Editor, The Record:
I’m sitting on the side of the road for three days outside the school where I teach to inform parents about how bad the public school system is.
The first time I was on the side of the road in 1989 was for two long weeks, but we won language in our contract that said there would be class-size limits and only three special needs students in one class. We now may only have 30 kids in a Grade 5/6 split, but there are four, five or six special needs students in the class. They might be students who have learning disabilities, speech problems, autism, are deaf or blind, have Down’s syndrome, don’t understand English well or have severe behaviour problems. Students with severe behavior designations might swear, spit, choke, punch, stab, throw chairs or have suicidal tendencies. This wasn’t the case when I first started teaching.
In my school I am the learning assistance teacher and the case manager for 25 special needs students. I know their needs well. I know they are not getting enough support, in fact, far from it. We have seven education assistants (EAs). There are no special education teachers in my school, only really good teachers.
My husband wonders why I get upset about what’s happening in schools. He says it is the government’s responsibility to see that children in this province are educated. But guess what, they ain’t doin’ it responsibly. Parents need to be responsible for how well their children are educated. The government is telling us that our legislated, stripped contract will have classrooms designed in ways they see fit. But herein lies the rub. Why are most parents not saying anything about what they see fit for their kids?
Three years ago, during a September PAC meeting, I told parents at my school that their children were not getting what they needed because of funding shortfalls. One parent stated, “The schools must be in crisis!” to which I answered, “That’s why I’m standing here telling you about it.” That was three years ago and it has only gotten worse. In 1989 when we were on strike, the late Dorothy Moon, a dedicated Mission teacher in the 1920s said to us, “What are you teachers complaining about? I taught 50 students in one room, all different ages, and the reading material I found was old newspapers and magazines but they all learned.”
Well, much has changed in our world since then but, go ahead, give me too many students, limited resources, and little student support. I’ll chant the motto our superintendent tells me when we discuss my concerns, “We’re doing the best we can with what we’ve got.” What we’ve got are your kids, teachers who care and a government that doesn’t think your kids are a valuable resource.
Misinformed folks that make comments about teachers having an easy job and are paid handsomely for the little they do are wrong. If you haven’t been in your child’s classroom over the last three years for at least half an hour you are not qualified to comment about what teachers’ jobs may or may not be like and you are speaking about more than you know.
I’m tired of being a political pawn and I’m sick that your children are the ones that ultimately suffer at the hands of adults that make poor decisions that negatively and irreversibly affect them for a lifetime.
I urge you to do something for your children before it’s too late. Contact your MLA, school trustees or George Abbott and let them know if you like the way education is deteriorating in this province. If you want to hear more details about what’s really going on or are confused about who really has your child’s best interest at heart, look for a teacher on the side of the road near your school.
P.S. Thank you high school students across the province who stood up for education on Friday. I’m very proud of you all. Thank you PAC parents that continuously and tirelessly raise funds for our schools because the government won’t.