On Tuesday, June 19th, the government of Nova Scotia launched another attack against the public education system by announcing that they were going to be granting high school credits for students involved with out of school organizations such as 4H and Cadets.
Now before I write another word, I want to be perfectly clear. I support such organizations wholeheartedly. I was a cadet. Proud member of 824 Silver Dart squadron, St. Peters which was supported without reservation by the Royal Canadian Legion Branch 47. The men and women who made that experience possible for me were above reproach. But as sure as I am about the honor and integrity and good intentions of those institutions, I am sure about something else.
They were not run by teachers.
When I was a cadet, I learned about being a cadet from other cadets. Kids, who were put in their position of authority over me by the decision of a couple of local men who worked at the pulp mill. Honourable men, yes. Men to whom I owe a debt of gratitude, yes. Role models, inspirations, deserving of respect, yes.
But not teachers.
I moved through the ranks of my home squadron, and went to Truro where I learned to fly gliders. I studied weather, radio, principles of flight, all from instructors who had received their qualifications to teach me about such things by the simple fact that they had passed the course before I had. They were older. They knew the content.
But they were not teachers.
Eventually, I became an instructor, training students how to fly. After I put in enough time, I became an instructor of instructors, chosen because someone above me felt I had “the right stuff”. The ability to show other instructors how to show kids how to fly airplanes. While I was an instructor, I was enrolled in University, studying Shakespeare and religion and art and drama and science and life and love and the pursuit of happiness.
But I was still not a teacher.
At the end of my fourth year, I was accepted into the B.Ed. Program at Dal, and, at the end of that program, five years of University in total, I was told that now, now I could be a teacher.
So, you know what? The decision to grant credits to kids for taking 4-H or being in Cadets stings a bit.
Not because I don’t think that the programs are exceptional. Not because I don’t value the hundreds of volunteers that make the programs possible. And not because I believe that students in those programs don’t learn, or do, or accomplish amazing things. But because these institutions are not run by teachers. Amazing, gifted and exceptional people, yes.
But not teachers.
The government of this province set a standard for teachers a long time ago. They said to people like me “If you want to be a teacher, this is what you have to do. It doesn’t matter what you have done before. If you want to educate children in this province, here are your hoops “. And I jumped. In good faith. But now they announce, during a time of cuts to education, that volunteers can grant a credit equal to mine?
If this government truly wants to give kids the chance to get credits for non-academic activities, let teachers grant a credit for drama club. Let teachers grant a credit for track. Let teachers grant credits for all the amazing extracurricular events they volunteer to lead. If they believe that these outside institutions teach valuable life skills, let teachers mark integrity, and leadership, and industry in the classroom. Fund dance. Fund yoga. Fund the drama club.
But don’t tell teachers you want them to be more accountable for academic standards in one breath and then hand the granting of credits over to volunteers in another.
I believe in these organizations. They can do great things. But I am not a cadet Commanding Officer. I am not a 4H leader. I am a professional teacher. It is not my hobbie, it is not something I volunteer for. As respectful as I am of those people who give their heart and soul to volunteering for the kids of this province, teaching is my vocation.
And it is a vocation that has been dishonoured yet again.