You know summer is here by a few annual traditions: heat, Canada Day celebrations, RVs on the highways. Another tradition often marks the beginning of summer, but that tradition didn’t happen this year. Instead of helping their students pack up desks and lockers, tidying up classrooms and enjoying last day of school celebrations on June 26, our teachers were on the picket lines.
With some summer strawberries in hand, I stopped by a few of the lines in our region on June 26 to see how our teachers were doing. Not surprisingly, they were feeling down. They would rather be in the classrooms than on the lines.
Each teacher told me that they missed having this last day to see their students off to the next stage of their lives. At one school, a kindergarten teacher said she pulled together a graduation ceremony before the full-scale strike and lockout so that her young students could celebrate as previous years’ classes have done. Remembering my own kindergarten graduation, I knew that her students would be grateful well into their adulthoods.
Along with missing their students, they were feeling sad for education. For 12 years, they have been doing the best they could with limited resources. Since their contracts for class size and composition were first illegally stripped by the Liberals when Christy Clark was education minister, teachers have not been able to teach to the best of their abilities and our kids have paid the price.
I can only imagine what it is like for our teachers to know they are overstretched, to know more could be done for a student in need, but not have the time and resources to do it. They know our community’s children and see everyday how we could be better meeting their needs. They know that they negotiated for those needed classroom resources more than 12 years ago and the reason we don’t have them now is because the Liberal government illegally and unconstitutionally took them away. It is enraging and clearly shows that Premier Clark’s slogans like “families first” are empty at best.
And last month, the government was playing games at the bargaining table when it came to class size and composition. Like you, I can empathize with our teachers. We value education and we value educators, so why doesn’t our government? With all its focus on resource development, it is as though the Liberal premier, ministers and backbenchers forgot that children remain the most important investment. They can bend over backwards with tax breaks for multinational corporations but can’t negotiate a fair deal with teachers? That’s not right. Someone has to stand up for education.
Someone is standing up for education. Each teacher on the line is standing up for education. They are educators; they know the system day in and day out, and they know improvements are overdue. But it isn’t easy to take those stands.
If you believe that our children should have the best education, keep supporting our teachers. The future of our province deserves no less.
Michelle Mungall is the member of the legislative assembly for the Nelson-Creston provincial riding, and is the Opposition critic for social development.