“Dad”, I said, “Why did you want to be a part of the war?”
“It was exciting, Stacey. Everyone wanted to make a difference in the world and we were young enough and cocky enough to think that we would never die.”
I guess doing things because you want to make a difference is an eternal theme. That’s why I teach. I want to make a difference in my students’ lives. I want to help them realize their full potential so that they can make a life for themselves and for their children. And, in some cases, I do think I make a difference. Although, it is not always immediately evident.
I, and my colleagues, find ourselves in a bit of a pickle these days. We are busy getting on with our making a difference when – bang- we are side-lined by criticism and judgement. And it has nothing to do with our own ability to teach. It has everything to do with perception. The labour dispute between teachers (the teacher’s unions) and the Ontario government has become an elephant in the classroom. It does not belong there – there should be no dispute. The pickle part of the matter is that I feel caught in the middle and am being split and quartered by both union and government. What’s worse is that media has not even recognized that I am being so severely severed. I am being painted with a brush that labels me “greedy” for more money.
I am happy, in this economy, to have a job. I am more than happy with the salary and benefits I receive. I have worked for nearly 25 years in education and have earned by “wings” per se. New teachers have to begin at the bottom and through hard-work and energy and love, will learn skills that will make them become better teachers – worth more pay. This is the way it is. And I don’t know anyone I work with that begrudges this process. I remember as a beginning teacher struggling to make my rent, car payment, and student debt repayments month to month. School was expensive and long. I did the time. I paid my dues and now I am entitled to enjoy what I have worked so hard for.
What I am not thrilled about, however, is that it seems the institution that guarded our rights as workers in the past, has lost it’s ability to negotiate rights. This is not through their own doing, rather, a government that has disenfranchised the very people who forged it’s election. How did that happen? How is it possible that, in Ontario, citizens are worried about losing their democratic rights? It is more troubling to me that the climate is one of distrust than anything else. This is not the same government that my Dad put his faith in – and fought overseas for. It can’t be. Dad wanted to make a difference and the government supported him. I am saddened by the fact that I too feel my work is important and I too can make a difference, but mis-representation by government and media has mitigated my abilities.
My purpose in the classroom each day, is to help students find ways that they can identify their own strengths and weaknesses, to find their way in the world so that they too can feel purposeful, respected, and worthy. That is why I teach… not for money, as the media and government have claimed. I know Dad would not be happy about that lie. Nor am I.