WHY I SUPPORT TEACHERS AND EDUCATION WORKERS
I was an elementary school teacher for 23 years before I accepted a job as a provincial collective bargaining staff member with the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO) in 2010. I’m retired now, but while the Ford government continues its efforts to create a crisis in education, I’ve been reflecting on the various factors that contributed to my growth from an earnest, idealistic, proud and dedicated teacher into an earnest, idealistic, proud and dedicated union member and supporter.
The primary motivation for me, and for the vast majority of other public education workers I’ve been privileged to know, was always the desire and commitment to help students learn. The primary goal was to assess their individual needs and abilities and then create a learning environment that was both challenging and supportive.
The more experience I gained, the more I came to understand that it wasn’t possible for me to just close my classroom door and teach. It wasn’t possible for me to do this alone. No level of professional knowledge or personal time, energy, creativity or dedication would be enough to reach the goals I had set for myself and my students.
Without a solid foundation that included properly funded classroom supports, school-based resources, and long-term system-wide investments, I recognized that my classroom was perched on a flimsy framework of straws held together by miniature marshmallows. (I’m pretty sure only elementary education workers will fully appreciate this metaphor. . . .)
I worked with some incredible principals and other administrators who understood the importance of a solid foundation. But when it came to actually bringing about the changes that were needed to protect and improve the teaching and learning environment, I realized that our best hope was through collective bargaining and union activism.
Education unions are fighting against increased class sizes and mandatory e-learning. They’re fighting against cuts to special education staffing and supports. They’re fighting to maintain successful early learning, full-day, kindergarten programs. They’re fighting to reduce incidents of violence in schools and classrooms. They’re fighting for a revised education funding formula that provides adequate investments in teaching and learning. They’re fighting for the constitutional right to free collective bargaining. They’re also fighting against the lies and misinformation spouted by Premier Doug Ford and Education Minister Stephen Lecce.
Teachers and education workers have nothing to apologize for in this fight.
Michaela Murphy is a retired teacher and member of the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO).