Yesterday I received a comment on my blog encouraging me to rethink my idea that no one is listening to the voices of the many frustrated and demoralized education workers in Ontario (or anywhere else in this country). The gentlemen said something I believe in strongly – we all need to talk. We all need to tell our stories, we all need to explain to the public and the government both through and without the media. We need people to understand who we are and what we do and how, in fact, we actually are not fighting for selfish and individualistic ideals. We are fighting for the greater good, the good of education.
So, I encourage you to take up a pen, or get your fingers busily typing, or make calls. Talk to people on playgrounds and standing in line at the bank. Open up the dialogue. Defend your work even against arguments you’ve heard a hundred times. Explain the value of what you do.
And maybe, most importantly, talk about your students and how your work matters. My dad used to say to talk about my life’s work as if he were the one doing the talking – by that he meant, brag a little. You will find you are bragging about your student, but you are explaining your valuable part in the story. Our students are our focus and we help them to learn, grow and succeed in whatever way that is uniquely their way.
The state of education in Ontario is at a critical point – or more aptly a precipice: something needs to be done to prevent the tumbling down of the system. The government needs to pull back on the rhetoric and step up to the bargaining table and listen to what the people who spend their days educating and supporting students have to say. We need to support ALL students to be successful. Stop taking back money from a system that needs every penny to ensure that the youth of Ontario are ready for the future of Ontario.
Stop telling people it’s all about our salaries – it is about so much more – it is about our working conditions which are student’s learning conditions.
But, let’s get real: we do need to talk about salaries. As I’ve stated before, I am at the top of my pay grade and I can go no further. The top of the pay grade for teaching assistants and early childhood educators in Peel Region means you take home under $30000 a year. Therefore, I do think it is appropriate for my union to sit at the bargaining table and talk about salaries. Other unions should also be free to discuss salaries as that is part of the bargaining process for all employees, unionized or otherwise. No one in education in Ontario has had a raise this past year, as we are all without contracts (and we could talk about how much the government has saved there…..). Therefore, it should not be made out that it is an unfair aspect to talk about salaries.
Because let’s face it folks, other people who are paid from the government coffers are getting paid enormous sums of money. Education workers in Ontario are not asking for anywhere near CEO salaries; but the constant clawing back of benefits and little to no cost of living raises leave education workers paying more and more out-of-pocket for the right to work.
I encourage any and all education workers to take up your pens, send out emails to newspapers and broadcasters, politicians and friends. Talk about your work. Spread the word – we are here and we need to be heard.