Re. Dale Stuart’s Sept. 25 letter, headlined Teachers should work harder and not be such money grubbers:
The letter indicates a disappointing lack of knowledge about Alberta’s public education system. It begins with a focus on a money issue, and quickly degenerated into a rant against the teaching profession.
First, let’s address Stuart’s concerns about teachers “blackmailing, extorting, and racketeering.” Stated simply, the government entered into a long-term contract with teachers and is now trying to change the terms of that contract.
To make a sports analogy, think of the professional athlete who negotiates a contract with the owner and then part way through his contract decides he wants to change the terms of the agreement.
When the court of public opinion gets wind of this, the general consensus is that the athlete should “keep his word and stick to the terms he agreed to.”
In the case of Alberta teachers, it is the “team owner” (the provincial government) who is trying to change the terms of the agreement, not the “athlete” (teachers).
If, as Stuart suggests, he is actually one of the “team owners” (a taxpayer) then he should have voiced his concerns during contract negotiations.
Stuart mentions that at the time the contract was negotiated “no one could have predicted the depth of the recession we are experiencing now.”
I would like to ask Stuart if the economy had moved in the other direction and was better than ever, would he be willing to change the terms of the long-term contract and offer teachers more money than originally agreed upon?
Stuart moved on to voice his concerns about the amount of time teachers spend in the classroom with their students.
Perhaps Stuart is not aware that the number of required teacher-student contact days/hours is, in fact, mandated (province-wide) by Alberta Education.
How individual schools boards/schools choose to distribute these required contact days/hours is (somewhat) flexible, but certain standards must be met.
In addition, the majority of these “days off” for students are not “days off” for teachers.
If the “team owners” (or, as Stuart suggests, the taxpayers) are not satisfied with the requirements mandated by Alberta Education, then there are political avenues available to get involved and bring about change.
A call for random government (standardized) testing was also suggested by Stuart as a means of determining what teachers should be paid. This comment demonstrates a lack of understanding of the value/effectiveness of standardized testing.
In addition, perhaps Stuart is unaware that just recently, the Alberta government/Alberta Education /the “team owners” announced the elimination of the written component in all diploma exam subject areas except English and Social Studies.
The reason for this is purely financial. It costs a huge amount of money to administer and evaluate province-wide standardized exams. So, Stuart’s call for increased standardized testing conflicts with his seeming desire to reduce spending in tough economic times.
Stuart concluded by stating: “At one time, teachers were held in very high regard in the community. I don’t think that is the case these days.”
Oddly enough, I agree with Stuart on this point, but not for the reason he suggests.
Sadly, there is a lack of respect for teachers today. Although I no longer teach in the public school system, I did so for 25 years.
Over the course of those years, I noticed a significant decline in the level of respect not only for teachers, but among the students themselves, and for the buildings in which they attend school.
For reasons different from those of Stuart, I too have concerns about the future of the education system in Alberta.