DISCLAIMER: The views expressed in this post are mine and mine alone. I do not presume to speak for any former colleague, or current or retired teacher. Nor do I presume to speak for any teacher union. If you agree with my comments, great. If you disagree, take it up with me , and leave the teaching profession alone.
Now, for the post:
According to Webster's Dictionary, the definition of a contract is "a binding agreement between two persons or parties." In order for the contract to be binding, the agreement must be entered into freely, and with no coercion or threat involved.
I bring this to your attention in order to try to help any of you outside the teaching profession to try to understand the level of frustration and anger that must be percolating within the profession. The current Liberal government of Ontario is claiming that any political protest by teachers would constitute, in effect, a breach of contract and would be met by punitive measures. The contract in question here is the one imposed upon the profession by Bill 115, which has seriously impacted the collective bargaining rights of the teaching profession. The contract in question was not entered into freely and was the product of coercion and threats on the part of one of the parties, namely the provincial government. The current Liberal government went to the Ontario Labour Relations Board when the public elementary teachers threatened a day of protest ( which was to have occurred today, Friday Jan. 11 ) to declare the protest illegal and, when the Board ruled in the government's favour, the teachers called off their protest and the secondary teachers subsequently called off their protest which was scheduled for next Wednesday.
The smile on Education Minister Laurel Broten's face was of Cheshire-cat proportions. Clearly, the government feels that it has won. The question is whether they have won the battle, or won the war.
My view is that this is far from over. The unions will undoubtedly challenge the root cause of this unrest, Bill 115, in the courts. They may win a court challenge: they may not. But the entire way of teachers going about their business is ruined forever. And here's why:
The elephant in the room, the thing that nobody talks about publicly, is that teachers are absolutely angry. They have every right to be angry. They have been the whipping boys for society, not just in Ontario, but elsewhere, for too long. Society talks a good talk when they say they value teachers, and respect them. But they don't walk the walk: in fact, society is lying, and, sadly, fooling themselves. Much of society dislikes teachers for the standard reasons: teachers are overpaid; they have too much time off; they have gold-plated pensions and benefits plans while I ( the poor working stiff ) have none of these things; the unions are too powerful and hold us to ransom; blah, blah, blah. Society always loves it when a government decides to get tough with teachers, and this is the case here, with a Liberal government desperately trying to gain favour with the voters after several botched initiatives with such things as the horse racing industry, wind turbines, air ambulances, and disputes with doctors.
Well, it goes both ways. Remember, I'm speaking just for myself, but I imagine many still in the profession feel this way. Teachers are angry with society, too. Not just with the government, but with most of society, which just might mean you, the reader. Why? Consider these items:
1) Society is woefully and deliberately uninformed about the current issue of Bill 115, and with all past issues of concern to teachers. To society, it is all about money, vacation, benefits and pensions. Why? Because these issues are easy to think about. Society cannot be bothered to listen to the real reasons for the dispute. It would involve too much thinking, and about things that society has never really thought about before. Most of society works in the private sector, and, therefore, must work under some rather unfortunate conditions. They don't have the wages, vacations, benefits, pensions that they would like to have, and are enjoyed by many public sector workers. Rather than agitate to get better conditions for themselves, many private sector workers want public sector workers to lose their good conditions so that we can all be miserable together. Teachers, society believes, have the best of everything, so society doesn't care when there are real issues. Just take on the teachers, they believe, and everything will be better.
2) Society never supports the teaching profession the way it should be supported. Teachers do an important job, and are entrusted with society's most valuable assets: our children. I'm not saying this is the most difficult job in the world: perfoming surgery, or flying a jet airliner come to mind as being incredibly difficult. But teaching does have its challenges, and I have heard many of my friends outside the profession claim that they could never do the job because the job requires some pretty important and delicate skills. Because of this, teachers need the support of society if they are to do their jobs well. It has been said that good working conditions for teachers means good learning conditions for students. This is absolutely true. Society should not simply open the vaults and pay teachers millions of dollars: nobody is seriously advocating this. But society should try to support teachers in return for good service. Notice the bold words. This is true in any line of work, in any work environment, or in any profession. Supported workers, workers whose efforts are truly appreciated, workers whose concerns are understood, are more productive, more involved, and prouder of not only their own work, but in the entire job itself. Yet society chooses not to give teachers the support they deserve, and, sadly, often gives teachers criticism, derision, sarcasm, and, worst of all, neglect.
3) Society doesn't want to be inconvenienced. The angry words from outraged parents reported in various media outlets prior to the planned day of protest made it sound that the lost SINGLE day of schooling would be tantamount to a nuclear meltdown. Yet, these are quite possibly the same parents who will keep their kids out of class in order to extend a vacation at Christmas or March break, or sign their kids out of school in order to attend a hockey tournament on a Friday, or take their kids shopping on a Friday to buy a prom dress ( remember that ALL schools have some type of prom now, even for "graduation" from kindergarten ), or when hunting or fishing season opens, etc etc etc. But announce a planned day of protest, and parents start griping that they have to arrange daycare, babysitting, or take a day off work. It's not the issue they gripe about, it's the inconvenience.
Teachers are public sector workers. This means that they work for society.
Well, if that is true, then teachers have a bad boss to work for. Imagine private sector workers who work for an uninformed, deliberately ignorant, unsympathetic, hypocritical, hostile boss: would they be angry? Yes, they would.
So, now you understand the anger felt by teachers. Officially, the anger is directed at the provincial government. But, make no mistake, it's directed at you too. Why? Re-read my comments above.
And that's why this thing isn't going to go away. It won't go away until you, society, do something about it. I suppose you could get mad at my comments and suggest we fire all the teachers and destroy the unions. But that won't solve anything. So, I suggest that you do the right things: get yourselves informed about the real issues, support your teachers, put pressure on the government to do the right thing, and don't gripe when an inconvenience happens.
Have a nice weekend.