Dear Mr. Farnworth, Mr. Austin and Ms Thorne,
I teach at Gleneagle Secondary in school district 43 Coquitlam. I love the work I do. I pour my heart into every interaction with students. When they suffer from life's stumbles and tears, I cry too. When my students climb small mountains of personal accomplishment, I do a silent cheer. My students remind me daily that young people are fierce, compassionate, kind and ever so vulnerable.
When I became a mother myself, I truly understood that every child who walks into my room is someone's baby. I teach every child like they are someone's baby. I teach individuals, not the curriculum. I work with individuals, not numbers on a roster. They are complicated and singular people who each require a unique response.
The saying that those who can't, teach, is a fallacy. I am highly skilled at my job. When a student walks into my room, I know how best to help them learn, I know who needs a soft hand, I know who needs a firmer challenge, I know how to inspire critical thinking. I know how make the tough kid smile. I know how to frame feedback that encourages rather than deflates.
At a recent Odyssey of the Mind practice at my home, my husband tried without success to tame an unruly group of 10 year-olds' explosive energy so they could begin solving the problem. Despite several attempts, their energy continued to reverberate formlessly. At this point, I stepped in. I framed the task, I asked some open-ended questions, and I asked the kids to divide up the problem into thematic segments and assigned tasks based on individual strengths. Within 5 minutes, the group was doing intense and high-level thinking.
My husband turned to me, with a rather annoyed glare and asked, "How did you do that?"
"How do I do that?" I was able to do that because I knew the kids, their strengths, their challenges and had an opportunity to get to know each of them as individuals. Teaching cannot be taught by textbook or checklist. We are dealing with the layered messiness and beauty of working with human minds.
"How do I do that?" Because I am really good at my job and I know how to help kids learn. However, in order for me to serve every student, I have to have the time to make these meaningful connections.
One of my Grade 9 classes has 9 designated special needs students whose challenges range from severe anxiety, head injury, sustained grief from the loss of a parent to learning disabilities. In addition, there are more than 5 other students who are not designated but struggle with anger management or social isolation. And of course, there are also the remaining 10 students who each also require individualized attention.
The limitations and stifling conditions of Bill 22 will have a drastic and profound impact on how I can serve my students. With the removal of class size limits, the removal of restrictions on teaching loads, the removal of the limits of special needs in any given class, I feel that I have been set up to fail. I am really good at my job. Let me do it. Kids are really good at learning. Give them a fighting chance.
The mediation process set out by Bill 22 is a farce. A mediator who is appointed by the Minister of Education and shackled by strict precepts defined by the same Minister is not in a position to help the two parties "bargain in good faith." For George Abbott to tell the public that he has responded to teachers’ demands for a mediator is dishonest and mean-spirited.
Bill 22 is more than an attack on teachers. It is an attack on kids, on learning and on our fundamental belief in justice and fairness.
What do you believe in? Please consider sharing my letter and experience in the Legislature when Bill 22 moves into debate.