Archive for May, 2014

May 27, 2014

Dear Parent of the Average Child – One Teacher’s Confession

| Published May 21, 2014 by What I Learned in School Today

Dear Parent of the Average Child,
I’m sorry. Your child is wonderful.  She is always at school on time, does her homework most everyday, works well on her own and is patient with those around her.  I really wanted  to go tell your daughter how proud of her I was of the work she was doing today.
I was about to but you see I had a young girl  over in the corner crying because she hadn’t had breakfast. Another was tromping around the classroom in winter boots. It’s May. When I asked her to change she told me she didn’t have any other shoes. I needed to send them and my CEA down to the office to see if we had some food and any extra shoes in lost and found.
Oh and over in the other corner there was a  boy screaming at the top of his lungs because, well no one is sure why. He is on a list to see a specialist, they hope to have a plan in place for him soon. Of course it has been 3 months, but the specialist teacher is overworked and only at our school a few days a week so we have to be patient.
More children trickled in. One girl told me that her backpack is at Mom’s but she was at Dad’s last night. He forgot to send a lunch. She also wanted to tell me about her Dad’s new girlfriend but she told me I wasn’t  to tell mom because it’s was secret.  A young man tells me his cat died last night. Another lost a tooth! Exciting until he sees the blood, thenthe fear sets in.
May 19, 2014

We Need a Union Capable of Fighting and Winning in the Court of Public Opinion: Why I’m Once Again Running For MTA President – Part 4

By Robert Green,

Thus far in this series I have outlined two of the reasons I am once again running for the position of MTA president. In the first post I outlined my belief that the MTA needs to change its institutional culture to be more open to participation by the membership and less partisan. The second post explains why I believe the MTA needs to be more respectful of its own rules; particularly those rules associated with financial transparency. The third post looks at some of the ways we could improve our health insurance and asks members to consider whether the $300,000 QPAT removes from the plan annually is not a back-door fee increase.

austerityAnother important reason I’m once again running for MTA president is that I believe our union leadership needs to do much more to speak out in defense of public education and the integrity of the teaching profession. An effective media strategy can be a powerful means of creating pressure on the employer that can translate into real gains for our members and for public education.

Yet our current leadership seems utterly uninterested in engaging issues in the public sphere.

This was exemplified with the arrival of the Charter of Values as the central issue of public debate in Quebec. Given that this proposed legislation had such direct and severe consequences for teachers, I expected our unions to speak out. Here was an opportunity for the newly elected Mr. Sutherland to show that he could stand up for teachers and defend us in the public sphere. Sadly, unions representing teachers in English school boards were the last in Quebec to weigh in on the issue.

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May 15, 2014

We Need Better Health Insurance, Not a Back Door Fee Increase: Why I’m Once Again Running For MTA President – Part 3

By Robert Green,

Thus far in this series I have outlined two of the reasons I am once again running for the position of MTA president. In the first post I outlined my belief that the MTA needs to change its institutional culture to be more open to participation by the membership and less partisan. The second post explains why I believe the MTA needs to be more respectful of its own rules; particularly those rules associated with financial transparency.

Another reason I am running is to push for badly needed changes to our health and dental insurance. The mere mention of our insurance elicits enormous frustration from the teachers at my school. There is a widespread perception that this plan does not provide good value. The vast majority of teachers with the ability to register on their partner’s insurance plan all seem to do so.

healthUnfortunately neither the leadership of the MTA nor QPAT seem at all interested in working to make improvements to our insurance. While I believe that a thorough investigation into the problems with these plans needs to be done, there are two things that could be done immediately to improve these plans. The first is to actually consult the members on the cost and composition of the plan.

Our union leadership loves to tell us that these are our plans and that we have complete control over them. Yet since these plans have been established the members have never been formally consulted on their cost and composition. Perhaps members would be willing to remove the coverage of certain items in order to reduce fees? Or perhaps the members would be willing to pay more for additional coverage? Or perhaps the members would like to replace the coverage of certain items for improved coverage on others? The point is there is no way of knowing any of this as long as we have a union leadership that is unwilling to put in the work to consult the members. How are we ever to improve the members’ satisfaction with these plans if we never ask them what they think? What good is membership control if the members are never given an opportunity to exercise that control?

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May 12, 2014

States’ standardized tests have a negative impact on parents’ civic engagement

Published May 10, 2014 by Science Daily

New research from a political scientist at the University of Massachusetts Amherst has found that parents of public school students in states with more extensive and stringent student assessment systems express lower trust in government, less confidence in government efficacy, and more negative views of their children’s schools, thereby threatening civic engagement and the potential for future education reform.

In a study published by the journal Political Behavior, associate professor Jesse Rhodes merged data from an original survey of public school parents with quantitative measures of the scope and alignment of state standards, testing, and accountability policies, to determine whether and how education reforms influence the parents’ political attitudes and behaviors.

