By Goat Staff

In school they often talk about “teachable moments.” These are usually spontaneous events that teachers can use to illustrate a point.

The strike is no doubt a teachable moment for every student. Children in BC will get a taste of what is a reality for millions of children all over the globe who don’t have the luxury of going to school when they should be. Refugees, children from poor families who must work, often times girls whose brothers are sent instead… The reasons of course are different in BC. But it’s an opportunity to recognize school as the privilege that it is – something we don’t often get to do in a country like Canada.

For teachers, teaching may be a privilege, but they should not be paid as though the privilege is all theirs. Teachers are paid well. Wait, let me revise that. Teachers are paid well if you were working regular hours. Teachers are paid well if none of your students had special needs. Teachers are paid well if you didn’t have the stress of multiple “managers” – the school district, parents, your principal, your union… Teachers are paid well if you didn’t have to work long hours to keep up with standard commitments like prep time and extracurricular activities.

So are teachers paid well?

In Fort McMurray, no one would think twice about high wages for professional people who work overtime. The school district may call these after-school activities “volunteering” but when the volunteering is expected and necessary to perform your job, in my view, it ceases to be volunteering.

Of course, the biggest issue is not pay, per say. It’s pay related to responsibilities. It’s class size and composition – in other words, how many children in each class need personal learning plans. This means the teacher must assess and develop learning goals for each of these students and do additional paperwork and prepping.

The strike is a teachable moment for the public. But the union has waited too long. It has not done a good job conveying the work teachers do when they’re not in the heat of a crisis. It takes a strike for the union to talk about how hard teachers work. And then it just sounds like rhetoric.

That said, a majority of BC residents polled, including those with children in public school, say they support the teachers.
So why isn’t the government listening? Is the government’s concern really about the money or is it more about a power struggle with one of the most powerful unions in BC?

We at the Goat know a slate of teachers and know what it’s like for them when they care about their students deeply and don’t feel they have the resources to meet their students’ needs. Imagine getting your teaching degree full of hope and opportunity and then being consumed by your responsibilities for 10 months of the year – whether it be because of many high-needs children in your classroom, parents, extra-curricular commitments, or simply never having the prep time you need.

These realities may be deterring talented people from entering the profession, opting instead for a less stressful career – or private school.

The union should be reminding us of these realities more often – not just when teachers are on strike. And the Liberal government needs to stop waging war on people who don’t deserve it.