I am very happy to learn that the protracted and highly unpleasant teachers’ strike is over. Now the kiddies can return to the classroom, moms can again clutter up the roads with their vehicles as they drive little Conrad and Natasha the three blocks they couldn’t manage to navigate on their own, and union boss Jim Iker can again afford to get himself a decent haircut.
I jest, of course. Truly, it has been a truly disruptive state-of-affairs and to have permitted the debacle to continue for so long casts some mighty big aspersions on both sides of an imbroglio that left the public, especially parents who had to adjust their lives due to the labor dispute of somebody else. Credibilities were lost on both sides of the issue and I’ll suggest it will take the Clark government a long time to bring back to the affections of most of the parents in the province.
As I have said before, I am not about to take sides. I have value friends who are, or were teachers and while some of my opinions might clash with theirs, it’s their fight, not directly mine. And it’s an old story. Conflicts between governments in this province and the BCTF are as old as, like, forever. Governments hate that union (duh!) and that union essentially hates whatever government is in power at a time of dispute, and that includes the NDP.
There is one aspect of teacherdom that comes up with every labor dispute, and it is one that is often vouchsafed as an argument, and that is that the employer (ie the government of the day) does not treat teachers with the respect that they as ‘professionals’ should receive.
Well, part of this argument that is troublesome to me is that teachers are ‘not’ professionals in the true sense of that word. They are, like it or not, ’employees’ and subject to the controls most employees have to deal with. That’s not to quibble with the point the calling is referred to as the ‘teaching profession’, but truly it is the ‘teaching occupation’. And I can say this as a person who is a fully qualified teacher who did all his assignments and has the certification to go with it. Even though I haven’t taught in decades, they cannot take that away from me.
In calling teachers not professional in the true sense of the word is mainly a matter of semantics, but possibly an important one.
In medieval times in Europe scholars were forced to go out and find students and to establish themselves as academics and build their reputations on what they gave their students. It was a tough calling and there were a few incidents in which students actually murdered incompetent masters. At the same time, those masters were genuine professionals in our understanding of the word. That is, if teachers want to see themselves in that context, they would have to be plying the streets and coffee bars to find students who would make up their practices, as other professionals must do.
Doctors or lawyers have to get patient loads and case loads in order to survive. They must equip clinics and dental offices and law offices with expensive equipment and materials in order to give their patients and clients what they are seeking. And they will rise and fall on their reputations, not to mention their high-priced gear.
Teachers, on the other hand, are ‘hired’ by a school district and then are paid a salary if they perform as they are expected to. In other words, they are employees. Yet there is no shame in that, nor is ‘occupation’ a demeaning term. I have a number of professional creds, but have always been an employee either by my employing school district or newspapers at which I toiled. Somebody else had to cough up, at the newspaper for example, for the presses and the guys to run those presses.
So, if teachers want to be treated as true ‘professionals’ they had better go out and find their own students and set up a private teaching practice. Indeed, in that context, it might be fair to suggest that home tutors of good reputation and with a lot of clients are truly teaching professionals.