Shawn L. Bird

Original poetry, commentary, and fiction. All copyrights reserved.

poem-soul rain September 18, 2014

Filed under: Commentary,Poetry — Shawn L. Bird @ 11:34 am
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It’s grey and misty out

like our future

Vote yes?

Vote no?

Rain on our

hopes.

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(This is actually about the BC Teachers’ ratification vote, but since Scotland is also in the midst of its independence vote, I dedicate it to the Scots as well!)

 

commentary- Dear Parents of BC

Filed under: Teaching — Shawn L. Bird @ 10:40 am
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The following is my own opinion.  After discussions with many friends and colleagues, I feel secure in using a collective ‘we’ rather than the singular ‘I’.  We’re voting to ratify a negotiated contract, and the vote is in no way guaranteed.  However it goes, here’s what many of us are feeling.

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Dear Parents of BC:

Every year at the end of the school year, teachers with continuing contracts wave off the students, worn out from a long year and a longer month (June is always that way), bid farewell to the growing ranks of our colleagues on temporary contracts, and lock up our class rooms.

We leave the building pondering the challenges of the year.  We analyze our successes and failures.  Which lessons or units worked well?  Which students had unimagined gains?  Which strategies will we try again?  How will we modify them?  Perhaps we record our thoughts.  Perhaps we let it go.  We breathe.

We walk through our front doors, and introduce ourselves to our spouses and children.  For about three weeks we focus on them.  We relax.  We recharge.

Somewhere around BC Day, we start thinking about the next year.  We consider units.  We research.  We file ideas.   By the middle of the month we may be back in our rooms, hanging borders, photo copying, making posters, preparing for a new year.  We are enthused by our plans, by the potential of the year to come.  We are invigorated and enthused to face the kids, the challenges, the meetings, the classes that get switched up at the last moment.

By Labour Day, we’re ready.    We are energized and ready for the year.

Not this year.

This year we face our class rooms with a weariness that weighs down our bones.  We have been vilified, lied to, and lied about by our employer, the Provincial Government.  We, who have sacrificed our time to other people’s kids, who have shored up years of under-funding with our own money purchasing supplies for our class rooms, have been fined 10% of our wages because we were no longer volunteering our time, and called greedy, to boot.  We have stood up for our rights, and faced jeers.  We have explained about our Charter Rights and Supreme Court decisions.  We have argued with strangers, friends, and loved ones about different definitions of ‘benefits.’  We have discussed massages and propaganda.  We have educated with a passion and effort that rivals our most challenging classes.  We have learned that ignorance is a special need, requiring a skilled approach.  We have given up thousands of dollars of salary to stand up for public education in BC.

We have been embattled.

We have been besieged.

We have been drained.

We have sacrificed our emotional, mental, financial, and physical health in this fight.

We don’t have anything more to give.

We need you.

We need you to continue to fight for public education.

We need you to keep pressure on this government.

We may have a contract, but it is not the contract that will provide the best services for your kids.  It may be the best we could have gotten from this government, but it is not good enough for BC’s kids.

So we are passing the baton.

We will teach.  We will give our very best.  But this year, our best is not going to be our all.  We don’t have anything left in us.

When your child is not going to receive the testing he should have, we’ll tell you.  You can phone our MLA, Mr. Fassbender, and Ms. Clark and demand to know why your child isn’t getting the support she needs.  When we don’t have tissue paper during flu season, or enough textbooks, or are using the same textbook you wrote your name in twenty years ago, please write the Ministry of Education and demand that they fund schools properly.

When no one is available to coach the basketball team, please step up.  When a dance needs supervision, please volunteer.  You’ll see why we love doing these things.  You’ll understand why after a work day, they are an exhausting add on!

The government can dismiss teachers as greedy whiners, but it can’t dismiss an army of enraged, engaged parents.

Your kids deserve better than what they’ve been getting for the last twelve years.

We can’t fight alone any longer.

We’re weary.

We need you.

