||Volume 19, Number 4, January/February 2007
Bill 33 a year later
This time last year, teachers were involved in a political protest to gain fair negotiating rights, a fair wage settlement, and reinstatement of fair class-size and class-composition numbers. We marched beside members from other unions because they believed, that in gaining our rights, the rights of all unions would be gained. We marched beside parents and students because they believed what we were doing would improve learning conditions in schools. And because of our unwavering beliefs, we have a wage settlement that keeps up with inflation and we have Bill 33.
Bill 33 was the government’s attempt to address class size and composition. It gave us arbitrarily set class-size limits and a limit of three students with Individual Education Plans (IEP) per class. What it didn’t give us was any means to remedy classes over these limits.
Bill 33 is merely a data collection system. It counts numbers of students and that’s it.
What does this mean for students? What does it mean for teachers? Students get no more help. Teachers get no more support. We still have the same number of students. We still have the teachers teaching the same number of students. In the words of one teacher, "We struggle to do our best, but we are only human."
Approximately 45% of our classes are over the limit of students with IEPs. One teacher observed that his class sizes were actually bigger this year and said, "Isn’t that what we went on strike for last year? Smaller class size?"
As an informed community concerned about the future and the people who will be our future, we have to remain vigilant in advocating for an environment "appropriate for student learning." We owe it to our children. It’s the least we can do for their future.
Please contact your child’s teacher and ask questions about class size and composition. Just ask.
Everyone should help with literacy
In the Lesley Edwards article "The Teacher Librarian: A Students’ Best Bet to Acquire Information Literacy Skills," (Teacher, Nov./Dec. 2006), I was reminded of the debate in teacher circles over 15 years ago over which teacher group was responsible for teaching reading and writing skills. As the debate raged, the general consensus was that all teachers needed to teach these skills, not just English teachers. Science teachers needed to teach students the literacy skills related to science, and so on. Improving students’ writing skills was everyone’s responsibility.
Information literacy, media awareness, and online safety are too important to be left to any one teacher group. In a recent Industry Canada national report called "Young Canadians in a Wired World 2005," 94% of the 5,000 students polled had Internet access at home. Students in Grades 10 and 11 prefer to use the Internet over the library by a factor of 10 to 1. All teachers need to address the lack of students’ information literacy skills, particularly as they relate to subject-specific domains. I agree we don’t hand teenagers the keys to the family car, without teaching them how to drive. But let’s get everyone involved in the driving lessons.
Fish farm fiction?
I have just been alerted to new curriculum that is being "offered" to Grade 8 teachers from the Aquaculture in the Classroom Program. This is an arm of a partisan fish farming organization that is offering this material. In Prince Rupert, we have had a long and largely successful fight against fish farms and their products. Please ask teachers who might be considering using this material to: (1) Look at the material opposed to fish farms—www.bucksuzuki.org is one of many places to start. (2) Contact Des Nobels at 250-624-3921 for more information. (3) Consider not using the material from this partisan source at all.
Finding voice an inspiration
I am writing to say a huge thank you for publishing the story "Finding Voice," by Suzanne McCarthy (Teacher, Nov./Dec. 2006). It was one of the most heart-warming stories I have ever had the pleasure of reading. It just shows how powerful a force love is—that special kind of love a dedicated teacher has for the children in her care. I hope you can let Suzanne know that her story is a real inspiration for all of us. It is a reminder that we should always look just a little deeper and see what treasure is locked away inside the souls of those we meet along life’s journey!
Thanks to you and your newsmagazine for allowing all of us (readers) to share Suzanne’s most excellent story.
Parents can still opt out
The front-page headline of the October 2006 issue of Teacher was commendable: "Building positive parent relationships." It’s too bad that such an unfortunate contrast to that tone appeared in the centrefold article by Glen Hansma, "Parents can opt out of provincial curriculum: Clarifying alternative delivery."
Many BC parents are offended that two militant individuals should be handed such wide-ranging influence over their children’s curriculum. For some parents, this feeling is obviously related to the negative assessment of homosexual behaviour found within the Bible, which happens to be the historic basis for the worldview of millions of Canadians.
How is the BCTF working to build "positive relationships" with those parents?
Hansma writes about promoting "inclusive classrooms." Assuming the Correns might be successful in achieving significant changes to curriculum, how will the BCTF then promote the inclusion of Bible-believing Christians—and any others—who are opposed to homosexual behaviour for genuine conscientious reasons?
The headline over Hansma’s article states that parents "cannot" opt out of provincial curriculum. That is patently false. The BCTF itself has provided a strong example for parents (and teachers, too) with its recent illegal job action: everyone who finds a government action heinous can boldly, and with all good conscience, "take a stand" against it. (And of course, get ready to face any consequences.)
I would like to take this opportunity to thank BCTF for hosting an accountability conference in October. It was a profound experience to be in attendance, to hear progressive educational leaders speak valiantly on prevalent issues in public education today and to have an opportunity to gather in small groups for discussions facilitated by deeply caring professionals.
The message that was shaped collectively by the attendees—teachers, parents, trustees—is one of eloquence and determination; determination to continue to form a consistent, tireless, and principled voice for the needs of all students in BC. This kind of voice will provide leadership and assist teachers in your daily efforts to build a public education system that gives every child an opportunity to make a difference and fashions young minds to become compassionate members of a larger human family.
Trustee, Maple Ridge