Jan 5, 2013

An Open Letter to my #OSSTF Colleagues


What a trying time it has been and will continue to be for us.

It sucks having your profession seemingly attacked. It sucks having the work you do seemingly disrespected. I don’t like it. I don’t like being put into the situation where I need to defend what I do on a daily basis to people who seemingly don’t understand.

I’ve heard from some of you that you “avoid the conversation” if it comes up with family and friends. I get it. It’s easier that way. I don’t blame you for wanting to just take a break from the politics and snippiness.

I don’t like Bill 115. I think it was a cowards way of dealing with fiscal realities and frankly, it was an effort to create a negative atmosphere in education. And it worked. Negativity is everywhere.

And so now, here we are. Our contracts have been imposed and Bill 115 will be repealed. A shrewd political move if ever I did see one. A move in need of some political, vocal response. No doubt about it.

Where do we go from here?

Many of you have suggested we need to continue a “Permanent Pause” and continue our withdrawal of extra-curriculars. I couldn’t agree less. Now, I respect your decision, as I always have, to not participate in extra-curriculars. They are voluntary activities and I believe we should leave them this way. If you don’t want to do them, if you have a family to spend time with, even if you don’t and you just want to go home, get your marking and prep done, and then read a good book, do it. I respect that entirely. But I hope, you can respect my desire to continue with extra-curriculars.

I believe extra-curriculars are more than just a sports team to cheer on or a club to fill a lunch-hour. I believe that part of a rich high school experience is the opportunity for students to connect authentically outside of the classroom with peers and teachers. For many students, these opportunities are the connective tissue to the school community. To some, it is the only tissue. I suggest that we need this connection now more then ever.

We are growing an increasingly cynical and disaffected young population and our removal of extra-curriculars will contribute to a furthering of that sensibility. Not because students “deserve” it or because they are “entitled” to it, but rather because learning is about relationships. Rather than driving our students, and parents, away from our school communities, we should be working to connect them further. Rather than pushing them to community organizations disconnected from the school, we should be connecting the organizations to the school. We need to build an authentic community that believes in the eternal value of public schools, both inside and outside of the classroom. This is our best long-term strategy.

Studies have shown that students who are active in the school, do better, live better, and feel safer, in general (A bit dated, yet still relevant: http://nces.ed.gov/pubs95/web/95741.asp). Our students success is tied to our ability to make them feel connected to their school community.

But that’s not it. I believe it allows me to be a more authentic teacher. It allows me to participate with them in my interests. They can witness and be part of my passions.

And so, what is the removal worth? Where does it get us?

I’ve been told, via Twitter, that we will ‘piss off parents’ so they’ll force the government to settle this mess. Sure, I agree. Then what? In two years, we do it all over again? I am a believer that a negative act never builds community. It only destroys one. Instead, acting positively towards our students and parents, giving them a world-class education (inside and outside the classroom) builds a long-term population that understands the value of teachers, which can only help us.

I’m always criticized for these ideas, because it doesn’t seem to have enough “action”. What do we do now? We start to aggressively build community. We reach out. We stop cowering from the conversations. We tell our tribes to think about the teacher that made a difference for them. We call our MPPs, every day. Not just the few of us, the many. I think of Andy Dufrense mailing a letter a week and then a letter a day in Shawshank Redemption.

Rather than removing what I do in my free time, rather than telling me what I can’t do, rather than mandating the absence of an action, why not mandate an action? An action that puts direct pressure on the government. People are always willing to give up their free time for something they believe in. Always. If we aren’t willing to give up our free time for this, do we really believe in it or are we just following along?

It’s easy to get angry and frustrated and say, “I’m done with this.” But that isn’t a solution. A solution comes when we march forward into the wind. This may be a long fight. We need to uncover tactics that are sustainable. Calling our MPPs every day, may not be sustainable. I get that. However, neither is a “Permanent Pause”.

Together, we face an uphill climb. Old ideas will keep us at the bottom. Easy prey for the next premier, the next government, or the citizen who just sees our pension and holidays. We need to redefine the relationship of the public to teachers, hell, to public education. It starts by building community in our schools. It starts by putting direct pressure on our government. It starts by talking about our eternal value to everyone. That’s being active to me.




  • Thank you for your decision to continue with extra-curriculars. I hope your colleagues honour your decision. Your fight is not over but you have decided not to punish those that cannot change the outcome. If (I know many do) parents & students support your cause/fight they will support you action or no action.

    • Thanks for the support and the comment. I appreciate it.

  • Regardless of how each teacher in the province of Ontario decides to respond, we must treat one another respectfully. Scott, as a colleague of mine in the province of Ontario, you have my respect.
    As a 20 year teaching veteran, I do not see how anything positive will come from the continued removal of extra-curriculars; however, it is certainly up to each individual teacher to act according to their own desires and conscience.
    I challenge each teacher in the province of Ontario to act and think independently. Do what is best for you and your students, in your school and community. I can’t help but wonder, what will we teachers achieve by digging in against what we love doing? What kind of work environment are we creating for ourselves by taking such a militant stance against the actions of the Liberal Party? Is mob mentality at play here? We are responsible for our own choices and actions…just because we are disappointed with the choices and actions of our government, does not mean we need to retaliate in our schools.

    • Ann,
      Thanks for the comment and your support and respect. I believe a real key in democracy is recognizing each of our rights to dissent. I too ask many of the same questions.

