In response to A. Christiansen’s letter in The Morning Star, I recently had to walk through the parking lot where my parents advisory council was setting up the fun fair that I cannot attend because I am locked out of the property.
I was supposed to be there helping. My PAC works so hard for our school and it is so supportive of us right now, and I can’t be there to help them because the B.C. Public School Employers Association and Christy Clark hopes to break those bonds and us.
And I don’t need to suck it up and I don’t need to be reminded of how lucky I am and I don’t need to know how tough it was before, because I have been a teacher since 1978.
I would hope we’ve learned to do our job and serve students better than the tough, old past. I have had a masters degree for most of my career. I have taught every grade from kindergarten to 12. I have been a teacher for students with every kind of exceptional learning need in elementary, secondary and segregated settings. I have been a teacher librarian and I am now a kindergarten teacher by choice.
I was a PAC and DPAC member for 17 years and I was a high school PAC president. I have been before, and am currently, a staff representative. I think I am pretty good at my job and I know it is tough, and I still love it and kids, and I know what students need and students deserve. I know what teachers need and deserve to do the job, the most important job on earth according to most, except this government which I am sure would rather have an uneducated public to work for a not-living wage, ignorant and hungry and tired, too tired to fight or stand and fight. It’s a government that believes shareholders should be paid first, a government that doesn’t understand what it should be elected to do, only what it owes those who elected it.
And I don’t need a critique on how eloquent or well-written my rant is or isn’t, and I don’t need to hear how I shouldn’t want to give this government my pay. I don’t want to give the government my pay, but if I don’t stand up for public education with all the other I’s on the line with me, my own grown children will never earn a living wage because this is bigger than us. As educators, someone has to be the canary in the coal mine again, as our history proves.
Do I feel sick in the pit of my stomach? You bet. Do I wonder how I am going to pay for things that have to be paid for? You bet I do. Will I ever regain the lost wages as I am so close to retirement? Probably not.
Will this impact my pension? Yup. Will this impact when I actually get to retire? Yup. But someone else did this for me in my early and later career. This is bigger than me and not about me, but about public education, and we are the ones qualified to speak to it and to speak up for it.
Oh, and don’t tell me my union is separate from me or making decisions for me and about me. I am the B.C. Teachers Federation. I am the Vernon Teachers Association. No decisions are made without my input. Every time through provincewide votes, through provincial rep assembly votes and through local rep assembly votes, they are made with all of the information, not just information that affects me and not just information I know about.
Throughout my adult life as teacher, as a staff rep and as a member on community organizations, decisions made that are good for everyone have always been good for me or my children and my community.
And I believe my executive here and in Vancouver will welcome creative ideas for taking a stand and I believe they will take all of the information and direct me the best they can. They are all you and me, not some others. Trust me, I have seen them dance at summer general meeting and they look just like us.
I count on them to have the big picture because I am in my classroom with the rest of my colleagues, focused on students and learning. I cannot know what is best for all of us so that is why I elected them.
Even if no one reads this, I feel better having written it. It is not business as usual and it sucks but if we don’t stand together, we will be poked in the eye and the heart and the soul one-by-one and teaching will be…I don’t even want to imagine, it is too sad. I want my younger colleagues to stay in the profession and be able to do their job without the difficulties and disrespect we have experienced over the last 12 years or more. I want them to love going to work. Our students deserve and need that.
Margaret E. Fraser