After 37 years of teaching I have become ill. Little did I know that the day I became sick was the last day I would see my class again.
It was the last day I would see their smiling faces and get the “Good morning Mr. Murray”. It was the last day of their Grade 5 year.
I phoned the principal today. His remarks were that the school was packing up. They were cleaning out their lockers, taking things off the walls, emptying their desks.
This is not the way I envisioned leaving a teaching career of 37 years.
I have been fighting for public education for all of those 37 years. Every September I have to fight for class support. Every September I have to fight to get the supplies I need and the Resource Teachers to supply their talents.
Every morning I am greeted by 28 kids, five IEP’s and three behaviour support kids, and I love my job. I really enjoy going to work each day because I am making a difference. The kids smile when they say hello. They ask me if I am all right when I am away. I have three hundred sick days. That is because it is easier to teach than it is to be away sick. I want to be in the classroom.
Do people not get the real work that teachers do? Teachers are a very special lot. It took me years to get the system down pat where I didn’t have to take marking home every night. It took me years to figure out how to juggle the schedules so I could continue the momentum each day, regardless of the daily interruptions, announcements and crises that erupted on a daily basis.
It is very easy to disrupt the teaching schedule. A negative comment by a parent, a decree by an administrator, a direction by the board can change everything. All of these things change the daily momentum that must occur if kids are to really learn.
Over the years, I have seen the best of education. I have seen times when we had the funding required. I have seen years when we had music teachers, French teachers, and specialist resource teachers. These were great times. Our band kids had blazers with our school logo on their chests. We were proud.
We had a French teacher who would go from class to class and teach French. We had a music teacher who would appear and create melodies in the classroom.
Those times are gone. The new teachers, in our profession, know education as it is today. They do not know education the way it could be, the way it has been in the past.
We have to tell them. The experienced teachers, the ones with the knowledge, have to impart this information before they leave the profession. They have to ignite the feeling of accomplishment that we felt many years ago. They have to acknowledge that this system can be much better than it is today. You do not have to put up with kids who misbehave.
Kids who show up on time, who finish their homework, who behave well, are an expectation. That is the “norm”. We do not award points for good behaviour. That is an expectation. Hard work is an expectation. Completing your written work is an expectation.
Who do people think actually runs our education system? Who do they think shows up in front of every class and greets the myriad of emotions, skills and behavioural expectations every day?
It is teachers. They are the ones who make it work. They are the ones who ameliorate every ‘hiccup’. The teachers are the heart. The teachers are the driving force. The teachers need to be there. Without the teachers BCPSEA would not exist. Without the teachers the Ministry of Education would not exist. Without the teachers, the class would not exist.
We have to look at this with perspective. All that the teachers are asking for is a fair class size. All the teachers are asking for is a fair class composition. Don’t overload one teacher with a huge class of high-demand kids. Give them a reasonable class, with reasonable demands so that they can do their jobs. Give them a class that they can teach — not manage, not control, but teach.
That is all we ask for. Why is it so difficult to achieve this goal? Why is it so difficult to expect that there is funding for this system? Why is it so difficult to expect that teachers do not have to supply money from their own pockets to achieve this goal?
Public education is a right. It should not have to be fought for. This government does not support us. This government does not respect teachers. This government is wrong.