  • I would also like to thank you for you letter,and I appreciate your desire to continue to facilitate the activities that are considered to be outside of the classroom. I too believe that these activities are integral to our young people’s complete education, and as such I believe we need to have these activities written into the educators contracts (it should not be considered volunteering), classroom instruction is only part of the job and for union supporters to work to rule only makes it clear that the ‘rules’ need to change. I’m a fan of most educators, and appreciate their work/profession but I’m disappointed in what many believe what they do/have been doing is them being: ‘good at their job’.

    • Thank you for your comment and your support.
      Although, I’m not going to wade into whether extra-curriculars should be mandated and part of the job, I appreciate your sentiment. I do believe that these activities are conducive to a full high school experience.

  • Scott:

    I agree with you whole-heartedly. You have articulated what I have been trying to do during this entire stressful period. The government has made a mess of what could have been a much simpler and respectful negotiation process. Their financial realities have unfortunately clouded their judgement on how to move forward. I don’t believe that the government’s intent however is to steam roll education, their record over the last 10 years clearly indicates otherwise. Putting politics aside, I have already witnessed a collective decline in morale amongst the vast majority of students who regularly take part in extra curriculars at our school. Subsequently, this pause has been equally devastating to those educators who choose to volunteer for these enriching activities. I have been teaching since September of 2000 – and with the exception of a one year stint teaching at an international college overseas, I have invested infinite hours in sharing my passions with my students outside the classroom in terms of coaching and leadership opportunities. For the better part of 12 years, I have coached almost every single season from September right through to June. I do these things because i believe they contribute immensely to the development of the whole student. I do these things because I to was inspired by educators when I attended high school who were the reason I chose this wonderful profession.

    I believe vehemently that in a democracy if one’s rights are being denied, by all means stand up for yourself. This bill is being challenged in court. Get politically active- convince the electorate that there are other ways to manage the economy, organize protests on your own time, campaign for public office, etc. Please do not deny enriching opportunities for students- two years is a long time in a young person’s life. Kudos to you Scott for taking a stand.

    • Thank you Graham for the words and actions of support.
      I think the main point is that I agree this bill is bad. It may be beyond bad, but I don’t believe the tactic of withdrawing extra-curriculars is good. I want our profession to walk the high road.

  • In general, the spectrum of extracurricular activities at the elementary level is more limited, due to smaller schools, fewer staff, and busing of students limiting their participation in before or after school activities. But we do have a lot going on at lunchtime.

    In a formal work-to-rule situation, which is one whose purpose is to put pressure on the employer (the local school board), I am quite OK with the withdrawal of services that are voluntary — it is for a defined purpose and period of time.

    I am *not* OK with the idea that we are forbidden to make our own choices as to whether or not to provide tutoring assistance, chess club at lunchtime, or organizing field trips for our students when we are *not* in a work-to-rule official position. I found some of ETFO’s public comments — that restricting comments on the Elementary Progress Report to a single sentence to be reflective of the MOE document, “Growing Success” for example — to be either ignorant or deliberately misleading, and I resented the union leadership apparently implying, “Do a cr** job.” Report cards are a significant, though not only, communication with parents, they remain in the student’s OSR forever (with our names on them), and I for one take pride in doing a thoughtful and accurate job on them. I am not surprised that the media and others take umbrage at such recommended actions and this only inflames public “disrespect” of teachers.

    It’s true the government started all this, in a publicly meretricious fashion, but I conclude the federations have fallen into the trap and are not representing us to the public in a positive and accurate way, nor are they getting even factual information about sick days, gratuities etc. out to the public. The Bill 115 issues are very grave but are getting lost in the crossfire. Indeed, I sometimes think that this whole crisis may have been deliberately initiated as a diversion from something else — what, I can only speculate.

    I agree completely with your position that the decision to do extra, voluntary activities should be entirely the province of the individual concerned. Those who sincerely believe that “taking a pause” is the best strategy should follow their conscience — I disagree with them, but democracy is about living together and finding respectful ways to resolve our differences.I’m willing to give up salary for another day of protest, if the majority supports it, but not to deny my students and myself the personal and educational benefits of additional support and extracurriculars.

    • Thank you for your words of support.
      I can’t agree more with your statement. I followed the work-to-rule sanctions that were imposed. In the short-term of three weeks, I withdrew extra-curricular activities. However, we are no longer in the same situation as we were before the break. I have the utmost of respect for any of my colleagues who take a pause. Like I said above, I get it. It has ALWAYS been voluntary. I have never begrudged another teacher for not taking an extra-curricular on, I’m now surprised that I’ll be begrudged for taking one on.
      Although different circumstances, elementary and secondary, we walk together with respect.

  • How can I continue with voluntary activities. I feel devalued and unappreciated. I am told by the community that it is an expectation that I volunteer. The call that we continue to volunteer is one that does not consider the greater cause. I can equally develop a strong relationship with my students by simply being a good classroom teacher. I believe that teachers who wish to continue with such activities are fulfulling their own desires. What leverage do we have now as workers??? Although I too will respect individual rights, I feel compelled to say that I do not believe we should engage in such activities. Frankly- and this is the important part- I ferl so devalued and mistreated that I have lost my will to volunteer…for now anyhow.

