Teachers job action

Retired teacher apologizes for errors in original letter but maintains that teachers deserve a morning break

It’s about the break not the job action.

I would like to apologize to Mr. Turanski and your readers for the inaccuracies in my letter to the editor. I inadvertently sent in an initial draft of my letter instead of the edited and revised addition.

However, the issue remains the same “Teachers deserve a break too” (Thanks to the editor for the title). Teachers deserve a break in the morning – period. This does not mean that they should have a break that involves continued supervision of students – that is part of the job. District personnel need a break too – I agree.

The main issue once again is that a recess with teacher supervision is not a break for the teachers supervising. In the not too distant past (I taught for 32 years) one teacher generally provided before school, recess, lunch and after school supervision in a very relaxed manner, moving in and out of the building. As time has passed the expectations during supervision have become quite explicit. One needs to wear the crossing guard vest and follow the lazy eight pattern in their section of the schoolyard.

The expectation is that supervision and legal responsibility ensue as the beginning recess bell rings until the end of recess bell. Teachers not on the grounds during supervision are questioned. The moments used to get a coffee or use the facilities are often questioned. The expectation that these needs be met before the bell rings are of course in contradiction to the expectation that teachers be in class during instruction. Yes, things have changed. Proper supervision is needed. Student needs have increased and the nature of the student population have changed. Supervision involves using energy that is  needed for instruction. Supervision is not a break.

Now, the issue of cancelling recess.  Is this really a safety issue? Initially there were 6/59 districts cancelling recess, even 10/59 districts means that 83% of the provincial districts have not cancelled recess. Are all of these students being put at risk?

CUPE members are already on the grounds providing supervision for individual students during recess. They have always provided additional support whenever needed and have always intervened when student safety was threatened.

I have no doubts that all parties involved put students first and would rush out to help if needed. Two administrators should be able to cover this short break during this disagreement. Hopefully, a better solution to teacher supervision at recess is found.

It is interesting that Vancouver and Surrey Districts have had non-teaching staff supervising during recess all along, even prior to the BCTF job action. Since two of the largest districts have already resolved this problem why don’t teachers across the province have this reasonable working condition enshrined in the provincially imposed contract. At the very least other school districts (such as Cranbrook and Saanich) are planning to reinstate recess, recognizing the problems of continued loss of recess.

The option of cancelling recess has a very negative impact on teachers. Some might even suggest that they deserve it. Is it really worth the cost in terms of student learning and in terms of the negative impacts on student behaviour in the classroom? Does making a difficult job more difficult really make sense? Is it worth taking a chance on reducing learning?

Educationally, no one can claim this enhances learning. Three months, so far, of increasing stress will take its toll. Is the long-term effect worth it?

Kirk Mallette