I am embarrassed as a member of the Vernon community. I am a recently retired teacher, who has not stood up and spoken out about the current oppressive state of educational administrative practices in a few districts in our province. It has been over two whole months that teachers have not had a morning break in our district and very few other districts. Teachers struggle to teach and find a way to give students a mid-morning break without getting the time to regroup themselves. Shame on the Vernon School District.
Once upon a time, this was a lighthouse district that stood up for good educational practices. Once upon a time in an age long lost, principals were lead teachers, they made decisions based on educational merit and not what they were told to do. Many a principal was defended by the B.C. Teachers Federation, as a member, for making these types of decisions. Today, many administrative officers, no longer principal/teachers, are supporting whatever they are told to support, whichever bandwagon or whichever district initiative to make teachers, and coincidentally students, suffer, including such a thing as a lack of a midmorning break.
Our Vernon School District is one of less than five per cent of the districts in the province to cancel recess for both students and teachers.
When I retired, I gave our board chair and our director of instruction big hugs, because even after 22 years in the district, I really believed that our district was and remains one of the best. I have changed my mind. As a retired teacher, I left the first day of school to go on a seven-day kayaking paddle trip. I am embarrassed that I did not do something before leaving. I believed that our district had agreed to cover recess duty. Someone changed their mind I guess. I believe in education. I believe that students need a break and that play that is earned by hard work is important. I also believe that all people, including teachers, deserve a morning break. Teachers have never had this morning break as a given. Two out of five days a week may involve working on your mid-morning break and then “volunteering” during your lunch break to work some more.
After returning with eight broken welds on my roof rack, the owner of the welding shop would not interrupt his guys to fix my rack during their coffee break. As he said, “They work well and when I don’t respect their break they end up with no break and then things really start to fall apart.”
Teachers have ended up with no break this year and worked many years with no morning break for too many years. Each day, teachers on recess supervision work through their supposed “break” and then “volunteer” to work during their lunch break, with meetings or teams.
Not too many years ago, I fought for teacher rights. We had no break, students arrived at 7:30 a.m. and left at 4:45 p.m. with no support for student supervision. That was wrong and the lack of a morning break is wrong. To my last day of teaching, I argued that recess duty was wrong – teachers need a morning break. In the end, everyone needs a break. Most people have a break from the job, co-workers and maybe the boss. Teachers never get a break and need 15 minutes to regroup, despite the boss, and relate with a co-worker to go back and do the job, grabbing the next set of tools for the next hour and a half of instruction. As a mechanic, grabbing tools, materials and checking the manuals is part of the job that just needs to be done and then added to the bill. Teachers don’t get to bill anyone, they just have to do the work.
Teachers don’t have to worry about the next individual case. They walk back into a room with 20 to 30 beautiful young and very energetic minds that need a caring, relaxed, adult to respond to their very immediate needs. They then again plan how to over the course of a year, move students from below level to a hopefully approaching level and then listen to parents and administrators say that if teachers actually cared, it would make a difference. Teachers do care. Parents and administrators need to listen to teachers. Support teachers and stand up and say, “Teachers deserve a morning break.” Let’s bargain with them for a fair deal for teachers and kids. Kids matter, teachers care.
Kirk Mallette, Vernon