Concerned teacher in the Elk Valley
I am a teacher. I love my job. Even when my students interrupt and distract each other, making it hard to do my job, I still love it. That’s why I do it.
I think that my love of teaching music translates to a fun time for my students. If they can have fun while learning something, they probably will want to continue learning. The fun comes from two areas, I think. One, when they learn something new about music that allows them to succeed at a deeper level, they feel it. Two, playing or singing something together with a large group of people feels good.
Too often when I was in school, it didn’t feel good, so if I can give students a few moments of feeling good during their school day, it might help them learn the rest of their lessons well too. These moments of fun learning happen more often when the students are able to concentrate well. If there are students in the class who are not able to work on their own and need help, I then have to leave my large group lesson and help the individual. This is really important because we don’t want to leave any students behind; we want everyone to have success.
I can do this for one or two students in a class at any given time. But some of my classes have four to six students who need individual attention to such an extent that they could take 90 per cent of my time while I ignore the rest of the class who will sit quietly and absorb the lesson without extra help. I needed extra help when I was in school, but I got it. I stayed at lunch and recess doing math while my teacher made sure I could do it. Our current classroom environment makes it really hard (in some cases) to give enough time to those students who need it.
The B.C. government’s refusal to increase funding per student affects both students and teachers. It means that I can’t pay enough attention to each student in the class who needs it because I am not willing to choose one side or the other. What that means in practice is that in those classes with more than two or maybe three students that need more attention, I can’t give that extra attention. If I did, the rest of the class would suffer. It is a hard choice to make, and one that teachers wouldn’t have to make if the government would spend more money on education.
I make enough money. I am not starving, one day I will own a house and maybe even a quad. However, if I move to Alberta, I will pay less for housing and be paid $12,000 to $21,000 more per year to do a job that while not exactly the same, is almost the same. I think they teach a few more days per year than we do, and their union structure is different. That’s a big annual difference, and it’s not a far move, geographically speaking. I don’t work four and four, I don’t work nights, and I don’t think I should be paid the same that someone working a hard physical job should be paid. I do have a few degrees, and I think that’s worth something, but I recognize the value in enjoying my work. I do however think that those of us who are creating the future should be treated with respect and dignity, which probably means being paid somewhere in the neighborhood of what other teachers in Canada make.
I also think the government could stand to be a little more honest and respectful of things like laws and courts, but I guess you feel invincible when you are ‘in power’.
What surprises me the most is the way the government is fighting education so aggressively. Are they trying to hurt the future economic prospects of our province? Because it seems like a good way to do that. I hope that our MLA Bill Bennett and other MLAs will encourage Christy Clark and Peter Fassbender to move forward in a positive manner that will create a better situation for education.
One last point, when people say that we teachers are only fighting for our own interests, I wonder which part of the classroom has the line that separates my working conditions from the learning conditions of the students. It’s a hard line to find because it’s invisible. If my job is made a little easier to manage, my students learn better, because their learning is my job. There’s no separation.