What comes to mind when we think of teachers?
If you follow the news, here are some of the highlights:
* Labour disputes
* Political opinions
* Social issues
Unfortunately, education — if it shows up at all — is far down on the list.
As the B.C. Teachers Federation meets for its annual conference at Thompson Rivers University, the big topics of conversation are an anti-bullying policy focusing on homophobia and the possibility of a 10-year contract. Also on the agenda are workshops on topics such as how to deliver good presentations at school board meetings and community forums.
No doubt pedagogy is in there somewhere, but it seems to get lost in the shuffle.
To be fair, teachers will argue that all these topics are related to education. If children are being bullied, for example, it’s hard for them to concentrate on their studies. Smaller class sizes — often at the heart of labour disputes — make it easier for teachers to concentrate on the needs of individual students.
The trouble is that when they advocate for policy changes, teachers get trapped in the game of politics. Policy is set by the provincial government’s Ministry of Education, and, of course, is influenced by the party in power. If teachers don’t like aspects of that policy, then they find themselves in a position where their real beef is with — for now, at least — the B.C. Liberal Party.
BCTF workshops can help teachers go to school board meetings and make presentations to trustees on how they should stand up to the government on how various programs are funded. The amount of money does indeed have an effect on education — just as it does in health care and highways.
While these types of actions may be well-intentioned, they can leave the public with the uneasy feeling that teachers are sinking in the quagmire of politics and losing track of priorities.
During their conference, teachers should ask themselves whether a political image is one that serves them well with parents. We know that politicians themselves often have a less than savoury reputation. If teachers aren’t careful, they may be tainted by the company they keep.
We Say editorials represent the viewpoint of The Daily News and are written by publisher Tim Shoults, city editor Tracy Gilchrist, or associate news editors Dan Spark and Mark Rogers.