    • Lu,
      I’m very sorry to hear that the feelings are that deep and I totally appreciate your sentiments. It has been tough to read the media surrounding this mess. I fully respect your rights to stop doing voluntary activities, that is the nature of volunteerism. It is by choice, not by decree.
      I never meant to suggest that a good classroom teacher cannot develop a strong relationship with their students, by no means. In fact, many students still don’t participate in extra-curriculars regardless of the opportunities offered.
      I don’t agree that I participate with extra-curriculars to fulfill my own desires. Sure, I enjoy them. No doubt about it. But that’s not why I’ll continue. I’ll continue because I believe they are critical to a rich high-school experience. I believe that withdrawing them is akin to walking the low road. I believe they are putting pressure on the government in negative ways, rather than positive ways.
      Thank you for respecting my rights to do so, and know that my participation in them is in no means a sign of disrespect towards you.

    • Lu,..not sure how long you’ve been teaching…all i’ve ever taught is faith group children on sunday mornings..and i volunteer sometimes for years..as people become jaundiced from their volunteering endeavours i generally suggest they stop…My complaint with the entire gamut of public servants,not just teachers,is that when Mike Harris was premier none of you would accept wage/benefit restraints so his government attacked the weakest members of our society and cut welfare rates…and other social assistance to avoid more negative budget stresss..You and your ilk sat on your hands smuggly happy that your revenue stream was virtually untouched…I regret that this has continued to be the case with the current government..Teaching is a gratifying occupation/calling etc..Children from 20 years ago still remmber you etc….but please look at the broader hurt you and others on the tax-payers roles have done and continue to do to those most margianilzed in our society…and for heaven sakes don’t volunteer if you don’t want to..it would be hard on you and harder on the children.

  • Thank you, Scott, for your letter. I think you are right but let me add a point. Besides writing your MPPs, defeat them in the next election. This takes a lot more work but ultimately it’s the only thing that’s likely to be successful. Take a look at the situation in BC where the BCTF took the government to court over 10 years ago and won at the Supreme Court only to see the situation remain essentially unchanged. A political solution is the answer. It’s how the Harris/Eves government was defeated a decade ago and it was done through the hard slogging of building relationships in each community. I know. I was there.

    Allow me to also come clean and tell you that I am a school board trustee. Bill 115 took away our rights as employers. We passed a motion in October opposing Bill 115 and other school boards passed similar motions (http://www.ocdsb.ca/ab-ocdsb/bm/mr/Board%20Meeting%20Minutes%202012/October%2023,%202012.pdf, page 240). Some of us have a worked a lot harder too to overturn 115 and even where a Board didn’t pass a motion, many individual trustees know the history and are entirely sympathetic to your situation. At this time, many if not most trustees are your allies.

    Scott is right. It is ultimately about relationships. You have powerful social media tools available to you that didn’t exist when we defeated Harris/Eves 10 years ago. Use them to reach out.


    • Thank you Pam for your comment and your support.
      I agree wholeheartedly that we are battling a political fight, not an ideological one.
      Thank you for using your leverage as trustee to apply pressure on this government. We really do need all hands on deck.

      • Thanks for taking the time to respond to each of us, Scott. I have a good relationship with OSSTF local executive here and will continue the conversation. Some of them get that this time is different and this calls for a different response but without a obvious reason to change, we all seem to get stuck in our old ways. Of course McGuinty and friends will expect the lack of extracurricular activities to continue and they will use it to drum up more negative response from parents against teachers — divide and conquer.

  • I have been teaching in Ontario for 28 years so my perspective will be different then the 10 year veteran who still looks forward to the game after school etc. etc. But one cannot deny the fact that I have paid the price over the years to get the contracts we now have had stripped. I have walked the bricks (1997), worked to rule (2003) and I must say we got rewarded for our sacrifices. To hear a young teacher put his/ her own desires ahead of respect for the teachers that came before is disappointing. At this point to go back and do the extras is paramount to the wife who has been beaten going back to the wife beater. We got beaten up buddy. The bully has delivered the blow and you want to capitulate? You should see a counsellor. As I wind down my career I’m glad I don’t have you in my trench. If all of us took your advice, imagine the beating we would get next time. I feel sorry for you Scott.

    • Glen,
      Thank you for your comment.
      The true test of a democratic world is the ability for those who disagree to converse and discuss, so thank you for participating.
      I appreciate your sacrifices in the past. I don’t believe that any of my statements above de-value what has been done in the past. I don’t believe that continuing extra-curriculars while becoming politically active is capitulating. I don’t believe it is akin to domestic violence at all.
      Instead, I believe that we can be better than what our tactics suggest. I don’t think that will change with age.
      In the same vein as your comment about young teachers, I find it disappointing when old teachers make this about what they’ve gone through. I’ve suggested an alternative. I’ve suggested that things might be different than before. That’s all. In 1997, it was much harder to reach out and advocate. In 2003, we didn’t have the tools of connection and communication like we do now. That is all. Why not try a different tactic, one that is more positive, one that builds?

    • Glen – I am a twenty year teaching veteran as well and the one thing I have learned in my many years in this profession is that extracurriculars make a difference. They are critical to the development of well rounded, thinking, active members of society.
      The removal of extracurriculars has never accomplished anything concrete apart from ill will and more denigration of our profession.
      Nothing will be achieved this time either apart from further weakening of our union via bullying of our active and involved members and as this blog points out, an increasingly jaded student population.
      How sad that those who have so much influence over young minds can so quickly abandon the rights and ideals they claim to be fighting for.
      I fully support those members who feel that they can no longer participate in extracurriulars – that is their right.
      I expect the same support and understanding when it comes to my own rights.

