It’s February 12th and the education stalemate between teacher unions and the government rages on with little end in sight, as a news release today announced that on February 21st, all four teacher unions will strike together in solidarity.
Labour disputes are common place with any organization that has unionized workers during a renegotiation of a contract – steel workers, automotive workers, miners, government employees, university and college employees and professors, nurses, teachers, police officers, firefighters, etc.
Despite these commonalities, no profession is publicly vilified in labour disputes like teachers.
For example, there was the advertising scandal care of “Vaughan Working Families” (which was uncovered to be a scam organization of conservative party affiliation) that publicly vilified Ontario teachers in three of our province’s largest newspapers: the Toronto Star, Globe and Mail and National Post.
Then, there are the wonderful columns of the Toronto Sun’s Brian Lilley, trashing teachers left and right with half truths and here say. Here’s a title from his latest column:
But what’s more destructive than the public attacks, are those that are personal.
A friend of mine (teacher) recently posted that she was verbally attacked in a grocery store for wearing teaching insignia.
Another local teacher acquaintance noted in a social media post that she and her colleagues were verbally attacked while walking the picket line.
Today, I read on Twitter that a pregnant teacher was denied service at a local restaurant in Etobicoke.
I wish the three aforementioned examples were isolated incidents..but they aren’t. There are stories like this on every teacher picket line, and on many teacher social media accounts.
Although I don’t personally know the pregnant teacher referenced above, I do personally know the first two teachers who experienced verbal attacks – in different areas of the province, one in Southwestern Ontario and the other in Northern Ontario. They’re both exceptional at their jobs, volunteer, coach, and go beyond their job requirements in every way. Both are well respected, veteran members of their schools and communities.
Based on the aforementioned experiences, how eager do you think they’ll be jumping back into their professions? Will it be with two feet, or will they be tainted, jaded and angry? This is the question we should all be asking, wondering….and worrying about as a society.
What will the vilification of great, hardworking teachers do to the profession? Also, how many potential teachers are being turned away from the teaching profession due to the public vilification of teachers on social media, in the news, by the government and public?
Personally, I know that the negative impact and vilification of teachers on social media by members of the public is impactful. To be honest, it doesn’t really make me want to go above and beyond in every aspect of my profession the way I always have.
Moreover, in conversations I have with students and potential teachers, I’m telling them to avoid my profession.
How many other teachers are feeling this way and turning others away from our profession? What will the lasting impact of this be on education in Ontario?
These are big philosophical questions that go far beyond bantering about class sizes and a 1% raise.
Why are teachers in Ontario vilified?
This question both frustrates and puzzles me, since after parents we are the frontline profession responsible for the children of this province. The public trusts us every single day with its future – so how can they suddenly feel such anger and contempt? Where is this coming from?
I’ve thought long and hard about this question, and here’s my list of possible answers:
- To many, teachers are seen as ‘gatekeepers’ of higher education – if a person could not achieve this in life, they blame ‘teachers’.
- People really hate unions – not teachers, and since teachers are unionized they are being lumped into a socio-political divide.
- Really, anyone who had a bad experience in school academically or behaviourally could have a grudge against teachers.
- People are angry that their holidays aren’t chunked like teacher holidays are – yet many jobs have 10 weeks of holidays a year – simply organized differently.
- People are unaware of teachers actual job qualifications (5-6 years of university education), actual median pay ($60,000/year on average – not $100,000) and pension (we pay into it – matching the government).
- People believe that teachers make decisions in education related to policies, curriculum -even snow days. In reality, teachers make absolutely NO decisions in the education system in Ontario.
Where do we go from here, Ontario?
When this labour dispute is resolved (and it will be), don’t expect things to be the same, Ontario.
I fear that the damage done on the picket line, on social media and in the news will have serious impacts on teachers, schools and extracurricular activities for a long time.
I fear we will (and already have) lost great teachers in our system, demoralized others and deterred many from this great profession.
I’m not saying that the public isn’t entitled to its opinion about a labour dispute that impacts them, but the depth of vilification of an entire profession that is on the frontlines of educating said population’s children is completely unwarranted.
Be the voice of reason, Ontario. Stand up for teachers in your families, communities and neighbourhoods.
I’ll end this blog with a bit of optimism. This morning, I was contacted by a songwriter friend of mine who wants to write a song about supporting teachers on the picket line. She has no children in the public school system and no ties to education, yet feels that she needs to lend a voice to teachers in their time of need. We need more people like this if we hope to mend the destruction of the vilification of teachers this strike has caused.
Stay tuned for a link to her song once it’s released on and updated version of this blog.