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Ford's Back To School Plan: Teachers Unsure Of Assignments, Class Sizes

Updated on September 2, 2020
Christina St-Jean profile image

I am a mom of two awesome children who teach me more than I ever thought possible. I love writing, exercise, movies, and LGBT advocacy.

Ford's Education Plan: Chaos

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No Illusions, No Information

I am an Ontario high school teacher, but in all the uncertainty generated by this pandemic, there's one thing I knew for sure and have known for weeks: teachers would be sent back to the classroom in September, 2020.

There was no question in my mind that I would be returning to the classroom, and I knew that the best decision for my children was that they would be returning to their respective classrooms as well. I couldn't justify keeping them home any longer; my youngest, who's going into Grade 6, is going to be attending a new school, so she needs a feel for what the classroom might be like in this new normal, and my oldest is starting Grade 11. While my oldest fared well with online learning, she did not enjoy the experience. She's done two summer school courses since starting high school and just does not like learning online. My youngest simply could not focus and so, she needs to also return to the classroom.

As a teacher myself, I need to return. I miss the experience of being in a classroom, and if that means I will be wearing a holster containing sanitizer and cleaning wipes, a mask on my face and a face shield, so be it. I like working with kids in real time when I can see their faces in front of me. Like everyone else, I understood the importance of staying home while we all figured out what life was becoming under COVID, but teaching online is not the same experience as being in class with kids.

I did, however, expect that the Ford government would have dropped the "teachers' unions are uncooperative" narrative by now. I expected that somewhere along the line, he would have heard the news about collapsing classes and realized that maybe - just maybe - there was some kernel of truth to what was being reported. I expected he would have heard that the money he's been claiming he's pumping into the systems (which stems in many ways from school boards being granted permission to tap into their already-earmarked reserves to do what they need if they needed to do it) is so inadequate it's laughable.

But no.

Again, it's the fault of the educator unions, which he also believes is separate from the educators themselves.

I suffer no illusions about my role as a teacher in all this. My students' mental health - not to mention that of my own children - is paramount, as when the students don't feel safe, learning can't really happen. My job is to ensure everyone is doing OK, and then we can work on the curriculum while trying not to go stir crazy spending five hours in the same room all day. I know my job, as my colleagues do, and we do it well. We're educators, and on a daily basis, to borrow a term that Premier Ford threw out a few weeks ago, we "step up" to take on any challenge, virtually or otherwise.

However, the stress that educators are under at this point can not be denied or ignored. Many, if not most, of us have been told with just days to spare not to count on teaching what our schedules said we were teaching back in June. Our daily schedules - at least at the secondary level, where I teach - have changed drastically, as many of us are going from teaching three courses for 75 minutes at a time over the course of about five months to two courses for four hours a day for ten weeks. While some might argue that "teaching is teaching," the planning for each type of class structure takes a whole lot more time than a couple of days - particularly when we have to spend part of those couple of days in the lead up to Day 1 of the 2020-2021 school year learning new health and safety protocols and taking training to manage student and staff mental health - to figure out. Many teachers are also parents, so there's a fair bit of stress involved in that piece of the school equation as well - what do we do if our own children are sick?

So yes, we are "stepping up," Mr. Ford, but my question is, why haven't you? This has been going on at least since March, and since that time, you've spent more time with ridiculous photo ops, deriding educators, and claiming you're doing everything you can to keep families safe. It's now September 2, 2020. Why is there no clear-cut plan? Why is there no commitment to actually funding lower class sizes instead of leaving school boards to scramble several different ways to try and keep up with what you say is happening but what keeps changing?

Are you that hell-bent on dismantling private education that you'll use a global health crisis to make it happen?

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