Wednesday, January 23, 2013


by Jeff Kanter, a secondary teacher in Ottawa.

I have just read a letter to the editor in today’s OTTAWA SUN (just to clarify, while it is not my policy to support idiots, it is still instructive to know where they stand). In this one, the writer (or as I suspect in this case, the printer) hurled out the old accusation: teachers are underworked whiners with an almost non - existent work day.

It is really difficult to resist the urge to reply in kind, but, with tongue loosely planted in cheek, I will attempt to avoid sinking to his level. It is even more challenging to totally ignore the inevitable editorial addition to this bottom feeder’s assertions, in which the erstwhile SUN staffer so assiduously pointed out that the teachers are not done complaining yet.

I would like to invite this individual to sit down with me for a frank and earnest exchange of views on the present situation involving the teachers and their struggles with the provincial politburo, I mean, government. He could bring a dictionary as long as I am allowed a few bodyguards.

But it seems to me, that for this dude, there is no need for a crisis in education for him to gleefully join in the chorus of those who feel the need to trash teachers. I have to wonder which of his teachers either made him stand in the corner (for bullying perhaps?) or disciplined him when he wasn’t paying attention (often perhaps?) or just got on his nerves (“annoying” has become the new catchword for just about everything that is negative in any way). Of course, he may have arrived at these conclusions all on his own.

It is tempting to wonder what this fellow does for a living, but, truth told, I don’t really care. Given that teacher trashers are from a wide variety of backgrounds and perform a range of functions on the job chart, one can only conclude that the only real requirement to join this classless anti-class club is a strong sense of closed mindedness. Low tolerance is an asset, but not a necessity.

He has every right to his opinion – and full respect for having it – no matter how wrong and stupid it may be.

Silence is often interpreted as assent; therefore, I must reply to this guy. Do I care if HE ever reads this? Nope. He is not the person whom I hope to reach because he appears beyond that pale; but if one other person, perhaps a reader of his published perspective, can be prevailed upon to wade through all THIS, and at least admit to the possibility of another point of view that has some truth or logic, then our work here today will have been not for naught.

Teachers are appropriately paid for what they do. Their benefits are appropriate, too. They did not establish the framework / hours of instruction for the school day. They established unions lawfully and peacefully and have been bargaining collectively and somewhat more successfully, it would seem, than the NHL players association of late. But that is all peripheral.

Teachers may teach short hours but they work long hours. A class is somewhat like dealing with 25 + demanding clients all at the same time in the same place. And to dismiss preparation and parental contact and marking and participation in extra curricular outright is an outrageous miscomprehension of teaching. And yes, there ARE those teachers who have figured out how to work the gig to their advantage, but that is true of any workplace. However, in my experience (almost 40 years in two cities and 7 schools) those folks are the exception while the vast majority of my colleagues are exceptional in terms of their dedication, their hard work, their integrity, their commitment, and their work ethic.

The actual time spent in actively teaching classes is INDEED the smallest part of the day for many teachers. Our educational Einsteinian evaluator must think that at the moment the actual class ends, the teacher is finished working. Sadly, nothing, I am afraid, would convince him otherwise. Only first hand experience, actually seeing what it is like to teach, would have any impact. Anyone who has ever taught is now free to giggle at the image of this gentleman trying to keep up with any teacher from K-12.

Better get after all those professional athletes, then. After all, using our friend’s convoluted thought processes, the hockey player whose actual time on ice might be ten minutes per game and who might play three games in a week is therefore earning around half a million bucks for, what, half an hour of actual work for the entire week!

Others have spent much time and energy listing the many things that make teaching such a challenging and time consuming profession. The message to our friend here today is come see for himself what a teacher really and actually does over the course of a day or two hundred. For that matter, would that he could also see for himself what many teachers do on their weekends, their evenings, and what is left of their evenings after their play rehearsals or coaching gigs or club activities. The number who do use time in the summer for upgrading teaching credentials is impressive. If some do travel or just relax during that time, they have surely earned either.

Teachers, whose work is important but not valued by some in government and the public, are now being faced with draconian attacks on basic democratic rights.

Buddy, and the faceless editorial staff member who added that silly rejoinder after the letter: teachers are not only going to continue opposing illegal legislation and unprecedented attacks on our profession, for what it could mean to many others if they do not, that is exactly what they should be doing.

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