The position brings immediate resentment from a public who gets lost in the idea that it’s all about the time off. Teaching, the occupation that solicits a combination of guffaws and envy for reasons having nothing to do with the job itself, seem to get little support when facing strife, such as now.
Last week, James Dinn, president of the Newfoundland and Labrador Teachers’ Association, sent out a plea to his members to create some noise over what seems to be an impasse in negotiations with the province’s Finance department.
“It is imperative at this time that each of us makes the effort to make … contact, by phone or email or Twitter, and ask our MHA one simple question: When is the government going to get serious about negotiating with teachers?”
The teachers contract expired in August 2012 and, as of this week, they say talks of salaries has not been an option. The province, knowing the public has little empathy for the teaching profession, is in a strong bargaining position. This is why the association is trying this “tweeting” tactic.
While the average citizen automatically reverts to a comparison of a measly 2-3-week annual leave period when thinking about the teachers’ position, let’s consider aspects of the job itself no one wants to endure.
Teachers put up with garbage. Sure, there’s the snotty kid that thinks he’s too smart to be in the classroom, or the little brat who thinks she can level insults at the teacher all day — those are minor. The hardest human interaction the teacher must face has to be with the parents. Gone are the days when teachers carried a household respect where parents automatically sided with their fellow adults.
Now, parents are claiming discrimination, abuse of power and ineptitude when trying to figure while their little Golden Child is not finishing at the top of the class. If it weren’t so sad, it would be hilarious.
Then there’s the fact teachers’ ability to grade accurately and fairly has been stripped. Remember the “no zero on tests rule” or the fact that kids don’t fail anymore?
If action is needed, and support requested? Teachers have to climb that shaky ladder of hierarchy that involves first going through a principal, who’s also an “association” (because they don’t call it a union) brother/sister and then onto the school district (a pseudo-arm of government), which seems to be doing its best, but doesn’t even get in on major issues such as contract negotiations.
The teachers’ union used to carry weight in this province. It did so because it was a union with a lot of members and always had strong leadership. People listened, whether they agreed or not.
Should they be paid higher than what they are? That’s something that has to be decided after comparative studies are done and both sides work out a deal?
Right now government needs to get back to the table to make this happen. Teachers need to speak of the issues — and not cower to the perceived intimidation of their administrators — rather than being relegated to the pathetic “tweeting” of their MHAs. And the public should be able to decide how it wants to support, defend or criticize the teachers’ stand — without getting into a debate about a copious amount of time off.