Regarding: VOLUME 10 ISSUE 4
January 23, 2002
Teacher’s On Strike – The Heart of the Issue By Tamra Ross Low
I am an undergraduate student teacher at the University of Alberta currently participating in my introductory professional term (IPT) and I would like to respond to the article by Tamra Ross Low in the issue above if it is not too late.
I feel that the author had some great points concerning the current dilemma of the teacher’s in Alberta, but I find it hard to understand her bias when she herself was a teacher in the past (ed: Tamra Ross Low would like to clarify that she has never been a teacher). The message I get from her article is for teachers to “quit whining.”
First of all, I would like to discuss this matter of wages, as the author compares a teacher’s salary to that of nurses, paramedics, and “the rights of any single group of workers.” Let us take paramedics for example. I happen to know a few and thus I do not see the relationship between 2 years of post-secondary education and a $60 000 pay role. Even with 5 full years of post-secondary education, the maximum a beginning teacher could make is $38 000 topping out after ten years at $60 000. I for one am not to complain about the maximum wages of teachers, as if you take into consideration the 3 months off a year and an unreal benefit plan, with these two items not present, the average teacher would make more than $90 000/year. But, where my concern is, is that of the starting teacher. I find it ridiculous to go to school for 5 years and make $5000 more than I could earn in a summer at a hard labour job (4 months).
Secondly, I would have to agree with the author about class sizes as no research I have read provides evidence that smaller class sizes contribute to higher academic achievement. Only in K-3 does research suggest higher academics in mathematics and reading comprehension.
Thirdly, I would like to discuss this “emergency” in teachers going on strike. One of my fellow colleagues explained it best: “Parents feel that a school is a day care for their children.” Let me take an exaggerated example. In an issue of Language Arts Volume 75, number 4, the authors Patrick Shannon and Patricia Crawford state it very clearly: “At a baby-sitting rate of four dollars an hour (with one dollar for overhead), teachers should be paid $81 000 US for 25 students and a 180-day school year. Of course, actually teaching the twenty-five students anything should be extra.” So let me ask you this…How much does the average parent spend on day-care or other modes of looking after their kids throughout the year? I rest my case…
And last but not least, the public and government never take into consideration the amount teachers spend out of their own pockets towards innovative teaching methods. In Phi Delta Kappan March 1997, an article was written by William Olszewski and Kathleen Maury dealing with their study in public schools in Minnesota. The data collected is quite outstanding. They found that the average teacher spends $492 US/year out of their own pocket towards their profession! Let me, as a mathematics major, do the math, as Tamra Ross Low felt: “Teachers hope that [the public] will not do the math.” I shall do it for them. The figures would exceed into the billions of dollars by a long shot for a nation’s representative sample. They found that $23 million US is spent in Minnesota alone annually.
I would like to conclude by quoting Patrick Shannon and Patricia Crawford: “Everyone is an expert [when it comes] to education. Everyone has years of experience at school and feels that experience entitles them to pass judgement on school policies, practices, and people.” I feel that this strike of the teacher’s is in the best interest of the students and that we as the public should think about the long term positive effects of providing education with more money instead of how am I going to look after my kid. The classroom is not a day care. It is an institution of learning and cognitive development.
University of Alberta
Bachelor of Education Secondary