Simpleton, British Columbia lyrics and chords.
We aren’t on strike because we’re losing or we’ve lost. We’re on strike because we still might win.
Simpleton, British Columbia lyrics and chords.
We aren’t on strike because we’re losing or we’ve lost. We’re on strike because we still might win.
Every myth ever conjured about teachers by child or adult is suddenly used to twist together a bizarre caricature. The image of teacher is transformed into that of an immoral, greedy, freakish demon which needs to be put in its place for the good of the children. To that end, the Government is inevitably called upon to exorcise the beast and the demon teacher is legislated back to work.
I have managed to survive two rounds of demonization and legislated exorcism in my career and I figure I am destined to survive another but In the meantime, lets take a look at some of the myths society uses to shape their concept of ‘teacher’ in both good times and bad.
Myth #1: Teachers never leave the school.
I think everyone at some point in their young grade school lives, figured their teachers never left the school. I still remember standing dumbfounded when I saw my grade 1 teacher out and about in the community one Saturday. I still remember asking “Mom! Why is Mrs. MacDonald out of the school?
Myth #2: Those who can’t do, teach
I would say this is the most famous and perhaps most resilient myth out there about teachers but ultimately it is a falsehood.
In my 18 years a teacher I have worked with a former olympic athlete, a CFL lineman, a world-class marathoner, lawyers, a fire fighter, a former military officer, a professional dancer, a touring musician, authors and a myriad of other talented and wonderful people who have come to teaching for any number of reasons.
What is perhaps more inspirational are those who went straight into teaching because THAT is what they wanted to do more than anything else in this world. It is these teachers that are the foundation of our school system and to speak ill of them is tantamount to speaking ill of Gandhi, God or Gershwin.
Myth #3: Teachers are not as well-educated as people in other professions.
Let me just start with this. What a load of stinky horse manure.
90% of the teachers I work with have Masters degrees. Of that 90% most have 3 degrees. A number of teachers I have worked with over the years have had PhD’s and one of my colleagues is finishing up a PhD from Oxford. So if you think this myth to be true… You might want to reassess your definition of education.
Myth #4: Teachers don’t have children of their own.
Even as a Sr. High School teacher I get looks of amazement or an audible “Ew gross!”, when students learn I have children of my own. It is as if there is this belief that teachers take and oath of celibacy or are surgically sterilized as part of some ritualistic initiation into the teaching profession.
Honest, many of us have children and we know what it is like on both sides of the playground fence.
See #Thisismystrikepay for further evidence that we procreate.
Myth #5: Teachers don’t care about kids!
Lets just stop and think about that for a second… Yah you are right. That one is just an outright stupid myth.
Myth #6: Teachers don’t understand how difficult job action is on families
Refer to myth #4
Myth #7: A good teacher can be effective regardless of circumstance.
This myth is a favourite amongst those who are looking to ‘reform’ the education and justify cutting teacher wages, taking away teacher benefits or changing conditions of employment. They say things like “If we had better teachers, our school system wouldn’t be in decline” or “The reason Finland has such a GREAT education system is that they have better teachers”
On the surface it is easy to get on board with this myth and say “YAH! If only we had better teachers!” and as flattering as it is to have people thinking that teachers are capable of overcoming massive class sizes, lack of resources, poverty, drug and alcohol abuse, mental health issues, family discord, eating disorders, physical abuse, hunger, medical conditions, bad parenting, learning disabilities… All without any help. It isn’t going to happen.
As fantastic of a teacher as I think I am, there are just some kids I cannot help within the confines of a classroom without the proper supports in place outside of the classroom.
Myth #8: Teachers are not as good as they use to be.
Let’s be honest. Teaching back in the day was a piece of cake. There was nowhere near the complexities in the classrooms of the past that we see in our classrooms today.
If you grew up in Canada and are over 40, your school experience was more than likely very WASP’Y. There was no diversity of any kind when I was a kid. There was no such thing as ESL and if there was, it wasn’t in my school. Learning disabled kids went to a “special school” or they dropped out. Bad kids were eventually kicked out. The curriculum was simple and straight forward. There was no special adaptations or deadline extensions. All anyone needed to do in order to pass was to be present, polite and have a pulse. Life and teaching was simple back in the day, today not so much.
