Dear Kathleen Wynne:
It’s been a while since last I wrote to you. I know you probably never see my letters. I get responses, but they are always form letters. Yet, I cannot stop trying. One day I hope you will see the frustration and the disappointment and think deeply about the subject I am trying to share with you. But really, I don’t think you get it. Still.
I spent today with a large group of hardworking (over-worked really) educators. These people work with the most vulnerable students in our schools – the very young and the marginalized. The students who have disabilities, mental health issues, some with life situations that would make you cry, and learning challenges – these important people are our life’s work.
Today, we had professional development training. Some people worked on creating activities for their students, others had training on health and safety, back care and lifting, or Non-violent Crisis Intervention. During my session, we learned a lot. We laughed a lot. We heard about people’s challenges. And to a person, everyone knew that things are getting harder. We are doing more with less. We are being expected to support students while also picking up more duty minutes that take us away from those students. People are being hurt regularly – and by that I mean for some, it is hourly. Not once in a blue moon. Hourly. You think the tension of having the media watch your every move is a hard way to spend your day – try spending it with your shoulders tight and your mind always alert to the next punch or spit or projectile.
It is a hard way to work. People say, you chose this field, suck it up.
Yes we chose this field. We did not chose to do it in the conditions that the education system in Ontario has become in the last few years. Money is coming out of the system at a pace that is not sustainable. Supports for our students and for us as workers on the front lines are disappearing. People are being asked to spread themselves too thin. This is not acceptable. Our students mean more than that. We mean more than that.
We know where we stand in your mind. Our groups were the last ones to be at the bargaining table, waiting for the other employee groups to wade through the maze that is the negotiating framework in Ontario. That speaks volumes. But we are being squeezed from the top and the bottom – you are not reducing what we pay for goods and services, we are not getting any significant increases and you are stripping the supports for our students to the bare bones.
I know, I know. There’s no money in the pot to pay workers more. There is no money to have more psychologists and speech and language specialists. There is no money.
Whose fault is that?
Why is the education system paying for mistakes of the government? Why are education workers paying for the mistakes of the government?
Why are students paying for the mistakes of the government?
Nope. You don’t get it. Still.