He found that highly developed assessment policies alienate parents from government and discourage parental involvement in education, an effect he terms “demobilization.” Parental trust in government was 11 percent lower in states with the most extensive assessment policies, and parental assessments of government effectiveness were 15 percent lower, compared to states with less developed testing polices.

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May 10, 2014

For an MTA that is More Transparent and Democratic: Why I’m Once Again Running For MTA President – Part 2

By Robert Green

In part one of this series I explained that the first reason I am once again running for MTA president is that little has changed in the last year with respect to the union’s partisan leadership style. MTA members need a union leadership that is respectful of diverse views and committed to encouraging participation.

An equally important reason that my hat is in the ring this year is that there has also been little change on the question of financial transparency and respect for the MTA’s constitution.

transparentOnce again this year a member has requested to see the union’s Visa statements. Once again the member is being denied. This should be a matter of great concern to every member of the MTA because, after all, this is our money we’re talking about. We need an MTA leadership that will run the union according to the highest standards of financial transparency. More than that we need an MTA leadership with nothing to hide!

However this is about much more than financial transparency. It is about whether or not the union’s constitution is respected. Mr Sutherland insists that his actions do not violate the constitution because he has convinced his loyal followers in the reps assembly that it is within their power to “interpret” the constitution. This argument might hold water if there was anything vague or unclear about the wording in the constitution.

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May 7, 2014

Students’ Dreams Must Now Be ‘Data-driven’

That’s premier’s message as BC higher ed becomes a wholly owned subsidiary of big business.

By Crawford Kilian | Published 30 Apr 2014 by


We’re not talking about schools and universities any more; we’re talking about abstractions. It’s beyond me why a “data-driven system” should be a “major shift” from any school that keeps records. And schools have always been “outcome focused” — the whole point is to see the kids come out of school smarter and better informed than when they came in.

We’re not talking about changing; we’re re-engineering. And now we are spending taxpayers’ dollars not to meet taxpayers’ priorities, but those of the labour market. And that means jobs in demand; when demand slacks off, tough luck for anyone caught training in the wrong program.

North American education has struggled for years under an industrial metaphor: six-year-olds supposedly enter the assembly line as raw material and come out as usable young adults. But we are not cranking out Model Ts or toasters, and God help us if we turn our kids into such commodities.

However tempting it may be to worship the captains of industry, and to obey their every whim, we should remember that they live in the same moment we do, and they have no better idea than we do about what we should prepare for.

These are the same people who urged us to train more keypunch operators back in the 1980s. These are the guys like the Xerox executives who funded Xerox PARC’s invention of the modern computer, complete with mouse and graphic user interface. They were clueless about what they had, and sold it to an acid-dropping college dropout named Steve Jobs — who had really liked an artsy-fartsy course in calligraphy that helped the Mac conquer the world.

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May 4, 2014

Why I’m Once Again Running For MTA President! Part One: We Need a Union That Favours Participation not Partisanship!

I was really hoping to take a year off from MTA elections. Though I knew Mr. Sutherland was firmly entrenched in the small clique that’s been running the MTA for years, I hoped that the MTA might become different under his leadership. At least different enough to justify taking a year off. And while in some ways he is certainly an improvement over his predecessor, there is still far too much that remains of the old MTA and its undemocratic and ineffective ways. Teachers need an alternative.

banner2The first sign that little would change with Sutherland at the helm of the MTA came at the beginning of the very first reps assembly. Here was an opportunity to set a new tone and the very first thing Mr. Sutherland did was to launch a very personal attack on an individual member known for her dissenting views within the union. The attack involved a misrepresentation of why this member’s complaint against the MTA at the labour relations commission had been rejected. As I wrote in my blogpost “Setting the Record Straight About the Complaint Against the MTA at the Labour Relations Commission“:

Although reporting such an event to the members is entirely appropriate, it should be noted that the MTA leadership has a history of reporting events involving the Labour Relations Commission only when it suites their political interests. Rulings against the MTA, or members being paid-off in out-of-court settlements are often not reported to the membership.

It should also be noted that the member in question, Cecile Doucet-Greene, was identified by Sutherland in his presentation of the matter and had been provided no prior notice whatsoever that her case would be the subject of discussion. Given that the reps assembly agenda is set several days in advance, Sutherland and the other members of the executive had all the time in the world to notify Ms Doucet-Greene of the fact that her case would be discussed. Had this simply been about informing the members in good faith, such notice would have been provided. The fact that it wasn’t illustrates that this was an ambush, made in bad faith to score cheap political points.

It’s fine for the MTA’s leadership to disagree with elected members of the reps assembly, but playing these sorts of vindictive games is just petty. It renders the tone of the MTA’s meetings so toxic that well intentioned members don’t want to even attend let alone participate in discussions. Mr Sutherland had an opportunity to change the union’s partisan institutional culture. He has instead chosen to doubled-down in perpetuating the old culture which valued loyalty and loyalty only.

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