June 10th, 2014

Ill touch on ideal position first and foremost as its the positive of the two heading topics. The ideal position refers to my successful appointment as a 0.857 FTE Physical Education Teacher at Pitt Meadows Secondary School!!! So it seems the goal has been reached in a lot of ways. Its not 1.0 FTE but its as close as I’ve been and its everyday, I just have a prep everyday. The position itself is not just PE either, its one block of Social Studies 9 but if I had my choice of an extra teaching subject, Social Studies (or SS for short) would be a top of the list. Not only is it interesting learning about this countries past as well as its geography, but it allows me to stay engaged as I have to know the content before the kids and when its interesting, it sticks.

The lead up to the assignment was pretty quick. I noticed the job was posted on the district portal like all other internal postings, at least the ones without continuing status (these jobs are posted only to teachers with previous or current continuing contracts, as they get first dibs). So in saying that, this one is non-continuing, meaning the posting has an end date, which in this case is June 27/2014, the end of the school year. Once I found the job, I immediately applied, and at the same time, pondered over who’s position it was, having met all the PE staff here at PMSS. The very next day, I was called into PMSS to cover a PE staff member and coincidentally, the teacher who’s position i had applied for the previous evening, was at school and wanted to talk to me. He was glad I had applied and, in fact, had wanted to request me for the position!!! I had been in for his classes numerous times before and enjoyed my time, so hearing it was his job, along with the endorsement was a great boost to my confidence.

I believe it was a Friday, or even a Thursday when the posting closed, and I didn’t hear back on either of those days, nor the weekend. As Nick (teacher who’s job I had applied and been endorsed to cover) told me, requests aren’t always respected by administration, so I had become a little doubtful after not hearing anything. It wasn’t until Sunday night when I got a call from Mr Mike Keenan, Principal of PMSS, inviting me to an interview on Monday – the following day. Funnily enough, it wasn’t 5 minutes beforehand when I received a call from SD42 Dispatch asking me to work at PMSS, covering the very same, Mr Nick Nedeljkovic for the Monday. During my conversation with Mr Keenan, we then established an interview time during my prep or after school Monday, which ever worked best come Monday.

It was the latter as Administration had a meeting scheduled during my prep time, so come 2:40pm, I was in Mr Keenan’s office, rather sweaty as well from the previous PE lesson I hosted outside in the sun. The interview was fairly informal, as we had had a formal sit down for a previous position earlier in the school year. I was confident, yet prepared for not getting the position, as I had no seniority at all. However, being in for him already on this Monday, and Ned, already gone under the knife for his surgery, along with the previous work in his classroom/classes, the job was mine.

Wrong timing refers to the gong show that is the ongoing labour relations between the BCTF and the BCPSEA (British Columbia Public School Employers’ Association) and the overflowing consequences. These include the striking of teachers, which are still at rotating, once a week strike days, however a pending vote will change that to potentially a full blown strike by next week. This alone is just the tip, with the timing coming along with end of year exams which include provincial exams for senior students. On the other end of the academic spectrum, extra curricular activities like field trips have also been cancelled, leaving students with extreme levels of frustration. Yes the students are frustrated, yet the teachers and the government are also sharing this annoyance, however, the ones who could do without it the most, are the ones who are affected the most, the kids. I have an interesting article to read about the history of labour relations here in BC which I was given by my girlfriends father who works in the government sector. I will be sure to reflect upon reading it here in my blog once I am done reading it, hopefully with a new perspective.

Like I have said, its looking like a full on strike starting next week, and who will be the ultimate loser? All of the above I’d say.

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Posted in Teaching |
May 23rd, 2014

So the pressure is mounting on both sides of the bargaining table and the losers are everywhere.

The students are obviously losing out now with teachers being “locked out” as of next Monday the 26th which was a response to the stage two strike step put in motion by the BCTF this week, starting next week. The lock out requires teachers to arrive no earlier or leave any later than 45 minutes with no academic student interaction during recess and/or lunch times. As for the rolling strikes, each district will strike next week on one day over the entire province and as a result, the government has responded with decreasing their pay by 10%, along with the lock out.

