One parent’s take on the B.C. teachers’ strike

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      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. 

      Janet McDonald is the parent of a Vancouver public-school student. Follow McDonald on Twitter: @ursedated.


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      Jun 11, 2014 at 9:10pm

      Disney would probably want to own the school system for further brainwashing. The only reason we have the public education system we do is because of teachers coming together through the democratic processes of unionization and fighting for equity in the educational system. Government, who primarily has the interests of business and its need for consumers and workers, focuses on producing that. The public educational system is not there to create citizens but to maintain a compliant workforce which consumes, preferably to the point of indebtedness. An indebt worker is a good worker. The private education system is there to create religious fanatics (who are also good workers working for God) and the future masters and rulers of business, government and all those who went through the public education system. The BCTF, but more importantly the teachers which make up the BCTF, have continually fought for a different vision of education. It is because of teachers, and the union they exercise their democratic rights through, that we have our current public education system. If the BCTF and teachers did not participate in collective action like they have over the past decade our public education system would be in even worse than it already is. Just look at America's public education system.

      400 ppm

      Jun 12, 2014 at 4:56am

      Sorry Janet, but this has nothing to do with politics or teachers. The Liberal/Socred/Conservatives have hated working people since before you were born, and they've never hidden it. Your premier's opinion of teachers and public education is nothing new. They were all elected by The People, democratically, time after time.

      “The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves.”

      Mommy Dearest

      Jun 12, 2014 at 10:54am

      I have to say I was naive. I thought that if I did the right thing as a parent, a human, a person the outcome would be awesome. I laugh. The quote from 6 feet under comes to mind.

      "you think life is a vending machine. you put in virtue and you get out happiness"

      To be honest I am glad the whole thing is over. I am tired.


      Jun 17, 2014 at 6:16pm

      the teacher's do not have my sympathy. they seem to forget, one very important matter. who pays their wages. the taxpayers of B.C. I work average of 50 to 60 hours per week. have not had a pay increase for nearly 5 years now. I have 4 weeks vacation. I did my math. teachers only work on 37 weeks per year. average work day of 6 or 7 hours? give me a break. they should be god damn well glad they have a job.


      Jun 19, 2014 at 11:11am

      Well , as usual not all the facts Laurence. Teachers work the calendar year. Ten month salary. They do not make that choice. Teaching is a choice, yes? Working with our Canadian classes because they desire to teach children. The changes since the 70's is astonishing. Here are a few: I had a Art, PE ,Music , French specialist from grade 1 to 9. Twenty five kids, capped. No learning, behavior, issues in the room .. All removed to another area with resource people. Paper was not cut off in May , or paper towels.
      Watered down Canada students to go off and still compete against the top schools of Asia to come to University here...... Or maybe with now 30 kids in a class with 9 IEP ( minister designated issues due to mental health, chronic , fetal , anger, autism, asperger......)... No full time help.....Educational assistant. Is this fair for your kids? Is this right for that quiet child.... That should be challenged???
      You are right ... Teachers are with kids 7 hrs. Then they work to plan , mark, or help kids...all for the next day...photocopying, cleaning, researching... On into the eve.
      It baffles me.... Jealous over hours? Make a choice for your job then. I do have 8 years of University.
      You do not walk in their shoes..... As I do not of your job.
      Volunteer in a classroom , you will see the changes sir!


      Jun 26, 2014 at 11:04pm

      I'm not sure I understand if Laurence is blaming teachers for his own position or mad because he realizes he should have made the effort to become one. But I do know, with a family history of 4 teachers in my family spanning 5 decades, I wouldn't do all they do for $100K and the hours you proclaim they work... Which is so very wrongly underestimated you are no doubt insulting much of my family that isn't teachers not to mention those who are. Mostly because we LIVE this experience, not just cherry pick points and cry foul because we do not have a teachers salary. You should look over what politicians make. You would really get pissed with your work estimates. They sit less than 40 days in legislature ... But don't count the office hours if you are remaining true to teachers classroom hours.... But do look at the parity wage to other provinces they self imposed and won't honour for teachers. In fact the teachers are offering to accept less than the cost of living ... Ohh and then compare benefits packages to our MLAs to yours... Last but not least, consider how much you lay out of pocket for work materials and supplies, that teachers can't write off... Then look at all the write offs our politicians get. Imagine teachers asking for an allowance for a second house closer to,their schools.... I'm betting you didn't get the math lesson on BCPSEA FULL PAGE ad telling us that two years of 0% with 8% raise over 5 more years + 6.5% benefits increase ... really = under 8 % NOT 14% by just adding 8+14. You can't add 35% for math test and 45 % on English test and tell everyone you got 80 percent on your tests !!! full page ad in two papers... I can't decide if I'd charge them with slander, that is if I was a teacher or false advertising, because I'm not a lawyer.