Dear Moira Stilwell,
My name is Joan Shannon Jung. I am a citizen in your riding of Langara.
I am writing to you to express my utter dismay at what your government is doing against public education in our province. It has been appalling to watch and I simply cannot sit here and not write to you, as you represent me, and let you know that you have let us down.
Your government has been found (twice) to have violated BC teachers' Charter rights to collectively bargain. Also, the Supreme Court found the Liberal Government to have bargained in bad faith to provoke a strike. The Liberal Government has not complied with what the courts have ordered. Instead, the tax payers will have to pay for yet another lengthy appeal hearing. I heard today that we will not likely hear the result of that appeal until next spring.
I am a grade four teacher in a fantastic school in your riding. I wish you knew the passion and the love I have for teaching. I wish you could know how blessed I am to be able to work with students who greet me each day with enthusiasm and spirit, who have their whole future ahead of them. Teaching in public school in Vancouver is a vocation I treasure and value greatly. So do my colleagues.
But in the last thirteen years, with the violation by your government for disregard for class size and composition, I have seen a devastating effect on the everyday support for my students. You cannot possibly agree with Peter Fassbender that class size and class composition has nothing to do with educational impact or outcome of learning. As an experienced teacher of 24 years, I can assure you that the make up of my class, how much support we are given to work with the special needs students, as well as the total number of students has everything to do with the quality of education received in the classroom.
Here's an example: In my class schedule I have set aside three forty-five minute blocks for reading and writing conferences which are held with my students one on one. My colleague comes in for two of the blocks and together we meet with students individually, listen to them read, listen to them read their writing, and give them some guidance as to where they go next, or help them set some goals for themselves. It is invaluable teaching time. I actually wrote my Master's paper on this very precious time I get with students. With three blocks a week, and thirty students, it takes me over a month to see all my students. At grade four, with special needs and English language learning needs, this is not enough. If my class were four or five students less, and if I had adequate support for my students who need it, I would be able to see my students more often and those students who need more support and extra monitoring would receive that.
Seventeen of my thirty grade four students have been recommended for remedial summer school, to give them a boost for next year. This is no punishment for them. They love summer school and they love learning. I can't wait to work with them this summer! (Unless the lock out continues, does that mean that I wouldn’t be allowed to teach them?)
Yesterday I spoke with a parent until 3:45, at which point I was locked out of my school. We were speaking about her son with special needs. Every day is a huge effort for him to participate in my class. He gets little to no support to grasp the curriculum. He does not get a designation. He does not get a Student Support Worker which he so desperately needs to help him connect with the learning. I had to tell her that he will not be able to read the regular grade 5 textbooks next year. I told her that I leave the classroom at the end of the day, agonizing over how I could possibly stretch myself further to better meet the needs in my class. (He's one of four students working at two to three years below grade level in my class. None of them have designations or enough extra support) I told her that's why we're discussing with our employer about class size and composition. She gets it. She understands that her son needs more. She understands that her son deserves so much more.
I share these examples to show you how much class size and composition matter to me.
I don't understand how the government, of which you are a part, is allowed to apply pressure to our union to settle by telling teachers that we cannot help our students outside of certain hours, that we cannot speak with our parents, that we are locked out of recess and lunch (my own break time) and then can say we are working less so they can dock us 10% of our pay. What would that look like for you in your job? What if you were asked to do the same amount of work you normally do, but in significantly less time and with a significant reduction of pay? What if you were treated in this manner? What if you were disrespected in this way? To me this feels like a public humiliation of teachers.
I have never felt so far away from my government. I have never felt so demeaned as a teacher as I have this week.
It is with deep sadness that I write this letter to you, to express what a disservice your government is doing to my students, to the students of this province, and to all of British Columbia.
When I started writing this letter, I wondered if I should even tell you that I am a teacher. I thought that if you knew, that it might discredit my voice. That you might write me off as one of those "lazy, greedy teachers" that I hear your government speak of. That is the current climate of our province. Remember when I said that I treasure and value my profession? Your government's position against educators makes me want to hide my profession. There's something not right here.
I beg you to do something. You represent me. Please pay careful attention to the needs of the children of your riding, the children of this province. They deserve so much more than what they are getting.
I am asking that your government obey the law and restore class size and composition to the way it was when I gave up my salary increase for it, back in 2002.
I am asking for a change in your current position against teachers and against public education in this province.
Maybe I'm asking for the world. Well, it's my students' world. Let's change it for the better. I'm writing for them.
Joan Shannon Jung