Thursday, 5 June 2014

A ranty reply to this:

http://www.vancitybuzz.com/2014/06/bctf-and-the-art-of-using-kids-as-leverage/

A nerve is touched because your message is ill-informed and one-sided. It takes 2 and all that, so it seems to me that blame should be leveled evenly, at the very least, but for you it's not, so I'm struggling to see how this opinion piece is helpful at all.

Us teachers might not agree with each other all the time, but for better or worse, the BCTF is its teachers and vice versa. A beef with us is a beef with it; a beef with it is a beef with us. I'm not sure where this need to divide us comes from... A few teachers I know and respect wish things were handled differently, but that's going to happen in any organization trying to represent 40000+ people. Life isn't perfect, but I'm pretty sure (some might argue with me, and fair enough) that without the BCTF all BC teachers would be making significantly less.

The kids as pawns thing is SO BORING. There is no way around children being involved in this because children are simply inherently involved. We love kids and love teaching. We don't want to strike; we don't want to remove any services; we don't want to affect kids in any negative way at all, which is why we need MORE good-faith bargaining from our employer rather than years and years of less. They know if they come to the table with sub-par offers and contract stripping there is little choice for us other than using the only leverage we have; don't make us use it every single contract. Come to the table with even median offers compared to other provinces; come to the table with apologies for illegally removing things from our agreed upon contracts, and ways they can be returned without breaking the bank in the first year. We are supported by the province, so support us and negotiate. We start high (which is entirely normal & logical, by the way), they start low (also normal & logical), and then we work from there. But currently they've created this ceiling beyond which their negotiators cannot go. They call us greedy in the press, which the press eats up of course, but really I'm pretty sure we could all find some actually greedy people to get angry at, no?

Rhetoric is also a pretty boring word that gets thrown around a lot. I'm pretty sure he's saying similar stuff because there aren't too many other ways to say negotiations aren't going well and we aren't being funded adequately. Spend the right amounts of money (negotiable) in the right ways (also negotiable) and things will get a lot better.

There have been a few posts in various spots on the internet lately about hours worked. The 188 days thing is a strange bit of relative. Many occupations have longer hours and days, and take things home etc., but most of those occupations are better paid than teaching. Teachers work hard. A few people have recently made the mistake of saying that teachers work harder than anyone else. This isn't true, but I think that's just a reaction to being super tired of hearing about how easy our jobs are, summers off, 9-3, blah blah. I won't go into details here, but suffice it to say that if teachers had to work 49 or 50 weeks per year, we'd have to be paid a million bucks and 90% of us would burn out after about 2 years. And anyway, more occupations should have more holidays. I'd love to see 4-day weeks become a real thing for everyone eventually, but that's just me maybe, and I digress...

The teaching surplus is in part because the universities keep churning out new teachers, and in part because of policy decisions that have dropped the number of jobs, but simple supply and demand (I've repeated this often and plan on writing about it more) simply doesn't apply here. Our employer is negotiating with 41000 people who need a new contract, not with 5000 (or whatever) out of work teachers. There are a few jobs with actual scarcity when simple S&D works. Contracted labour positions in remote, northern climates? Sure, pay more to attract people. Genius, disease-curing doctors? Sure, pay tons for the greater good. But important professionals who need to survive in an inflating economy need regular increases to be maintained. The list of jobs that would NEVER receive an increase because of oversupply is a long one. Journalist being near the top, but we don't apply simple supply and demand only to them either because it just isn't that simple. Jobs have value and people good at their jobs need to be maintained to keep that value.

Civil service type jobs (teachers, doctors, nurses, social workers, bus drivers) need to be supported by society and shouldn't have to feel guilty about negotiating fair compensation. When most people walk into their boss's office they don't have to contend with media, parents, students, and my favourite, random angry yelly internet types, but we always do. Are people particularly angry about what landscapers make? How about chefs? How about snooker players? How about firefighters? How about researchers? How about dentists? How about dieticians? I could go on and on and on and list all the jobs that don't make people spitting angry when they get wage increases. I'd bet pretty good money on people not even really knowing or caring how much any of those other jobs make. Why is that? What is it about teaching (and stand-up comedy, but that's another story) that makes so many people think they could easily do it, or that it's easy? What is it about teaching that makes people so grumpy about how much we make? I don't care what you make (unless you make minimum wage, then I definitely think you should make more!), and I wouldn't dream of writing to (or in!) a newspaper about it...

Comparing us to nurses is just about as arbitrary as comparing us to Manitoba, so once again I'm confused by your choices. How does the BC nursing salary compare to nursing salaries in other provinces? Maybe that would be a little fairer comparison. I think I recall them being paid best or second best in the country...

Your StatsCan argument is poor. Obviously admin wages should not be included when calculating teachers' averages. This is logical. The StatsCan numbers for student funding are accurate. They made an odd error in one case, and didn't make an odd error in the latter case. I'm not sure why this is some kind of hilarious irony...

Your entire class size section is a waste of space. Class size only happens to be the largest part of our working conditions. Many studies show that smaller classes are better; it's not simply a sales pitch for privates. Smaller classes are more comfortable for everyone. That's really all there is to it. Beyond the academic improvements, it has to be ok for a union to negotiate working conditions. Three fewer kids in a class won't make your kid a genius, but it will give him or her more one-on-one time and more supports in general. Things are quieter and calmer, behaviour is easier to manage, more elaborate project and group-work is possible, discussions are better developed, and most importantly, those kids who fall through the cracks and hide in the back won't be able to fall or hide as easily. When I teach a class of 30 kids, it's nearly impossible to make sure every kid is doing his or her best. Give me 24 and things are just better in every single way. This is a good place to apply simple supply and demand!

The lockout is absurd. Nothing else to say about that one... And you covered composition pretty well.

The school boards are stretched thin and obviously they don't all have the same problems, but the one they ALL have is funding. Even if teachers never see another cent, funding is not enough. This isn't rhetoric and no one is playing chess with your kids. We are backed into a corner and will probably be removing services, and if we are really so important, maybe people will notice and be angry about that and ask the government to creep the percentage of its budget on education back up just a little.

It was 20% in 2001 and now sits around 12%. That's my big question. Where is the justification for that? We may have lost a few students, but nowhere near 40%.

Oh, my other big question is, why are tax dollars being used for private schools? I have some very good friends whom I respect massively who teach in private schools, so I don't love this part of the conversation, but private schools are private businesses that should not get a dime of public money. The end.

Just realized I plagiarized myself from down there... oops...