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Teachers an easy target

Re: ‘Teachers going too far’ (Tribune Editorial, Dec. 14)
I am a proud teacher. I have been teaching since 1986, and I have seen many changes in government, policy and curriculum. It is necessary to correct some misconceptions that the public has about teachers.
Many accuse us of fighting for more money. We have not had the opportunity to address the issue of pay, as our collective bargaining rights have been stripped and we are bound by the draconian contents of Bill 115.
In the past we have worked diligently and respectfully with our board to reach mutually agreeable contracts. We have endured a 2% pay penalty for not accepting the OECTA agreement two years ago which was formed at a provincial discussion table, rather than through the democratic board-union bargaining process.
This is not about money. This is about democracy.
We are not “using the children as hostages” as the editorial states. We have decided that volunteering our extra time is something we need to withdraw so that the public might realize the extent of our dedication to students.
I have led choirs, put on musicals, worked with seniors in the community, organized concerts, performed during my evening hours, led parent education workshops, coached teams, tutored students and provided outstanding trips to enhance learning and engage children.
None of those duties are described in my contract. They are all extras that I have enjoyed offering.
No one has the right to demand that I volunteer, just as I would not demand that a parent volunteer to lead these activities. Many parents have jobs that require all of their time and energy.  So do I.  Please offer me the same respect that I offer you.
Many don’t realize that we get paid for 10 months of work, not 12, and we are locked out during the summer months.
This is not my choice. It is imposed, just as a layoff would be. The only difference between the laid-off worker and a teacher is that the former is entitled to unemployment insurance during a layoff.  I am not.
I do not get a retirement gratuity, nor do I get vacation pay.  I imagine many readers do. I have spent a good portion of my career working until 11 p.m., then getting up early to continue my marking and preparations for the day. I go to work on Sundays, signing in with at least six others weekly.
I open my wallet to provide my students with craft supplies, games, toys and manipulatives that are not supplied by the board. I spent the first 10 years of my career supplementing my income with restaurant work.  I have taught piano lessons to pay for the additional university courses required to move up the pay grid.
Our newest teachers are being stripped of their opportunity to move up the grid after waiting seven years for a contract and taking courses at their own expense. You will find them volunteering in classrooms to gain experience that might help them obtain a contract.
I suggest that the government recognize us as the professional, caring people we are and give us the opportunity to develop mutually satisfying contracts with our employer: the Upper Grand District School Board (not the provincial government).
Anyone wishing to volunteer to lead extracurricular activities would be welcome, although only qualified, skilled individuals willing to work long hours without remuneration need apply.
Teachers did not cause the provincial financial woes.  We are simply the easiest to target with strategies to inflame the public.
Laurie Garbutt

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