As a retired teacher I have followed the job action by teachers with interest and frustration. It is interesting to note how the media has used words to describe the process. The teachers are ‘demanding’ an increase of 15 per cent while the government is ‘offering? zero per cent. Shouldn’t it be the government is ‘demanding’ the teachers accept zero per cent and the teachers have ‘offered’ 15 per cent as the place at which to begin bargaining? Perhaps if the government ‘offered’ to replace the millions of dollars taken away from teachers in relation to class sizes, composition and special needs children, then perhaps the teachers ‘demand’ would be much less, perhaps even acceptable at zero per cent.
Then there are the letters about being overpaid. Consider what some teachers may encounter in a classroom. A class consists of 28 intermediate students, the number being reduced from 30 because there are four special needs students in the class.
One student, a quiet child and recently arrived from a foreign country, has very limited English skills; one is a designated learning disabled child with specific learning disabilities in reading and therefore functioning below grade level; one is a Down’s syndrome child; and the fourth is a designated behaviour student.
It is a math class. The student with learning disabilities has trouble locating the required notebook in a totally disorganized desk and needs help getting started. This child will also need help finding a page on which to write as well as the necessary tools with which to write. The newly arrived student is able to do math well but cannot read the directions or the problems and needs assistance. The Down’s child is included in math with help from a teaching assistant who is only available for an hour to help complete work in a book prepared by the classroom teacher and/or special education teacher, if there is one. The student will trace numbers as the fine motor skills are not yet developed.
Meanwhile, the behaviour student is busy shuffling books and papers while declaring that he cannot find the ‘damn’ book. Having found the book, he desires further attention by breaking the point of his pencil and declaring loudly that he needs to sharpen it. At the sharpener, he inserts the wrong end of the pencil, grinds the sharpener and angrily blurts, ‘The f****** thing is broken!’ He is escorted from the classroom, under protest, by the teaching assistant who cannot touch the child unless proper restraint training has taken place.
Meanwhile, 24 sets of eyes and ears are watching the action. What did the students learn? How much time did the teacher have to complete the lesson and help the ‘average’ child? How much has this government taken away from the special needs child? How much from your child? What does the future hold for them? More of the above?
Overpaid? Consider hockey players with multi-million dollar contracts trying to eliminate players. Who is ‘overpaid’?