Public Teacher, Public Job

Originally published November, 2012 in Dusty World

I’ve been teaching now for eight years so this is my first time experiencing work action.  I’ve had union jobs before, union jobs that went to the wall with job action, but the teacher experience is very different.  When I was a warehouse worker for National Grocers we were fighting for our benefits and pay, but no one in the general public ever thought that they knew what my job was or demanded that I stay after my shift to volunteer to do extra work for no pay; I guess the private sector has it easy.

The public nature of this teacher job action has produced a startling realization – there is a portion of the population that hates teachers.  Around that small kernel of teacher-haters is a larger layer of people in the general public who think that teachers are lazy, overpaid and undeserving of even basic Charter rights.  I have noted that many of these people tend to be under-educated and have a  lasting hatred of what happened to them in school.

Listening to someone who couldn’t hack high school, let alone university (twice, once for undergrad, and again for teacher’s college) crying about how little teachers do is like listening to the guy who thinks he can play hockey but can barely skate going on about how he could have gone pro.  That doesn’t stop ignorant, lazy people from making noise though.

Then there is the management thing.  If you’ve ever tried to work out a deal with private business, they are cheap and relentless, but they are consistent.  If you can understand what their parameters are in negotiating, you can come to an agreement.  Also, if you do your job very efficiently and make money for them it makes more room for you in negotiation.  At no point in private bargaining situations did I see a deal stopped for political reasons.  You also have the benefit of working for bosses who are experts in the business (because they made it).  I never had to explain to National Grocers management what our job was because everyone at the table knew the business.

Ontario: top 3 in the world, midpack in cost –
best bang for the buck in education in the world!
If you don’t believe me, believe the freaking UN!

If you’re a teacher in Ontario these days your boss has no background whatsoever in what you do, and even though you produce some of the best results in your field in the world it isn’t acknowledged at all; you still get to hear an unrelenting carcophany in media and the public about how easy your job is and how lazy you are.  Even your boss, a lawyer who hasn’t taught a day in her life, likes to point out that you just took the whole summer off (which you hadn’t).

Ontario’s education system is truly world class, to the point where it is copied around the world.  If you go to an international school there is a very good chance that it will be running the Ontario K to 12 curriculum.  Private schools copy our public school system, it’s that awesome.  If we were building cars, they would be the best in the world, they’d be selling like hotcakes, no one would think to question what we were doing.

So here we are, dealing with a Minister of Education who has never actually worked in Education – ever, a government that is more interested in poll numbers than in resolving serious issues and getting everyone back to work, and it’s all happening while Ontario Education is the envy of the world.  Trying to negotiate in this environment makes very little sense.  It makes me long for the private sector where things made sense.

We threw money at GM so they could stop making crappy cars and become solvent.  We threw money at banks that had purchased bad loans.  If private businesses make bad choices, we cripple ourselves financially to support them.

However, if we create excellence we bitterly attack it, demean it and then use it for shabby political ends.  It’s not hard to see why Ontario is going down the toilet.  We don’t even recognize and protect excellence any more.  And when we’ve let ignorant (dare I say stupid?) loud mouths vent their frustrations at their own failures by blaming teachers for their own short comings while at school, we’re left with a demoralized education system… hardly the kind of place that can compete successfully on the global stage.

Other Notes:
The poor right winger: what you get when laziness and greed replace industry and reward
All Hands on Deck: when politics dictate economics
Death of Vision: where our leadership went
Educational Maelstroms: what it’s like to hear the negativity
Surfed PISA lately?: How fantastic our Ed system is!