I escorted six sons through Vancouver Island school systems. Five via the public school route, one via private school. Met some great teachers on the way, some duds, and more than a few just doing a job without enthusiasm.
Always admired the good ones. Always knew they were performing a task I lacked the caring patience for. Challenged the few duds when their incompetence became intolerable, and despaired in the years the youngsters drew a teacher who was just putting in time.
When the youngest finally emerged from Grade 12 the combined public-private systems were batting a little over 500. Four of my six had made university level, two had graduated with degrees and two had enjoyed a taste of university then opted for the work place. Two dropped out, one to carve, paint, and raise animals, the other to return to school later to finish Grade 12.
It wasn’t easy going – for the boys or some of their teachers. They were taught at home to never be afraid to ask questions; never be afraid to challenge other opinions. It was home teaching that often got them in trouble with teachers who don’t like to be challenged.
I never could understand why so many teachers bristled when their views were questioned. But they did. Not the good teachers who welcomed debate – and encouraged their students to question. Just the mediocre ones.
One other thing I never understood – report cards: Over the years with six sons in class I read dozens of them. But I never read one in which a teacher wrote “I somehow failed”. Read lots which said I had a bright son in this subject or that but that he “day-dreamed too much…that he failed to pay attention….that he lacked study discipline” and once that one of the lads was “reading books too old for him.”
But I never read one report in which a teacher felt the reason for lack of attention was because he or she couldn’t attract it.
I see that same “it’s their fault not ours” manifesting itself in the current dispute between teachers and government. Day after day the president of the BC Teachers Federation pops up in the news telling us what the government has to do to get sensible bargaining on track. It’s always what the government must concede, what “government must bring to the table.” Never what the BCTF can do. Reminds me of all those report cards noting the failings of the student but never, heaven forbid, the failings of the teacher.
Then there’s the repeated mantra “it’s not about the money.” Yes, well, whatever teacher says. But they should tread carefully or they may well find themselves declared an essential service and lose their hard gained right to strike when work place conditions become really intolerable.
It will be too late then to recite the possibility that “the fault dear BCTF, lies within ourselves.”