Today I read an excellent piece in the Halifax Herald praising teachers for their hard work and ability to persevere in the face of massive budget cuts and tougher working conditions. The Blame and Shame Game by Genevieve Boulet on June 6th was well written and passionate, and certainly appreciated by those of us who have been speaking out in the name of public education over the past few months. But it was not the article itself that gave me so much pause. It was the massive list of posts that appeared below the article as, once again, Nova Scotians raised their collective voices on public education.
In a series of exchanges that read more like a court transcript than a dialogue on education, people weighed in from all sides, raising every issue from teachers’ summer vacations to skiing at Martock. And the tone of the pieces was certainly nothing new, with educators defending themselves against a certain sector of the public that seems to believe teachers are simply over paid, underworked and only in schools to collect a paycheck.
There is a certain amount of truth in the words of those who, quite simply, seem to hate teachers. Yes, we get summers off. We have a March break. We get Christmas. Even the occasional snow day. And there will always be those who feel we do not deserve this much vacation time. Or that we should be fairly paid. Or that we should get to go skiing. But here is the simplicity of it. We don’t stay in the profession because of the vacation time. We are able to stay in the profession because of the vacation time. And every single teacher is aware that without the breaks, we could not last.
Every job has its perks. Our profession has the unfortunate lot to be one where all of ours are public knowledge. I can think of no other job where so much is known about what we “get”. Do you know how much your dentist makes? Any idea how much vacation your insurance broker takes? Conversely, all jobs have their downsides. But when teachers speak of those, when they try to shed a light into their daily grind, they are labeled as whiners.
Many people in Nova Scotia work hard, you will never hear us arguing that. But our hard is different. Not harder than everyone else’s, but definitely different. Different in a way that is difficult to articulate to people not in the system. And right now, the government of this province is trying to make our hard even harder. Ultimately, that is what all the fuss has been about lately. And I, for one, can’t wait for July. Because I know I had better be well rested for the mess that is waiting for me in schools come September.