Striking B.C. teacher blogs 'confession'
Andrea Janus, CTVNews.ca
Published Tuesday, May 27, 2014 8:39AM EDT
As British Columbia public school teachers engage in a job action amidst a bitter contract dispute with the province, one first-grade teacher has taken to her blog to express concern about “how many average kids go unseen every day.”
Genevieve Hawtree, a first grade French immersion teacher in Kelowna, has written a post entitled “Dear Parent of the Average Child – One Teacher’s Confession.” The blog is written in the style of a letter, and uses the example of a young student who is doing well and does not require extra attention.
Hawtree writes to that child’s parents that, “I really wanted to go tell your daughter how proud of her I was of the work she was doing today,” but outlines all the distractions that kept her from doing so: a boy screaming in the corner for unknown reasons who is on a list to see a specialist, but it’s unclear when he will get to the front of the line; the girl who was not fed breakfast before being sent to school, and the other child who was dressed in winter boots in May.
“I turned back to look for your daughter,” Hawtree writes. “I haven't forgotten that I wanted to check in with her but I look up and realize I should probably begin teaching the lesson of the day. I told myself I would check in with her later.”
In the end, Hawtree writes, “a day of running from child to child and crisis to crisis, I never did get a chance to check-in with her today.
“I don't mean to leave your daughter alone but she seems to be doing just fine without me. I hope it is true. I'm sorry. I feel terrible. Would you mind telling her how proud I am of her? Let her know I appreciate her? I will check-in with her tomorrow.”
Hawtree’s blog was posted late Monday night, the day that B.C. teachers began a four-day rotating strike. By the end of the week, each public school in the province will have been closed down for one day.
The first phase of the teachers’ job action began April 23, when they stopped supervising children outside of class time. In response to this second phase of job action, the province said it will move forward with a partial lockout, cut teachers’ pay by 10 per cent, and limit the amount of time teachers can be at work before and after class.
Teachers have been without a contract since last June.
Teachers are asking for smaller class sizes and a cap on the number of special needs kids per classroom. They also are asking for a 21 per cent raise, including benefits, over four years. The province is offering a 7.25 per cent pay hike over six years with a $1,200 bonus if an agreement is signed by the end of June. The government’s offer does not include provisions for class sizes or special needs students.
In her blog, Hawtree writes that she worries about classrooms without size limits or fewer specialist teachers or resources for special needs students. “I wonder how many average kids go unseen everyday,” she writes. “I honestly don’t think I can do this job under those conditions. Some days I wonder how I do it now. I know for a fact I won’t be able to do it well.”
Hawtree writes that she did not become a teacher “for the paycheck or the glory,” but rather “because I wanted to help kids do amazing things with their lives.”
She says she also wants to be able to do her job well, and “that means I need the tools to do that. This includes a reasonable class size and help from specialist teachers.”
She notes that kindergarten and early grade teachers teach children who clearly have special needs, but have yet to go through the process of obtaining a formal diagnosis and getting the help that they need.
She told CTV’s Canada AM Tuesday that she understands that “there are limited resources right now, things are stretched thin.”
But the job action is necessary, she writes.
“That is why I'm willing to take a 10% pay cut and walk out in spite of the threats,” she writes. “For me isn't about the money. It’s about the kids.”