By: Chef Rick Powless
Recently, the Government of Ontario’s Minster of Education dropped a list of changes being made to our education system. Teachers are opposed to these changes because they affect the success well-being of our students. So yes, the teachers are protesting. Their jobs are at stake. The students are protesting as well which has caused some to say that the students are being used as pawns in this political atmosphere. Supporters of the government’s changes believe this full-heartedly, saying the union should be more mature than this. I say, unless you have been in a classroom with these students, who really wants to hear your opinion?
These students have taken their education seriously, and are the new generation of student…the future of our province. They have a voice, and they will use it. They have chosen to protest changes that directly impact their opportunity for choice and for success. The school boards, the school administrators, the teachers and especially the students know that these change will only bring uncertainty…larger classroom sizes, integrating students into classrooms where the proper support systems will not be there (cutting EAs) and ultimately…decreasing the number of teachers within the school boards. There is an estimated 5,500 teacher to lose their jobs within the next 4 (four) years.
Why do I bring all of this up? Many people who are NOT teachers like to say that teachers are lazy, over-paid and deserve to be scrutinized as such. Teachers have weekends off, holidays and summers off. Teaching is an easy thing to do and some believe that if you are a teacher, it’s because they can’t find a real job. Ridiculous! We work on weekends, reading and marking essays, projects and assignments. We have to adjust our lesson plans when they do not work or because the lesson doesn’t fit the group of students in that semester. We take AQs (Advanced Qualifications) which give us the skills and abilities to teach our students in many different programs and courses. Oh, besides that we also fit in a social life and/or a family life. We also have children. We coach after school sports and social clubs on a volunteer basis. We give our time to work with students before, after and throughout the school day when we give up our lunch or prep time to ensure our students are supported, mentored and encouraged to do their very best.
When someone says, “What do you make as a teacher” remember this conversation I had with a grade 10 (ten) science class, on a Friday afternoon I was doing an on-call for as their teacher was taking the girls’ rugby team to a tournament:
The students were given “busy” work. Reading and answering questions in a textbook. The class had finished early and wanted to have a conversation on what I actually taught, which is Hospitality and Tourism. I mentioned that what I teach can have a relationship with other courses, including science. Baking is all based on science. Chemical reactions when adding yeast or baking powder to flour, eggs and water. Geography because all food comes from somewhere. History because at some point in time, food came to be, not just from a country or region, but when as well. We began to talk about GMOs and the environment. I mentioned that what we have done to the soil and water has had an impact on our foods and food systems. It was a very engaging conversation with this class.
I then mentioned that this will be the generation to begin repairs to our environment. Then the discussion became interesting. There is always that one student who is a “wise guy” and I had one in this class. He barked out, “Why is your generation blaming us for what you did to the environment?” My response silenced the class. “We are not blaming you for the mistakes we made. We didn’t know that what we were doing would affect the environment as it did, or we were too ignorant to care. What we are asking is that you make changes to begin the repair of our planet.” Was my reply. I added, “You are the generation that will find solutions for our problems.”
I took this conversation one step further. I asked if any students in this class had allergies. A few hands went up. I then asked if anyone had more than one intolerance or allergy. This girl put up her hand. I asked her conditions. She said she was lactose intolerant and recently, she was diagnosed with Celiac. She seemed quite upset about this. I had to mention that 30 years ago, we didn’t have these issues as prominently as they are visible today. The class was silent. I then asked this one boy what hos plans were after high school. He mentioned he would like to go to school, most likely university. He really liked science and might consider going into the field of science. That was my cue to tie all of this together.
I faced this young man and through this scenario at him. Maybe you will go off to university and make science your career of choice. You might be the ONE who will discover cures for many illnesses, including Celiac (as I turned to the young girl). Her response brought tears to my eyes and broke my heart. All she said in a pleading, almost begging voice, “PLEEEEASSSE?”
I could see that he was affected by our conversation as was the rest of the class, but more so by the response of this young girl. The bell rings and the school week is now over. As the class leaves, the male student turns to me and says, “Have you ever thought about being a motivational speaker?” I just smiled at him and wished him a very good weekend.
As teachers, we are not just educators in a classroom. We are a support system for these students. We are their mentors, their coaches, their guidance counsellors, and a branch for encouragement. We don’t just teach them academics. We also teach them life skills, social skills and a fundamental respect for one another…and the world around us. Teaching is an honourable profession, one for which 6-8 hr work days really is a 24 hr a day career.
So, when someone asks, “What does a teacher make…?”
…WE MAKE A DIFFERENCE