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My name is Blaine Mandin.  I AM a teacher.  It is not just a job, it is a calling.  It is a vocation as it is for most of my colleagues.  We do not enter into job action such as this lightly.  It impacts our students, our parents, and our families.  We understand that there is not an endless supply of money.

We know what is going on in other parts of the world like California, Detroit, and Greece when governments spend money like there is an endless supply.  We understand that we are currently recovering from a worldwide recession and many people do not even have a job, never mind keeping up with the cost of living.  We know how it looks to others when ‘those greedy teachers’ ask for more money when they only work 5 ½ hours a day and get three months of vacation.  Those of us who have had other jobs realize and appreciate how difficult it can be to work in heat and rain and only get 3 weeks of vacation per year if you are lucky.  We realize how much it inconveniences parents when they must find alternative arrangements for their children during a strike.  We do realize all of these things and it is not entered into lightly, I can assure you.

For most teachers it is about us continually seeing kids falling through the cracks because of underfunding. My last school had 3 learning support teachers for 800 students!! During my 20 + years of teaching, I have had kids in my class who desperately wanted to be able to read Harry Potter or The Lightning Thief or their science textbook like others in the class. I do my best to accommodate their needs while not ignoring the other 29 kids in my class many of which have issues such as: learning disabilities, anxiety disorders, ADHD, severe behavior challenges, Autism, mental illness, fetal alcohol syndrome, neglect and abuse at home, coming to school in dirty clothes and hungry...!  There were times when the best thing I could do for the kids in my class was to give them a safe place to be for 6 hours a day – a place where they felt loved, secure, where there were boundaries and a place where they felt safe enough to take risks and learn from their mistakes.

There were days when I would get home and realize that I had not even spoken to little quiet “Sally” because I was too busy dealing with all of the other challenges in my class.  Do not get me wrong.  I still LOVE my job and could not imagine doing anything else.  I get paid every day … in hugs and smiles and that magic sound to every teacher’s ears – “Ahhhhh! I get it!”  For all of its challenges, I still cannot wait to go to work each day.

If it were not for the often heroic efforts of your teachers, principals, education assistants, counselors, child care workers, local school boards, and PAC groups you would have noticed the problems in the education system much sooner.  There is more to providing an education for your children than opening the doors and hoping that they magically learn with limited resources.  EA's are my heroes. Because of this government's shortsightedness many EA's have to work second jobs just to make ends meet. All of the EA's I have worked with not only did amazing jobs with the kids they were assigned to, but went above and beyond to help out with all of the other students in the class with challenges or special needs that our government is unwilling to adequately support.  The reason you do not see or notice the problems is most of the time we teachers and others in the education system just quietly go about buying resources like classroom libraries out of our own pockets, take work home in the evenings and weekends, often put in 12 hour days, spend our lunch hours tutoring or coaching, and spend much of our “summers off’ either working a second job or doing professional development.  Parents quietly go about fundraising for new playgrounds, computers and other technology, library books, field trips, and sports equipment.  School boards and principals quietly go about trying to provide needed services with less and less money, while desperately trying not to cut things like band, music, theatre, visual arts programs, and P.E.

It has now gotten to the point where we can be silent no longer. 

If this or any government would fund education properly, ensuring that EVERY child becomes as successful as possible, just think about the money and resources that will be saved in the future in social programs, drug and alcohol abuse issues, crime, poverty, homelessness, etc. Victor Hugo once said, “He who opens a school door, closes a prison.” Once we get past all the rhetoric and politics and posing for the media, this is what it is about!  This is what I am fighting for - for those kids who have lost their will, lost their confidence. t I am fighting for those students who believe that they will never be able to learn and see themselves as 'stupid'. Most people only think about the education system when there is a teacher's strike or at election time. We see the results of an underfunded education system on a daily basis. There is nothing worse than looking into the eyes of a young person who has already given up.  It breaks my heart!!  The results of an underfunded education system will last a lifetime for many students around this province!!!! I am on strike to be able to change that look into one of success and pride and hope for a better future..  We think that losing a few weeks of school is a small price to pay. Don’t you? 

Please do what you can to help us achieve a fair deal for everyone involved.

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