There are thousands of stressed-out grads and parents all across the province right now. Many of them are like our family, not honour roll, IB program, or scholarship students. They are regular students with regular grades. They are the kids on the fringe who are just making it through. Who are graduating with a lot of help from all the support staff. Many need final exam and final project marks so they can pass and get that particular credit. Not all students are created equal, but I have yet to meet a parent who does not want their child to do well at school and in life.
Graduation should be a time to celebrate, but this year it is filled with unknowns. Will the final projects and exams be marked? Will leaving ceremonies be cancelled? Will teachers be allowed to attend? I know that teachers were told to not go to the dinner and dance. This makes no sense. What a terrible request to make for purely political motivation. Yet some teachers feel pressure because they do not have seniority. These teachers have spent what some would consider the most important time of children’s lives with them. They have helped them grow from children to adults. They put them on the spot and say, “Do not attend the grad dance.” They know they will be punished in some political way down the road. It will hurt their career. It is wrong and sad. You take away the prize, you take away the icing. You take away the gift of seeing them all grown up and celebrating.
You start off in kindergarten with lofty ideas of what your child’s school life will be like. Homework will be done in a timely manner. Bullies will be handled effectively. Sports will be played regularly. Slowly the realization sets in that school will not be what you expect. The first thing you will encounter is the politics of the BCTF and the Province of British Columbia. Our first strike experience was in kindergarten. It was a long time ago. All I remember is I was so happy I had out of school care at Cedar Cottage or I would not have been able to go to work. Not too many people can take time off work to care for their kids, that is why they have daycare in the first place. It is stressful for everyone involved because no one knows how long it will last, or how much it will cost.
As the years went by, school fees went up. Every September there was a new fee, and a new closure or cancellation of a program. By the time we left elementary school the library was closed every Friday. The librarian always needed volunteers to help sort books and do the morning check in, so on Wednesday mornings I would spend an hour scanning books. It was a small thing that felt like a big deal. Raising money in the form of baking cupcakes or cookies, book fairs, and selling tickets was a regular activity. A necessary part of any parent's life with school-age children. For those of you about to enter the school yard, be ready.
So here is a condensed history of what a graduating student of 2014 has experienced since kindergarten.
- 2001: Kindergarten—Teachers are deemed an essential service. They withdraw extra-curricular activities and administrative services.
- 2002: Grade 1—One-day walk off the job.
- 2005: Grade 4—Teachers walk off the job for 10 school days.
- 2006: Grade 5—Threat of a strike. Teachers sign four-year deal.
- 2010-2011—Job action affecting extra-curricular activities.
- 2012: Grade 10—Job action and three-day strike.
- 2014: Grade 12—Rotating strikes at the end of the year.
This does not include a strike by the janitors in either 2008 or 2009. The teachers could not cross the picket line then either.
So here we are. The final stage and one week to go. I think of the amazing teachers who made such a difference in our lives, the administrators who we instantly connected with in the office. The support staff who helped us through some very tough times. We are so lucky in so many ways. That is why it makes this ending so difficult. I did not want this ending. I wanted a happily ever after ending—a Disney ending.