What are teachers supposed to do?

It’s a minor miracle, if you believe in miracles, that anyone wishes to enter public service.

Editor:

It’s a minor miracle, if you believe in miracles, that anyone wishes to enter public service.

When nursing and teaching professionals come to the end of their contracts with the province, there is inevitable confrontation.

These two most dedicated professional organizations are perennially in a race to the bottom for fair contracts. This time it’s teachers.

The government, in its usual passive-aggressive posture, is trying to engineer confrontation with teachers to gauge the degree of public support.

Historically, government makes an inadequate, insincere offer.

Teachers respond with in-school minor measures that, typically, do not get negotiations moving.

An escalation of action to draw attention to government’s refusal to negotiate is withdrawal of extra-curricular activities and rotating strikes. This is where the confrontation is now.

Old stuff! Nothing new!

The public weighs in on the debate on radio talk shows with the usual moral outrage that teachers are about money and are using the children as pawns to that end.

People who make that observation have not been in the classroom, and/or do not have children, and/or certainly do not understand teachers. No teacher wants to be out of her classroom.

No teacher wants to alienate the parents she serves.

No teacher wants to destroy the hard-won trust of students.

What counter measures do teachers have to engage an employer who doesn’t want to negotiate?

The autoworker or steelworker can shut down an assembly line and the employer loses production. Striking mill workers have a similar weapon.

Those strikes usually get negotiations underway because of financial losses to the employer. Certainly, workers lose also.

Teachers have no such tangible apparatus to bring pressure to negotiate.

When teachers take job action, they lose more than money; they lose instructional time; the continuity of learning is disrupted; the working relationship with parents and students is soured.

Teachers’ self-respect is predicated on successful learning created by unique interactions with their students; when teachers are not with their students, their reason for being diminished. Teachers don’t take job action lightly.

It’s unusual that an employee would want to work for an employer who doesn’t want to pay him. But that is the climate in which professional teachers in B.C. must operate.

If the government would negotiate in good faith, teachers would be in the classroom where they want to be.

Peter Smith

Williams Lake

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