Monthly Archives: May 2012

Students’ well-being top priority for N.S. teachers

I’m not sure where Paul Bennett developed his apparent hatred for public education. And I’m not really sure what he has done to warrant the amount of press time he has received over the past few months. But it seems I can’t open a paper or turn on a radio without being subjected to his ranting.

He comes across as rather knowledgeable, for certain, spouting research that he has selected for his own purposes to forward his agenda. And it seems to be working — 14 whole paragraphs of space in The Chronicle Herald dedicated to his latest opinion article (April 5).

I would love to have 14 paragraphs to point out the ridiculousness of his claims. Perhaps it should be enough that the only people who give him any credit are those outside of the field of education.

He would undoubtedly respond to that claim by saying that because I am a teacher, I am being manipulated by the evil and insidious union.

Well, I am a teacher. I work in Halifax. I was born and raised in a small community on Cape Breton Island where I went to the woods at age 12, cutting pulp to pay for school clothes. I attended St. Peter’s District High School. I worked my way through Dalhousie. I graduated with a BA, a BEd and an MEd. Yes, Mr. Bennett, lots of us regular teachers have letters after our names too. And we read the research. Study it, even.

And yes, I am a card-carrying member of the NSTU. But, Mr. Bennett, I am not lazy. I am not stupid. I put nothing ahead of the well-being of my students other than my own family, sometimes to the detriment of my own health. I work hard. I volunteer. I give of myself to the children of this province day after day. And I am proud of what I do.

And I would like to take Mr. Bennett to task. In his latest attack on me, “Small classes alone won’t improve student learning” (and yes, I take his rantings very, very personally), Mr. Bennett cites a study from Dobbie and Fryer about New York charter schools.

Ignoring for a moment that this research is American, a quick Google search of those names will show that this study was widely criticized. Mr. Bennett ignores this, apparently because their conclusions support charter schools.

He points to the Ontario teachers’ union and criticizes them for wanting to reduce “accountability” practices, when they are actually asking for more time for teachers to focus on the students in front of them, and less time providing pointless data to defend public education against people like, well, Mr. Bennett.

He goes on about how class sizes have been shrinking over the years, yet ignores the fact that Nova Scotia’s students are still some of the least funded in the country.

He talks about the government injecting $6.7 million into education, but ignores the $30 million-plus it has taken out. (I may not have my PhD, but that is math even I understand.)

Finally, I can’t help but notice how often the people whom he cites in his articles are economists, and not educators.

The teachers of this province are good people. Yes, we get summers off; but if we didn’t, we would last about five years in the profession. And we do OK financially, particularly if we are living in rural areas. But we are from here. This is home. And we have a vested interest in the well-being of the students of this province.

I challenge Nova Scotians to consider what Mr. Bennett is actually trying to accomplish before allowing him to take up any more of your child’s teacher’s time.

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