Do Okanagan public schools even matter anymore?

Former teacher living in Penticton wants all citizens in B.C. to learn about BCTF issues.

Are public schools in British Columbia important, or would we be better served as a society to have separate schools run by various boards passionate about particular cultural or religious or philosophical agendas?

If you and I were sitting and discussing this right now, you might well say, “That’s a red herring! The current and seemingly forever rancour between the BCTF and our provincial government is about power and influence.”

I wouldn’t completely disagree with you, but I would suggest strongly that we each need to answer the questions posed.

If one does indeed say that a public education system is important, then it would follow that one would be able to articulate why it is important; conversely if one feels separate schools would serve better, why?

Basically, I’m suggesting all citizens in this province need to do some serious thinking and listening and talking about this issue that touches all of us as surely as does our health-care system. We are blessed to live in a democracy that allows and even invites dissenting opinions. As I write this I know that blood is being spilled in more than one place in this world because people are willing to lay down their lives to create positive change for their children.

I am a teacher. I have taught in B.C. Public School classrooms since the ‘70s to now. I have considered my career to be both deeply challenging and immensely rewarding. The children, parents, teaching and non-teaching colleagues and administrators I have had the privilege of working with have brought me riches beyond measure. My 10-month teacher’s pay cheque allowed me and my children a comfortable, but not extravagant life. I am proud of my work and the caring, hard-working professionals I have taught beside.

I am willing to take job action because I believe in public education. I want children of all races, religions, social and economic statuses to be able to work and play and learn together. This is Canada. I want children’s inequalities that occur in every classroom to be acknowledged, smoothed and soothed.

If a child needs special support in learning whether it is with academic remediation or healthy sense of self or positive socialization, I want supports provided. I want every child to have a sense of his or her unique capacities and what each has to share to make the world a better place. I want teachers to feel a sense of hope and pride every day as they work with their students. I want a sense that my minister of education truly understands the challenges and appreciates amazing skills and heart and hard work of this province’s teachers.

It is not about, “Oh, give the teachers whatever they want!” It is about dialogue. It is not about, “Break the BCTF and we’ll be able to get something done!” It is about mutual respect.

We live in a time of very real economic challenges, but we cannot afford a zero mentality right now. Who pays? We all do. And it is important to realize we will pay one way or another. If we allow one child to move beyond the reach of our schools feeling uneducated, unaware, incapable or valueless the cost is beyond measure for more than that child.

Author Richard Rohr talks about What Every Good Leader Knows, a number of his points are very salient in this discussion. In closing, I offer four of Rohr’s points. I would like Ms. Clark, Mr. Abbott and my MLA Mr. Barisoff to ponder them. I believe Ms. Lambert already has.

Good leaders know that every one-sided solution is doomed ahead of time to failure. It is never a final solution but only a postponement of the problem.

Good leaders learn to study, discern, and search together with their people for solutions.

Good leaders know that total dilemmas are very few. We create many dilemmas because we are internally stuck, attached, fearful, over identified with our position, needy of winning the case or unable to entertain even the partial truth that the other opinion might be offering.

Good leaders know that wisdom is “the art of the possible.” The key question is no longer “How can I problem-solve now, and get this off my plate?” It is “How can this situation achieve good for the largest number and for the next generations?”

Nancy Wyse

Penticton