LETTER: It’s about respect

We are a huge part of these kids’ lives; in fact we play a significant role in “raising” your (our) children...

An open letter to the Government of B.C.

My perspective on B.C. teachers’ current labor “situation” (and yes, I am a teacher)

I would like to preface this letter by acknowledging that I am extremely burnt out at this point. After months of waiting and listening and trying to play out all of the possible scenarios in my head, I feel as if I’ve reached my breaking point. And so I find myself here, doing something that I normally wouldn’t, something I may have even criticized in the past. I am writing a letter, like so many others, to express my thoughts and feelings about this issue.

We’ve all heard the rhetoric day in and day out; “It’s about the kids” or “It’s about the money”, but at this point, for me, it is about respect. We are a huge part of these kids’ lives; in fact we play a significant role in “raising” your (our) children. And these little people that we are nurturing will one day grow up to become adults, tax payers, and hopefully valuable and contributing members of our society. This is our role, these kids are our “business”, this is what we do and this is why we matter.

So my question is this, wouldn’t it make sense for the people who are in this incredibly important position to feel appreciated? Don’t you think it would be beneficial to all if the individuals who have taken on this difficult role in our society felt respected and valued? Have we not earned this? Do we not work hard enough, go far enough, or do enough for the students of B.C. to deserve respect? I don’t work hard, go the extra mile, or show the passion and commitment that I do because it’s a part of my job; I do it because this is my calling, because I care about kids and about making a difference in this world. I can assure you that no one becomes or will become a teacher for the money.

And what happens next? I don’t mean with regard to negotiations or legislation or arbitration, I mean when we walk into our classrooms for the first time this school year. Do we pick up where we left off, duct taping broken equipment back together and spending our own money to fill in the gaps? Do we start up our fundraising events, plan our special trips and concerts, or get prepared for another season of coaching? How much of our time would you like us to volunteer this year? How many “extras” would you like us to plan and fund for the students of this province?

And furthermore, what level of productivity would you expect of employees who have been told for months that they are greedy and only care about themselves; that they are out of touch with reality and need to be in the “zone of affordability”, like every other public sector worker in the province. Many of us invest our own time and money back into the system anyways, to make our classes function and to help our students succeed. And Peter, do you really expect that we will be able to “work with you” after all of this? I know I’ll get another email from you at some point telling me how excited you are about your role at the top of the greatest education system in the world and how you can’t wait to get to work on all of your new ideas. But how will this happen? The damage has been done. Your goal of beating us into submission is working; you’re starving us out, bankrupting our union and breaking our spirits. When you turn to us and ask for our help, what will the teachers of B.C. say?

To all involved or interested: Choose a side, have your say, post messages on Facebook, call in to talk radio shows, tweet your fingers off, and write letters, but for me, I am done! I don’t care about wage increases or benefits packages, and I strongly suspect we won’t achieve any significant improvements with regard to class size and composition levels. All I ask of you, Government, is for respect. Respect for us as professionals who care about the needs of the students in our province and invest in them on a daily basis. If school started on Monday, it would be a pretty depressing environment for the teachers and students of B.C. to walk into.

 Chris Janzen

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