Sunday, February 8, 2009

Toronto Sun: Teachers' unions, smarten up

To the Toronto Sun:

Bite me!

In today's Toronto Sun, there is an editorial which tells the public school elementary teachers to essentially shut up and accept the Ontario government's generous offer of now two percent for the next two years. The former offer of three percent for four years was not generous because the government and school boards were offering an extra 50 minutes per week of administration directed preparation time in which the administration could decide what teachers must do during that time. The government and boards also want teachers to be in the classroom (not just in the school) in order to supervise students 15 minutes before the start of the school day in the morning and five minutes before afternoon classes start. That's 100 minutes per week extra of supervision that public school elementary teachers would be required to perform. No thanks. I would rather work under the existing but expired contract than under the government and boards' proposal. Better yet, I would rather be treated equally with a secondary school teacher.

I don't know how negotiations are going between the Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario (ETFO) and the school boards. If they don't go well, I would be willing to favour "Yes" in a strike vote. I hope it doesn't come to that. I cannot imagine the teachers striking right away. Work-to-rule might happen where teachers work strictly according to their contracts. No extra work or duties will be performed by teachers on behalf of the administration.

I cannot see the teachers going on strike before the school boards lock-out the teachers. I believe the boards do not want a work-to-rule campaign to interfere in any way with the EQAO grades-three and six standardized tests. I predict that the boards will lock-out the teachers so that the government can legislate us back to work. Barring any legal reasons, I cannot see a lock-out lasting any longer than one week. A lock-out could take place well before the EQAO tests. The government through the legislature can order the teachers back to work just in time for the EQAO tests to be administered. You see, if teachers do not prepare their students for the EQAO tests--how to do them--the students will not perform as well. Knowledge of the curriculum is not enough for students to perform well on the standardized tests.

If the public elementary school teachers end up with an unacceptable two-year contract, I will be upset. However, teachers can start negotiating in less than two years for an excellent contract so that we can teach our students well.


toronto real estate agent said...

All the time we hear about the universities and how important they are for our country, but not so often about the rest. Not everybody will attend university, but everybody will attend elementary. That's the place where education starts and I can see the importance when I look on my little nephew and see the changes. Thumbs up for all teachers.

Skinny Dipper said...

Thanks for the kind comments. My first preference is to be in the classroom with the students. Teachers, like other people, have so many hours to teach, mark assignments, and prepare lessons for the next day and week. We also volunteer with extra-curricular activities where students usually learn to work in team settings such as in basketball, volleyball, floor hockey, choir, and band. If teachers do not have the time to prepare lessons and mark assignments, we will unfortunately make time by cutting extra-curricular activities and making lessons less exciting and meaningful. Great lessons for learning take time to prepare.

I have taught every elementary grade. The most challenging is kindergarten. The teacher needs to indentify any problem that particular students may have with learning. That same teacher has to immediately get the new students transitioned from in informal structured home environment to a formal classroom setting where there are rules and procedures.

Some of the best teachers are the ones who work in the most challenging environments. Their students may perform not as well as others on the EQAO standardized test. However, those same teachers can get their struggling students who come from poorer neighbourhoods working as close to grade level as possible.

Thanks again, Julie.

GB said...

I think our federation is overblowing their complaints about the "extra 100 minutes." Honestly, how many of us are NOT in our classrooms 15 minutes prior to the start of the day anyway? In good faith, I can't see how this is a problem. It's not an unreasonable expectation...

Skinny Dipper said...

Hi GB,

You are correct that most teachers are in the classroom at least 15 minutes before class starts. However, many teachers are outside the classroom but still in the school preparing the final touches on their lessons. We may be photo copying, getting art supplies, or doing other things.

Under the OPSBA proposal, we would be required to be in the classroom with the students entering 15 minutes before the bell rings. That means that we must not leave the classroom because we have to supervise the students. Those 15 minutes that the OPSBA wants us to supervise the students will hurt the quality of my teaching. And yes, like many teachers, I do arrive at school 30 to 45 minutes early.