Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Let the healing begin….

Tuesday, September 16th…  I probably should have written this post awhile ago…

I sit in my office at the start of what is supposed to be our third week of classes in British Columbia.  The hallways are quiet and I am in front of the computer screen watching Twitter for updates on the negotiations between the government (BCPSEA) and the teachers union (BCTF).  This dispute has been raging for over 20 years and seems to have hit its roughest patch yet, as teachers have been in a full strike since June 17th of last school year. 

I am thrilled that an end appears to be in sight (BCTF members will vote on Thursday to ratify the tentative agreement and our hope is that students will be able to resume school on Monday, September 22nd).  I will admit to missing the energy that the people in a school bring.  Conversations with staff, the excitement of students, the great deeds of both have been greatly missed and while I feel like I have not been very efficient in my days behind the picket lines, I go home more tired than ever.  Much of that is due to the ambiguity we have been living with, but also because we draw upon the energy that a full school provides.  That energy has been sorely missed…

I am new to this school community, and this is not a great way to forge new relationships.  The staff I have spoken with while in conversations on the picket lines have been very pleasant and I am eager to get to work more closely with them. Likewise, I am keen to meet the parents and students and begin to understand what makes this community work and how I can best support the students and families that rely on what schools are to provide (a safe, stimulating place to connect, learn, experience and make meaning). 

Principals and Vice Principals around British Columbia have been quiet during much of this dispute.  It is not our role to choose a side to support, it is our job to ensure the system runs efficiently and effectively and to provide leadership in difficult times. Staying neutral and calm in this conflict has been a challenge (especially since we are all teachers), but we (like everyone else in education) have persevered.  Without getting political myself, in observing this dispute, what follows has become painfully obvious:
Classes are crowded and composition makes teaching more challenging than ever before.  And teaching has always been a difficult, exhausting, rewarding and incredibly important profession. Sadly, teachers are now feeling undervalued and unappreciated. These feelings can cause long-term damage to what is one of the finest public education systems in the world.  It will be our responsibility to begin the healing process and attempt to rebuild the trust and respect between all members of our school communities.  This will be a huge task, but having staff and students back in the building will help...

I am grateful that there is now a light at the end of the tunnel, and there is much to do before staff and students return to the building.  I ask for your patience as the first week or two will be quite bumpy with timetable adjustments.  I would also like to thank everyone for their support of our teachers who have undergone huge financial and emotional strain through this dispute.  I know they are excited about soon returning to the work they love with the students they care so much about.  I want you all to know I am excited to get to meet many of you and work closely together to ensure our system continues to be something we can be proud of and serves the best interests of all the students in our care.

Jason Leslie

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