The students aren’t the only losers here as you can see. The government are reinforcing their inability to bargain and/or negotiate, as this is the fourth or fifth labour relations issue for some of the teachers I’ve been speaking too, over their careers. It’s a frustrating situation as a TTOC looking in, getting told by experienced teachers who want to fight for not just themselves, but my folk alike. Getting results for future teachers will only help the government in the long term with teaching becoming an aspiring profession. If the trend of low wages, low working conditions, high classroom size and high stress levels continue, no one will want to become a teacher, at least not a public school teacher.

The respect is absent. The government has a powerful ego and loves flexing it. The Premier is such a bad role model for students and young people alike, however I can see students aspiring to reach her status due to the money she earns and ultimate power she holds. This is a sad, sad thought.

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Posted in Teaching |
May 2nd, 2014

That is the question I have posed for myself to answer pretty soon. I would have quite a few months to contemplate the move, however it would involve a lot of things. One would be of course, a change of career, leaving teaching. Have I taught enough? I still love it, but I do miss teaching at home… Another four years of study would be on the cards, IF, I did get in. The if here is big, as I would actually need to study in order to get in, to study.

HECS or HELP debt as they call it now, would grow, exponentially. However, the money I would earn being a doctor would allow me to pay off the debt much quicker. Four years of study means a move back home which I would love, however, not earning money during that time, or very little if I did attempt to work, would be tough.

Before I make any decisions, I have resources to use including people who have gone or are going through medical school. I shall use these avenues prior to diving into anything head first. It would be head first, on a count of how much brain power I would be calling on. I hope I have the talent, I know I have the discipline, it’s whether I can love it, passionately, as much as I do teaching…

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Posted in Teaching |
April 24th, 2014

As a permanent teacher, I would be torn between the love of teaching and the frustration of current teaching conditions. This would leave me in a rough spot as a rolling/stage type strike has now been imposed here in BC schools.

As a TTOC, it means a potential loss of work due to no school…

If I had to choose, I’d rather be torn and roughed up than not be working at all, especially when both Lindsay and I are TTOCs.

In saying that, if it means a short term loss for a long term gain then I can’t oppose that. Like I said above, this strike has stages, 4 or 5 from memory. The first “won’t affect students” at all, at least that’s what the message from the BCTF is. As much as I’d like to believe this, everything we take away from ourselves as teachers and educators, indirectly and ultimately effects our students. As a Union, the BCTF can claim what they want as it is a popularity contest after all, between them and the opposing/negotiating (in the same breath) BC government.

Currently BC Teachers do not have a contract, ie, terms of employment. They are running off the old, expired one and haven’t been able to come to any conclusions with the government over the past 24-36 months. Something is broken here, and it’s going to take both sides to fix it.

The idea and stigma of teachers striking here is nothing new. The relationship between the BCTF and government has never been great and with an extremely abrasive premier currently at the helm, it’s making progress that much harder. Politics aside, this would be so simple, however, this is all political. The ego of both sides is getting in the way of sufficient progress and until they BOTH realize who they are hurting by not fairly negotiating then this strike will continue and proceed through all stages. I say fairly negotiating because the government has already been found guilty of unconstitutional behaviour when they prevented teachers from striking a year or so ago.

There is a way to do this, however both sides need to give, in order to get, afterall, isn’t that “negotiating” or “compromising”. And yes BCTF, a fair compromise is better than the current situation, past and present. Get it done.

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Posted in Teaching |
March 28th, 2014

Back home term breaks have been two week periods for as long as I can remember. It probably helps when the school year is based on the calendar year with summer occurring over the festive season. In North America of course, Christmas/New Year occurs at the same time, but Summer happens from June-August. The school year therefore, starts in September and ends in June, not exactly calendar year, and with the longer summer break, the term intermissions have traditionally been shorter and less frequent.

Most school districts here in BC now adopt a two week spring break, along with two weeks over Christmas/New Year. It was common practice for these breaks to be just one week, but times have changed.

Enjoyable as it may be for the students and teachers alike, those TTOCs who don’t receive regular salary unless they are working, the two week break represent a hole in the pay cheques that are otherwise, at this time of year, fairly consistent.

Another piece of the Spring Break puzzle is the weather here in BC. For a lot of North America, Spring Break represents warm weather and an opportunity to get outside and start enjoying the sunshine. Here in BC, especially the Lower Mainland, the weather has improved with temperatures rising to double digits pretty consistently, however the Spring showers move in at the same time… It’s not all gloomy because at this time of year, PE is able to move outdoors as it warms up, and for me, that’s perfect.

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Posted in Teaching |