Letter: Lockout conditions on teachers perplexing

Dear Editor,

Following is an open letter to Minister of Education Peter Fassbender.

Dear Sir,

I am a learning assistance teacher at one of Langley’s high schools. On Friday, May 23, I didn’t leave my classroom until after five. I had expected to leave earlier, but found myself swamped with students looking for help with homework, exam preparation, and review.

By five, we were all exhausted, so I chased them out and prepared to leave. I did promise them we could “pick it up again” on Monday.

That was when one of my students advised me that his English teacher had told him that teachers were being locked out and weren’t allowed to help students after school, beginning next week.

I assumed that he had misunderstood something, not having had time to check emails or announcements, and told the students that I couldn’t see that happening. Oops.

Monday morning I arrived in my room to find three students waiting for me and looking to get help with homework from the weekend. Two of them accused me of being late (it was the required 45 minutes before class started).

When I explained, they complained that they needed more time. One of them then simply said, “Well, I’ll bring it at lunch time, and you can help me then.”

That is something, I might add, that he and a few others do on a regular basis.

When I had to tell him I wasn’t allowed to help him then, either, I got a plaintive, “Why?”

I didn’t really have an answer to give. Personally, I put it down to a vindictive government that is more interested in provoking a reaction from teachers than in the effect this lockout would have on students. The government position that they were locking out teachers during times that would not affect students was, to me, an obvious lie, and was simply a “politically correct” talking point for public consumption.

I had my attitude challenged a bit on Wednesday. One of my senior students stopped me as I was leaving my room at lunch. He wanted to know if it was really true that the government was locking out teachers during the lunch period. I told him it was true.

He then asked if “legally” we were actually supposed to leave the school. I agreed that technically this was probably true, but most of us were assuming we just had to leave our classrooms and refrain from doing any work.

“Are you telling me that the government is ordering you to leave eighteen hundred teenagers unsupervised for 45 minutes?”

I had to laugh, but I agreed that was the case.

His final question was an incredulous, “Are they really THAT stupid?”

I didn’t answer the question, but it did give me pause for thought.

Maybe, just maybe, what I have assumed was an ideology based animosity towards public education and unionized teachers, isn’t vindictiveness; maybe it is just stupidity.

Albert Einstein has been quoted as saying, “Never attribute to malice to that which can be adequately explained by stupidity.”

So, just in case, allow me to let you in on a little piece of information. You cannot cut any time from a teacher’s work day that does not impact and hurt students.

Yesterday, I had to leave 10 students behind who were still looking for assistance with their work. Today it was seven after school, and several more at lunch time.

In addition to having to abandon some of my most motivated students, I cannot meet with parents in the late afternoon, nor is there now any time to confer with fellow teachers on how we can support various students who are struggling. Students who want help reviewing for their final exams now have to compete for teacher’s time during those brief 45 minutes. That is the same time during which teachers are now supposed to do all of their marking, reporting, and parent contacts.

Transition meetings with parents and students coming into the school from elementary classes cannot happen, as I am locked out on those days, as well.

I could go on, but you get the point. I hope.

Now, I do have a couple of suggestions.

First, I would advise you to actually attempt to learn what a teacher does while on the job, and learn what actually goes on in the schools before you make any more inflammatory and erroneous statements.

Next, I would suggest you go back and read the judgments from the last few court hearings between your government and my union. Consider accepting those court findings and complying with the court decisions.

Maybe, just maybe, those two things might assist you in bringing a different attitude and some real proposals to the bargaining table – proposals that will return some of the supports and programs that have been stripped from students over the past years, proposals that will ensure teachers and students have the tools and supports they need to be successful, and proposals that will make up for the many years of “zero per cent,” which is all your government has been prepared to offer over the past three years.

You might want to even consider treating teachers and the public school system with respect, rather than trying to provoke and antagonize those who work in it.

I live in hopes.

Of course, Einstein ended his statement with, “ˆ…but don’t rule out malice.”

I would like to, but I must admit, I haven’t yet.

Russ Simpson, Aldergrove

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