Are Ontario teachers fighting for quality education or themselves?

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Sabrina Almeida

It’s tough to be neutral about the battle between Ontario school teachers and the provincial government. Who’s side you are on typically depends on your education experience. And while news reports would have us believe parents are advocating for teachers and the ‘world-class education’ they allegedly provide, many are extremely upset with what they see as an ‘entitled group’.

A lady I met said that she would like to get in front of the news cameras to tell the ‘real story’. She was miffed that one of the two teachers in her twins’ classroom spent the entire day on the computer or phone… not for educational purposes… but on social media. Naturally she was not favourably disposed towards her tax dollars giving teachers a pay raise. (She wasn’t concerned about larger class sizes either. Or e-learning which seems to be the way the world is moving.)

I empathised with her because of our experience when my younger son was in grade seven. This was worse because there was no second teacher in the room to pick up the slack. Of course, we were oblivious to the situation then as the class enjoyed taking the year off and didn’t let their parents in on what was going on. My older one didn’t come clean either when his sixth grade teacher graded them purely on assignments. Needless to say, the whole class received top grades on their projects. The students hid her math text book under the huge pile on her desk quite confident she would not find it. She didn’t! You might be wondering about the Grade 6 EQAO tests but this being a class of gifted students, they breezed through. Just as the teacher knew they would.

Naturally, I was miffed when I heard Unifor National president Jerry Dias go on about how increasing class size might prevent ‘gifted’ children from achieving their potential. My child was in a gifted program for four years which did nothing for his potential. His teachers simply recycled tests, learning materials and lesson plans from previous years to make their work easier. That’s why I get annoyed when teachers try to impress on us how hard they work to educate our children.

One may put this down to a few odd balls (that both my sons had?) except several friends from across the GTA narrated similar stories. So, teachers shouldn’t be surprised that most people I know and met are outraged at their agitation.

I don’t get the hullabaloo about increasing class sizes either. Having been part of classrooms with 40+ kids, I can affirm that it didn’t impact my learning experience or ability. Therefore, I’m inclined to think that this is more about a reduction in the number of teaching positions than education quality. And I want to say to teachers, welcome to the real world!

Ford’s fiscal reforms have targeted the entire public sector which educators are a part of. If public sector wage increases have been frozen at an average of one percent annually for the next three years, why should teachers be given more???

Ministry of Education figures show that the average OSSTF member makes $92,000 and Ontario teachers are the second-highest paid in the nation. Certainly not a marginalized group in dire need of our financial support considering average salaries of other tax payers are half the amount. So, I agree with a gentleman who said that striking teachers are ransoming the free daycare they provide parents.

My words may appear to be rather severe but stem from the regret that my children didn’t receive this ‘world-class’ education teachers are trumpeting. I would also like to apologise to the few educators who went above and beyond. They were the exceptions, really!

Being part of a strong union that previous Liberal governments have colluded with and pandered to for votes has led to their entitled status. A teacher friend shared how the union had cautioned them against voting for a Conservative government under Tim Hudak who had come out strongly against unions.

Added to that is the fact they could almost never lose their jobs thanks to the union. The grade six teacher I referred to simply moved to another school. This lack of accountability encourages them to be lazy.
It would be interesting to see how long they would last in the private sector or any performance-based job for that matter.

Without a doubt, parents would be severely inconvenienced in the event of a strike. Grade 12 students applying for college and university programs too. This could put pressure on the government to adopt a conciliatory approach. But they should be aware that there are several parents (and students) who don’t agree with the teachers’ demands and support making them an essential service to avert strike threats when they don’t get their way.

So, Mr. Lecce and Mr. Ford please make the right decision for our education system and tax dollars when you negotiate with the teacher unions! -CINEWS

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