||Volume 20, Number 4, January/February 2008
Welcoming new teachers
Several years ago, we began the practice of going to the teacher-training programs in the province for a BCTF Day on Campus. One of my favourite duties as president of the Federation is giving the plenary address and answering questions at our days on campus.
It is a lovely experience to look into the faces of the generation that will replace us when we retire. When these new teachers enter the profession they bring a fresh perspective, recent university training, and a new enthusiasm to our schools. They cause us to see teaching through new eyes and remind us why we chose to become teachers.
When I speak about our organization at these events, my commitment to the BCTF is also renewed. Most students have heard about our work in bargaining and political action because that activity gets a great deal of media attention. I let them know that we devote equal time and resources to our work as a professional organization. When we talk about ensuring a strong and stable public education system, we understand that being good teachers and becoming better teachers is one of the ways we keep our public system strong.
I tell the students about our many fine professional programs such as Program Quality Teaching, Peer Support, and our workshop programs. More than 160 teachers volunteer a great deal of their precious time to become "teachers teaching teachers." I encourage the students to join one of our 33 provincial specialist associations. Our PSAs play a key role in professional development and curriculum issues. We are the only teacher organization in the country to run a lesson aids service for our members.
It is never too early to let new teachers know they need to pay attention to economic security. I tell the students to make note of our $16 billion pension plan and our $180 million Salary Indemnity Fund.
As for the political side of our work, as teachers we recognize that political decisions influence everything we do—how we teach, what we teach, how much we get paid to teach, how many students are in our class, and how many resources we have to meet their needs. For all of our 90-year history, we have been engaged in attempting to influence government. We will be counting on the next generation of teachers to continue that tradition.
One of the most wonderful aspects of the teachers of BC is that we are not content to concentrate exclusively on public education. We are proud to describe ourselves as a social-justice union. We want to change the world for the better. That’s what teaching is all about. We continue the struggle for peace and against racism, sexism, poverty, and homophobia. In post-apartheid South Africa we helped teachers form the South African Democratic Teachers’ Union and we continue to have a very strong relationship with many teacher unions both in Africa and Latin America. We have a great deal to contribute but also a great deal to learn from our colleagues around the world about political activism, democracy, and social justice.
Sometimes when I describe to students all the things the BCTF does I am exhausted, but mostly it convinces me that I am right when I tell them they are joining the finest group of teachers in the world. Our BCTF days on campus have given me the opportunity to meet many of the young people who will be the next generation of teachers and activists in the BCTF. Our union and public education will be in good hands.