Real and not real and unreal

I swore several times this morning I wouldn’t waste any time on this topic, but I kept reading the first paragraph of this article by Brent Stafford over and over. I decided it would be better time management to just write about it and get it out of my head. First, here is the paragraph.

I don’t blame the British Columbia Teachers’ Federation for being unreasonable in its contract demands. After all, teachers don’t work in the real world. They are oblivious to the challenges of driving revenue, servicing customers, operating against a budget tied to profit and loss. They have no idea what it’s like to be an entrepreneur — to bet their future on a new product, service or system — to nurture a small business, to be responsible for the livelihood of staff and to satisfy a mountain of regulation.

 

I am going to start with the idea that I have no idea what it means to be an entrepreneur. Think about me like a small business. I invested in me for about 8 years with minimal income, while I went to school to get my two degrees.  I bet my future on it, and it took years and years to get where I wanted my career to be. I took loans (paid out at prime, plus 2%, so about 9% in the 90s) to help me build my business (pay tuition and living expenses). I continue to invest in my professional learning.

This is real – no tax write-offs for anything, not office space in my home, car to drive to work, computer to use for my classroom and online learning, costs of websites, professional books, office supplies, resources for my classroom, travel expense claims and so on. I get that I now am less vulnerable to market fluctuations as I am a salaried employee with a union contract, but it wasn’t a cake-walk to get here and it takes major investment in time and money to remain here. I’m fine, though. My husband’s groaning and eye-rolling on the issue of what I pay out of pocket with no tax write-off notwithstanding, I love where I am.

The idea that I have no concept of servicing customers is unreal. Try engaging a room full of teenagers and their iPhones. I compete all day long. I have to remain competitive to keep them learning and I work hard to keep my ‘product’ ahead of the curve, relevant to the ‘marketplace’ and useful for their future. It’s a great challenge, and I love it.

Don’t talk to me about how I don’t understand what it means to be responsible for the livelihood of others. It is clear from research that students’ long term health outcomes are related directly to how long they stay in school and how educated they are. Education is life and death, in the long and the short term. I know that if I don’t keep a student coming to school, it can mean complete disaster for them, and frankly, the entire community. Believe me, we work extremely hard to ensure students stay connected in our school for as long as possible. We give them as many avenues as we can to keep them connected to adults in the building, to provide them a safe and healthy place to come to, to give them food and shelter. We help them mature so they have options, purpose and dignity. We don’t always succeed and they don’t always let us help. The pain of that is very real.

Unreal: the idea that a building full of people is not the real world. Every imaginable story walks through our halls. Real stories, real people. Of course, I can’t really elaborate because I am talking about real people and their real tragedies, their real successes. Because it is real, I can only generalize.

Ah, mountains of regulations. Again, sorry, but we are both living in the same real world. Budget cuts and pressures. Ditto. Some of these are my own challenges as a classroom teacher and department head, others are the responsibility of other professionals in our school.

By the way, my own personal budget has been cut back over the last two decades or so as my salary has not kept pace. If you take the salary my relative was making when he retired in 1997 (same category as me) and put it into the Bank of Canada inflation calculator, it tells me I should be making about $6000 more to stay on pace. I don’t want a raise, I’d just like to stop sliding backward. I am not apologizing for that expectation.

Anyway, I could debate the whole of the article, but I have to get back to working on the classes I am teaching this semester. It helps keep me positive to work with curriculum. I really do have the best job.

Hang on, a few more things.

Real – one area of this article with which I am in complete agreement – keeping the children/grandchildren of politicians out of the discussion.

Also real- the way adults are treated is also important. The article takes a very nasty tone, suggesting I am stomping my feet and yelling for all the money to come to me! That’s not real and it is mean.

Real – we need students back in classrooms. Arbitrate NOW.

Not real – the idea that we don’t really want to arbitrate.

Real – many teachers really feel they are on the line to protect public education and the Constitution. This is not a political game for us.

Unreal – using the BC EdPlan for political purposes.

Unreal – spin. Spin that suggests our desire for more specialist teachers is only to pad ‘the rank and file’.

Not real – unlimited massages.

Real – spin hurts our democracy. Thoughtful debate on policy is healthy. Spin makes people cynical. Cynical people stay away from politics. My new slogan: Stop playing politics with our democracy.

Not real – that the relationship between the two sides is intractable.

Real – that the relationship is intractable is the excuse the government will use for its ‘new paradigm’.

Real – my husband wants to throw my computer into the lake because of the distress and anxiety as I watch twitter and the media. I love him for that.

Real – I can’t afford to replace it.

I could go on, but that’s enough. I am sure more will come to me, or to you. Feel free to add via the comments section.

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