June 7, 2018 is the date for Ontario’s provincial election.
It is time for front line education workers to be heard. We have a lot to contribute to the conversation and we should be recognized for our contributions to the education of the most vulnerable individuals in the education system:
- Students with mental health issues/concerns/diagnosis
- First time students (kindergarten, new to the Boards)
- Students with physical/cognitive disabilities, identified and non-identified
- Students whose life circumstances place them in a precarious status for learning
- Students who lash out and harm/injure/permanently disable their educators
That last point is critical – violence in schools has been bubbling to the top of media feeds since last fall. There’s been a lot of finger pointing – bad parenting, bad children, bad educational assistants/teachers, bad programs (specifically integrated classrooms).
I disagree with those in the media and public playing the blame game.
Parents, especially those of children with individualized learning or life skill needs, are by and large doing the best they can.
Students who act out in a violent manner are frequently doing so in response to being in an environment that does not meet their needs.
EAs and teachers are swamped with requirements of the curriculum and the immediacy of the needs of their students. They work incredibly hard within a system that is not conducive to special education success.
Integrated classrooms are in the sights of people looking to deflect blame but the undercurrent is that the educators and special needs students within the programs are the real cause.
The deflection of focus onto these various actors in the education sector takes away from an important issue for this election – inadequate funding for programs and supports that are supposed to meet the education and social development needs of students with individualized learning requirements.
The Ontario government has imposed negotiating frameworks which have made the public believe educators only care about their salaries.
Money is how society values people. So, yes, educators want to be adequately compensated for their work. We will never stop fighting for that.
This election though is not a negotiation. The focus will be about speaking up for students and their learning conditions – which happen to be educators’ working conditions.
Students deserve the supports they need to be successful meeting their unique goals:
- enough front line staff to support their learning
- staff with enough time to observe each student with individual needs in a variety of environments
- physical resources and staff with enough time to take those observations forward to create programs that work for each student and each environment they move through in the day.
Right now, educators are spread so thin – educational assistants with 3, 4, or 5 students who are in multiple classes – meaning they cannot consistently provide the breadth and depth of support students need.
There are many teachers with multiple special education students without any other resource people within their classroom to support and enrich the environment.
Schools have limited access to social workers, speech and language or other specialists.
It is time to get LOUD, to demand that any politician looking to be elected talk to people on the front lines. It is time to demand that those politicians take up the cause of students who are paying too steep a price for insufficient resources in education.
It is time to get LOUD about the consequences for educators – the violence and the injuries – which are a symptom of the current model for special education systems and the lack of adequate funding.
My vote will only be given to someone who takes the time to learn about the realities of life in special education from the people doing the work every day.