Ah August – the summer holidays wind down and thoughts of Back to School float through the air like jingles embedded into unwanted advertisements. Oh wait those are retail advertisements heralding Ontario “Back to School”. Maybe. Possibly. Mostly.
You see the teachers are mostly in a legal strike position. And feeling rather pissed off still about the last round of labour negotiations. Which really weren’t much of a labour negotiation as much as a desperate Government saying: “Take it.” The “leave it” option not even being left on the table.
So here we are again going through the same rhetoric and pissing matches of the last round. Oh joy.
On the one hand we have a Government looking to reign in spending. We have an education sector that accounts for close to 1/3 of the annual budget. Currently 24.8 billion dollars is spent on education in Ontario. That is a lot of money. And there is ultimately a lot of room for clawing some of that money back. Every budget I have ever worked with is allocated as 80% accurate and 20% fudge. And often that fudge is really really bad!
On the other side we have the teachers who work hard, do a good job, and provide an excellent school system for our children. It is a lot of work, and it is demanding work.
I speak with my friends and acquaintances who we are teachers, and I hear their stories of long hours, of dedication, of going that extra mile to help. No one in their right mind is a teacher for long without having a good and caring heart for the welfare of the students they teach. I respect teachers for the job they do, and the effort they make.
However. Yes the shoe is about to drop. What teachers do not realize is that the rest of Ontario has no sympathy for what they are claiming as a hardship.
Teachers work hard (and so does everyone else…)
Teachers work extra hours (and so do all professionals…)
Teachers bring work home (and again so do most professionals…)
Teachers work with challenging and difficult people every day (and so does everyone else…)
What teachers do not realize is that the perception from outside the cozy teacher huddle isn’t very good! This is what most non-teachers see:
Teachers get really good pay (the starting teacher salary is more than the average salary in Ontario)
Teachers advance in pay very quickly (by ten years of service a teacher’s salary has almost doubled – placing a teacher in the top 25% of wage earners in Ontario)
Teachers get excellent benefits and a solid pension plan (most Ontarians get no pension)
Teachers get lots of holidays (teachers work 194 days each year – minus 6 days for Professional Development)
Now the come back to those points is “shouldn’t everyone have those same perks?” Good pay, good benefits, good retirement plan, reasonable work hours? And yes that is true. But it isn’t reality. Telling someone that they are being short-changed, while you appear to be asking for “more please!” doesn’t generate sympathy.
Let’s examine the last perceived point – “Teachers get lots of holidays”. Teachers get Christmas break (close to two weeks) and a Spring break (one week). Plus they get summers off in Ontario. No work for July and August. No childcare expenses for July and August. Plenty of family fun and sun. Yes teachers are not paid for the summer – however having an above average wage kinda negates that point! Assuming a teacher is paid only for a 7 hour day that means teachers are hired to work for 7 times 194 days or 1358 hours. The typical full-time employee is expected to provide 1820 hours of time in that same one year period. In other words teachers make more than the average worker in Ontario and are only required to do 75% of the work!
Or perhaps they work 10 hours each school day for 1960 hours of work in the year. A year round 40-hour work week requires 2080 hours – and on average gets less yearly pay. And fewer benefits.
Now the reality is most teachers do work long hours by marking and preparing for the next day at school. Give back many hours by supporting extracurricular activities. There are a lot of “unaccounted” extra hours required to keep the school system working. In my experience it is usually teachers who put in a lot of extra time and effort to make the year a success for the students.
So what is my point? Mostly it is simply this: we each live in our comfortable bubbles of reality and we forget that the perception from outside those bubbles isn’t what we think! Often it isn’t even close. Holding up a mirror to see yourself doesn’t resolve the issue – because all you see reflected back is what you want to see and expect to see.
From my point of view the Ontario Education system is outdated, antiquated, and in need of a major overhaul. A complete gut and rebuild. Education should be provided by one central organization (get rid of all these stupid school boards!). No more French/Catholic/Public mish-mash of unneeded supervisory oversight. Want to save 2 billion dollars? BOOM.
Then transfer all assets and building and properties to the local municipal governments. No need for school boards. No need for infrastructure resources being duplicated to run and plan schools when we have to run and plan communities. Set unified and coherent standards that are for everyone across the province to create community hubs focused on continuous education and on building community.
Then step back and let teachers teach the curriculum and be in charge of their own classrooms. If teachers are professionals and adults stop trying to micro-manage how they teach – and fix an education system that is bloated and unresponsive to real progress.
I have more I could say but really who wants to read it anyway?