Over the last month it has been quite interesting to watch the dismantling of respectful public discourse not only between the government and the BC Teachers Federation but more alarming with societal members on opposite sides of the spectrum sharing their opinions and emotional tirades while pointing fingers at who is doing what or the lack of progress and movement during negotiations. Now being a teacher, I understand the frustration many of my fellow colleagues are feeling as we are being bombarded with hate and persecuted heavily by a lot of people who believe themselves to be informed about all the issues connected to bargaining and our current educational system. But as a parent, I am also ashamed of the brutal cyber bullying, hateful name-calling, and contentious attitudes being presented online and in public. Humanity seems to be all but lost in this discussion. As Canadians we usually pride ourselves on being nice, approachable and friendly but the comments and societal interactions I have witnessed really questions this notion.
As an educator, the most important thing I can teach my students is to be empathetic. To walk in someone else's shoes and experience what they are going through. Teacher's want the general public to not only see, but feel the helplessness, the frustration, the sadness, and loss of faith they have endured in a crumbling education system. Parent's want both parties to feel the exact same feelings they are enduring in missing sport days, having to find alternative childcare,to have to learn about their child's progress through basic report cards and most importantly the loss of instructional time for their children to learn. The BCPSEA and Government obviously have their concerns as well, which may lead to the same types of feelings. We are all fully affected by this job action and the emotional roller coaster sometimes leads to irrational judgments, actions and behaviors.
My only piece of advice, lets try to keep it as professional and respectful as possible. Everyone is entitled to an opinion and sometimes that opinion may be presented in negative ways, but we as adults, as teachers of humanity need to remember that our future leaders in the world have more access to technology than in previous years. What that means is that many young individuals are being bombarded with images,comments, articles, blog-posts and other social media tools that were never there before. They have more access to information and material and they are seeing what we are modelling right now.
The government has presented Anti-bullying campaigns all throughout the province over the last couple of years. Schools have taken on zero tolerance policies on bullying and name calling, and using social media to damage another's reputation. Teachers' have taught students to play fair and play nice, and at times to ignore negative rhetoric of others' and to try and be the bigger person ( and for the most part continue to do so). Parents, we try to teach our children not to hurt people's feelings because we would not want that to happen to them. But here as educated adults, we all continue to lambaste and purposely try to hurt each the other in a dispute that really should be about better learning environments for students.
I am not here to discuss my views on class size or composition, nor am I here to discuss benefits package and salary increases. I am here just to point out that we as a society are not truly modelling what the democratic discourse should look like in a professional manner. Hearing stories of people driving by and degrading other human beings is just disgusting. Even worse, doing so when their children are with them is shocking! Not too long ago whether in the United States, or even here in Canada people were treated poorly for other reasons. Let's not re-enact the social ills of history, let just go through this difficult time with some class.
Kenneth Headley (Parent, Teacher and Tax-Payer)