Carry on striking

Yeah, so the school year is officially over as of today. But I and my BC teacher colleagues have been on the picket line for two weeks, so I guess it actually ended back on June 12 in my school district, since we had our last rotating strike day on Friday the 13th (fitting, isn’t it?) and headed into the province-wide walk-out on Monday the 16th.

It feels weird – and it should, considering the way I just left my classroom that Thursday afternoon. There really wasn’t any true closure to the school year. Oh, we had our final staff party last night to get together one last time and to say farewell to the departing members of our team, and that helped. But I’m still feeling a little bereft right now. I never got to say a real goodbye to my amazing kids and their (mostly) wonderful parents. I never got to clean up my classroom and do all my final paperwork and put the 2013-14 school year properly to rest.

I don’t know what is going to happen with the bargaining over the summer. My union negotiating team and the government both say that they are committed to hammering out a deal that works for all parties by June 30. That’s Monday! That’s awfully near. And from what I’ve seen so far, that commitment doesn’t appear to be too hard and fast on the government side. Both sides are fairly entrenched in their positions now, too. It’s quite the stand-off. Some are saying that this may continue on into the new school year in September. I don’t want that – does any teacher? – but that is completely out of my hands.

Summer school is coming up in a number of locations in my school district. Some other districts in the province have already cancelled it. Some (like mine) are waiting, having pushed back the start date by a week, hoping that a) summer school will be deemed an essential service so it will go ahead or b) a deal will be reached so it will go ahead. Summer school is lucrative for school districts. Secondary school students, especially those from other countries, pay a lot of money to take a course or two during the summer. Elementary school students don’t have to pay, but they only get a two-week session to review the year’s math concepts and to practice their reading and writing skills a bit more.

The BC teachers’ union executive committee has decided that if no deal is reached prior to the revised start date and summer school is designated an essential service in the province, then we will picket all locations. We have all been asked to volunteer for one shift, particularly if we work at a location where summer school will be held. I do, and I have. But I truly hope I don’t have to.

What I want is for the government to return to the BC education system the money that they have systematically cut from it for years. I want the class size, class composition and staffing ratios that were in our contract to return to where they were before they illegally stripped those items away from us in 2002. A wage increase to, say, the cost-of-living each year would be nice. Some respect for the job we do would be really, really great.

And also, I want to stop picketing. My feet are sore.


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