Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Thursday March 5, 2020
I’m An Ontario Teacher But I Chose To Go Where Teachers Are Respected
“One of my kids threw a chair today.”
“My kid locked himself in the classroom at lunch and then threatened to run away.”
“A parent told me I should have noticed the signs of her daughter wanting to self-harm.”
It was 2018, and my college classmates and I were swapping horror stories as the final year of our teacher’s program came to a close. Tales like ours were the norm — 70 per cent of educators see or experience similar situations in their classroom — so I would often think of the teachers I’d admired in my youth and wonder, “Were we this difficult for them?”
I always hoped I’d be like those teachers, one day: kind, fun and respected by all. But, I realized that I would not be able to start my mission to be that kind, fun and respected teacher if the drama outside the classroom continued to escalate in Ontario’s education system, year after year.
For all its prestige, I knew I couldn’t root my career in Ontario.
A job there didn’t always seem undesirable. I’d accepted my offer to a concurrent teacher’s college program straight out of high school in 2013, with the intent of graduating and immediately securing a job teaching French in Ontario. It was an easy decision: I loved working with kids, I wanted to use my French at work. I even dreamed that I’d teach at my old elementary school.
Yet, over the course of teacher’s college, I saw the reality facing Ontario teachers.
My mentors were burnt out from dealing with a lack of funding, administrative miscommunication, overly demanding parents, and governments that didn’t value the students’ opinion in their education. They arrived at school in the morning dreading the day ahead, tired from the work they took home the night before.
They often said that their work outside of the classroom detracted from their job inside of it. Even as a student teacher, I felt the same — and I didn’t even have to take the lead in all of it. It affected my mood and the atmosphere in the classroom, and I knew that was no good. I would not be able to teach my students well like this.
Despite the challenges, the public expects teachers to be complacent when the government wants to make cuts that hurt the kids more than they do us.
Teacher contract negotiations always blow up into a province-wide scandal. It happened when teachers went on strike in 2003, and again in 2012 and 2015. Each time, I had to hear my family members and the public voice their discontent.
Naysayers drag the profession through the mud and harp on the pay, benefits, retirement packages and vacation time that teachers earn. What isn’t considered as often is how much of their own money teachers all over Canada spend on their own class supplies and resources, and how many of the activities they do are voluntary.
In the latest strikes, Ontario teachers are once again taking action with students in mind. Since Premier Doug Ford assumed his role in 2018, the changes to the education system have been moving the province backwards: increasing class sizes, reducing funding for school programs and moving away from a much-needed inclusive curriculum. A student-teacher ratio reaching as high as 40:1 and e-learning won’t set students up for success.
I’ve seen this drama play out over and over again in Ontario, and I decided I wasn’t going to be part of it. After graduating in 2018, I moved to China instead. (Continued: Huffington Post)