Is anybody out there listening?

shoes in the grass

After a year on leave, I spent the better part of this week in schools, supplying with students with special needs and behavioural designations. As the days wore on, I began to feel something not quite akin to despair, but deeply seeded concern. The government and the media are profoundly focused on contract negotiations and the ways in which unions have chosen – or been forced – to bring to light the issues at the bargaining tables both at the Provincial and local levels.

What I want to know though – is anybody out there listening to the cries of concern from educators? The concern over the state of education and more troubling, the train wreck that will be education if something does not change?

Classrooms are staffed by individuals with a passion for their work; you simply could not deliver education in the situations we are in if you were not passionate. The needs of mainstream students are higher than ever, their attention spans are shorter than ever and the amount of curriculum that needs to be delivered is substantial. The idea that the government thinks that increasing the number of students receiving that curriculum from one educator is mind-boggling. Considering lowering the support to students with behavioural and special needs at the same time makes absolutely no sense either.

There are those out in the public who say that teachers and other educators have it easy – we have summers off, two-week breaks at the end of December, a week in March. That is a perk, not created by or mandated by the educators themselves, that in no way justifies the expectations that are steadily increasing within schools. The rate of stress leave for educators is increasing. Again, people do not understand why someone would feel stressed, given those vacation breaks, given the shorter (on paper only) work hours of educators.

It’s pretty simple: people who care deeply about their students are being asked to make changes, take short cuts, short change students in order to meet financial criteria set by people who do not work within the system. There are no two students for whom that delivery of education looks the same – education is not a “one size fits all” proposition – it needs to be funded in ways that are as unique as the students within the system.

Is anybody out there listening? The future is in trouble – the future of education and our future: the children and youth in this province and all across Canada. Look beyond the headlines and see that the government has been and will continue to erode education in big and small ways while blaming it on those who want to help create the future by supporting students to be ready for that future.

Students matter = Education matters = Educators matter.

10 thoughts on “Is anybody out there listening?

  1. The children with special needs is expanding and the help and support is decreasing. If you are behavioural then they notice but if you are special needs and not a problem child you are swept under the carpet.. We need more teachers and helper and smaller classes. We pay taxes even if we do not have children in the school system so where is this money going?????? taxes go up service goes down that is that Canadina Government for you if we were a different country asking for there children the help would be there but for our own they always say no. We all have to stand up to them before it is too late.


  2. I teach special education classes and the last three years, I have had more students in the class than I am supposed to. I feel I am cheating some of my students because I am only human and can only spread myself so thin. Nobody seems to get it.


    • I completely agree.. I work in a daycare and the ration is 1-8 for preschoolers….that’s nothing compared to the school boards… and even at that ratio its impossible to give all the children what they need.I agree with L.Firth when saying you feel like cheating some of the children. Some children appear to need more time then others and will get it due to behavior or learning concerned but it doesn’t mean the other children don’t deserve our attention. It’s a sad situation.. hats off to all the educators out there who stress themselves to give all they can to so many children.


  3. Thank you for writing this. I cannot tell you how many times I have watched the students in my school get on the bus, while in my mind I am running through all the kids that needed my help that day but didn’t get it. I heard a call in show on CBC where everyone was talking assessments and IEPs and how the government is working hard to make sure that everyone who needs one gets it. Well, what’s the point of having 12 students in your class on IEPs if you don’t have the in-class support to implement them?


  4. It’s odd that teachers don’t have the public support that would force politicians, for fear of not being reelected to change course and provide the financial, legislative and logistical support our teachers clearly need.

    Why is that?

    Not to oversimplify things but my suspicion is it is because of your union(s)

    The simple truth that the majority of teachers are caring, dedicated, professionals that have their students best interest as their priority has disappeared from the publics consciencenes.

    Your Union was politicized years ago and now, what is a clear conflict of interest, has left you powerless.

    You’ve allowed your representation to become ineffective. You need a new voice.

    The sad fact that you do not have the overwhelming support of the people of Ontario is clear evidence that your union leadership is hurting you and our kids.

    Not voting Liberal again isn’t a bad idea either.


