Saturday, January 14, 2012

BC teachers describe workload issues at bargaining table

This week, several teachers came to the provincial bargaining table on behalf of the BCTF to share their experiences teaching in BC. Here are some excerpts from the reports:

January 12:

The BCTF began the day with a presentation from Sarah Newton, an elementary school teacher from Revelstoke. Her presentation described her work as a teacher in and outside of her classroom, which demonstrated the need for increased preparation time for all of our members. Sarah has felt it necessary to go part time this year to .85 so she could “be a good teacher.” She described how 90 minutes per week of prep time is insufficient with all of the demands and pressures placed on teachers. Sarah outlined how, despite all the time spent at recess, during lunch time, after work and on weekends, it is still very difficult for teachers to do all the work needed under current conditions to try to meet the needs of all of their students. Sarah described some of the tasks that she does when she is not teaching her class. They included: preparing meaningful lessons that involved continuous hands-on experiences/activities/stations for students in most of her subjects, preparing the computer lab for lessons which had to be done after hours at the school because of the nature of the school district server, prereading novels, researching, preparing alternative activities for different faith-based students, homework club, communicating with support staff, working on IEPs, communicating with all her parents on a weekly basis. On top of this, there are all the volunteer activities in which she and other teachers often get involved as well as family responsibilities.

It was interesting to note that, once again, prep time is having to be purchased by individual teachers in order for them provide the students with the education they deserve.

In response to Sarah’s presentation, BCPSEA acknowledged that the net-zero mandate made it challenging for them at the bargaining table. BCPSEA stated that they want to “provide foundational elements that will support teachers” and that they want to have a discussion with us “on how we can support teachers.”
BCTF reminded BCPSEA that they have not provided one proposal nor counter thus far that will provide support for teachers. We encouraged them to provide a counter on preparation time and other areas as “foundational elements” that would actually show that they are serious about supporting teachers and the work they do with our students.

January 11:

The BCTF began with a presentation from Tracy Yarr, a senior English teacher from Victoria, to support our proposal on increased preparation time.

Tracy presented a detailed and holistic description of her life as a teacher. She works part time, .86, so that she has additional preparation time (commonly known as “buying a block”). After 12 years of teaching, she earns only $58,000 and is concerned about the impact on her pension. Despite getting part time pay, she works far more than full-time hours. She described spending 18 hours on the weekend marking, the extra time spent running the Youth Combating Intolerance club in her school, the hours spent helping students apply for university, and the hours spent with students in crisis.

Tracy described the situation of overwork as one which “fosters an environment where teachers are just surviving.” She described how teachers feel demoralized when students are not able to reach their full potential, and how the vast majority of colleagues work long, long hours to do their absolute best to help students.

She described a colleague who teaches calculus who puts in 70-hour weeks. She described the increased demands from expectant parents and from students who have grown up in a “screen” culture and come to school unable to focus. 

She finished by stating: “My job has outgrown itself. It cannot be done well in the hours available.” She told the employer that “you have a legion of teachers in the system who are committed.” She urged the employer not to “railroad us into burnout or mediocrity.”

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