Where is my seat at the (bargaining) table?

I am cautiously optimistic to hear that the Ontario government met with leaders of the teacher’s unions today. Our teachers are hardworking, dedicated individuals who I have felt supported by and who have encouraged me to be included in the education teams on which I have worked. I want them to reach fair and equitable agreements with the Boards and government.

I am disheartened that the Ontario government has once again overlooked and disrespected other education workers within the province by excluding them from discussions. When a student needs individualized attention because of differences in their learning needs, or requires personal care or can only fully participate with their peers with the support of a teaching assistant, well, we are there. We stand beside the teachers – and sometimes in front because, well, teaching assistants are allowed to be hit by a special needs student – it’s part of our job. We are there, doing our job. When some confidence building activities or social skills need to be taught, we are there. When there are 26 three, four or five-year old students all wanting the same toy, DECEs are there alongside their teaching partner, passing along important lessons that will carry a child throughout their life. We are part of the teaching team.

Yet, the government has decided that the only parts of the teaching team that matter are the teachers. Teachers are incredibly valuable and should be treated more fairly, especially by the media and the government. Teachers though, unlike the government, would tell you that it does take a village to educate a child – it not only takes teachers and teaching assistants/DECEs, it takes custodians and secretaries and various specialists….and principals and vice principals….and parents too.

I am baffled and more than a little offended that the government has once again ignored and pushed aside other groups and made teachers the sole focus. In reality, I think it is not only unfair to those of us in other employee groups but also to the teachers because the target is once again squarely placed on their backs if things do not go well at the bargaining table. The government is (supposed to be) bargaining with ALL employee groups and all employee groups should be given the opportunity to bargain simultaneously and accept the outcomes, both good and bad.

We can take the criticism and we would be happy to do it alongside the teachers with whom we work each day. We are a team. Don’t pick apart the system, effectively pitting one group against another (whether it’s the public against teachers or teacher groups against all other groups) and expect it to work well once you, the government, decides it’s time to end this process.

All employee groups matter.

Most of all, our students matter. We all deserve better.