«The Privilege of Teaching I would like to begin by firstly clarifying that it is my most esteemed and heartfelt privilege to be a teacher. It is an ...»
The Privilege of Teaching
I would like to begin by firstly clarifying that it is my most esteemed and heartfelt privilege to be
a teacher. It is an honour to be entrusted with this distinct task of being part of educating the future
generations of Canadian children to help them reach their full potential and open up new avenues and
universes for them to explore. As a parent I know full well that I entrust my most precious treasure to
others for the majority of their waking day and gladly and solemnly take on this august privilege in each of my teaching days. This is a tall order, and one I must face each day with renewed vigor and purpose.
We must move beyond this petty petulant childlike bickering and stem the tide of ignorance and hostility. The current education system in British Columbia is on life support, and I fear that it will not survive this current conflict.
We honour those that serve; it is one of the most solemn duties as Canadians. We honour the soldiers who sacrifice wellbeing and blood for our freedom, the lawyers who work tirelessly above and beyond the call of duty as stewards of justice, and the nurses and doctors who strive against the endless onslaught of disease and injury to aid in our recovery. We honor the officers of peace that stand in path of danger to ensure our safety, who root out injustice and perversion. We pay tribute to the men and women who build our homes, pave our roads, fix our leaky faucets and keep our assets safe and growing. As Canadians we respect the working people, the collective that keeps the economic engine of our great nation moving swiftly and surely on the path to a better tomorrow.
The one thing in common that these heroes of industry and progress have is that at one time they to sat at a desk and learned. They explored new worlds, they progress together through the path that is education, and they came out from this auspicious journey, better people.
Education is not simply a fiscal or quantifiable commodity; it is a moral endeavor that we as a nation have chosen to support. We know that an educated populace is a better people. That those that can read, write and do basic arithmetic functions, are a happier, healthier and more productive cooperative. We know, that values we share as a nation, do not permeate on fallow ground, they need good soil, a literate and educated populace, to grow and flourish. The great movements of the ages, stem from a people that can think. They explode from ideas shared through print and voice, to propel us toward a better tomorrow and a future that holds more promise than the past that preceded it.
Humanity has accomplished astounding feats. We have circumnavigated the globe, we have split the atom, cured polio and we have landed men on the moon and touched down on Mars.
Education played a vital role in these human endeavors. The more we put into the education system, the brighterour future.
As an educator, I understand that resources are finite, and the very notion of paying teachers more, while the economic system collapses around us and each dollar we earn is stretched further and further on a daily basis, is a difficult concept to understand. Concerning this, I heartily welcome debate and inquiry. If I may be so bold, I will offer my humble opinion on the matter.
I am 31 years old; I have 3 children under the age of 10 and an amazing wife. I earn, after taxes and deductions $2, 896.48 per month. If you have lived in Metro-Vancouver for any length of time, you will know that this is not enough money to support a family of five. I have pretty good benefits, and good pension. I pay for my benefits, and have from the first day of teaching, until the day I retire (34 years after my first day) contributed 10.86% of my gross annual salary toward my pension. I am fortunate in the fact that I have these benefits and pension, and do not begrudge any resentment some might have that I receive these perks from my job, but they do come at a cost. If every labour force in the province, combined 10.86% of their gross income as a group and invested it collectively in RRSP’s, it would create and excellent and almost inexhaustible retirement fund. Even individually, if one were to allocate a set 11% of their income to retirement savings, they would save large amounts of money over a 32 year period and pay significantly less taxes.
I come from humble origins in East Vancouver; I was the first member of my family, stretching back several generations to complete post-secondary school. I spent 5 years doing so and earned two bachelor degrees from SFU. This came at a cost. It was a choice freely made, and with the understanding that I would spend a large portion of my income over the next 15 years of my life repaying this debt. My current student debt is $68, 498.84, a sum at which my benevolent government charges me Prime + 2.5%. I did not get into teaching for the money; no sane person ever has, nor ever will. I entered this profession, and profession is exactly what it is, to play my small part, albeit an important one, in bringing forth a new generation full of passion and knowledge of the world within which they will live, work and contribute.
I do not work from 8:30 – 3:00, if I did, I estimate that I would cover less than 50% of the government mandated curriculum, and would do so in a very boring and mundane fashion. The exploration and acquisition of knowledge should be adventurous, engaging and passionate. Students should leave each class with a renewed fervor and desire to expand their understanding. I teach some incredibly exciting subjects, and I hope my students thrive off of my passion and carry on the torch into their own lives. If each one of you reading this, would simply take a minute to hearken back to your days at school, I am certain that you will remember a teacher that had a profound influence on your life, even if you hated school, in your 13 years there must be at least one. When you paint teachers with a brush, whether negatively or positively, do them the honour of picturing them as you rail against the injustice you feel exists with teachers hoping for a better wage. If you have the guts, contact them, that person that made your life just a little better, and tell them that they, despite who they are and what they have done, do not deserve your respect.
In regards to my wage, I understand that it is better than some, and not as good as others.
There are professions to whom we do not begrudge a high wage: Doctors, lawyers, CEO’s, financial advisors and investors and many more. My question then pivots on this point: why are educators not worth the wages they are allocated, and why do you collectively feel that teachers do not deserve better? What has turned you so bitter that a group of people who strive endlessly to enhance our society, educate the coming group of workers, doctors, police officers, roofers, mechanics, inventors and entrepreneurs are viewed as unworthy of respect and a respectable wage? Simply put, why do you hate us? Where does this loathing originate? For what crime are we guilty?
