Support your Teachers says reader

To the Editor:

Support your teachers!

Educators in Ontario are understandably upset. Premier Ford is on a fund-cutting mission and he has targeted teachers. His approach – and that of Education Minister Lisa Thompson – favours sound bites that promise to “modernise learning”. But let’s be honest here. This isn’t about improving the system or even in the best interests of the children who will be detrimentally affected by his proposals. This is about money. Period. And what better way to get taxpayers onside than to paint a picture where programs are wasteful, curriculums are not current, and teachers are coddled? Yet, nothing could be further from the truth.

Politicians love to pretend to have all the answers. Why is it that those who have absolutely no experience within a system believe that they know best when it comes to regulating said system? (No disrespect intended, but I do believe that the Education Minister should be required to have a background in education.) Why is it that the consultations held did not even broach the most important topics? The changes being proposed are regressive, as was the idea to revert to the 1998 Health, Physical Education and Sex-Ed curriculum. (Public backlash forced the Premier to retract that plan.)

Premier Ford wants to slash the number of Ontario teachers by not replacing those who retire for the next five years, and by declaring others surplus. We’re talking about the loss of thousands of teachers. Consequently, he needs to increase class sizes to the point of overload, which would mean less one-on-one time for students, less support, less course options and dropped electives for lack of funds and instructors. There is a certain disconnect with the public when numbers are tossed around without qualification. Raising the class size average – not maximum – from 24 to 28 does not sound all that bad, does it? However, understanding the implications of that number rewrites the narrative. That average is part of a complex formula used board-wide that often results in much larger class sizes, sizes that could potentially rise to 38 students. I know an excellent, very caring teacher who currently has a class of JK/SK (Junior Kindergarten/Senior Kindergarten) numbering 30 students. She has one assistant. Her school has 5 kindergarten classes, 3 with 30 students and two with 31, all with the average set at 24. Limits are already stretched to the max. To all parents out there: Imagine dealing with 31 three to five year olds each and every day! Imagine how much one-on-one time each child could possibly hope to have, particularly when some of those children have special needs, or serious physical and/or social issues. Imagine the care required all while teaching a full curriculum. Politicians are either not aware of the consequences of playing with numbers they do not fully understand, or they don’t care to explain them to the public.

Premier Ford also wants to force teachers to take an additional mandatory math test to certify, a redundant, wasteful and insulting move, since teachers already meet necessary requirements for certification. He intends to revamp the math curriculum, even though students have shown steady improvement, and he wants to mandate four compulsory online courses for high school students. (Online courses are currently optional.) E-learning is an important tool currently being used – as in using computers for digital challenges and teaching coding at the elementary level, or enhancing research at the secondary level – but it cannot replace human interaction, which is so crucial to positive development. Education is not just about absorbing and processing information. It’s a collaborative process whereby the maturation of social skills and appreciation of diversity, the exchange of ideas and art of team building, the practice of critical thinking and problem-solving all come together. These are key to growth, to forming leaders. E-learning can’t teach you that. All by itself, it tends to isolate users.

Decisions that will affect our children’s very future should not be made arbitrarily, education should never be subject to political agendas of the day, and its support should not be reduced to a banal discussion on tax reduction. Even those who like to complain about paying taxes must admit that if anything is worth paying for, surely, it is the future of this country. Make no mistake. These proposals will be harmful to us all.

I have the utmost respect and admiration for teachers. Their job, though rewarding, is not an easy one and can be trying at the best of times. But they do it and they do it well, devoting their lives to helping our children rise to their full

potential. This is NOT an area where cutbacks will benefit anyone. I urge you to support your teachers for the wonderful and very critical job they do, day in and day out. Call, email or write your MPP. Your teachers, and your children, will thank you.

Marcy Bézaire