  • Scott, I agree with you that long term removal of extra-curriculars is unlikely to lead to a reasonable solution to this issue. I don’t think calling MPPs will either, though I agree it should be part of our action.
    What we really need is to remove our consent. We are in the utterly ridiculous situation of being bound by a contract we’ve never agreed to, which is enforced by a Labour Relations Act to whose protection we are not entitled, all due to legislation which will be be repealed as soon as Broten no longer needs it.
    You’ve asked in our previous conversations for creative suggestions. Mine is that we reinstate extra-curricular activities on a non-competitive basis. Want to run basketball? Sure, but it’s intra-mural, with no league standings. Want to run social justice club? Go ahead as usual. Want to run band? By all means, but Kiwanis Festival is out.
    I expect this would put more pressure than a total withdrawal of activities, it would certainly create a very different dynamic with students and parents, and it would do a better job of engaging those students who are least engaged by schools than the extra-curriculars we currently run.

    All that said, unions have historically been a force for social justice. This situation is clearly unjust, so I will continue with the instructions that were given, because I understand that solidarity and withdrawing consent are critical parts of non-violent action. The fact that the government has cynically maneuvered to make unpalatable as many options as they can is not a reason for choosing the easiest of the options.

    • Yaacov,
      As always, thanks for your contribution to the ongoing dialogue.
      I like your idea. When the issue of extra-curriculars is talked of, too often it is about sports. For me it is also school dances, the recycling team, the social justice clubs, etc. I think your suggestion has some merit. Change the dynamic. Think laterally. That is what we need, now more than ever.
      I don’t think I’m suggesting that I’m looking for easy options. In fact, I believe the high road is always harder to maintain. That’s why I think we choose the low road. It’s been done. It requires the removal of effort, rather than an increase in effort. I agree we need to remove consent. Let’s do that by building a community of citizens who will not stand to see public education treated with this lack of respect.
      As always,

      • Scott, I am continually amazed by your ability to put to words the feelings I have. I get an immense amount of information and resolve from your writings and conversations.

      • On the easy options, I know you far too well to think that you would ever take the easy option because it was easy. However, it happens that returning to extra-curricular activities is the easy option here, even if that is not your reason for choosing it. Because it is easy not to stand up to parents and students who don’t like our choice, because it is fun to run activities we enjoy, there are many teachers who would prefer that option. So it’s worth pointing out that it is indeed the easy option.

        Before the winter break we’d discussed this issue via Twitter, my least favourite forum for reasonable discussion. I wanted to come back to two questions you asked that I found the 140 character limit a chaffing restriction on answering.

        The first question was why the union had business dictating your volunteer time. Given that volunteering at school is something that you do as a teacher, that the policies of the board require teacher participation in order to run the activities and that the union provides the same protection to its members during extra-curriculars as in the classroom, it seems reasonable to me that they have the same business dictating extra-curriculars as they do classroom action. I’m not sure if you were at the staff meeting where this question was raised, but the testimonial from a staff member who was wrongfully accused of using innappropriate language while coaching and benefited greatly from the assistance of the union in ensuring a fair process was a good reminder of why our union has business in extra-curriculars.

        The second question was about whether the union is bullying members. Bullying is a very loaded term in education, as I’m sure you’re aware. I felt that your use of it was inflammatory rather than thoughtful, and I’ll explain why.

        You are probably aware that teaching and many other jobs, have made huge improvements in working conditions, employee rights and compensation over the last century. These improvements have been made largely because of unions, and the willingness of workers to act in a united manner, even when this put them under a great deal of pressure, in some cases exposing them to violence and threats to their families. All of us who work under the protection of labour laws today benefit from the united action of our predecessors.

        Now imagine that you’re coaching hockey, and a truly gifted player comes to tryouts, makes the team and then does not attend practice. When the first game arrives, he shows up and wants to play. He says to you “Think of all the fans who want to see my talent. Think of my teammates who are more likely to win this game if you put me on the ice.” He says “Don’t bully me with your superior position and power.” Would you let him play? We both know there’s no way you’d let him play, no way you’d let him take the benefits without also taking the responsibilities.

        In our jobs as teachers, we have certain responsibilities. We don’t get the fun of teaching without the responsbilities of paperwork, of supervision, the list is familiar to you, so I’ll leave it there. As members of a union, we have other responsibilities. It’s unfair to take the advantages of union membership (a safe work environment, benefits, protection from unreasonable discipline, a decent salary) without taking the responsibilities of standing up for those rights, even when pressured otherwise. And the union telling you so is no more bullying than you telling that player that he needs to show up to practice if he wants to play in the game.

        Thanks for posting this on your blog where there is no 140 characters limit!

  • Why Stand Up?

    This was written by Jeff Bersche, a fellow teacher in District 18. He has given his permission allowing us to repost his, and our, point of view. We are trying to find some way to get the word out about why teachers feel so strongly about repealing Bill 115… now you can tell them why.

