Jim Iker is president of the B.C. Teachers Federation.

Walnut Grove Secondary student expresses disappointment with full-scale strike

Cancelling exams and threatening summer school is no way to help students, high school student points out.

Editor: I’m a Grade 11 student at Walnut Grove Secondary. I’ve just heard news about the full scale strike and I am thoroughly disappointed in this, as it is students like me who are being affected the most. I’ve written an open letter to BCTF president Jim Iker, as I would like to balance the discussion so that the public (and Mr. Iker) can hear how this strike is affecting the students. And ultimately, isn’t it the students who matter in this whole ordeal?

Dear Mr. Iker:

I’ve read several open letters in the past weeks from members of your union to Premier Christy Clark. I thought it would only be fair for you to receive one as well, from the point of view that matters: from students. I would like to start off by saying I do not believe your union for one second when you say this whole ordeal is about “the kids.”

The ones affected most by this are the students. As a Grade 11 student, all but two of my exams have been affected so far this year by the striking and lockout nonsense. I understand the government is the one initiating the lockouts, however it is also my understanding that this was a retaliatory measure to the job action “level 1” strike by the teachers.

At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter which side started the conflict or who is right or wrong. The only thing that I and thousands of other students care about is that I am not going to school during crucial exam time. You may already know this, but every year 1,800 newly-certified teachers are unable to find employment in B.C. and are forced to go out-of-province, or sometimes even overseas to get a job.

If class size is really an issue you hold close to your heart, you and your 40,000 counterparts would be willing to have smaller wage increases so that we could hire more teachers. On the same note, if we have so many qualified teachers unable to get hired, why should the current teachers get such an aggressive wage increase?

As a well-educated man with two university degrees from top Canadian institutions, I am sure you’ve taken some sort of economics courses. Therefore you would know that when supply is high and demand is low, the value of the commodity( in this case the teachers) would not go up in a natural job market. But that’s the problem. The education sector isn’t an accurate representation of a job market. Teachers are paid and assigned classes based more on seniority than on their ability to teach. This is an absolute shame in my opinion, knowing that some of our best and brightest teachers are being paid less and given less priority than sub-par teachers who have been in the system for longer.

I am certain that I’m not the only one who shares this sentiment, and maybe you do too, Mr. Iker. Shouldn’t we be focused more on wage increases for truly dedicated teachers who do more than just instruct a class, who make a difference in the lives of their students and inspire them to do their best and strive for their dreams, rather than an extra four to five per cent for the masses?

Mr. Iker, I respect that you stand up for your union because it’s what you believe in. That is a noble act. However, please don’t mislead the public and say it is about the kids when it is clearly more about compensation than anything else.

Another fact to refute the claim that it isn’t about the money is that the BCTF strike would continue through the summer, cancelling summer school, while the government has stated they will not be performing any lockouts during the summer. I would like an explanation as to why I am not afforded the opportunity to take a course in the summer if I voluntarily choose to.

I plan on retaking a course to get a higher grade in the summer session this year. I hope to apply to some top universities next year, and I want to have the best marks that I can. Is the BCTF going to refuse me this option? Will I be forced to attend my second or third choice school, just because I did poorly on two tests during my Grade 11 year?

Sure, it is my own fault for not getting an excellent mark on the first attempt, but there is a reason UBC, SFU and every other B.C. institution will take your highest grade attempt for your GPA calculation. It’s because they want to reward ambitious students who want to do their absolute best.

I just ask that you let me do my absolute best, Mr. Iker.

Brandon Southern,

Walnut Grove Secondary School Class of 2015

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