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(c) Shawn L. Bird.

http://www.shawnbird.com/commentary-dear-parents

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(Feel free to reprint and redistribute this as you like, but please respect my copyright, and leave my name and the link on it).

Proper citation: Bird, Shawn L.  “Commentary-Dear Parents of BC” http://www.shawnbird.com/commentary-dear-parents-of-BC collected (insert date).

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Sept 19/2014

NB-  This is my blog.  

I am a teacher.  I am declaring how I feel after a bitter fight against an unreasonable government with its own agenda.  This is MY reality, and the reality of 40,000 of my colleagues.  We’re entitled to our feelings. 

If you think that  I don’t work hard enough, I don’t care enough about my job, or I am whining, feel free to leave your opinions inside your own head.  I will not reprint them.  We’ve been fighting against such ignorance all summer. I have no patience with it now.

The Supreme Court said twice that this government bargained in bad faith, and they used all the same tactics this time.  If they had been willing to negotiate last June, this would have been settled last June.  They have lied to you, and  they’re laughing at how easily you are manipulated.  

I am thankful for the parents (and perhaps the Chinese ambassador) who put pressure on this government to finally come to the table.  I don’t think the government anticipated your fury being turned on them; their expensive spin doctors are likely losing their jobs.

Be thankful for those who are willing to stand up for public education.  If you’re a parent, please keep up the fight, because this government is not done yet.  We’ll be beside you once we’ve recovered.

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poem-torn September 17, 2014

Filed under: Poetry — Shawn L. Bird @ 1:43 am
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The fabric

of my complacency

is torn.

 

poem-warrior weary September 16, 2014

Filed under: Poetry,Teaching — Shawn L. Bird @ 8:54 pm
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(I was just called a “Warrior Teacher Knitting Goddess”
I think that might be my favourite compliment ever).
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I am weary
Warring with words
is exhausting work
Protect democracy
Fight one battle at a time
under emotional
and financial strain
Ready to go the distance,
and now they announce
a truce, a treaty, an agreement.
The evil despot smiles
and claims a mutual victory
With narrowed eyes
I doubt.
I have seen lies
pour like water from those lips
and I will never trust that truth
comes from her tongue.
The generals say
it is over, if we weary warriors
say it is over.
I am setting down my
metaphorical sword
cautiously
with looks over my shoulder
ready to pick up the picket
and battle again
if the conditions of surrender
prove unpalatable.
Democracy is worth
personal devastation,
but it is exhausting work
being a warrior.
 

poem- out in the rain September 15, 2014

Usually

I have patience to tolerate

your negative energy.

I can listen to your whining

self-indulgence

without comment.

I can ignore your

ignorance, and gently

try to inform you.

But right now,

my world is a storm

of negativity, raining from

despots, thieves, and liars

who have too much power over my life.

I am holding up a very small umbrella

to hold off the stress.

If you blow that negative air at me,

you will turn my umbrella inside out

and so you’ll excuse me

if I leave you

standing in the rain

by yourself.

 

 

commentary- BC government extortion & Orwellian life September 7, 2014

I am not a political person.

I voted conservative most of my life.  I have never canvassed for a political party.  I have never held any union position, even  something as innocuous as shop steward.

I write a daily blog of POETRY, not political commentary.

I believe in a ‘live and let live’ attitude about most things, but I have voted every election since I was old enough.  I take my responsibility as a citizen very seriously.  I try to be educated about my opinions.  I seek information from those who know what’s going on.  I don’t trust the news to tell me the whole truth.  I am living in an Orwellian world these days where politicians and some news stories are making declarations completely opposite to what I know is true.  Because I am a BC teacher, I live in an alternate reality to the one the government describes.

Calling a black cat white does not change the fact that it is a black cat!

Here’s what I know.