    Bill 115…
    •Removes the right to strike
    •Removes the right to “talk about striking”… yes the right to “talk” about it!
    •Gives the Minister of Education unilateral power to extend the “2-year” frame of this temporary bill without negotiation in perpetuity (forever)
    •Gives the Minister of Education unilateral power to change any part of any contract (even those already signed) if the Minister deems necessary without negotiation with ANYONE
    •Makes it illegal to protest
    •Makes it illegal to challenge the Bill in the Ontario Court System (which is why it had to be challenged in Federal Court) – yes – the Bill makes it illegal to challenge the Bill!!!
    •It also bars the Ontario Labour Relations Board (OLRB) from commenting on any human rights violations associated with the Bill and bars the OLRB from commenting on any part of the Bill that does not fit with OLRB laws.

    Are you getting this??? Where are the “putting students first” parts of the Bill? this is just a piece of the Bill; there’s plenty more where this came from – and the kicker:

    IT AUTOMATICALLY BECOMES LAW AS OF 12/31/2012. Again, this auto-triggger is part of the Bill! Oh, you want to complain or vote against it??? You can’t because McGuinty prorogued government! I wonder why??

    THIS is what I am fighting against. THIS is why is am willing to protest. THIS is why I am willing to stop coaching, even though my son is on my team and I LOOOOOVE coaching. Fighting THIS is worth taking the hit that I will take. Fighting THIS is the OPPOSITE OF SELFISH. THIS threatens us all – public and private workers alike. THIS puts the Government first – workers last – students after that.

    Mr. McGuinty: does this sound like it has anything to do with my salary?
    Go to “puttingstudentsfirst.org” and get the straight goods to find out how we can fight THIS. Find out why many parents are with us… and about the backroom deal that will bring hiring by seniority only into LAW!!! without anyone even knowing about it.

    Be sure to visit “puttingstudentsfirst.org” to find out more.

  • Glen is right; Bill 115 is absolutely wrong. Technically legal in the narrowest of senses but ethically bankrupt. Part of me wants to suggest that the government has bargained in bad faith and that from a negotiations perspective, no agreement is in place. But I’m not a lawyer so I can’t say this with any conviction.

    Although most people don’t realize it, unions have played a huge roll in this country to advance rights for the average person. To allow what has just happened roll out without fighting back would be so sad and ultimately detrimental to everyone. Bill 115 is simply the thin edge of a wedge (McGuinty is talking about rolling out similar legislation to all public servants and federally there’s a ‘right to work’ bill coming forward).

    From what I’m seeing here, I think we’re all in agreement about this. What we’re talking about is effective strategy and tactics to continue to oppose the government’s actions whether Bill 115 continues to be on the books or not. I like Yaacov’s response; it continues to oppose government action while making room for building relationships. Halting extra-curricular activities will not be enough. To win in the long-run, you will need allies (including parents and there are a lot of sympathetic parents out there) particularly as various governments are threatening to put ‘right to work’ legislation in placed.

    I’m there with you and will continue to be with you regardless. As a trustee, many people will listen to me as they don’t see me having a vested interest. I have spoken out and attended rallies and will continue to do whatever it takes. You’re right Glen, Bill 115 does all the awful things you’ve listed but it does more too — it ultimately sets the groundwork to destroy all labour rights and in doing so, undermines civil society. So to my mind (and many others I’ve spoken to), you are fighting a far bigger battle than simply for a fair collective agreement. You are fighting for the future of our society.

  • I like the sentiment that you put forward here Scott however I don’t see any other form of protest suggested that will have the same impact as not volunteering at our schools. Your idea to write a letter as Andy Dufresne did in the Shawshank Redemption is somewhat naive of the current government. Do you believe that if we have business as usual in our schools the new Liberal leader will tear up the contracts and negotiate fairly? What would be his/her motivation for that?

    Its a tough decision no doubt but certainly you and I have benefited from the collective action of teachers in 1997 and 2003 and we have the benefits and working conditions we do because of those collective actions. I think its shade disingenuous to take from those wages/benefits/working conditions, but then decide the action that brought them doesn’t meet your moral standards. You benefit from the collective majority but yet don’t comply with the will of the collective majority. I think its difficult and hard to deny students extra-curriculars (I coach two seasons each year) but that it is ultimately a small price to pay to preserve our labour rights here in Ontario.

    • Dave,
      Thanks for the comment.
      What positive impact does not volunteering have? It angers parents and students, creates a divisive community of teachers, and it perpetuates this ridiculous notion of the petulant teacher in the mind of the media and the public. I think we can do better.
      My Andy Dufresne analogy is merely to suggest that persistant action towards our politicians is an avenue. I want us to build community. I want us to be strong. I object to this process as much as the next guy. I just want a better strategy. With technology our ability to connect, communicate and mobilize is greater than in ’97 and in ’03 and where has that been so far? Our union leaders have continued with old ideas.
      I do enjoy the wages/benefits/working conditions that have been negotiated in the past, of course. However, that doesn’t mean I’ve committed those actions. I don’t have to condone actions I was not a part of.
      Lastly, how does it end? What if they don’t tear up the contracts? Then what? And in two years when we sit down to do this all over again, we withdraw extras again? What is the perception of public education going to be then? It seems to me that we should be starting to build coalitions amongst our citizens. This doesn’t do that. That’s why the vitriol in the comments section of newspaper articles. We haven’t shown the public the eternal value of teachers. We need to start doing that now.
      As always respectfully,

      • I agree that a respectful dialogue is important so kudos to you for starting that Scott. Please keep us all posted on how you will be protesting Bill 115 and the Liberal Government. If you will not abide by the collective majority of your colleagues and continue to perform extra -curric. then please be as public and persistent with your form of protest as you are with idea as well.

