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Teacher Newsmagazine Volume 17, Number 2, November/December 2004

Readers write

Teacher-librarians essential

Randi Louise Hermans’ article, "The School Library," in your September issue, is like the broken record I heard as school-librarian for most of my career. "They’re still fighting the good fight," I commented to my husband. When, oh when, are we going to show some respect to librarians in schools? They lend something special to children, but few on staff or in the ministry appreciate it. Some of my own members thought all I did all day was play with books and kick kids out of the library. In spite of invitations, few took advantage of working with the librarian in a team setting. I was often sent rafts of misbehaving children to babysit or made to take prep for other teachers with no prep time for myself. Finally, at the school I was in before my retirement, the library was turned into a classroom. Gone were the pretty invitations to children to come and read new books, gone were the library clubs, gone were the AV fun times at recess and noon, gone were the skills classes and storytimes that the pupils loved. Librarians come before basketballs on the cutback list.

My heart goes out to all the librarians who are carrying on the good fight. Keep it up, folks; you’re the technicolour, the wide screen, the Disneyland of the school. You can give what no one else can.

Murrie Redman
School-librarian 1971 to 1990

Hermans’ article on school libraries reminded me how essential the library and the resident teacher-librarian have been during my teaching career. Teaching requires support from many areas, and I strongly feel the school library is a key area of that support.

As a lifelong reader myself, I first encourage traditional book borrowing. The teacher-librarian facilitates this with a September welcome for the entire class, an ongoing table of new books, an open door policy. Authors are celebrated in the library; the Dewey Decimal system and therefore access to research is taught; fiction and non-fiction are regularly showcased. This is all achieved through a professional and engaged teacher-librarian.

Research calls upon many skills: reading, notetaking, categorizing, bibliography constructing, oral presentation. The library provides access to all those skills. It is the best location in which to learn the how-to of research.

What can replace the joy of discovering a great novel from the library shelves? I still remember reading with such enjoyment Walter Farley’s The Black Stallion in Grade 5. The joy of reading has followed me for 35+ years. And that gift came directly from my school library.

Hermans’ championing of the library and its teacher-librarian champions education. Learning, teaching, and the library all complement one another.

James Harcott
Vancouver

Accountants disagree with ministry’s claims: Per-pupil spending decreased by 3.5%

The recent dustup between Education Minister Tom Christensen and the Institute of Chartered Accountants of B.C. about the decline of public school student funding over the past three years, is a classic example of the emperor’s new clothes fable taking on a naked truth.

The accountants, in their 118-page report entitled "British Columbia Check Up 2004," caused a major kafuffle in Victoria by revealing that in the past three years, and even with declining enrolment, per-pupil funding in B.C. schools had dropped 3.5%, thereby undermining one of the Liberals’ repeated claims that they had increased funding for public schools since coming to power, in 2001.

Christenson even called for a recalculation of the numbers by the accountants’ institute in the legislature. This was a major setback from an unexpected hard-to-dispute source, not from the usual agitators: parents, teachers, and trustees.

As a publicly elected trustee in my third year in office, I have watched two successive highly competent secretary-treasurers at the Vancouver School Board table several reports, documenting in astonishing detail, the loss of over $100 million in programs and services (over a decade) to Vancouver schools. The budget shaving has accelerated dramatically under the Campbell government.

The provincial government’s claim that it is adequately funding our elementary and secondary schools is flatly disputed by the massive increase in parents’ undertaking fundraising events through casinos, seasonal fairs, book sales, chocolate-bar drives, raffles, and Christmas-card and gift-wrapping events, not to mention the controversial levies by some schools on individual parents.

To stem the escalation of these local events, which raise funds for an expanding number of basic resources including textbooks and classroom supplies, the provincial government can and should allocate the $300 million+ back into education.

Noel Herron
Vancouver

Connected magazine is "unconnected"

Letter to BC College of Teachers (October 15, 2004).

Please find enclosed returned copies of your BC College of Teachers’ magazine, Connected. My wife and I both find this magazine to be wasteful and insulting. Several reasons for these opinions are listed below.

It is full of multiple colours and glossy photos on expensive, thick, non-recycled paper. Our fees are used to produce this expensive magazine that we do not want and did not request. Those fees have been increased by you, without member input, in part to pay for this magazine.

The magazine is largely a PR exercise for the college rather than for the teaching profession.

We object to much of the advertising in the magazine, which is for private educational institutes and commercial interests. We believe in a public education system. Expensive tourism advertisements do not belong in a magazine we are forced to pay for.

