Creston teacher hasn’t reduced work hours — but pay has been cut

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To the Editor:

(Open letter to B.C. Minster of Education Peter Fassbender)

I am motivated to speak out after hearing School District No. 8 (Kootenay Lake) psychologist Todd Kettner’s response to the Ministry of Education’s deductions from the pay of British Columbia Teachers’ Federation members during the current lockout. He spoke eloquently about the time he actually puts in on the job. In case you think that the situation regarding a classroom teacher’s hours of work is different, I’d like to bring my perspective to the statement, “We are reducing the hours of work” of BCTF members (Michael Marchbank, B.C. Public School Employers’ Association).

We all, always, work overtime. I start planning lessons, researching, thinking about how to manage the diverse needs of my students at about 7 every morning. It’s often a topic of discussion with my husband over breakfast.

I teach four 80-minute classes per day and often run to confer with a colleague, do copying or find resources in the five-minute break between those classes. After going home, I sit down again at the computer. I spend a few more hours working — marking, seeking new resources, activities, methods, textbooks. The Ministry of Education hasn’t updated the curriculum in my teaching area since 2001. Since the world has changed since 2001, it’s up to me to take up the slack and make things meaningful and current for my students.

Maybe I could choose a new textbook to keep up with the times? Oh, I forgot: minimal budget for resources. So I spend some more of my evening hours, searching for used textbooks in acceptable condition on eBay, trying to stretch the budget a little further. Recently, a new student joined one of my classes and the only book I had to give her was the one with the missing pages. It’s lucky for her that we’ve already passed that chapter.

Since my time-on-task everyday is about 7 a.m. to 7 or 8 p.m., it’s pretty hard to relax and sleep well at night. I, like many of my colleagues, am an insomniac. I am often kept awake by the demanding job I do and I frequently seek solutions for students and classes with complex needs from 2-4 a.m., sometimes from 3-5 a.m. Yet, all of us show up at school in the morning and put a smile on for the day. For our students.

It takes until about mid-July to get over the insomnia and sleep through the night. The insomnia begins again in late August, as I anticipate the situation to come in September. Yes, I have 10-and-a-half month insomnia. It’s on an annual schedule.

Since I can’t “turn it off” when I’m getting my usual salary, I have difficulty turning off when they reduce my pay as well. Let’s examine what I have not done, that led to this deduction in pay. In my own case, I have not read memos from the principal and I have not attended two meetings. That’s all. I’m still on the job, in my classroom all day and all night at home.

I am still making plans for finishing this year’s classes on a positive note and still making plans for next year’s classes, planning for another year of doing more with less. My hours of work haven’t been reduced at all. But my pay has.

Karen Christiansen