forests fill the sky
forests fill the sky
Where there’s smoke, there’s fire, they say
and all around me is grey.
The hills are obscured by haze
the acrid scent of it bites my nostrils
creates an ache in my throat, until
I want to go anywhere but here, where
there is fear of fires leaping valleys
razing the city. July in BC, seems to mean
burning bushes, without any sign of divinity.
The radio announces
the school districts are cancelling school.
The radio announcers laugh
at how happy the kids are to have extended vacation.
Meanwhile the teachers
text one another messages that always end,
Living in Canada, we’re used to snow. We have the equipment and infrastructure to clear it. As a result, neither as student nor teacher had I experienced a “snow day” before. Sometimes when we lived north in Prince George, BC if it was below -40 C (or F they’re the same at that temperature) the buses wouldn’t run, but schools were still open and teachers were expected to be there. It started snowing Saturday, January 3rd and then it kept snowing Sunday and Monday. Yesterday (Monday) at 9 pm 20 inches (51 cm) had accumulated on our back deck. The snow clearing machinery couldn’t keep up. The side roads were plugged. Cars were stuck all over the place. Because plows were clearing roads, they couldn’t clear school parking lots. So school was cancelled! Yesterday and today!
Yesterday I used the time to do some reading I didn’t get to over the holiday, because I was finishing work on my latest novel project, While I Was Out. Last night, just when the second closure was announced, I got the syllabus and links for my latest Masters class in my email. This class is delivered online. So! Lucky me, I get five bonus hours to work on my course. That makes today a professional development day for me. 🙂
It’s grey and misty out
like our future
Rain on our
(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!)
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.
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 need you.
(c) Shawn L. Bird.
(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).
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.