I think most people would agree the current situation between government and the B.C. Teachers’ Federation has reached a severe impasse. My many years as an educator, administrator, supervisor of student teachers (UVic), school trustee and now a director of Nanaimo Ladysmith School Foundation have provided me with a unique perspective.
To prevent future job action we must completely overhaul the delivery model and practices. All players have an important role to play, and all must want to improve our system.
Here are my suggestions for governance, ministry and school boards:
Take back education policy from the BCTF; listen to the union when they bring forth realistic concerns re funding and positive initiatives. Look at ways of reducing downloaded costs to districts, especially after budgets have been determined. Develop in-district statistics on use and misuse of benefits. Streamline administration, commit to regular teacher evaluations, ensure and develop Pro D activities with the local that pertain to hot-button issues (class size/composition).
Take a strong position in terms of changing the delivery model. Should not all schools have a special-needs component? That is, each school needs to design instructional strategies for their “catchment” area. Inclusion is a wonderful and idealistic concept but it puts too much stress on the expansion of the scope of learning abilities within each class.
Consider the “year round” school model. This would provide a better use of facilities, reduce teacher/staff absenteeism, and most importantly reduce loss of retention caused by a seven-week summer break. Do a study on utilization of school libraries now that technology is prevalent and research can be done using technology. Let’s catch up to the kids.
Demand that teacher-training institutions dedicate significant time and research to special-needs training.
Implementation of new programs in technology, trades and construction must be fully funded for at least a five-year period, and then those programs should be reviewed.
Publish the payroll costs for all employee groups in each school district. Public expenditures need to be exposed and understood.
Public schools are not a babysitting service, where teachers are often dealing with issues that should be handled at home. Prepare your child for elementary by having him/her recognize letters and numbers. Teach and model sharing, social skills, manners and how to behave in a large social setting.
Feed your children at home, that is a basic parental responsibility. Breakfast programs are for those most needy, not for all because nutritional meals are provided. Keep children active at home with physical and mental activities.
Monitor their progress and communicate regularly with teachers. Support your local parent advisory council.
Your 190-day contract is fairly compensated and has generous benefit packages. Asking more than what other public-sector unions get is unrealistic.
Make an effort to look at how others in your community are compensated and the demands they face.
Take back your union by knowing what your union dues support. Have your strike funds been denuded by blind followership?
Many teachers are in the profession because of a positive set of experiences in their past. Good teaching is by teachers who really care about kids. A good school offers a variety of activities beyond the curriculum: physical activity, music drama and clubs. Be a professional; present yourself as a professional in dress and demeanor.
Be prepared to work “outside” the clock/contract hours. Precious teacher student contact time happens outside the classroom. Preparation, marking and parent nights are a reality. They are an important part of your job.
Support ways of change that will allow new models of delivery that address problem areas in your school and school district
Demand local union support to dedicate most Pro D days to developing strategies to address special needs/class composition issues.
Lastly, most of you do a fantastic job and I commend you for doing so.
If we continue to do things the ways we have already done them, public education in B.C. will continue to be dysfunctional. Do we really want that to continue?
Ron Dale is a retired teacher, administrator and school trustee who lives in Ladysmith.
by Ron Dale