After then Minister of Education Christy Clark ripped up contracts with BC teachers in 2002, I watched money leak out of our schools.  We haven’t been able to replace text books. Our rooms don’t get cleaned thoroughly because custodial time is the bare minimum.  I’ve seen libraries closed, until to be  full time a librarian must work at 3+ schools. I’ve seen arts education cut.  I’ve seen learning disabled kids unable to be diagnosed because there isn’t funding for it.  I’ve seen needy kids partnered with kids who have a designation so that a Education assistant can help several of them together when they each need one on one help.  I’ve seen buildings and equipment falling into disrepair.  I’ve seen copying budgets run out months before the end of the year.  I’ve seen teachers feed kids.  I’ve seen parents and local corporations donate food to kids who would otherwise not have breakfast or lunch.  I’ve spent a fortune on supplies for my class room- supplies that I can not deduct from my taxes like other professionals can.

The BC Liberal government announces that they’ve ‘increased funding to school districts’ and on paper that’s true, except they’ve also required districts to pay millions of dollars from their budgets, for things that the government previously funded separately.  Money that used to go to students now pays for earthquake proofing and the like.  Hydro has gone up.  Gas has gone up.  But the allowance to pay for them hasn’t.

During the strike the government announced that teachers are demanding triple the benefits of any other group.  Such doublespeak!  They don’t tell the public that what they call ‘benefits’ in that statement refers to ‘everything that isn’t wages’.  In other words, things like class size and composition funding, support staff like teacher assistants, and non-enrolling teachers like librarians and counsellors. These are not benefits!   Those are properly staffed and funded schools!  Does a doctor call his nurse, receptionist, and stethoscope ‘benefits’?   The public, of course, imagines ‘benefits’ are simply extended health and dental and so believes the government lie that teachers are greedy.

We’re not.  We’ve taken YEARS of zero, zero, zero on wage increases.  At 2.3% inflation, we’ve been losing money every year.  Our current offer is also less than inflation.  We’re not unreasonable.  Our extended health benefits are not even slightly out of line with other public sector groups.  All those contracts are available on line if you want to investigate.

Think about it.  Would you give up thousands in wages to stand on a picket line in the rain for a few hundred dollars worth of benefits?

We wouldn’t either.

This is so much bigger than that.  The government is trying to distract you with sound bytes.  The only folks after unlimited massages are the government as they massage the truth.  Their misrepresentations and bald faced lies definitely seem unlimited!

One thing is holding up the settlement:

Twice the BC Supreme Court has ruled that the BC Liberal government bargained in bad faith when they ripped up the contract in 2002.  They were ordered to pay a settlement and court costs.  They don’t want to.  They’d prefer to spend millions of our tax dollars appealing the judgement.  Honestly, they did not expect to still be in power by the time this worked its way through the courts, so they were sure it’d be another government’s problem.  They were wrong.  Here it is, and (God help us) they’re still in power.  They don’t want to pay the settlement they’ve been ordered to pay twice. That is the infamous clause E80 that the BCTF will not accept.

Imagine for a moment:

Thieves break into your home and steal, let’s just say, 2 billion dollars.

You know who they are.

You take them to court.

The court says, “Give back that money, and pay him the court costs!”

(Imagine a box full of money that belongs to you, just sitting there in front of the judge).

The thieves say, “Ha! Can’t make me!” and appeal.

They lose again.  The court says “Give him his money!”

They appeal again.

Your money is still sitting in that box.  You don’t have it yet, but the final judgement is close.  You need that money.  It’s expensive taking rich thieves to court.  Your house needs some work done, because while you’ve been busy with court, the thieves have been sneaking by to break your windows, dig up your flower beds, and scrawl graffiti about how greedy you are across your front door.

The thieves know that the next time, the judge is going to say the same thing that’s been said before.  So they say, “We’ll make you a deal. It’s very generous!  We’ll take this box and give you $75 million in exchange!”

What would you say?

I would say, “Let the courts decide.”  

And I would actually MEAN “let the courts decide,’ unlike Mr. Fassbender.

