I had to get the oil changed in my car yesterday so was sitting quietly in the waiting room while the deed was done. As time dragged on, another gentleman wearing a Unifor shirt came in and sat down as well.
To help while the time away, the car dealership had a television set mounted on the wall and it was set to the CTV News Network. Top stories, of course, were about the jail break in New York State and the Gardiner Expressway, but it was a subsequent story that got us talking. Being interviewed was an administrator from a school board near Toronto.
During the course of the interview, she indicated that the school board would be sending home promotion or non-promotion notices to the parents because it would cost too much to have the regular report cards created. She acknowledged that the teachers had submitted the final grades but that the district would have to pay administrators or hire others to actually enter them into a computer system. She indicated the costs would be $1,000,000 and that the Ministry wouldn’t help out. There were statistics given about the sheer number of marks and many references to entering them into a template.
Then, I heard it from the gentlemen. Pshhh. That’s #######.
Uh oh, I thought. Here it comes.
One of those public moments where my wife is embarrassed that she’s married to a teacher. Usually, it’s because I’m correcting spelling or grammar or something. But not this time.
“That would never happen with us”, he said. I looked over and he knew I wanted to hear more.
“11:59, and if we don’t have a contract, we’re out”.
We engaged in a conversation about collective agreements/contracts and negotiations. It turns out that both of us had been involved with contract negotiations in the past. While the concept is similar, the implementation is certainly different. We come from two different worlds. In his world – it’s no contract, no work. Education is a kinder, gentler, long drawn out process.
As he noted, it’s bad and getting worse. The whole concept of a work to rule and negotiating through public opinion and playing with parent and student emotions is foreign to his world and, as he noted, seems to be a process to exact as much pain from all entities as possible.
Then, the conversation turned to report cards. Again, he was insightful on this. “What is the point of a final report card with comments on them when students and teachers are done for the summer anyway?” He’d rather just call the teacher if he saw a problem during the school year or focus on progress reports and parent-teacher nights to discuss things face to face. On top of that, he remembered when report cards were actually cards and not a piece of paper from a printer.
“Just think what a school board could do with that extra million dollars?”
“Maybe they should interview parents of students from Catholic School and Public Schools and see if there really is a difference in report card satisfaction?”
I rather enjoyed our conversation. Have we created a system that’s so involved that we’re just setting ourselves up for these conflicts? Maybe it’s time to step back a few steps and talk to those who are the end result of the educational system. They might just have some great ideas to streamline the process so that students, parents, teachers, and administrators can “just do it”.
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