Striking teachers garnering support

Striking teachers are garnering support from all over the place — even, it seems, from abroad. This is a banner that a group of teachers in Mexico created and took to the Embassy of Canada in Mexico City. They also delivered a letter to the Canadian Embassy in Mexico City calling on the provincial government to recognize and follow the Conventions of the International Labour Organization (ILO). Canada has ratified the Conventions that require the recognition of the right to collective bargaining. The ILO has previously said that the BC government has violated the Conventions. Photo courtesy of the BC Teachers' Federation

By David F. Rooney

Striking teachers are garnering support from all over the place — even, it seems, from abroad.

“Everyone who has gone to school feels qualified to judge the education system, but just as the public does not fully comprehend the work load of doctors, nurses, fire fighters, and the police so too do they not understand the time commitment in education,” said Douglas Edgar, president of the BC Retired Teachers Association, in a statement sent to news media outlets Wednesday afternoon.

“The work does not stop when the students are dismissed at the end of the instructional day, it just changes location.  I can attest as a secondary school teacher that marking alone added 28 hours a week to the visible working day.  And in the classroom, if one special-needs student demands 50 percent of a teacher’s time what do the other 29 students get?

“Just as doctors and nurses are in the best position to guide us in the preservation of the health care system so too are teachers in the best place to help us maintain quality education for our students.  Supporting education today is building the future.”

Music and drama educators are also lining up up behind the public school teachers.

“The parents of our students are incredibly supportive of our music programs,” says Mark Reid, president of the BC Music Educators’ Association. “They drive to early morning classes, fundraise, chaperone field trips, and attend concerts. I think they will be upset at what the government is proposing in Bill 22.”

Music teachers are concerned that Education Minister George Abbott says that some music classes would be in a “prescribed category of classes” that would be exempt from the class size limit of 30.

Generally, large enrolment in secondary ensemble classes such as band and choir, is considered a good thing. However, large class sizes are not appropriate for other music classes. Non-ensemble courses require smaller classes than ensemble programs, and elementary school music is rarely taught in a large-ensemble format. Music teachers are telling parents that the instructional strategies, student activities, and assessment tools used are best suited for smaller classes, the same size as other elementary classes. (Please click here to read the entire letter.)

Under current class size limits, any drama class larger than 30 must have more than one teacher. Colin Plant, president of the Association of BC Drama Educators, teaches one such class: a musical theatre class of 55 Grade 9-12 students. At present they are preparing to stage The Wizard of Oz. This class configuration works because Plant shares the load with two other teachers: one teacher does music/singing, another does choreography, and Plant directs.

“The large class allows us to mount large-scale musicals that are elaborate and spectacular,” he said in a letter of support for the BCTF. “Sometimes large classes are good, but only if there are multiple teachers. A class with 55 and only one teacher is unfathomable.” (Please click here to read the entire letter.)

Support, whether from your friends and neighbours or complete strangers) is always gratifying when you’re on strike but how much support can teachers muster to force the BC Liberals to reverse themselves and negotiate honestly and openly with BC’s 41,000 teachers?