Myth #9: Teachers don’t care about taxpayers!
Lets see… Last I recall, I get a whack of money taken off my pay cheque just like everyone else in this world and it is called income tax. I guess that makes me a tax payer just like everyone else.
Of course we care about the tax payer because you and I are getting hammered to death with rising fees and rates to compensate for the corporate tax cuts the Government handed out when they came to power. This whole mess we have before us today is because of taxes and the lack or misappropriation of said taxes.
Myth #10: Teachers get paid through the summer.
One of the very first conversations I ever had about the teaching profession after I graduated was based on this myth. No I do not get paid during summer. I get paid over 10 months, September through June. Some teachers choose to have their pay distributed over a 12 month period so they have some income over summer but we get paid for a 10 month period.
Myth #11: Teachers can collect unemployment benefits over the summer.
There was a time way back before I was a teacher that this nice little perk was true (in some jurisdictions). Today however, if you have a job to return to in September (Continuing Contract), you cannot collect UI.
If you have a Temporary Contact and do not have a job to return to in September you can collect Unemployment benefits and the tax payer is funding your summer. The irony here is that the Province would like to be able to run the education system as if all teachers were temporary teachers. This would end up costing Tax Payers far more than what the current system does because the Province would be on the hook for paying 40,000 teachers during the school year and paying unemployment benefits for 40,000 teachers over the summer months as well.
Myth #12: Teachers qualify for a full pension after five years.
This fallacy comes from the way a teacher’s pension is calculated. Even my family seems to think this is a truth. “Boy must be nice to qualify for a full pension already!” Is the usual summer time backyard barbecue refrain.
Teachers qualify for a full pension after reaching a factor of 90. (Years of Teaching + Age = 90). This qualifies you for a full pension and your income is based on the income of your best five years.
Myth #13: The teachers pension pays you 100% of working income and all their health benefits for as long as they live.
Don’t I wish! If a teacher reaches factor 90 they can collect 70% of their working income during their retirement years. Health benefits are not paid once the teacher reaches 65.
Myth #14: As a tax payer, I am paying for every last cent of a teacher’s retirement.
I could see how people would be annoyed by a teacher’s retirement package if this were true but the teachers’ pension is 80% fully funded. This means that 12 billion dollars worth of investments, managed through a joint trusteeship between the BCTF and the Provincial Government generate enough revenue to cover 80% of the payouts to retired teachers.
The remaining 20% is funded jointly between tax payers and teachers but the ultimate goal is to make the teachers pension entirely self funding so absolutely nothing comes out of the tax payers pocket. In fact it would be in the taxpayers best interest to ensure this pension fund does become self funding rather than seeing it dismantled.
Myth #15: Teachers can’t be fired.
Well I hate to break it to you but since I have been teaching, I have seen a number of teachers dismissed and it didn’t really seem all that difficult to send them packing. If the union was standing in the way, it acted as more of a door mat than an obstacle
What people don’t seem to understand is that there is a process for dismissing teachers and this process is there to protect everyone involved. Contrary to popular belief, to have a system that allows teachers to be fired on a whim is neither ethical or practical and can result in more harm being done than good.
There you go. 15 common myths about teachers that are just a bunch of bunk. So next time you are talking to the demon in your child’s classroom, remember their horns and devilish red skin are probably made up of myths.
Greetings, Minister Fassbender,
As a social studies teacher in the Coquitlam School District’s T.A.L.O.N.S. Program, my teaching partners and I work to support the learning outcomes of our course curricula by cultivating an experiential, interdisciplinary learning environment. In designing a program which meets the social and emotional needs of gifted learners, T.A.L.O.N.S. teachers strive to align the explicit purposes of schooling – to educate the younger generation in the concepts, skills and competencies required to construct their individual and collective futures – with the implicit messages about our shared democratic values as Canadians – that each voice in our society is valued within the system of laws and government we are handing down to young people.
