As a recently retired teacher who also put 30 years into coaching school teams, I have been saddened but not surprised with some reactions to the decision by Vernon teachers and their colleagues in other districts to withdraw extracurricular activities to protest the imposition of yet another contract by the provincial government.
As correctly stated recently by Bruce Cummings, Vernon Teachers’ Association president, this government has, through its current legislation and similar moves during the past 10 years, financially strangled school districts and removed any ability for teachers to negotiate improvements to their salaries or working conditions.
The only remaining way to protest this dictatorial approach is to remove the many voluntary activities that teachers do in all of our schools.
If I have learned anything from this dispute and others over the years, it is that any job action by educators will generate a flurry of motherhood statements about the uniquely important position that we hold in society.
Education Minister George Abbott and MLA Eric Foster have already alluded to the crucial role that educators play.
Richard Rolke, in a recent column, has weighed in with his observation that the withdrawal of extracurricular activities may remove for many students the most meaningful part of their school experience, and seriously compromise the “role model” status of our teachers.
Having been one of those time-givers and, dare I say, role models, for all those years, I can agree with much of what Mr. Rolke says in his column.
What is missing, both from this column and from the meaningless platitudes of this government, is any willingness to recognize our educators and extracurricular volunteers with anything but more motherhood statements about what a wonderful job they do.
If this really is such an important job, then pay teachers a competitive salary and provide acceptable working conditions.
If extracurricular activities really are so crucial to our schools, at least consider in future negotiations the possibility of paying our teachers for the enormous amounts of time that they currently give for free, sometimes at great expense to their personal lives.
Most important, when a voluntary activity is withdrawn, don’t complain about it too stridently; you were fortunate to have it in the first place.
For those who share Mr. Rolke’s concern with our teachers’ withdrawal of extracurricular activities, I would suggest that any complaints be laid where they belong, at the feet of Minister Abbott, Premier Clark, and all government members responsible for our underfunded public education system.
I would also remind everyone that the recent actions of B.C. teachers are the culmination of a lengthy negotiation process rendered impossible by the dictates of this government.