  5. I am retired from teaching and have been there both in the regular classroom and in withdrawal. I know the government is buying votes on teachers’ backs. BUT where is the union? I did the work to rule and even the strikes and they all stink but each time just as it appeared that we were making progress the unions caved and our time on the picket lines was wasted. Then we returned to the classroom to try to mend fences with our parents and get our children back on track. I don’t like or advocate strikes and work to rule only hurts the teachers but if the union with the teachers’ full backing don’t follow through you will never see small classes, more support and added assistance for the special needs children that are dear to our hearts. When it comes to bargaining, teachers are seen as a joke. When we were out or marched to show solidarity the comment was “Just ring the bell and they will go back to their classroom.” Maybe it is time to practise tough love if you want to really help your children.


  6. We are also burning out our educators,and not short term.We will have a shortage even for the few positions funded at this rate.Society in general has to wake up .Human beings are not robots .


  7. I love that you wrote this and it is very true, but I have to say something here that may cause people to get a bit upset. NOT all teachers are passionate about their work. I have seen many teachers just barely toeing the line to educate students and also retired teachers coming back to teach just because they can and not so much because they still love their job or love the kids. It is sad and it unfortunately is true. Coming back to teach after you retire takes jobs from new teachers who are biting at the bit to get out there and teach and are full of hopes and dreams for their students. They are just waiting to inspire children to be the best they can be. So many of our new teachers are leaving and teaching abroad not because they want to, but because they have no other options. Yes the government has to realize that growing the number of students in the classroom and taking away support is terribly backwards and wrong, but the school boards have to some how find a way to hire the new teachers that are excited about teaching without causing a hoopla with unions and the retired teachers or find other options within the school board for teachers who have lost their passion and really do not want to be in the classroom anymore (administration or something). Our children deserve more and it really is about our children here, more than anything else if you ask me.


    • Yes. Not all teachers are passionate. Not all politicians are working in the best interest of children. Not all…the list goes on. There is a fine line between moving teachers out of the profession in order to make space for younger teachers and pushing them out. Part of the passion for education has left many educators because of circumstances that have more to do with the dissolution of the education system than the lack of passion for being a teacher. I am an ‘older’ educator – I am passionate about education while also passionate about ensuring that the workplace is positive for not only our students but our educators. I am also a mother of two young adults who would be ideal as educators but who have chosen other paths in some part due to the fact that there is not room for them within the system. It is not an issue about unions or an issue about the Boards not recognizing there are problems. It is an issue of governmental inertia to fund the system that would allow there to be capacity for good teachers, of all ages and stages of their careers, to be delivering education to our students in a way that is suited to student needs rather than to meet a bottom line. The government has priorities and our future, the children of Ontario, are not a priority to them. Funding is being taken away from important programs inside and outside the education system that relate to children (ask any parent of a child with autism what they are facing for instance). It is becoming a big business driven society and although education is a business, its ‘clients’ are being left in the lurch.


  8. Very well written and so very true. Teachers these days are expected to be Super Heroes with very little assistance. Parents have high(er) expectations as well and not as many are are supportive of educators. There is very little direction and help from school administrators which in many cases isn’t all their fault because they so busy shuffling papers etc. School Boards have become far too obsessed with curriculum. Teachers really can no longer take advantage of “teachable moments” because they simple just do not have time to do so. They have to keep moving at far too fast a clip to fit in all that curriculum (in too many areas).
    And yes, teachers get so tired of hearing others say how lucky they are to have all that time off. Well l, the majority of them may leave their classrooms say around 4-5 pm (not at 3:30 pm when the kids leave btw). Then they throw a bunch of other books in their school bag so they do another few hours of marking and planning at home. Time spent away from their own children many a time. If you don’t stay on top of things as a teacher…’ll be sorry that’s for sure. Most spend at least 1 of the 2 weekend days doing school work. Same thing during those holidays they get…..there is a fair bit of time spent on school. And for that 2 months off in the summer? Many teachers take courses to add to their qualifications. And almost every teacher starts working on the next year in August. As soon as the custodians allow them to, they are in their classrooms setting up for September.
    It’s tough having a career that seemingly the general republic doesn’t respect, the government is always attacking and taking things away from negotiated contract deals. Of adults don’t show respect for teachers…..why should the kids? Thy makes their job 10 times as hard. Now, do you think it’s easy to be an educator?


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