Letter from a philosophy teacher on strike to her student

Dear Alice (or maybe your name is Justin, William or Juliette), I’m about to go almost a week without seeing you in class and I’m already getting bored. I’m your philosophy teacher at CEGEP, and for several weeks, even before classes started, I’ve been working hard for you to learn and succeed. I don’t know if you realize all the work I do for you, although I think you suspect it a little.

I was at my desk preparing my lessons while you still had almost a month of vacation left; I work in the morning in the classroom, the rest of the day at my desk, in the evening and on weekends at home or in the library to correct your work, often even in the bathroom or in the transport, while enjoying these minutes . of brain space available to think new educational ideas.

I often lack sleep, but I try hard every morning to put a smile on my face and give 100% to my teaching, even when you or one of your colleagues is asleep in the classroom. Of course, I have a family and I try (as much as possible) to have a life outside of work, but as you can guess, I do this job wholeheartedly and it occupies an important place in my existence. So you understand that like you I have mixed feelings about the coming teacher strike.

The government, my boss, tells you that I am taking you hostage by interrupting my work. What he forgets to tell you is that he himself (like his predecessors) has been holding you hostage for some time. The truth is that for several decades the successive governments, PQ, Liberal and now CAQ, have only left aside public services, including education, cut after cut.

Do more with less

Have you noticed that we usually have service failures at CEGEP? When a teacher is sick for a day or two, because he has caught a cold or a stomach disease for example, he is never replaced; there is no money for it. Of course, the management is not talking about service interruption, they call it “reorganization of the lesson plan”. But this means that many teachers would rather come to work sick than go through all the trouble that this lesson plan reorganization requires.

For several years now, we have been accepting more and more students with difficulties (and even students who have not completed the 5 years).e secondary) and we had virtually no additional resources to do so. Concretely, this means that your teachers have less and less time and less energy to monitor you, correct your work, prepare interesting lessons, etc. In addition, more and more teachers are falling in combat, going on disability leave, taking leave without pay or others because they can no longer take it.

We are finding it increasingly difficult to recruit and retain new teachers. When one of us has to be replaced for several weeks, it is often another (already full-time) colleague who has to take over his task. Labor shortages are felt everywhere, especially when salaries are much lower than those offered by other employers for comparable skills. Although I love my job, I often think about what my exit route would be if my working conditions deteriorated further. But I wonder what would happen to you if many of us left at once, and that worries me.

And now, the government, my employer, far from taking note of this lack of labor and what needs to be done to keep the system running, makes us counterproductive “offers” that are in reality no more what demands: demand that we teach in the afternoons and weekends to tire us a little more and harm our family life, expand the offer of distance education, fundamentally with the aim of saving money (while during the pandemic we saw an increase in psychological discomfort among both teachers and students). , and led to dismal failure rates), salary increases below inflation (nothing to attract the next generation), less and less autonomy and decision-making power for teachers regarding their own work.

What I find most frustrating about my job is wanting to help you and knowing exactly how I could do it, but not having the means to do so. For example, it has long been shown that reducing the number of students per class increases the chances of success. Teachers have been asking for this for a long time, to no avail (and on the other hand, distance learning would give my boss the perfect opportunity to increase the number of students per group, no longer limited to class size or to the number of desks that can be stacked).

For you and those who follow

The government is also holding you hostage, because it doesn’t tell you that since our collective agreements expired (last spring…), it has been sending its representatives to fudge the numbers at the bargaining tables. It sends people to look like they’re negotiating, but they just demand, they demand, and when they ask for something they can’t promise anything, they don’t have a mandate. We cannot negotiate under these conditions!

The only other option would be to bow down and accept all the bosses’ demands, no matter how absurd. If the government had wanted to avoid the strike, it could have done so long ago. We had a lot of patience. We gave him every chance, but in the end I got the impression that it was part of the government’s plan to strike us.

In short, I too get frustrated with going on strike and interrupting the session. But I’m willing to do it as long as my employer, who may one day be yours, doesn’t understand that we don’t move a society forward by letting its education system decay before our eyes. .

Basically, I do it for you and for those who will come after you. Because my working conditions have a direct effect on your study conditions and because the way the government treats teachers says a lot about the importance it places on students.

Hoping that my boss will understand my message and allow us to meet again soon, me to return to the work I love in more rewarding conditions, you to resume your studies in conditions more favorable to your learning, knowing that the society recognizes the importance of what we do.

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