Education-related articles in Connected largely duplicate issues covered in the BCTF’s newsmagazine, Teacher.

By publishing discipline case summaries in your magazine, you devalue the whole teaching profession. The public, reading this PR exercise called "Connected," is likely to make the connection or get the impression that there is a large, significant proportion of the teaching profession who are child molesters, fundraising thieves, etc.

Therefore, we’d not only like to stop receiving the magazine personally, we’d like to see it

entirely discontinued. How about surveying members to find out if the majority feel as we do?

Des Belton and Dawn Germyn
Aiyansh

Environmental education critical

Thank you, David Chudnovsky, for pointing out that teachers have a critical role to play in ensuring that environmental education is addressed in the classroom (Teacher, October 2004, "Environmental Record of BC Liberals"). Given that students will indeed inherit the world (however we manage or botch it), we all need to collectively educate young people that our actions and behaviours today will make a world of difference tomorrow. And, more important, we need to get youth involved in making change for the better. But teachers can’t do the job alone. Community leaders from government, industry, and NGOs must provide teachers with financial or in-kind support, learning resources, and knowledge-building workshops to make that happen. It clearly involves much more than mailing a teacher a video or sponsoring an industry tour of a worksite, or embedding environmental learning outcomes in curriculum. Teachers tell us they need ongoing access to professionals in the environmental sector who can visit classrooms, mentor students who want to start a stewardship project such as a stream cleanup, and provide balanced learning resources and workshops that don’t cost the earth.

FORED BC (our non-profit environmental education organization) provides many complimentary lesson plans that are downloadable from our web site www.landscapesmag.com on subjects from endangered species to water conservation that complement curriculum. We also provide resource packages distributed through BCTF Lesson Aids. Our international award-winning

magazine, Landscapes—free to teachers—also strives to enhance environmental knowledge, inspire student stewardship, and build education partnerships.

As Chudnovsky noted, we all depend on clean air and water. By providing opportunities for students to learn about these important environmental-citizenship and social-responsibility issues and about the many stakeholder viewpoints and to prepare for their eventual decision-making responsibilities, teachers and other education partners are taking higher ground.

For some great examples of successful, youth-led environmental initiatives with many donors, teacher, and community support, visit www.spiritbearyouth.org or www.dreamnow.ca.

Cheryl Ziola
President, FORED BC

Exchange teaching

The article in October 2004 issue of Teacher by Bonnie Sutherland on her exchange teaching experience, while entertaining, does not in any way reflect the wonderful exchange teaching experiences of the thousands of teachers who have participated in exchange teaching in British Columbia over the past 80 years.

As with any teaching experience, whether here or abroad, the situations and experiences are rich, rewarding, frustrating, and fascinating. I’m certain most teachers can look at their own teaching experiences here or in a neighbouring school and find many differences and similarities. The same can be said about the exchange Teaching experience.

Presently there are 47 exchange teachers here in Canada from over eight different countries. Each one of these teachers will have some ups and downs in their days, as we all do. For Sutherland to base her entire article on the frustrations, interruptions, and social concerns, gives a totally biased view of the exchange teaching experience.

Yes, the systems abroad are different than here. If you wanted things to be the same, then stay at home. Exchange teaching for thousands of B.C. teachers has been wonderful, exciting, and the very best professional development available to teachers.

As president of the B.C. Exchange Teachers’ Association, I constantly receive letters, e-mails, and phone calls from past and present exchange teachers extolling the wonderful adventure that exchange teaching has brought to their lives. Many experience some form of culture shock and some growing pains adjusting to a new educational system. However, the final outcome for all the exchange teachers is that they had a wonderful life-altering year teaching in another country.

Sutherland chose to write about the hectic nature of a teaching assignment while on exchange teaching in Australia. I’m certain she, like every other exchange teacher, experienced many more positive, rewarding adventures.

I urge anyone who is considering an exchange teaching adventure to not dwell on the negative aspects of Sutherland’s article, but to realize what a wonderful adventure and privilege it is to live and work in another country.

If you are interested in exchange teaching check out the web site for the Canadian Educators’ Exchange Foundation, at www.ceef.ca.

Terri Maltais
President, B.C. Exchange Teachers’ Association,
tmaltais@sd42.ca

Editor’s note: This is one of three letters we received and we agree that the article contained references that could be considered insensitive and inappropriate. We apologize to anyone who was offended by the article.

Author's note: The artice on exchange teaching in the October 2004 issue of Teacher was not intended as a criticism of Australian schools. Overall, our experience was extremely positive. Don Sutherland.