Consider the Big Picture: The Saturday Night Rant of a Public High School Teacher

“It doesn’t matter if you love teachers or you hate teachers. It doesn’t matter if you don’t care about teachers at all. What everyone should be concerned about is the government and their new tactic of “convenience laws” that violate pre-existing laws. The government has targeted a specific group of people and are rallying hatred towards them while they enacted legislation that violates pre-existing human and legal rights. *THAT* is what this is about. *THAT* is the whole problem. If you take away all the ‘he said’ ‘she said’ and whom is involved, and any of the side issues (nobody cared whether extras were happening until they weren’t anyway) then you boil it all down to the above statement. And no, it doesn’t matter that they said they’re repealing the law. They’ve used it. It’s too late. Now, whenever people refuse to something the government wants, they will enact legislation that tramples those people’s rights in order to make them do what was wanted; and once the people do it, the government will repeal the law, thus saving themselves from any responsibility or legal challenge. That is simply terrifying. I guess if I wondered what it was like to live with a dictatorship that the general public tacitly approved of…I now know. “ Ken Cory,  a comment from a reader on CTVNews.ca

This comment helps to explain why it is so important for teachers to fight what is happening with our government.  We cannot, in good conscience, allow dictatorial strategies to have a foothold in Canadian government.   What kind of precedent would that set?  This labour crisis is highlighting a scary reality that we need to acknowledge and address.

Unfortunately, because we work with children, it is impossible not to have families affected by this direct attack by the provincial government.  It is appalling to me the lack of respect being voiced for educators that is primarily based in personal inconvenience.  Does the public forget that most teachers are also parents that pay taxes and have their children in the school system, too?  Our kids are affected by the same things that all parents are facing but we feel it is a necessary battle so we keep fighting.  Teachers’ families are directly affected by this crisis even more than the average Canadian family because the education sector is the target of the bullying, in many cases from the government and the public.

So many people are cursing teachers instead of becoming informed about the real issues and seeing this problem in light of the big picture.  The caustic accusations that are being hurled are not helping anyone come to a solution. Becoming an active participant in the bullying only perpetuates ignorance and cruelty.  The unlawful action on the part of our government  is something that stands to affect the very democratic foundations of our country and consequently the lives of ALL Canadians.  Shouldn’t we all be outraged?

Because teachers are not interested in breaking the law and wish to make ethical and respectful decisions, we have been put in a very difficult situation this year.  We have little legal recourse to protest this injustice because of the imposed working conditions under this “convenience law”.  We are only able to make a political statement by removing the voluntary and extra-curricular activities if we wish to abide by the Education Act and to continue to perform our official duties.  We fully intend to do our jobs and continue to provide quality education in a safe and caring learning environment.

Teachers love to facilitate all sorts of opportunities for students that go above and beyond our job description and that is precisely why they have been offered for years without any remuneration.  But the government’s recent tactics have totally decimated all of the goodwill that existed and have consequently created this terrible mess in education.  And if the only leverage we have is to cut out the extras for a period of time, then we have to do it.  Believe me, no teacher is enjoying being in the midst of this crisis, it is incredibly stressful and difficult.  However,  I would rather have my kids miss a few trips, concerts, or tournaments than have them grow up in a dictatorship, wouldn’t you?

Students can and do get all sorts of extra-curriculars through organizations outside of the schools.  If you want to see a certain club or activity continue at your local school, consider offering your time to volunteer to keep it running in the midst of this political uncertainty.  All children in the public education system are still getting their education; their learning is not what is at stake, their future is.  I need to fight this injustice for the sake of my kids and your kids, too.

Although Broten calls it a “collective agreement”, that is not at all what we have in place – nothing has been agreed upon collectively. We have dictated working conditions (that have not even been communicated clearly to us) and a government that is totally unwilling to compromise.   The Ontario Labour Relations Act has not been followed by the government because Bill 115 allows them to override it.  Essentially, they don’t have to play by the same rules.  Apparently, the rights of education workers are not as important as the rights of government officials.

Despite the misinformation that has been circulating in the media, the truth is that there has been no willingness on the government’s side to engage in civilized discussions to try to negotiate something reasonable.  OSSTF and ETFO’s attempts to have those conversations have been shut down.  Instead, the government is wielding unprecedented power to disregard previously existing legislation in order to control a large group of people.  This is simply not okay.  It is ridiculous that the government can approach the Ontario Labour Relations Board to rule against teachers having a political day of protest but they are not accountable to that Board and the Act it upholds at all.  Why not?  That is a question all Canadians should be asking.

This fight is NOT about wage freezes or sick days at all; teachers are more than willing to acknowledge the need for austerity measures and to make concessions in light of the current economic situation; but, we want to have a voice in how that is done rather than having it shoved down our throats.  So would you.  There are so many cost-saving options that those working in education could suggest because we know the system but we are not being given any opportunity to work together towards a better solution.  If we really need to save money, we should be looking at efficient and intelligent solutions that don’t attack and destroy the morale of those in the front lines.  The government has severely miscalculated the impact of their bulldozer approach and will spend many years having to make amends for that stupidity.

If you are a Canadian, you need to be aware of what is happening because, if teachers give up or, God forbid,  lose this fight, you could be part of the next group that is targeted.   This is a fight against the misuse of power by those in positions of authority in the Ontario government.

Instead of complaining and criticizing, why don’t you try standing with educators in their fight to preserve democracy?  I know I’d sure appreciate it.

You Can Lead this Horse to Water…

So, I wrote a blog in the summer about my absolute resolution to lose weight.  I also put a plan in place to do this and called it my Healthy Temple Manifesto.

Interestingly, it was another reflection in my window that revealed what a terrible failure I have been at keeping these promises to myself.

It is so discouraging to see how little self-control I have.  I feel like I succumb to any or all justifications for indulging:  stress, comfort, entertainment, joy, celebration, proximity, you name it and I’ll eat to that! And now it is the holidays – potentially the hardest of all seasons to weather when you struggle with eating!  Sugar cookies, anyone?  An edible treat made solely of sugar, flour, and butter can be delicious, but not nutritious. As it turns out, you can lead this horse to water but she might only drink it after eating an appetizer or two.

My son asked me the other night, “how much weight have you lost?”  He notices my stones (which are now reunited in the original jar –  looking rather forlorn, I must say). In a way, I appreciate the accountability he offers me; however, no one really likes that kind of reality check any more than a post-Christmas Visa bill, do they? Sadly, I had to tell him that the weight I lost has been found again.  Somehow it has returned to its owner.  And although there may be many reasons (or justifications), there are no excuses.

This is discouraging to say the least; actually, it’s embarrassing.

I need to go back and read  follow my own advice.  I don’t really need a New Year’s Resolution (I’ve got my fair share of old ones);  I need a new year of resolve.

Anybody with me?