At the Faculty of Education, it was mentioned more than once that when I got my first job that one of my first things to do was to find out who the support staff was, learn their names, and value all that they contribute to the health of the school.
To this 24-year-old, it was one of those cutesy moments that you knew you had to sit through while at the Faculty until you got out into the real world and started doing what you really wanted to do – teach.
When I went for my interview, it all clicked in. I can recall being warmly received and asked to sit in a chair until the principal could see me.
As I sat there, I watched what really was a beehive of activity. There was an endless stream of teachers and students coming in, interrupting, and then requesting this or that. In schools, time is of the essence and so issues took high importance and so other work was dropped to help.
Once I got my own classroom, there was this magic that happened in the afternoon. The blackboards were washed, tables washed down, garbage is taken out, the carpet vacuumed and all that I had to do was show up and start teaching.
Later, I had my own secretary who I shared with a number of others in the Program Department. She took an active interest in what we did and was absolutely the first line of contact while we were out of the office in schools.
In all these cases, there was a value added to whatever it was that I was doing that was hard to truly describe. They just made things happen.
Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock, you know what happened yesterday with a withdrawal of services by CUPE members as talks broke down with the government. Things used to be different when individual local organizations bargained with community people who had an interest in keeping local schools open. As we know, the majority of the bargaining is at the provincial level these days. There are lots of fingers to be pointed at for that decision.
The current Minister of Education has indicated that he will use every bit of power in the law that was passed in the province this week to keep schools open. As we know now, that didn’t work all that well on Day 1 of the work withdrawal.
So many school districts that rely on the services supplied by CUPE members have closed schools because they recognize that it’s not business as usual without their services. Often, computer services in schools and school offices are maintained by CUPE members. One of the things that we’re hearing is that classes will continue online. Who’s managing the Help Desk?
Obviously, as I type this on a Friday morning, I don’t know how it’s going to play out.
I truly hope that there’s a meeting of the minds and that it happens soon. I hope that the government finally realizes the value that these members contribute to the health of a school and that the salaries and benefits that are currently provided are not enough to compensate these workers.
I do believe that there’s another elephant in the room. Collective agreements for more education workers are on the horizon. Everyone is watching how this plays out, knowing that there is potentially more to come.
Please share your thoughts here. I’d enjoy reading them.