BY MARK LEMSTRA | Published JUNE 19, 2014 by THE STARPHOENIX
Teachers’ working conditions are students’ learning conditions.
Teachers are stressed out today. On the one hand, they have a government that recently has unilaterally imposed multiple changes on their working conditions. The latest contract offer was rejected not only because it included insufficient remuneration, but because all other components essential to working and learning conditions would be negotiated at a later date.
On the other hand, teachers are represented by a federation that is having problems communicating the incredible challenges that face learning environments.
Some of the unilateral decisions by government include reducing the number of educational assistants, attempting to introduce standardized testing with no evidence to support it, and making top-down changes to curriculum by ministry officials who are too far removed from the classroom. In the media, however, the main discussion point is wages. Teachers’ recently refused a four-year offer with a 7.3 per cent increase, but this needs more explanation.
Their previous contract was for 985 hours of total assigned time for teaching as well as other duties such as preparation and staff development. Last year, the government unilaterally mandated a minimum 950 hour instruction time. Assuming teachers only worked this minimum, that would leave just 35 hours a year for all other duties.