Silent no longer

Retired teacher, originally intent on remaining quiet, speaks up over 'Teacher Dispute'

As a retired teacher I have been sitting back watching the current impasse, not with detachment, but with an intent to remain quiet. However as time passes my resistance has crumbled and after a recent letter (“Teacher Dispute”) I am responding.

There are several large issues that always come up, and the one that is manipulated publicly, especially by the government and its cronies, is the issue of money.

All politicians and corporate executives operate on a double standard. They will argue that ‘you need to pay the best in order to have the best workers’, while at the same time the average wage earner is denied ‘the best’ pay (wages in general have been flat over the past three decades, while corporate/political salaries have risen almost exponentially).

As for teachers, while platitudes are bandied about concerning their value to society (“we appreciate their work”), they are certainly not offered the best in comparison to politicians and corporate executives whose contributions to society’s health are arguable at best.

Which leads to another fallacy used in many arguments. Teachers are not wage earners, but are salaried employees, yet most people antagonistic to teachers argue on a wage-scale basis. Certainly if averaged over a 25 contact hour work week, the pro-rated hourly wage seems pretty good (although much less than many wage labour positions in the tar sands).

As a salaried employee teachers work more than double their contract hours if all aspects of their professional employment are considered: time for report cards, marking, staff and committee meetings, coaching (sports or music or technology) and refereeing, summer upgrade courses, family meetings, social work meetings and on.

It leads to the old cliche that teachers would be better off paid as baby-sitters, as then all the professional level activities could be dropped and the hourly rate would increase significantly. But that too is a specious argument as teachers are much more than baby-sitters, and are responsible for many more children than an accredited pre-school or babysitting business is allowed – “we appreciate your work,” we just don’t want to pay you for your “best.”.

There is, from my retired perspective, much jealousy towards teachers and their profession. Many complaints are aired about the good life that teachers have. The counter argument is simple – if you think it is easy, a piece of cake, then become a teacher yourself.

All it takes is a four-year university degree in some subject ranging from music through to physics, a year of teacher practicums, and then voila, you are now a certified teacher (although that is a different process in itself).

Generally I enjoyed my teaching career and the rewards and opportunities it offered on a personal educational level with the students.

One of its worst aspects was/is the publicly flouted double standard of paying teachers with pleasant platitudes and homilies (“we appreciate their work”), but not wanting to pay them a salary that derives from their high level of service in and beyond the classroom, and their years of (and ongoing) personal education.


Jim Miles, Vernon



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