I am writing to you from the midst of a crisis.
A crisis affecting hundreds of thousands of people.
In a place that has access to world media.
What can it be you ask?...... have we heard of it?
If you live in British Columbia you HAVE heard about it. Maybe even in the rest of Canada. And some of you around the world have heard of it thanks to the power of social media.
Its the Crisis in Public Education in BC today. August 18, 2014.
It's an engineered crisis.
It was deliberately set in motion in 2002 when the Liberal government tore up the teachers contract.
For which they have been sued.
The law has told the government what they did was illegal.
The government refuses to comply.
Yadda yadda yadda....union....yadda....funding.....yadda...greedy.....yadda.....bargaining.....
Maybe for you its background hum....another boring news story....not your problem.
For me it's a problem...on three fronts.
1. I am a tax payer in BC.
I respect the law and pay for taxes and generally I am pleased with the services I get in return.
But when I see government using tax dollars to score points rather than invest in services and infrastructure I get the zig.
I don't expect to like every decision they make but I respect their right to do so as a democratically elected government.
What I do demand is transparency and honesty in their dealings with our money.
And just a wit of common sense about priorities.
2. I am a parent of two high school students.
My kids started in the system in 2002 when things went awry and I have had a front seat view of the increasing "asks" from schools for basic supplies, seen the dated text books, the over worked counsellors, kids with complex needs from complex families struggling to get what they need. My kids lost in the shuffle because they are not at the very top or the very bottom.....they could use more teacher face time but it isn't there. I have seen my kids teachers standing on cold sidelines cheering them on at 4pm on a Friday across the city because they volunteered to sponsor the team. I don't want my kids teachers to be over worked, under motivated and overwhelmed.
My daughter is entering Grade 12.
Do I want her in school for a year of productive education starting September? You betcha.
Am I worried that the government meddling in the Socials 11 exam might jeopardize her applications to universities? Oh yes I am.
Have I sent several emails to my MLA and the Minister of Education. Sure have.
I am a Mom.
I want my kids in school. Good school.
3. I am the wife of a teacher.
I live this crisis alongside him.
I see what this crisis and attendant media circus is doing to him. To his morale. To his desire to stay in this profession he loves and excels at.
None of it is good.
Like the vast majority of his colleagues - he's not an 8am-3:30pm teacher. We leave home together at 7am and he is often not home before 5pm. Sponsoring clubs and sports teams. Helping kids who need more time, more instruction than the current classroom environment allows. Helping kids work through issues. Not always educational issues but sometimes life issues. Because "Life" happens inside those school walls...and kids need adults who give a damn while they figure it out. They need mentors, role models not some worn out faceless dude at the front of a classroom that you never get to talk to.
He gave up a week of his Spring Break to chaperone a trip....24/7 for 2 weeks... no breaks. That's commitment people.
Not to a paycheck but to kids.
To offering kids experiences and opportunities that change lives. To building relationships that make school better for those kids.
But I see how much his marking has increased, hear his stories of class sizes that jeopardise safety, of dwindling budgets.... his weariness.... his demoralization.
Why would ANY government disrespect the people teaching their children?
Lock them out but ask them to volunteer to do their work for free?
Sometimes on the several sleepless nights I have had this summer I try to play out a scenario in which the three "me's" above all get out of this crisis happy, satisfied......and then I wake up.....and the pit returns to my stomach.
I have engaged, I have been to protests, written letters, emails, shared facebook posts.....
I have been in struggles before.... I know that hopelessness is the enemy.....that if we believe we are beat then......we are beat.
Tonight I am angry. I am sad and I am worried.
But I am NOT beat.
Public Education in a well funded province in Canada in 2014 shouldn't be a crisis.
It shouldn't even be an issue.
If you have any connection to this crisis...if you know a teacher, a child, an EA in our school system... PLEASE write to your MLA, the education minister, the Premier and ask them to settle this fairly and quickly.
If you need help to do it I will gladly help.
September 2 is not just about school starting or not starting.
It's about the rule of law,
the respect of a government for its taxpayers,
the resolve of parents to demand a quality education for their kids and
the professionalism of teachers sounding the alarm that the system is broken and needs fixing before we lose any more kids or teachers.
Let's get a win on September 2.