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By asterisk educators, Surrey

We are asterisk educators. We looked on in envy as our colleagues shared their excitement about their experiences on the province-wide professional development day in October.

There are no such days for us because we are asterisk educators.*

*In the Surrey teachers’ collective agreement, there is the following note:
Any article or clause in this Agreement which does NOT apply to adult education teachers is preceded by an asterisk (*).

*F.21.6 District Pro-D Activities
Notwithstanding the foregoing, by mutual agreement the parties may designate one (1) of the four (4) non-instructional days (to which reference is made in Article F.21.2) for district or jointly organized professional development activities.

*F.21.2 School Non-Instructional Days
At least four (4) non-instructional days will be approved by the Board for school-planned and teacher-directed professional development activities. Board approval will not be unreasonably withheld or denied.

*F.21.3 STA Convention Day
One (1) non-instructional day will be granted for the Surrey Teachers’ Association convention.

We have the same qualifications and teach the same courses as our K–12 colleagues, but even when we work full-time plus an extra two nights each week, we will never make the salary they do. Asterisk educators working full-time, five days per week, earn 800 hours per year; if they also work two nights each week, they’ll earn 960 hours per year. For my colleagues who work in K–12, 1,000 earning hours is considered normal.

We are not paid on statutory holidays. We do not have paid prep time. We are second-class members of our profession. 

We sometimes wonder if the unjust and inequitable treatment we receive is related to the students we serve.

Asterisk educators have students who come from society’s margins. People recovering from addictions, homelessness, and who have been incarcerated. People who have fallen through the giant holes in our social safety net come to us seeking a bridge to a better future.

Students, many school-aged, also come to us after having fallen through the cracks in the underfunded elementary and secondary school system. They may have cognitive, emotional, or physical disabilities, or unstable mental health. 

Some of our students have language or learning challenges and are sent to us after they age-out of regular high schools. 

Some of our students are refugees or newcomers who arrive in Canada in their teenage years and do not have the time to learn English well enough to transition into the regular English classes in a secondary school. 

Without us, the asterisk (adult) educators, many of these students would be headed for a cycle of poverty and minimum wage jobs. Through education, students can become literate participants in our democracy, and walk on a pathway to a more equitable future.

Why would a government that campaigned on a platform of progressive politics and a commitment to poverty reduction not do all that it can to end the inequitable working conditions of adult education teachers and the inequitable learning conditions of adult students? Why are our students funded at 64% of what other K–12 students are funded? 

Right now, the average age of asterisk educators is 65. It wasn’t always this way, but these days many of us have come out of retirement to teach again. Any new asterisk educator doesn’t stay for long: they often move on to the regular K–12 system where they can make more money, get the same prep time and professional development that our colleagues get, and be freed from the asterisk.

Isn’t it long past time that all adult education teachers become asterisk-free? 

Our union has begun a new bargaining round with the government. For each bargaining round over the past 20 years, we asterisk educators have campaigned for redress.

We do so again.

We are asking our asterisk-free colleagues to support us in our quest for equity. When the next contract is signed, we would like to have the same rights. 

We’d like to be asterisk-free.

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