||Volume 16, Special Issue, September 2003
We have been handed yet another significant challenge. We begin this school year faced with the amendments to the Teaching Profession Act and the direction being set by the interim council of government appointees. I am sure that there isn’t a single one of us who wouldn’t rather be starting the 2003–04 school year with a period of stability in the system and a sense of calm in our working lives. Bill 51 and the decisions of the interim college council were not of our making.
There is nothing that teachers did or didn’t do to create the need for this legislation or the direction being set by the interim college council.
While the minister calls for codes of conduct, standards, and responsibilities, teachers are beginning another difficult school year with dedication and professionalism. We are bringing to our classrooms the experience, knowledge, qualifications, and skills that have made the public education system in B.C. one of the finest in the world.
While Bill 51 decrees that teachers must report each other to the college, we will be starting off the school year collaborating, sharing resources, modeling best practice, and working co-operatively for the success of every student in our care.
The Minister of Education has pointed to the need to provide parents with a direct route to file complaints about teachers, yet teachers are meeting parents, sharing strategies, discussing issues and resolving problems together, even though the year has barely begun. Teachers and parents are building respectful relationships and supporting each other in the interests of students.
As we set a positive tone in our classrooms, reinforce respectful behaviour, and model fair treatment, the model facing teachers is one focussed on discipline, supervision, and control. Yet we know that everyone, regardless of age and position, is at their best in a purposeful climate of encouragement and support.
Teachers know that the amendments to the Teaching Profession Act and the conditions being set up by the appointees to the College of Teachers are in direct contradiction with the conditions needed for a strong and stable public education system. If allowed to proceed unchecked, this college agenda will erode the teaching profession, poison the climate in our schools, and undermine the relationships upon which successful teaching and learning depend.
This college may not be of our making, but what we do about it certainly is. Your BCTF Executive Committee, after input from locals and members, has taken the first steps in response. We have filed a constitutional challenge to the legislation in court and are now asking every member to sign a letter cancelling the automatic deduction of their college fees and to give that letter to their staff reps for delivery to the local office. This is a small first step, one of a number that we will take together, but it is an important step in asserting our right to a democratic, self-regulatory college of teachers. The Federation is also asking the local leaders to provide members with information and an opportunity for input into the next step. The Fall Representative Assembly in early November will recommend the next stages of the action plan. The teachers of B.C. will not be rushed into a hasty response, yet neither will we be intimidated into allowing our profession to be driven backward and our rights trampled.
Once again, as we head back to school, we are facing a significant challenge. But I have every faith that the teachers of B.C. will meet this challenge together. We will not only move our profession forward together, we will continue to be proud and outspoken advocates for public education, quality teaching, and successful learning.
Neil Worboys is BCTF president.