A delegation of teachers from Fernie to Sooke shared the realities of working in public schools with Premier David Eby, cabinet ministers, and other MLAs last week.
During a jam-packed day of lobbying, six members shared what they love about teaching and why teachers need more support from the provincial government to meet student needs.
“If it wasn’t obvious, I love my students so much. I wish I could wave a magic wand and change the world to help them, but I can’t. We need your help,” Katie Keast, who is a school counsellor in Elkford, told the politicians.
Keast described how difficult it is to tell students she has to cancel sessions with them to cover classrooms. She described students who were struggling and falling through the cracks, but who would thrive if they received the support they were entitled to receive.
Other members described increasingly complex classrooms. Violence arises when students are not properly supported, the politicians heard.
“When our most vulnerable learners have their social and emotional needs met, they can thrive in the classroom. However, when specialist teachers are absent and when programs and services aren’t maintained, then there are more opportunities for students to become dysregulated,” teacher-librarian Marilyn Carr from Surrey said.
This can lead to violence, with impacts on the mental and physical health of all students in the classroom, as well as staff, she added.
Marjean Brown of Burnaby described an average day in the classroom. It included education assistants (EAs) calling in sick and not being replaced, inconsistent support for designated students, and announcements that music class was cancelled.
“This means I don’t have a prep class for the day. This is unfortunately becoming common and means I am less prepared, less calm, less resilient than I need to be to properly support my class,” Brown told the MLAs.
Other delegates included Sam Asmoucha from Vancouver, Lisa Hager from Sooke, and Jeanine Foster from Abbotsford.
The members were joined by BCTF President Clint Johnston and First Vice-President Carole Gordon, who called for a fully funded workforce strategy, similar to what the government has delivered with the Health Human Resources Strategy in the health care sector.
Such a strategy would tackle recruitment, retention, and increased training opportunities through a co-ordinated approach.
Teachers need more time to do the job they love, time to prepare lessons, and time to get up to speed on the new reporting order introduced by the government. They need enough teachers in schools who are properly certified to provide kids with the education they deserve. The system needs dedicated money to support that, both in the next provincial budget and as part of a robust 10-year strategy, they told the politicians.
“The problem of the teacher shortage is complex, but the solution isn’t. Put simply, we need money, people, and time.”