Teachers deserve more respect and more support

After reading Stuart’s letter I felt that a rebuttal should be written on behalf of teachers. As a taxpayer, with family members who are in the educational profession, I know that they cannot speak out for themselves for fear of dismissal.

Re. Dale Stuart’s Sept. 25 letter, headlined Teachers should work harder and not be such money grubbers:

After reading Stuart’s letter I felt that a rebuttal should be written on behalf of teachers.

As a taxpayer, with family members who are in the educational profession, I know that they cannot speak out for themselves for fear of dismissal.

Many of the concerns and accusations made by Stuart are based on assumption and frustration. His perceived discontentment with teachers may be misplaced as well.

I am confident that teachers are very aware of the recession. Like everyone else, they have to pay utility bills, mortgages, car payments, student loans and taxes.

Stuart alludes to teachers living high on the hog and not contributing to their communities. He must not be aware of the current cuts being made to educational funding.

These cutbacks don’t just pay teachers’ wages but provide funds for reduction of class sizes, construction of new schools, much needed renovations for older schools, programs, computers, textbooks, etc.

I challenge Stuart to ask a teacher how much money they spend out of their own pocket every month to buy supplies and teaching materials for their classroom? It would probably surprise him to find out that most of that money is never reimbursed to the teacher.

The fact is that a contract was negotiated, agreed upon and signed between Alberta teachers and the government. The contract is legal and binding.

Regardless of whether Stuart feels teachers are worthy or not, the government agreed to the wage increase for teachers and is now reneging on the agreement.

If the Alberta Teachers’ Association and teachers were to stand aside and allow the government to ignore their commitment, it would set precedence for the government to start reneging on other contracts.

Stuart’s statement that teachers should appreciate that they’ve got a decent paying job with benefits and a pension when others are unemployed seems to be made without proper rationale on how one goes about getting a job as a teacher. Most teachers are very appreciative of their careers and have worked tirelessly to get there. What Stuart seems to fail to realize is that employment is about choice.

Teachers and other educated professionals made a choice to pursue that particular career. They planned for their future by working hard, entering into post-secondary education and most likely incurred tens of thousands of dollars in debt to prepare themselves for their career.

The fact that it was going to provide them with a secure income, pension and benefits may have been premeditated, but the point is that they chose this career path.

Stuart’s grievance about the number of holidays and long weekends that teachers have is misinformed and misdirected. Teachers do not have a say in the number of days they have to teach their students. The school board determines this.

Until this school year, Red Deer Public elementary schools only had one Friday a month that was considered a half-day for students. Teachers were required to remain at school for staff meetings, professional development or lesson planning.

This year, the public elementary schools have adopted the model used by the middle schools, with every other Friday having a noon dismissal. This was not the teachers’ decision and once again, teachers must use that time for staff meetings and professional development.

The issue that Stuart seems ignorant of is that student disciplinary methods and curriculum have changed drastically over the last 20 years. Inside the classrooms, teachers spend less time teaching and more time dealing with child behavioural issues.

Teachers are no longer given the tools needed to discipline a rowdy student or fail a student with substandard grades.

Testing students randomly to determine a teacher’s worth is also a moot point. Who is going to be the judge of a teacher’s worth? Stuart?

The government would have to establish a committee, pay them ridiculous amounts of money to build assessments, administer the tests, grade them, evaluate them, report on them to a superior, have inquiries, etc. The Alberta government already does assessments on achievement every three years with the Provincial Achievement Tests.

Ask any student, parent or teacher what they think of those tests and their value to determine achievement and teacher quality. I’m sure you will be sorely disappointed.

Stuart is correct that teachers were once held in high regard in the community. I can’t speak for everyone, but a majority of the population still has very high opinion of their teachers.

Our society has come to expect our teachers to provide children with the tools necessary to be successful while limiting their ability to govern their own classrooms. This coupled with the impossible curriculum presented and the lack of innovation at a bureaucratic level it is by no small miracle that any teacher can perform at the level expected of them.

I suggest anyone, including Stuart, who has issue with the current state of our education system to write your provincial ministers and school boards. Writing opinion letters to the paper may give you an outlet to express your concerns, but with the same effort you can direct that opinion to the people who have had more of an impact on your current state of mind.

Although the responsibility of education inherently lies with the teachers, they have little control over what the politicians, school boards officials and union leaders dictate as policy.

Chris MacLean

Red Deer

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