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Dear Premier Clark and Minister Fassbender, 

I am writing to you as a concerned educator regarding the current teachers’ strike. 

I write to you on the eve of ‘back to school’ – a day that should be filled with nervous excitement and happiness for educators and students across your province. Instead it is a day filled with sadness, concern, rage and a variety of emotions – none of which are beneficial for the future growth of children in our province.

In reading your recent statements via press briefings and social media, I feel I have to write to implore you both – put an end to this madness. You are the only ones who can do this. You have taken the children of British Columbia and held their futures hostage – and this is NOT okay. Your hatred and lack of respect for teachers is evident through your behaviour. As I would have told my grade one students – “you are allowed to have your feelings”. But you are our leaders, and when your deplorable feelings get in the way of the future of half a million children – it’s not okay. Be leaders. Put your emotions aside and think about what is best for these children. Improving learning conditions for these children WILL NOT bankrupt the province, and you know it. What will bankrupt the province is if we raise a generation of sub-par learners – who will then not have the knowledge or the skills to take care of our province when we’re all in our golden years. 

I am a Teacher Consultant with a new Provincial Outreach Program – the Provincial Outreach Program for Early Intervention (POPEI). Our program is funded through the Learning Supports and Early Years department of the Ministry of Education. Our program is designed to build the capacity of Kindergarten through Grade 3 teachers throughout the province in the area of Early Literacy and help them to work with at risk students. Our work, I feel, is exactly what is needed in this time of huge class sizes and the imbalance of composition in classrooms. 

But I can’t begin my work to help teachers – because I am locked out/on strike. No matter how this all turns out in the end – my program will be needed – and the purpose of our program – to help and support teachers – is greatly needed and will help to ease the bad feelings that are going to persist after this is all over. But I can’t start my work. 

I have always been a researcher; I am from Alberta and have studied internationally. I have always looked at worldwide trends in education and continue to look at what is happening much beyond the British Columbia borders. I have studied under some of the finest minds in education worldwide. And they would truly be appalled at the current state of affairs. Some of them are, in fact, as I have been in communication with some of my mentors – as they were meant to be presenting at a conference my program is organizing for our School District Representatives and Partners from every single school district in the province. We have had to cancel our conference due to the job action. 

How can an entire province put a generation at risk the way you are right now? I don’t comprehend it. I feel like the teachers, students and parents are a casualty of war. This government and the union don’t like each other. That’s fine. Do not involve us in this ridiculous spat. Differences can be settled once we’re back in school. I reiterate - feelings need to be taken out of this equation. It is irresponsible for your government to risk these bright futures the way you are right now. From the little five year olds waiting to start kindergarten to the anxious grade twelve students worried about their immediate future – and all of the ages in between. 

This generations’ education was put at risk enough last year with the lockouts and the rolling strikes. Their school year was disrupted FAR before the last two weeks of June. Their education was compromised long before June 2014. Particularly with the number of students per class and the number of students with special needs. Not being able to help before school, over lunch, or after school. Or only being in session 4 days a week throughout the spring. But truly, their education has been at risk for years. I know this – because it is the overwhelmed, exhausted teachers who talk to me with tears in their eyes about not being able to help all the students in their class. Feeling guilty, sad and distraught that not everyone can possibly learn up to his or her potential – because there simply aren’t enough hours in the day or opportunities to sit and work with each child. The children and teachers of BC deserve more. 

It is the most irresponsible thing I have ever encountered in the field of education – that your government is sitting back and holding an entire province hostage. And for what? What is your end game? To have half a million children sit at home indefinitely? What does that accomplish? 

Is this union perfect? No, far from it. But I read ALL points of view and perspectives in this dispute, and the two of you – Premier Clark and Minister Fassbender - have the most ridiculous and outrageous expectations and you REFUSE to compromise. It’s like watching one of my students having a temper tantrum. And you’re our leaders? 

I personally have never ONCE complained about the amount of money I make as a teacher (and frankly, I’ve never heard any of my colleagues complain either). Though, having first hand comparison of teacher pay stubs between Alberta and BC – it is truly shocking, particularly when I factor in how much my rent is, or even how it can cost almost $6 for a decent loaf of bread. 

For every educator I have spoken to – not one has brought up his or her personal salary. It’s about quality of education for kids. And right now – it’s just about getting to teach again, under improved circumstances. When I am explaining my current situation to former colleagues or family members (most of whom are educators around the world – teaching kindergarten up to university levels) – they are all truly shocked that this issue is continuing, no concessions have been made on the part of the government, and all were completely INSULTED on behalf of the parents of British Columbia with this ridiculous bribe of $40 a day for child care. We are not ‘babysitting’ kids at school – and that’s not what parents want. So this $40 a day doesn’t replace teachers or schools. Parents want their kids to learn. Kids want to get back to learning too. 

What will it take for this government wake up and realize that what you’re doing is jeopardizing a generation of children – the same children who, again, will be taking care of you in the future? Who do we want these children to be? What type of a future do we want to build for British Columbia? My job is to ensure we teach this generation of children to be exceptional in the area of literacy. How can I do that when these kids are going to be sent to a babysitter instead of to a dedicated, caring, exceptional teacher? And it appears that this is where they are headed to babysitters, random day camps and other ways just to ‘keep them busy’ for the foreseeable future. It’s sickening. 

The two of you can work on breaking down this union on your own time, if that is TRULY what you desire, even though it is completely ridiculous. But PLEASE - don’t do it at the expense of our children. Please. 

WITH SADNESS, DEDICATION AND A DESIRE TO BEGIN MY WORK 

Sash Kekulin,
Teacher consultant

 

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