and upload your cover letter; which they never provide a human name or address for, so your letter is to “Whom it may concern” or something to that effect.

You then hit the submit button and hope you make it through all the company’s computer algorithms and your résumé actually is selected as one of the potential interview candidates.  That is assuming they have algorithms.  If you are dealing with a company that has a personal touch, you may be part of the vast sea of a couple hundred applicants for that position.  Do you want to place a bet on the likelihood your résumé will ever see anything but the equivalent of the cyber round file?  Didn’t think so.

So what do you do?  How do you stand out in a sea of two hundred applicants if you aren’t even seen?  While technology has made sending out résumés an automated process, it has taken out the human element as well.  Everyone becomes one homogeneous commodity. Nothing special, nothing personal, nothing more than a list of data that may or may not stand up to the algorithm set for the ideal candidate.

I have never lacked a job in my life, well at least until now, when I want to completely change career paths.  I have never considered myself a homogeneous commodity, and now I am reduced to just that.  I am not a person with a unique set of abilities, talents, and experiences, but only a set of skills, education, and qualifications that are randomly selected by those that seem to have a lock on the ideal candidate.  So much for thinking outside the box.  No need for being wonderfully talented, personable, and easily adaptable.  You just have to have the right number of years and/or degree, and you might get plucked from the abyss.

I laugh when I see a ten year experience requirement for an administrative assistant or executive assistant.  Really?  How hard is it to type correspondence, send a fax, an email, schedule an appointment, or make travel arrangements?  Most college students can do these tasks, and yet, someone with twenty-five years of business experience isn’t qualified to handle a phone call apparently.  Go figure.

I thought finding a simple nine-to-five day job would be an easy thing—well, it used to be.  Nope! Not that easy.  Does that mean I am going to give up, and let the system dictate my worth?  Absolutely not!  I know there is a company out there that will actually review all two hundred applications, maybe see my faxed résumé, and realize that someone with my level of experience in various fields, my entrepreneur drive, coupled with my intrapreneur talent (an employee with a flair for innovation and risk-taking who is given unusual freedom to develop products or subsidiary businesses within a company) is exactly what they need.

In the meantime, I am going to live by this quote from Streams in the Desert by L.B. Cowman:

“Never pray for an easier life—pray to be a stronger person!  Never pray for tasks equal to your power—pray for power equal to your tasks.  Then doing your work will be no miracle—you will be the miracle.” Phillips Brooks

Dreams

So you are thinking I am talking about those black and white images that meander through your head as you sleep…nope, not those dreams.  I am referring to those things you want to do, but seem so far out of your reach, that all you can call them are dreams, because they certainly aren’t reality.

I have been priviledged to watch the dreams or talents of others unfold over the past number of years, including my own.   I wrote a book and published it last year, called “A Dragon’s Passion”.  Is it a number one bestseller yet…no, but that wasn’t my goal when I wrote it.  I hadn’t planned on publishing it, so the fact that it is in print is my reward at this moment.  Does it mean that I don’t want it to be a bestseller, no.  I would like to see it be as famous as some other authors that have written mega popular series that are now movies, but if that never happens, I am still satisfied.

I am particularly excited about seeing the talents of a friend of mine, who couldn’t see her amazing talent for painting or drawing back when I met her 10 years ago.  She was too bogged down by obligations and duty (much like the heroine in my book) to see that she was special.  She took the leap of faith that was required and has been very successful in selling her paintings here in Canada, and now in the US.  If you have a moment, check out her daily paint works on this site: http://www.dailypaintworks.com/allartists/#/artist=eaton, krista&mode=search.  These past couple of years have been a transition for her as she relocated to the US and had to rebuild her business in a new market.  She paints every day, and she has two small children to look after, so finding her niche wasn’t easy, but I think she has done it.

I have the opportunity now to watch as my own family begin new chapters and stretch the boundaries of what they thought was possible.  For my daughter, it is the transition into adulthood and college that she is on the threshold of, and I am so looking forward to watching her develop her talents and interests into a career she will love.  I have the best seat in the house to watch my husband expand his business and possibly author a book of his own this year.  Of course, there is my son, who is an amazing wrestler, and is only beginning to tap into his talent in this arena.

I guess the point I am making, is that there is amazing things beginning to take shape and bloom all around you if you stop long enough to look for them.  Sometimes, we get so wrapped up in our own dreams that aren’t fulfilled, that we miss the little miracles that happen in others.  These dreams while they may not be your own, are no less important.  They show you that anything is possible if you truly want it.  It doesn’t mean it is easy, just possible.  Sometimes in waiting, we discover that the dream we thought we wanted, isn’t what we were meant to do at all.  Often times, it is bigger, and more diverse than anything we planned.  Sometimes, it is a small change that produces a big impact in the life of someone else that has the power to change the world. 

