Why Do People Slam Teachers In Negotiations?
Anger Gets No One Anywhere
Why Are Educators Subject To Public Abuse?
Ontario's educators are currently going through negotiations, and as a high school teacher in Ontario, let me just point out that these have been stressful times.
Members of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation (OSSTF), which is made up of public high school teachers, educational assistants, and other support workers, have been engaged in job action with the Ontario government since their contract lapsed at the end of August 2019. We escalated to rotating strikes, with each district taking their turn on the picket line when told to do so. That has been ongoing since early December, 2019. Members of the Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario (ETFO), the Ontario English Catholic Teachers' Association (OECTA) and l'Association des enseignantes et des enseignants franco-ontariens (AEFO) have also been involved in varying levels of strike action.
I do understand that strike action is uncomfortable and inconvenient for parents of young children. I get that there are concerns that sons and daughters are missing school, particularly if said child is in Grade 12. There is a lot of stress involved in any job action for families, and that's understandable.
However, there is no need for the abuse that educators endure, both on the picket line and on social media.
Can you imagine attacking police officers or nurses for being "lazy" simply because they're standing up for what's right? It's normal for any union during negotiations to ask for some sort of increase to their wages. In fact, who wouldn't ask for a raise, just as a matter of course?
For the record, the 1 percent that OSSTF teachers are currently looking at boils down to a few hundred dollars a year. That's it. We can't take that money and go off on a fantastic vacation; the money will basically cover a few extra bills that like so many others we also have to deal with.
However, while walking with my colleagues and friends on the four strike days the OSSTF has taken to date - the fifth is actually on March 5, 2020 - I've heard of people being deliberately splashed by passing cars, other motorists swearing at us, and people flipping teachers off simply because we are using our right to strike. I've heard and read so many comments about how teachers are lazy and greedy that my head is about ready to explode just from the shock that people could be so audacious.
I realize that there are bad people in almost any profession that you can think of. However, we are not all bad, just as all police officers aren't bad, all doctors aren't bad, and so forth. Could you imagine talking to your doctor and saying he's lazy and greedy the way teachers frequently encounter? Telling him or her to close his bleeping mouth?
Teaching kids is hard. I realize that this is the profession I chose, but I also went to school for many years to get paid the money I get paid. I have friends with doctorates and masters' degrees. They, too, deserve the money they get paid to educate our children.
Teachers deal with students who are coming in with various mental and physical health issues, students who are dealing with personal issues at home that they can't help but carry with them into the classroom, and students for whom learning is a daily struggle. That's all while trying to teach the curriculum and help students be successful human beings.
Sure, we don't save lives, and we don't run into burning buildings, but then, we don't have the training, for the most part, to do these things. We do, however, spend as much time, if not more, with children than their own parents do because of parental working schedules and because of the six-hour school day. We come to know the special people these children are becoming and we learn about what makes them tick. We help them accomplish their goals in ways that few others can do.
Yet we are called "lazy" and "greedy," among other things, by a public and a government that denigrates us every time negotiations come around. If we treated other professions the way we called out teachers regularly, no one would want to go into those professions.
Yet, we continue to teach. We continue to help our children reach out and work towards something bigger than themselves.
It's what we were born to do.