All British Columbians should be concerned about the present (underfunded/understaffed) state of our public education system
I have worked as a teacher for 33 years in the public school system in British Columbia the past 12 of which have been as a secondary teacher-counselor. Our work encompasses academic planning, work on students’ timetables, transitions to and from secondary school, and most importantly, supporting the social-emotional needs of all our students. At least it should.
When I began as a counsellor only 12 years ago counsellors were able to offer classroom instruction, form crucial relationships with many of our students, and do valuable preventative work. When I first went into school counselling, I never dreamed the job would become what it is now. Today, meeting the social-emotional needs of our students has become all but impossible, given the current levels of staffing for teacher-counsellors.
This portion of our work involves triage, making quick decisions about who needs our attention most urgently. Some of the issues that we encounter include difficulties with learning differences (not nearly enough support for students with special learning needs), Attention Deficit Disorder, internet addiction, poverty, abuse, family break-up, violence, gangs, and drug use and abuse. Some of the mental health issues that we deal with on a daily basis are Depression, Anxiety, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, Selective Mutism, Panic Attacks, and of course, Suicidality. Suicidal ideation, plans and attempts are, sadly, not uncommon occurrences.
A healthy, productive, educated society is incumbent upon a strong and supported public school system. It affects all of us, whether or not we have children or grandchildren in the education system at present. I am nearing the end of my career and my own children are through the K-12 public school system, thank goodness. I wish I could say that I will be leaving the system in a better place than when I began my career. However, this is not the case. ALL British Columbians should be concerned about the lack of support being given to our present public education system. Students’ academic and social/emotional needs are NOT being met at the level that they should be. These are the future citizens of BC upon whose educational outcomes we all will rely.