Remember your kindergarten teacher that helped you learn how to tie your shoes? Do you remember your grade 2 teacher that shared her lunch when you forgot yours, or there wasn’t enough food in the cupboard? Do you remember the teacher that wrote you a letter of reference and helped polish your resume that got you your first job? Do you remember any of the teachers that inspired you, or ignited a passion for learning?
How did they somehow become the enemy in the fight for betterment?
Education is freely given to all strata of our society. It is the great equalizer. Whether poor or rich, religious or not, tall short, heavy, thin, pretty or homely, education is the foundation upon which we stand in equal measure. In BC we have an exceptional system and it is propelled ever onward by people who no matter how hard they work, or how many extra activities they do, are destined to maintain the same level of compensation. Merit pay to “good” teachers does not work. It is no secret that the largest purveyor of this style of teacher motivation is currently experiencing a collapse of their education system and is in deep fiscal and social crisis. The nations that produce the best students and top quality education are ones, primarily in Scandinavia, that compensate teachers for their role in society proportionally to the respect that they are accorded and that is very high indeed. They are viewed as autonomous professionals worthy of homage, who are granted a significant role in society and compensated with a very good wage. Why not us? Why can we not agree that teachers are vital to progress and the continuation and development of a magnificent society?
It is no secret that the rising powers in the world do not share our values. They are totalitarian, they allow horrendous abuses of their citizens to occur regularly with never a hand raised in defense of the defenseless, rather they send tanks to do their talking. These are our competitors, and we prostituted our excellent system to their students, who we accept in droves. I have never heard of parents in Canada sending their 12 year old across the ocean to stay with strangers and study in a foreign land because their system is superior, have you? As their influence grows, the vital importance of our education becomes ever increasingly imperative.
I would gladly accept the net zero mandate on my wage if the government would take a stronger stance and fund our system as it requires and deserves. We are entering a period of change unprecedented since the invention of fire. Our world is evolving at such a rapid pace that we need to equip the future with the skills and abilities that they will most assuredly need to take on the coming world with heads held high. If we are retain our place in the world, a seat at the global table, then we need a populace that it ready, willing and able to take up the torch of our forbearers and carry it onward and upward. We cannot do that if we are not given the resources. We cannot face the 21st century with a 19th century education model and 20th century technology. We cannot train and equip the coming generation as they so desperately need if we as teachers are relegated to child minders and punching bags for the ills of society. The challenges we face in the modern age, the competition for the hearts and minds of your children are unparalleled since public education originated during the industrial age. We live in a society where celebrities command greater respect and hold more sway than politicians, inventors and giants of industry and civil rights. An age where “I have a dream” is a punch line and the concept of liberty is cliché.
My colleagues and I are not motivated by money; it is not the sum of our existence. We are motivated by a deep and fervent hope that the students that leave our charge, will take up the call and strive ever forward toward a future that is brighter than the past. The people who will one day pay taxes for our health care, who will build the car that we drive, invent the cure for cancer, stem the tide of AIDS and HIV, are in our care this very moment. Do we not want them to be better than we are? Do we not hope our children will progress further than we did? As a father of three I cannot wait until the day that my children are more successful than I am, the day when they know more, understand more deeply the finer details of life and master the skills that will make them contributors to the collective that is the true north strong and free.
A free and democratic society requires responsibility, it necessitates knowledge and understanding of our governmental structures, laws and lawmaking and a firm grasp of the trails and tribulations of those that built the world that we enjoy today. From the French peasant who screamed liberty as the troops of Paris murdered him, clutching his tricolor, or the troops that stormed Juno beach in defiance of tyranny and oppression. They need this knowledge, and it is my responsibility to ensure that they leave my care with it in tow.
Ensuring that my students leave school with basic skills and knowledge of our country and its structures and history is a duty I do not take lightly. I have to compete with PS3’s, Facebook, Twitter, drugs, sex, hip hop and relationship issues. My students hail from the most affluent areas of town, to the least, they are as diverse in belief and origin as you will find anywhere in our nation. I do not choose what I teach them, only how they learn it.
In response to many of the skeptics and naysayers of the profession I would respond that yes, you may have some legitimate points regarding some of your positions. I would encourage further dialogue between those that teach and those that do not. A point to remember as you prepare your rebuttals: teachers often wear many hats, and have done so for years. Often we work additional jobs to supplement our income in the summer and throughout the year, as well as the 5 plus years we were in university. I myself have worked in many areas and fields of labour. I have been a tile layer, a roofer, a stone mason, a gas station attendant, a framer and several other jobs that were required of me to make the ends meet. Can you say the same? Can you say that you have been a teacher? I have walked a mile in your shoes, and it is a tough journey. Construction in particular in all of its forms is a tough gig!
It is grueling work, often at significant danger to personal safety and more often than not, with inadequate compensation for the work done. My reply is kudos to you. I applaud the efforts you take and the contributions you make to our society. But can you say that you have spent countless hours preparing engaging lessons to help students learn vital concepts. Can you truly say that you have given the wonderful gift of the ability to read to students year after year? If you cannot, then maybe you should re-think your stalwart opposition to my profession and find your grade one teacher and thank them that you have been able to read this. This is not because they simply did their job, but rather because they did their job well.
I would encourage open and honest dialogue between those that support education and greater funding and influence for our public system and those that would decry this hallowed institution as a form of childcare. In my experience there are several primary opposition to teachers and I understand both the conceptions and the misconception of them and would encourage further dialogue regarding these oppositions.