  • As always, I appreciate your thoughtful post, Scott. However, I have to say that I stand with Glen on this one, but also with Yaacov. I joined him in those protests and job actions in 1997 and 2003 and those were challenging times. One of the most difficult parts was the divisiveness. I am not looking forward to where we are headed tomorrow. It has been challenging enough already and tomorrow we will return even more divided. You know that I value exracurriculars and you know that I am missing them, however, I think you do us a certain injustice when you perhaps underestimate the importance of the relationships we are creating within our classrooms, not just outside them. Sure, students who are involved in the extras, miss them, but there are many who are not involved and still come to school each day and value their experiences. They value the interactions they have with their peers and their teachers in their classrooms and at lunch. I know I am selfish in my extracurricular involvement. I have taught for 20 years and never coached a sports team, but I have lead many drama productions and organized countless art showcases, run book clubs and sat on countless committees. I LOVE DOING THAT and I miss it terribly. However, every day I still see countless students and I still help them the best way I know how. I support their learning, I listen to stories of their latest adventures and I help to answer their questions. I am sad to not be working with them on this year’s showcase, but I do not feel I have abandoned them completely. I work in a high school because I enjoy working with teenagers and I enjoy collaborating with my peers. I am not going to let Bill 115 destroy that too. We have an obligation to be the best we can be. For now, this is the best I can be. I will not be doing extracurriculars, but I will try to bring the most POSITIVE me into the building each day because to do otherwise would be cheating both myself, my colleagues and our students. For too many weeks already, it has been a very difficult road. We will each need to find our own path, but hopefully we will be good to each other along the way.

    • Rosemarie,
      Thanks for the respect and the thoughtful comment.
      I didn’t mean, in any way, to devalue what happens in the classroom and the library and in the hallways of our school, or any school. I agree there are genuine relationships being built in a positive way. I have always appreciated your positive energy and I did not mean to suggest that our schools will become pits of despair. Instead, I am talking more about the landscape of public education as a whole. I think about the students who cling to the sport, or music, or drama experience as their connection to the school. We both could rifle off a list of kids we know who are in that category. Also, I don’t believe my suggestion shows any disrespect to the challenging times in the past.
      I respect completely, your decision to not participate in extra-curriculars, whatever your reasons. I’ve never suggested that everyone should do them or ever begrudged those that never volunteer. That is their right. Always had been.
      I am merely suggesting, there must be a better way. Things are different now then they were in ’97 or even in ’03. We have a greater ability to connect, build community and to advocate for ourselves. Technology allows that. I’m merely suggesting, why use an old strategy that only builds negative, divisive feelings. I’m suggesting rather than removing action, let’s add action. Let’s not allow teachers to complain about Bill 115 without getting up and getting active. Being political is no longer an option. Political apathy is no longer allowed.
      I genuinely appreciate your response and know that this conversation will respectfully continue.

  • Thanks for posting Scott. It’s a difficult conversation, but those are often the ones that need to be brought up. I agree with you that continuing to abandon XC may not be the best direction for teachers and the union to continue with. However, it is the position we, as a union, have taken. While I’m more than willing to discuss alternative ways of meaningful protest and getting our message heard, I think it would be a mistake for teachers to go back to school this week and start up their XC without any type of meaningful, organized, and impactful substitute of protest to continue on with.

    Honestly, I think this entire fiasco has come down to strategy. We started playing a game (negotiating with the province) way back in February in which we didn’t even know the rules… and we kept playing (negotiating) without ever establishing them. The province new from the outset that our trump cards would be removal of XC and political protest from teachers, but how many times has our union/teachers been baffled by a “next move” from the province? Seems like we’re constantly playing catch up.

    I’m comfortable continuing to pause XC up until the Liberal Leadership Convention. That’s about 3 weeks. During that time is a real opportunity for the union and teachers to develop a strategy moving forward that involves being proactive, as opposed to the removal of actions.

  • Well put Glen and Dave. The lineups for teaching jobs weren’t very long during the Rae and Harris years. I always wonder why people continue to try and enter a profession where there are no reasonable prospects for full time employment any time soon. We can thank Glen and his generation of colleagues for the wages, benefits, working conditions, planning time, and so on that, I believe, have made the profession so attractive today. These were not gifts from the government, but hard fought for by the membership. I don’t believe they could have been achieved through mass letter writing campaigns, phone calls to MPPs, or even through online petitions or social media campaigns (if those options were available back then). Scott makes a suggestion to try a different tactic. My question to Scott is what are you doing about your suggestions? Have you started up any movements in your school or community? And, equally important, how can I help out? The effort put forth on your campaign should be no less than the effort put in to your EC’s. Anything less is just riding on coattails.

