A day in the life of a teacher on strike

Mountain Secondary teacher outlines a day's events, and suggests teachers and the government need to work together on education.

Editor: A day in the life of a teacher on strike: Monday, June 16.

I wake up feeling like I have not slept well. I haven’t. I had got to sleep at 1 a.m. and woke up at 7 a.m. I’ve got the morning off, and I can sleep in, but for some reason I don’t.

Having the time, I drive my older children to the SkyTrain station at Lougheed. My son works at Metrotown, and my daughter goes to college in Vancouver. My oldest daughter works in San Francisco as a medical biology entrepreneur. All three of my children have been through the British Columbia public education system over a period of 28 years. I have been teaching in British Columbia since 1978, with a few gaps to go back to school at UBC.

I head back to my home in Coquitlam to get ready to attend the study session happening today for teachers on strike in Langley. On the way to Langley, I go to Costco to pick up a few items. In the line-up at the cashier, the clerk that is packing my items in the cart begins a discussion with the cashier:

Packer: “So the teachers are out on strike now, and it looks like the students that are supposed to graduate won’t finish and are going to have trouble getting into college.”

Cashier: “Oh. The teachers are striking. Do they get paid? I think the teachers’ union pays them. Are they out for the next six months?”

Packer: “Yeah. I think they get paid.”

OK. I can’t let this go.

I say, with a friendly smile: “Classes are ended right now, and exams are going to be supervised for Grade 12 students by school administrators. Also, colleges and universities are not penalizing students affected by the strike. They are allowing interim marks to be submitted, until final grades are established.”

“Oh,” they say.

I add: “Also, teachers get $50 per day from the BCTF for the first three days of striking, and then they get no pay for any further strike days.”

I am moved forward with Costco efficiency and politeness, leaving behind a wake of stirred-up energy. I am not sure if it is surprise or confusion. Maybe, it is appreciation for information not known.

At the study session in Langley I find that the weekend negotiation that held such hope for attending members has been a no-go. The BCTF had submitted an amended deal (numbers given) to the government negotiators on Friday night, and got back the worst deal ever (numbers given) from government negotiators on Sunday night. This is weekend negotiation? I feel a backlash of adrenalin.

I decide to write a letter. I move out of blame and resentment toward a vision of education. First, I write notes:

1. Children are important.

2. They are our future.

3. It takes a culture to raise a child.

4. Supportive teacher-and-student relationships enhance student learning.

5. Supportive teacher-and-government relationships enhance teaching.

6. I cannot know all the difficulties a government official has in his or her job.

7. I have a much better understanding of a teacher’s difficulties.

8. I have a pretty good knowledge of a student’s difficulties.

All right, the vision could look like this:

Each learner is supported in his or her educational journey by teachers and government officials working together.

It’s not rocket science. As adults, I guess we need to work on that last bit.

Otherwise, everyone loses.

Thinking about government and teachers working together, I am reminded of relationships I have been personally challenged by. What worked best at those times — patience, perseverance, and not taking things personally.

Valerie J. Robinson,  English teacher

R.E. Mountain Secondary School

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