Society is changing and we are currently in the midst of that change. Students and teachers suddenly were forced to learn and teach online, which was a first for many and has proven to be an obstacle. Although some are worried about the future of the economy, many teachers are worried about their jobs and their classrooms.
In May, the Saskatchewn Teacher’s Federation voted to accept a four-year agreement that calls for two per cent increases in 2020 through to 2022 and is in effect from September 1, 2019 to August 31, 2023. There will be equal increments in allowances for principals, vice-principals, and assistant principals. Moreover, all school boards will now be obliged to provide the Federation with contact information of all approved substitute teachers.
In April, La Ronge high school students held a protest through downtown La Ronge and in front of Cumberland MLA’s Doyle Vermette’s office, which is stationed in La Ronge. The students were in favour of the teachers’ sanctions and wanted to show their support.
“I think it’s very clear the students want to make sure the government understands… their issues and supports that they have for their teachers.” Said Doyle Vermette. “And we’ve been looking at the government for quite some time. And whether it’s petitions, that my colleague Carla Beck who’s a critic for education, we’ve been serving in the house about class size, about the number of students, about EA supports to out classrooms, supports to our kids and our schools and the funding to education. And seeing the negotiations, the way they’ve gone with the Minister, and people are not happy. Here’s the support you’re seeing by hundreds of students throughout the province. We’re seeing rallies all over… and they just wanna show support for their teachers.”
Students have shown support for their teachers and have expressed their frustration that programs have been cut at some schools, while others – particularly in the south, are receiving more programming.
“The way I guess the teachers support their students, and all of us were students at one point… and many teachers give you good support.” Vermette said. “I remember, there’s those special teachers you always had growing up. And I think these students are making it very clear, they have very special teachers that take care of them and they want to show their support, and to see the group that was here, just saying they support the teachers, asking government to negotiate and make sure you’re taking care and respecting teachers. And we’ve seen the way the Minister, in the House, has been- just making some of the comments, I don’t think has made teachers proud. And we’re proud of our teachers. They’re doing a great job and so much is being asked of them.”
With populations growing, classroom sizes are growing as well, which is giving more work in the same amount of time and on the same pay. Earlier this year Carla Beck and Doyle Vermette showed the responses to a survey, where some teachers said they had thought about changing careers and that they don’t believe that they can honestly encourage their students to become teachers in the future, as the workload is too demanding and other helpful positions, like Education Assistants, continue to be cut by the government.
“When you see the activities like drama, sports, things that are being cancelled, and unfortunately the government has to do that. Y’know, putting the pressure on negotiations and the amount of dollars per student funding,” said Vermette. “And you see the students and you see the teachers saying, “Well, unfortunately for the teachers, they have very little to bargain and negotiate with.” And that’s one way they have the extra-curricular activity and I know that’s not something they wanted to do; you’ve heard that from them. But they’re saying, “What else do they do to give the government the message saying enough’s enough.” It’s time to give them a fair deal… where the classes are manageable with students. No student should have to fall behind because of the EAs or because of the resources being given to the class.”
Because teachers had decided to opt-out of extra-curricular activities, the Sask. Party suggested that the teachers have turned their backs on the students. A comment the Vermette does not agree with.
“Definitely not.” Vermette said on the subject. “For government to say that, or a Minister, to refer to that. I know the teachers that I know and I sat for 9 years on the board of education, and all I can say as the chair for the board of Northern Lights School Division, when I was there before I was MLA, I see nothing but respect from teachers. And dedication and commitment, and that’s what I’ve seen from teachers. So, to have anyone judge teachers, that their turning their back on students, I think the government is turning their back on students and the parents and the teachers, so the government should wear that.”
Vermette continues to say that there is so much being asked of teachers with less support and that the government should point the finger at themselves. The teachers and schools are merely looking for adequate funding, given what’s being asked of them. But the government continues to cut, rather than add. And the teachers are reaching their breaking point.
“They are professionals. Treat them that way, said Vermette.
“The government has placed them in a position that they have no choice to do sanctions that they are doing, and I know and I’ve heard from teachers that they don’t wanna do it… they have been under so much pressure… they need adequate supports from our government to make sure they can provide for our next generation and our next generation deserves no better.”
There have been some parents, even celebrities, that have expressed their sentiments to pay teachers more as they have gotten a look into what it takes to teach their own children, even though it’s barely even a glimpse into what a teacher goes through in a classroom of approximately 20-30 students. And although that’s a positive for teachers to have some understanding and empathy, the decision for more pay and more supports is up to the government.
The province has said it is committed to working with teachers through a committee. So far, though, it’s unclear what the way forward looks like.