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This time, teachers deserve our support License

Susan Notes: Everyone should send this to Brent Staples who opines about education on the New York Times editorial page.

By Tracy Gilchrist
Daily News City Editor, Kamloops, British Columiba

Being a teacher seems like an easy gig, so they shouldn't be surprised by public resentment over requests for a 20 per cent raise.

After all, they only work 10 months of the year and have great benefits like the usual plums of pension and medical but also lesser known gems like the ability to bank 15 sick days a year. For one hard-working teacher I knew who took ill toward the end of her career, this translated into sick pay for 12 months before short-term medical benefits began.

A new teacher starting out in Kamloops earns $52,840, but she will also have spent five years at university, which comes with a hefty debt (at least $50,000).

Still, they bring home a salary and benefits that many people outside the public sector never see, so it's understandable that many shake their heads at teachers' demands in this labour dispute for a 20 per cent wage boost.

This is just their opening salvo, however, in bargaining with a government that negotiated contracts providing zero wage increases for two-thirds of its public service workers. Facing such opposition, it's not a surprise the teachers' request falls on the extreme side.

But if there's any group that deserves public support in negotiating with such an unmoving giant, it's teachers.

It takes a special kind of individual to be a teacher. Beyond the academic qualifications, to be good at their job they need to be innovative, enthusiastic, good at relating with children and willing to work long beyond the 9-5 so much of the business world enjoys.

Imagine how work interruptions like the phone, coworkers stopping by, the boss checking in on what you're doing can slow down the ability to get ahead in a day . . . and then think about how it is for teachers who have 30-some sets of inquisitive eyes asking questions all day. Not to mention it's both physically and emotionally exhausting, but there is no chance to get to extra projects like lesson planning, grading and report cards.

Teachers bring loads of work home: they have to come up with daily lesson plans, often on subjects they may not hold much personal expertise in, and consider specific pupils within their classes. Some students grasp ideas quickly while others struggle to keep up and the needs of both must be chewed over when mapping out that day's lesson.

They frequently bring their own supplies to class, from educational posters to motivational tools like gold stars, extra pens and pencils to hand sanitizer, and even their own books.

Good teachers see children as ducklings they'll nurture and teach to fly. They're willing to stay late to help those struggling to spread their wings; coach drama, band and gymnastics on their own time; and take calls after hours from helicopter parents not understanding how their perfect child got a poor grade on an assignment.

And contrary to popular misconception, teachers don't get paid for the two months they take off each summer, while many will opt to receive their 10-month pay over a 12-month period.

So while it's easy to be less than sympathetic to seemingly unreasonable demands from the public sector, I've shifted my position this round. Teachers, the shapers of the next generation, deserve our support.

— Tracy Gilchrist
Daily News, Kamloops, British Columbia



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