As you may realize it is important to teach courses on the foundations and traditions of our democratic history within a context that is true to these ideals. To this end T.A.L.O.N.S. students are provided with opportunities to exercise agency and voice in the creation of their own learning, as my colleagues and I believe that teaching students about the principles of the Enlightenment in a classroom that does not honour collective expression and democratic principles would negate the lesson at hand before the bell had even rung. As Gert Biesta and other educationists have noted, “Young people learn at least as much about democracy and citizenship – including their own citizenship – through their participation in a range of different practices that make up their lives, as they learn from that which is officially prescribed and formally taught.”
As such the context in which the learning occurs communicates a great deal about the meaning that is created in the democratic classroom. And I raise these foundations of the T.A.L.O.N.S. program to your attention in part to refresh your memory that you’ve actually visited us in action. Along with our local MLAs, Coquitlam Superintendent Tom Grant, and other educational dignitaries, you were brought to see a few of our district’s exemplary classrooms at Gleneagle Secondary last fall. You were only with us for a few minutes, enough time to tout your government’s dedication to providing more education in line with how our students introduced the program’s philosophy, but I feel it appropriate at this time to highlight how incongruous your handling of the British Columbia Education file has been with public education’s democratic ideals in the time since.
Your government has been found twice to have violated BC teachers’ Charter rights to collectively bargain. Additionally, the Supreme Court found the Liberal Government to have bargained in bad faith to provoke a strike that would allow you further infringements of the province’s public servants. In the ten years that this affront to justice has been allowed to continue – in duplicated legislation and dubious appeals – the children of the province have seen their futures stolen out from under them with unstaffed libraries, under-supplied learning centers, closed language labs and counseling offices ill-suited to address today’s (significant) student needs. The defense your government has raised when judged categorically by the Supreme Court to have broken the law (twice) is that adhering to the law as written would be “too expensive” at this stage in the game.
You can be forgiven for your lack of history education. But as someone charged by the government to teach young people about our democracy, I find it difficult to reconcile the lessons in my prescribed government curriculum with the context created by your Liberal government’s disrespect for the country’s highest law. After being told in 2011 that Premier Clark’s own Bills 27/28 were unconstitutional, the Liberals did not appeal the decision and proposed nearly identical legislation that was rejected by the Supreme Court yet again in 2014. Rather than take this judgment at face value, or even oppose it on the merits of the case, your government has instead hired a private trial lawyer at taxpayer expense to argue before the Court of Appeal not that the ruling was flawed, or that your government did not in fact violate teachers’ Charter rights, but that obeying the law would be too expensive.
As a private citizen you might be entitled to such unique interpretations of the country’s laws. In fact, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms was conceived so that individuals would not be so vulnerable to the lumbering power of the State. But as a representative of an elected government, your continued disregard for the law of the land, taken together with the subversion of its very intent by using the Court of Appeal to further abuse educators and students is fundamentally opposed to the spirit of Canadian democracy as it is taught in the province’s schools. It is a shame that when you visited our classroom you weren’t given the opportunity to explain why it is you and your government feel it is that you are above the law.
Our public school classrooms are intended to reflect democracy as an ideal, a point beyond the horizon toward which humanity is forever striving. And this ideal holds that each individual’s voice is granted respect and protection by a mutual agreement that no one is above the law, or able to exert their will upon the group by sheer force or inherent power. In attempting to design a classroom where these lessons are taught on the pages of our textbooks and in the activities we undertake as a class, the T.A.L.O.N.S. teachers’ intentions are to provide learners with lived lessons in democratic functioning.
What have your actions, and those of your government, sought to teach young people in British Columbia about democracy? About the rule of law? About our collective responsibility to one another?
When you visited us, and in the press releases I have seen in the time since, your words have often seemed directly in line with the values at the heart of the public education system. But your actions have consistently negated whatever weight these words might have carried, and such incongruence demands either an explanation or a change of course.
I would be heartily pleased to see either of these, though your past actions haven’t made me hopeful.