  • scott: sorry, but i have some real issues with this letter/idea. first, let me say, i see what you are trying to say here: “let’s do something new” and i think that is important. i also hear your second plea: “political apathy is no longer allowed”, and i applaud that generously. but, and i know this is going to sound condescending, especially in a written response, sorry for that up front, BUT your core idea of continuing extras is first of all naive and simply won’t work. and, secondly, it is an idea that is disrespectful to me and the thousands of others who are trying to take collective action.
    first – the naive thing – since we struck against harris in ’97 we have been doing exactly what you propose in your letter. we have been trying your tactic for over a decade now, coaching, helping, reaching out, making relationships, giving ourselves wholly to our students and their families. i have coached sports teams and improv teams. i have become personally involved in the lives of hundreds of kids who remain friends of mine, even colleagues now in my profession. i have attended their weddings, opening night shows, been to their homes for dinners. i have coached my own 2 sons and watched their wings expand. i have hugged moms and dads at victories and losses, put my school name on the national map and reached into my community on many levels to do even more. and so have many of my colleagues. we gathered together and joined the liberal party (even though i am an ndp’er at heart) and voted strategically to oust harris/eves and did it again when i believed mcguinty was vulnerable in his second term. so, when this whole bill 115 thing happened guess where those parents and students were? guess where that community was? guess what my friends and family said when they saw my salary printed in the paper and my benefits and the words of the liberal gov. printed like facts every day in the paper and on t.v.? look where we are scott! read the last editorial in the toronto star! that community changes every year and disappears every 4 years. NOBODY UNDERSTANDS OR CARES! and why should they? how could they? so, no, that approach did not work. i don’t know if there could be a better example of that experiment being an absolute bust than this. and yes, there is blame to be placed, rightfully so: on the cynical gov. who used us as a distraction while dalton hides from the indictments that are sure to come over his dirty dealings with power plant closures that cost hundreds of millions and the 10 billion he loaned auto companies that has gone missing and will never be repaid. so the payoff was we got used as a distraction while the gov. is prorogued to hide the sins of politicians. this is the usual thing right? and yes, OSSTF deserves a solid crack to the head (especially ken coran) for not standing up, not communicating, not realizing the urgency, not calling for a full strike in august and refusing to return to work until the gov. changed its mind on bill 115 and let us negotiate. your idea of building good will does not work to change the dirty, lying, spinning, greedy, immoral actions of any desperate government. sorry, scott, but in the end, we ONLY HAVE EACH OTHER to rely on. we must decide to do something. if we decide as a majority to withhold voluntary services then we must ALL do it or it means nothing. even if it is flawed. even if it creates ill-will (which i must say is not always the case as i have seen students and parent groups hold their own rallies against 115). either we stand together or we fall together. yes: if we all sent letters, if we all march, if we all make phone calls, if we all vote, etc. things can change but if we all just keep doing what we have been doing since ’98 we will get we have right now…. a kick in the teeth. i have used facebook, repeatedly to send messages of truth about 115 far and wide, my comments were even cut and pasted into your comments section by someone that i’m not sure i even know. my son got 300 kids to march out of school to protest at our mp’s office, and so on. but, scott, here we are!!! you talk about doing this “action” of reaching out as if it is something we aren’t doing… like it is something groundbreaking and new… but it isn’t! we’ve been doing it. IT DIDN’T WORK. unfortunately, the only thing that lying liars and their desperate political parties understand is blunt force and massive group exercises/protests. this is one of those times when the only thing that works is the thing that hurts. that is not always true, but this time it is. the facts of this are staring us in the face. this is why another commenter said it is like a battered spouse returning to the home and dressing up, and walking on eggs, hoping that doing the same thing over and over will somehow reap a new response.
    finally: respect. scott, i respect your desire to help kids, to simply become a teacher when you could have done other things that made more money. i respect you as a human, but i would be less than honest to say i respect your choice in this case. i don’t. how could i? simply by choosing to NOT do voluntary things i have made it clear that i think the alternate choice is wrong. clearly, by my actions, i do not respect your choice. i think it is wrong. on the flip side, you need to stop saying that you respect me/my decision. your letter makes it clear that you don’t. to know that i am taking the hit, i am giving up things i love, i am bearing the scorn of parents/public/newspapers, etc. and deciding to not take the hit with me? that feels disrespectful to me. it hurts those of us taking the hit. it hurts older teachers who have endured freezes/pauses/work to rules/ marches/ wage losses/job losses and more. so, if you respect you don’t hurt. right? so, you are hurting others by this decision and that is not respectful. i don’t care that you make that decision, but i don’t like the whole “i respect you but i am going to keep hurting you” thing. look: i believe in individual rights and i am not one to suggest we don’t keep holding our union’s feet to the fire just as we are doing to the gov’t but this is a time when we must stand together. like the teams we coach: always preaching “team above individual” … the team doesn’t work if key players don’t buy-in on some level, even if it rubs them the wrong way to take less minutes on the floor or the stage. what is best for all of us? now, if the idea changes and we all agree as a whole/mass that we will follow a different path, then i will jump on that and be there with my colleagues, EVEN IF I DISAGREE INDIVIDUALLY.. i will work to change the idea and push to find new leaership and new ideas. but, for the moment, i sacrifice for the greater good. wow… i sound like an angel. i am not. and this is way too long. thanks for starting the dialogue scott. i bet this would be the only time people like you and i would ever disagree with each other as you sound passionate about your teaching calling. i hate the divisiveness this all brings.
    peace: jeff

  • My colleagues have various opinions that are reflected in the above conversation. I do respect everyone’s opinion when we are in ‘caucus’; however, we need to be unified in public. I have said many times that teachers put themselves last. Whatever is best for kids is what we will do: that’s why we are teachers. OSSTF and ETFO are there to put teachers first. They are the only body that is ensuring that we have a safe and respectful environment to work in. One writer on another message board discussed that teachers are one of a very few professions that volunteer their time at their own workplace.