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The BCTF requested binding arbitration because contrary to what Fassbender says in his media moments, this government does not want to negotiate.  What they call ‘negotiation’ is really extortion.  They want that upcoming court settlement nullified and they are willing to leave teachers on the picket line until it happens.  Rumour has it, “Let them starve!” was heard to be the plan.  They will tell the public they want to ‘negotiate’ and that they want to ‘let the courts decide’ but those terms mean very different things to this government.  It’s Orwellian double speak of the first order.  The BC Liberal government is holding your kids hostage because they don’t want to face the consequences of their violation of the Canadian Charter of Rights.

Think about that.

Justice Griffin in her decision last February pointed to the government that you can’t claim to be negotiating if one side refuses to move.  Nothing has changed.  This government is still bargaining in bad faith.

The BC government seems to have an agenda to destroy public education.  They’re holding the kids of this province hostage by refusing an impartial arbitrator to settle the deal.  They know that an arbitrator will be objective, and that will not go well for them.  An arbitrator will see through their doublespeak.

You should care about this.  When a government thinks that it is above the law, and that it is immune from respecting the citizens’ basic rights, no one is safe.  The middle class is at risk.  Democracy is at risk.  BC public education is at risk.

This sounds ridiculous.  But think.

When the government orders MLAs to close their office doors,  because it’s dangerous to speak to the public, what is it afraid of?  When MLAs are ordered not to speak to constituents about education issues,  is the leadership afraid that if individual MLAs hear the other side of the story, they will disagree with what leadership is ordering them to do?  Their JOB is to listen to you!  They are paid (starting wage!) $101,859 to listen to constituents.  One hundred thousand dollars!  And they are not listening.  (Let’s deduct 10% a day because they’re not doing their jobs, shall we?  cough)

Write your MLA.  Write Premier Clark.  Write Minister Fassbender.

Demand that they settle this strike by accepting neutral arbitration.

If you don’t?

Well.  I’ll be Nostradamus for a moment:

If the government doesn’t accept arbitration, I predict that sometime around September 23rd,  an announcement will be made that the teachers are so intransigent that it is impossible to work with them and that the government is saving the day by bringing in a whole new system.

One that further widens the gulf between rich and poor communities.

One that destroys the middle class.

One that will change life as you know it.

You should be afraid.

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Do something to stop it!  Demand the government accept binding arbitration!

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PS.

Another literary reference is probably appropriate here.  Have you read Dicken’s Bleak House?   There are some unfortunate similarities to that story, as well.

PS2

The BCTF is not a ‘whipped organization’ like the BC Liberals.  We are free to meet with whomever we like.  We are free to voice our own opinions.  This commentary is my opinion as a BC teacher, and a BCTF member.  The BCTF does not hire professional unionists to govern our union.  We are all teachers.  We don’t hire ‘image consultants’ for our leader (that is probably obvious). ;-)  Our leadership learn to serve by serving.  This may be a disadvantage against professional union-busters hired by government, but it means we are genuine, caring professionals, not slick polished shells with dubious motives.

I receive no compensation for this blog.  (Any ads you see pay Wordpress).

Paid Liberal  social media trolls are not welcome to comment here.  Seekers of truth are invited to do so.

 

And just because this is so stinking depressing, I suggest you now go read this poem:

http://www.shawnbird.com/poem-pudding-on-the-premier

 

Here is a really great blog post explaining the issue of class size and composition:

http://30daysofautism.wordpress.com/2014/06/08/i-am-a-greedy-teacher-bctf-bced/

 Here is a lawyer’s explanation of E80 and why the BCTF is right to demand it be removed prior to binding arbitration:

http://blogs.vancouversun.com/2014/09/09/e80-what-lawyer-joel-bakan-has-to-say/

 

poem-smoke September 1, 2014

You are smoke

You wind your lies

Through the crowds

Til they are choking and gasping

Then you fade away and

blame the sick

that they are ill.

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Just in case you’re tired of my Teachers’ Strike posts, here’s one that, while I know is about the strike and the misrepresentations of government spin doctors, at least it seems as if it could be about a variety of situations. :-)

 

 
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