Bryan Jackson T.A.L.O.N.S. Program Teacher SD43
Wait!!! Before you click away, I know what you are asking. “Why in gods name are you comparing British Columbia and Finnish education system? That is a tired 1-string banjo you are playing and no one wants to hear it.“ and I completely agree with you BUT this is different… I promise.
This post was born from a Twitter conversation with one of British Columbia’s finest politicians @MaryForBC. The gist of which was, I complained about the @bcliberals and their education funding policies and @MaryForBC countered with pleasant 140 character “Golly gee Keith, things aren’t that bad!” (I paraphrase)
During the discussion someone threw Finland into the mix as a foil to highlight all #BCED shortcomings. Then, @MaryForBC countered with a predictable insult, suggesting the main reason the Finnish system is so good is that they choose their teachers from the top third of students whereas BC Teachers are chosen from the bottom third… and so it went.
@MaryForBC did however; open the door for a broader conversation about the differences between Finland and BC. Tweeting that: “I think it is all worth looking at” So just for fun I collected some data.
Please understand that I do not intend this to be the final word on the subject, just a conversation starter. I realize I am trying to compare a Nation to a Province but even so, I feel the comparison is still compelling. In compiling the information shared in the table, I had to look here there and everywhere so it is a bit of a hodgepodge but I am confident that all the data is accurate. I will update should I find better information.
In the comparison, I do not look at just school related items. I take a look at the bigger picture, specifically the economies of each. The similarities between Finland and British Columbia are really quite surprising. Population, exports, income levels are all relatively similar. When you are looking at the side-by-side comparison in the table that follows, try to consider how the similarities and the differences play out in the respective school systems.
What I found most surprising in all these numbers was the unemployment rates of these two jurisdictions. Finland has a higher rate of unemployment than British Columbia yet it’s rate of childhood poverty is just slightly over half of what BC’s is. When it comes to children in classrooms poverty is an extraordinarily important measure. There is no amount of teaching skill that can overcome the immediate effects of poverty and Finland seems to realize this.
Another difference I found interesting was actually in a similarity. The difference came in how teachers’ unions are viewed in each jurisdiction. In British Columbia the teachers’ union is viewed as the spawn of Satan, whereas in Finland the teachers’ union is seen as a partner in education with which government has a cooperative relationship.
Beyond the aforementioned, what this comparison illustrates to me is that Finland seems to see value in supporting all their citizens and their education system is only a small part of a social and economic system that works toward this end. To simply credit the success of Finland’s education system on the way they train their teachers, as @MaryForBC did, is astoundingly myopic.
I would hope that this comparison instead, illustrates that the current state of BC’s education system is not a simple matter of teachers not doing their job or being greedy but instead is the result of choices our government(s) has made. Choices that do not put all citizens on an equal footing. Choices that do not even come close to showing the kind of egalitarianism that Finland shows toward its citizens.
|University Tuition||5 - 6K per year||NO COST|
|Professional Development||Teacher directed & out of pocket||Teacher directed - State funded|
|Professional Autonomy||Under Attack||Very High|
|Teacher Evaluation||Contract driven||Contract driven|
|School Governance||60 School Districts||Managed by Municipalities|
|# of Public school Students||549,836||600,000|
|# Private Schools||347 (2012)||NO for profit private schools|
|Req Classroom Hours||850 – 950||592|
|Class Size Averages||Grade dependent||No greater than 20|
|School Start||5 - 6 Years||6 - 7 Years|
|Population||4.4 Million||5.5 Million|
|Dependant Population||50% (Approximate)||53%|
|GDP||220 Billion||247 Billion|
|GDP per capita||$43,473 (CAD)||$38,658 (USD)|
|Income gap Top:Bottom||10.8 Times||5.6 Times|
|Population Below Poverty Line||15.5||11.9 (2012 - Updated)|
|Child poverty rates||18.6%||9.4% (Updated - 2012)|
|Number of Billionaires||5||1|
|Personal tax rate 70K/yr||29.7%||40%|
|Corporate Tax Rate||11.5%||20.0%|
|Exports||$74 Billion (2012)||$78.23 billion (2012)|