I’ve discovered that the times I feel most successful and fulfilled, are those times when I can stand beside someone else and congratulate them on their success in reaching their dreams.  I love being the inspiration behind the success, more than I enjoy my own.  That may sound strange, it may sound like I am trying to show false modesty, or lack sincerity, but it is truly where I find the most joy.  If anything I do can impact the life of someone else positively, I have realized my dreams and potential.  I have operated in my own destiny and purpose for living.  I feel sorry for those that will never experience this sense of accomplishment, as it is the most rewarding (in my opinion anyway).

Whatever your dreams are, keep pressing forward.  Find that person who will be your personal cheerleader, and allow them to motivate, inspire, and direct you on your path.  It might be a total stranger, or someone close to you, but often it comes from somewhere you never thought to look.  While on that journey of dream building, don’t forget to stop and relish in the joy of someone else’s accomplishments.  They may just be the catalyst to you reaching yours!

Invisible Women or Blind Society?

So a friend posted a video blog post today about what makes women invisible/vulnerable/shameful.

I like to think about these esoteric kind of things so I began to ponder the question. I had a chat over lunch with a friend and brought up the question to them as well. It was a very interesting discussion that went off into a couple of different directions, but it was good to get another viewpoint.

I think there are other questions we need to ask and answer first before we tackle the one presented. Are women invisible or is it a much larger society issue that needs to be addressed? My discussion with my friend brought up the issue of whose point-of-view are we trying to answer this question from, a man’s or a woman’s? Throughout history, you tend to think of the various roles of women. Until the last century or so, women have been viewed by men and society quite differently than they are today. Again, you also have to ask this question from different cultural perspectives as well. There are still cultures today where women are still considered property. From this perspective, they don’t exist in and of themselves, they belong to someone else as an “asset” so to speak. They have one purpose, to bear children. I’d have to say that they would be considered invisible in their society, from our western perspective, but would they feel as if they are invisible? Some might, some might not.

With these biases mentioned, I am assuming you are interested in the western perspective of the question. However, I don’t see women as invisible, but rather the issue being that society is selectively blind. For example, you see the homeless person on the street begging for change, but you pass them by and ignore their plight. You might volunteer at a shelter, or give out care packages, to do something good for those less fortunate, but does that really mean that you “see them”?

We all can look at a situation and see what we want to see in it. Often you will get different responses based on a person’s personal history and experience. It is kind of like the glass being half full or half empty. Depends on your personal point-of-view and biases. How can one person look at a bleak situation and find something to be thankful for, and another person only dispair?

I think the real problem is people are trying so hard to fit in, that they are afraid to stand out and let themselves be seen. Why is it all the girls think they have to be a size 2 to be desirable and pretty? They are trying to fit into what society has put a positive spin to. Self-esteem and image is the very thing our “enlightened” society has degraded so as to manipulate us into what it wants us to do.

One of the questions I asked, was when did it become unpopular to be a stay-at-home mom? Why is it that society puts more emphasis and praise on women who are in the workforce, than the one that chooses to stay at home? It is a huge sacrifice to stay at home and live off of one income, I know, I did it for 7 years. Did society think I was doing something great for me and my family, no. Was there pressure for me to go to work to help support my family, absolutely. It was a tough 7 years, at one point we were almost homeless. I did end up having to go to work part-time to help pay the bills, but my husband didn’t want me to go to work full-time, as he saw value in my being at home to give the kids their best start in life. Is it paying off now that they are teens, absolutely. So my question was, at what point did society decide a woman had more value if she was working at a “job” than if she “worked” at home? Why do women have to feel incomplete if they don’t have a career path? In the 1930s you wouldn’t hear women saying this.

Why is it that teenage girls (or adult women for that matter) think they have to have a boyfriend in high school to be “pretty” and feel wanted? Why is it girls are allowing men to tell them what is pretty? I see a huge self-esteem vacuum with teenage girls (and adult women) that is causing them to do all kinds of ridiculous things to get the attention of a boy, all in an effort to feel wanted.

Isn’t that the whole reason social media has become so popular. It is a way, through “likes” to feel wanted and important to someone out there? To feel like you matter. Isn’t that why a girl will give away her virginity to a guy that she knows will eventually dump her (at least way down in her gut somewhere she will if she is being honest), to feel wanted and loved, even if it is only for one night?

Let’s face it, we all have a desire to be wanted…to matter in this crazy world. The question is, why are we allowing society, or someone else to tell us whether or not we do? This is what makes us invisible…when we allow another to make us feel like we are less important than they are. When we allow someone to judge us and tell us we don’t measure up to their ideals or standard, we make ourselves invisible.

Every person has within them, the ability to shine…when are we going to stop allowing society to keep us in the dark, to remain blind to who we are? It is those that are willing to stand against the conventions of what is deemed “normal” that make the biggest changes in the world. I want to see them shine…I want those that feel like they aren’t worth more than dirt, to know they are precious. There are no mistakes, no junk, no worthless when it comes to people. It is time for society to take the blinders off, and celebrate the uniqueness of each person, and allow them to shine. You all matter!