    I believe it is time to place extra-curriculars back into the community. Teachers should not be the only people responsible for a child’s educational experience. Having community based clubs and teams, of which teachers are a part of, allows for an entire community to enrich a child’s life. All adults should be playing a part in a child’s life… not just the teachers.

    Sometimes it is important to not be the only one in charge.

    • I respectfully disagree. Part of the reason that teachers are so active with extracurriculars is that it gives us a chance to connect with kids outside of the classroom. This is important for so many reasons. They also serve a variety of educational purposes assisting us with encouraging kids to maintain averages, try harder, find some success…

      Quite apart from all of this, I am not sure how student council will work in the community…

  • Scott, I so disagree with you and agree with the poster who says you are naive. We have done so much extra and for so long, that now it is expected and most certainly not appreciated. When we stop doing it, we are villified in the press. have you ever seen an entire profession treated that way? When the first communication came out listing all of the things we would not be doing at work, you know what? What was left was the job I was hired to do 30 years ago. We have quietly let duties and expectations be continually added to our jobs without ever telling the truth, that we cannot do it all. All of our students have parents. It is not our job to feed them breakfast, motivate them to succeed, counsel them, take them on trips, teach them how to play hockey or basketball, etc. We are teachers. As a parent I really resented intrusions by teachers into the parenting of my child. I did not agree with being told what my child should bring for lunch, I didn’t want my children attending a powwow instead of learning curriculum. I could go on for paragraphs about that. Parent teacher interviews used to be during my work day, not added on as an extra duty. Do we truly think that students were not successful before we had student success data collectors making extra paperwork for us to do?

    If coaching is a need that you have in order to feel complete, then why not coach children in community programs? Why disrespect your colleagues this way, especially the colleagues who struck and lost pay so that you could have benefits, smaller class sizes, fewer supervisions, etc. Anyone who thinks that any of these things came to us because of the benevolence of school boards is seriously delusional.

    I hope that you are in a very small minority. Perhaps you can coach all of the teams at your school. Maybe you’ll even have other teams to play against if there is one other teacher just like you in every school.

    I don’t need the union to tell me not to volunteer my free time when I’ve just taking a shit kicking. I can decide that all on my own. I won’t be volunteering an extra minute for the rest of my career. I will continue to do the best job that I can in the classroom. If I feel the need to volunteer my free time, there are lots of organizations that would truly appreciate my help.

  • Your true colours have come out Scott. Any criticism is “…spewing anonymous vitriol….” haha. Keep playing the good cop role.

    • Not sure if you have read anything he has said or been discussing or have even been privy to his personal tweets or e-mails he has received but his true colours have been shown. A caring human being who is a passionate teacher (no different than many of us) who is in search of a positive way to change our crappy conditions (different from many of us). You by not leaving your name and leaving a negative comment could be argued to fall under the tweet you are referring to……. buddy. I am sure you are a very nice fellow, so is Scott.

    • Actually, no. Criticism was expected and welcomed. I don’t mind being disagreed with and I don’t mind my ideas being criticized. In fact, the comments directly on this post, in support and against, have been in the spirit of democracy and I don’t believe any of them have been vitriolic. However, when I receive anonymous tweets and direct e-mails that call me a “union-bashing coward” or “poisonous” and worse, I believe that we’ve left the realm of democratic disagreement and the criticism of an idea.
      As for playing the good cop role, sure I’ll accept. That’s the role I want to play. That’s the role I think we should all play. When we start justifying the low-road, it becomes easier and easier to expect less and less of ourselves and each other. I am not perfect. I do not have all the answers, however, I believe that I shouldn’t cower from explaining my thoughts. And so I don’t.
      I realize I’m just a guy, who happens to be a teacher, who happens to try to do the right thing, however hard that is.

  • You sir are a teacher. Thank you!

  • We are entering an interesting time as this battle feels much different than the conflict in 97 and 03. Personally, I would have preferred a full strike back in the fall. We are now in a very difficult situation with no easy solution. I still need to be convinced what a 2 year withdrawal of XCs will accomplish. The one thing that people are not discussing is the fact that OECTA is running XCs. Tournaments are running and leagues are starting back up with Catholic and private schools. I am sure that some Grade 8 students will choose to go to a school offering XCs and we will lose many of our own students if students think XCs are not returning this year. It may take public high schools a long time to recover from the fallout and many of our teachers will be without jobs.

    • If that happens Mark, I guess the OSSTF has no one to blame but themselves

  • Student population should be of grave concern to you all..in our highschool at this time of year we normally have 60 or so principal to principal transfers from the Catholic board to ours..so far this year we have 3. Factor in that for the grade 8 night, NO teachers are attending and the fully attended Catholic boards grade 8 night, is able to showcase participating teachers who are willing and able to answer parent questions. A full display of extra curricular activities and sports offered at the school. There is less then 1km between the 2 highschools…depending on what the incoming grade 9s decide, likely we will lose 2-3 full time staff..has anyone really thought this through? or are we sacrificing our newer teachers?

6 color styles available:

Style switcher only on this demo version. Theme styles can be changed from Options page.