My protest line duty is now done for this week. I’ve finished my last shift, and I am now entitled to a whopping fifty dollars for each day of being outside in the elements, carrying a sign and marching up and down the street. Tomorrow, as far as I know, we’re all back in the classroom, doing what most of us love to do.
And then next week, my school district starts our two-week Spring Break. Not all districts have a two-week Spring Break (some have just one week, which is what the official provincial school calendar mandates), but mine does, because a couple of years ago, our school board asked us to work an extra five or six minutes a day all year to make up for the educational time that one extra week of holiday time would take away. Why did they do that? To save money, of course. If the schools are shut down an extra week, that’s an extra week without paying for much electricity or heating or phone service or gas for school buses or the salaries of people like secretaries and janitors and special education assistants. Is it educationally sound? Can we teachers actually do anything with five extra minutes a day? Of course not – and the school board is well aware of that. They have said that it had to be done because of – wait for it! – governmental budget cuts.
But hey, we had the 2010 Winter Olympics here in Vancouver, so it’s all good.
Anyway, yesterday was a lovely and sunny winter day to be outdoors, teachers protest or no teachers protest. I wore my winter boots and my ski mittens this time, along with my long johns and my down parka, and I was toasty warm. And dry! I was dry! That was a revelation!
Today was cloudy, but there was no rain. It wasn’t as cold as yesterday, but it felt damp, so I felt a bit more of a chill today. I also lacked some of the energy that I’d had for the past two days, and most of my colleagues expressed the same feeling. I think maybe it was because we knew that we were almost done, that things would be more “normal” on Thursday, so we were all winding down.
But even that low energy was okay, because we were absolutely inundated all morning with people stopping by with coffee, hot chocolate, cookies, muffins, Timbits! We had visits from parents and kids who attend our school, community centre workers, paramedics, teachers on their way to protests at other schools in other districts! We had so many people simply driving by, honking or waving or giving us the thumbs up in support today – I didn’t see one single person with a negative response to us. True, not all people going past did anything at all, but I would estimate that more people gave some positive sign than anything else.
Will we make a difference? Will the provincial government back down from their punitive legislation that they’re trying to pass? Will they actually sit down and negotiate – truly negotiate, with all the compromise and real back and forth discussion that the word implies – with our teacher representatives and work out a deal that we can all live with?
I don’t know. But I do know that our school community, the people that really know us, the majority of them support us. They get it, they see how it is in our school, how the decade-long underfunding of the education system has affected the education of their kids. They want things to change as much as we do. They know we’re doing the best we can with what we’ve been given. They don’t hate us or disrespect us – they bring us goodies!
So why can’t the government try to understand us and our jobs and do the same?