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Recovering backpacker, Cornwallite at heart, political enthusiast, catalyst, writer, husband, father, community volunteer, unabashedly proud Canadian. Every hyperlink connects to something related directly or thematically to that which is highlighted.

Thursday 29 March 2012

On Teachers, Sick Days and Education Reform

I have this unfortunate belief that, as a person in society, I have a responsibility to try and make the world a better place.  It's why I got into politics.  My overarching imperative has always been the same - bring people together in non-confrontational ways and encourage the kinds of discussions that lead to win-win solutions.  That's it.

I have never sat in on the collective-bargaining process, so it's a guess when I picture two groups locking horns, looking for what's best for their individual tribes.  In small "p" politics, which we each engage in every day, it's about positioning, allies, wedge issues and traction.  What gets lost in this type of interaction is the public good.

Every single teacher I know understands that our economy is in rough shape; they have an equal belief that we need strong education to nurture the right tools in our children so that they can make the world better.  Money is not an issue for these teachers - they want to live comfortably, like everyone, but what gets them out of bed in the morning is the lives they touch every day.  In fact, a huge part of what motivates them is the desire to ensure each of their kids has the chance, in turn, to live comfortably.  These teachers are willing to take pay freezes, even for four years, because they understand the economy is tight and there's no more money.  They do worry about new teachers, though, who might have a bit more trouble with bills. 

What matters most is that they have the resources they need to do the job well and the accommodations, like sick leave, that let them be 100% every day they're in front of a class.  The length of the school year could change; all that matters is that when they're not well, their students aren't negatively impacted.  It's really not that much to ask.  Since they are flexible and public-good oriented, there's a real opportunity here for creative structural reform, which is long overdue anyway - we can't keep relying on a 20th or in some cases, 19th Century model of education in a 21st Century reality.

I hope that the collective bargaining process starts with the end goal in mind - strong, healthy and accommodated educators for a strong, accommodating education system helping our youth become the best they can be.  We desperately want our youth to have the opportunities that elude some of us now; therefore, we need our teachers at their best.

Again, for everyone - it's not about "what's in it for me" but rather, how can we move forward together.

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