Working to Rule for their Future?

With a potential job action looming for public elementary students in Ontario, it has got me thinking… How will this impact my son? Are these issues worth fighting for? Is a strike going to solve anything?


When I was in kindergarten the board of education arranged for me to take a taxi to Claremont Public School every day from daycare in Goodwood as the kindergarten class was at maximum capacity of what was then less than 20 students.

In high school we endured strike(s) and/or work to rule on more than one occasion.

In university I endured a strike that was 11 weeks long.

A lot has changed in the education system back from those kindergarten days. I personally have no idea how my son’s teacher handled almost 30 kids – with younger ages too – for JK & SK – and still had them so on track. She deserved an award. I’ve done the math and it is nearly impossible outside of recess/gym/library/music etc. to find much one on one time with each student, especially noting there will be individuals that require more attention than others. This year in a class of less than 20 students, I feel my son gets much more individual attention.

So where do I stand? Well I survived all of my strikes and/or work to rules and never lost a year or semester. In fact I still graduated high school a year early. Do I appreciate the teachers fighting for my child? Absolutely! At 7 he has many years of schooling left and I would rather see him as 1/20th or 1/25th of his teachers time over 1/30th or 1/35th any day. Maybe class sizes are not as important as we age – in university I easily became 1/500th in first year – but for him now at 7, and all future 7 yr olds, it matters.

Do strikes solve everything? Well no, they don’t always, but they usually get things started in the right direction. The teachers have been without contract since August of last year. That is a long time. I am going to presume negotiations have been ongoing since and a strike is a last case scenario when no progress is being made, as a ticket to force the other party to get back to the table and to show them they are serious and fed up about lack of progress.

Cutting of EA and funding for special needs is also something our teachers are fighting for. I’ve personally seen the EAs help teachers immensely in my son’s short school career. In some cases they are like a second teacher. I also know several friends with children who depend on EA support for their children at school. I personally feel like special needs, individual education plans and learning disabilities aren’t decreasing, and nor should funding for them be. Without support for children who need this, the children who do not need the extra attention also suffer, as one teacher tries to cover all the needs of a classroom, which can not be effectively managed by one person. 

It is my hope that when bargaining resumes that a contract is settled for a long term basis which is beneficial for the student and the teacher for positive learning environment. I am not a teacher or affiliate, nor do I work within a school. I am a mom hoping my son will get as much enjoyment, education and love of school as I did in my schooling years. I am putting trust that with good reasoning job action is for the goodness of my son’s education and future.

If school should be canceled for a few weeks, I feel it doesn’t have to mean his learning is interrupted. We are capable of stimulating his mind until his schooling resumes and will do so with hopes he goes back to a better education system. I feel school offers so much more than I can offer at home, but we will make due, especially if he continues to be max of 1/25th of his teachers attention when school resumes.  In the interim, let’s hope job action brings about bargaining and ground gained for our students. Afterall, many teachers are in fact parents too.

22 Comments

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  • I was a teacher for 46 years…33 in Windsor.I endured one strike and yes my friends it was to protect the rights of students to reasonable class size,materials and improved working conditions.I support any action that promotes this!

  • Thank you for your support and understanding! You are so right…last year I had 24 students and an EA. Such a great dynamic. This year I have 27 and no EA, but still have the needs. Jr. classes need caps, too, before we send these kids off to middle school!

  • I really think the larger class sizes will be detrimental to our children education. Our teachers have a tough enough task getting through a curriculum that seems to be more demanding , I don’t know how adding more students in the class will be beneficial to anyone. I think investing into our youth is better than giving fat pensions to government and elected persons , nothing is more important than our children.

    • Class size doesn’t matter. That’s right, 1/25 or 1/35, the quality of education in this Province will be the same.

      There are many studies that show the quality of education improves mostly when the level reaches 1/12….so whether it’s 1/22 or 1/30, the quality of the education will be the same.

      • Teachers are known for making bad systems work, however, they are NOT superhuman. There is only so much a teacher can do before something has to give. That something may be a school play or team they would have led, or an extra cool project the kids might have worked on instead of the usual one, or a trip to the science centre or Toronto Symphony. I’m sorry, but your argument doesn’t wash. Any study can be made to provide results that lean a certain way. Perhaps if YOUR teachers had had better teaching conditions, they might have been able to teach you that.

      • Kavita, are you a teacher? Based on your comment, I’ll assume you aren’t. I’d like to see you teach a class of 40 high school students and see how you manage.

      • That is 10 more bodies in a room that was built for 20. But if 12 is the opitimal number, you bet I will support fighting for it.

      • Have you ever spent even one full day in a regular learning classroom? Special needs children are among the 30-35 size class!

      • I am a teacher and I can’t help but respond by saying that I disagree with your statement. There are only so many minutes in one day and so many school days. Gone are the days where there is only one way of learning. We are to accommodate the needs of all students – which is what SHOULD be happening no matter what – while making sure that curriculum is met to the highest degree possible. Quality of education will be much better. Allow me to share with you something a friend of mine wrote recently onto facebook who is a high school English teacher and a PHENOMENAL one at that:

        Right now I have 90 students in total – which means when they are writing an essay – I need to help about 30 kids in each class. It’s a struggle and I feel bad when I can’t help them as much as I would like to, but it’s really hard to help them all because there are so many and then I feel guilty. When I have to evaluate essays, it takes me about 45 minutes per essay…which means 45 minutes times 90. The reason is takes this long is because i give them feedback so that they can improve their writing. I could strictly just read them in 15 minutes each and just give a mark, but i don’t because i care. The government would like to take the cap off class sizes which means I could have 40 students a class bringing my total number of students to 120. On top of that, teacher would also be getting another section added to one semester bringing the total number of students to 160. I already sacrifice a lot of my life giving valuable and constructive feedback to the 90 that I have…I can’t even imagine having 160. Students will be going into university and college not knowing how to write an essay because there is no way that I will be able to teach and prepare them all. Our marking is done on our own time…usually weekends because in the evenings I am planning the lessons that I will be teaching the next day. Therefore, this is about students because teachers are genuinely worried about the education system and students’ success. The media and the government keep saying that they are unaware of what the issue is …. This is the issue. The reason this is happening is because the government wants to save money by cutting teachers and this is the easiest way for the them

        • I can’t imagine how demanding it would be to mark high school student’s work! Having said that, the teacher with concerns about his/her students not being prepared to write an essay come post-secondary, (if their student numbers are increased) should know that professors have been complaining about this increasingly for a long time now. All the while, there has never been so much use of private tutoring services. Never has there been so much prep-time woven into a teacher’s school day, but class sizes are currently not considered large…what explains these negative trends in spite of relatively decent current conditions? Is it curriculum policy?

      • Class size does matter. There is a huge difference between a class of 18 versus a class of 23. I’ve had both over my ten years of teaching and I have more time to give to each student and their individual needs if there are less students. It’s that simple.

      • Are you serious? I know this will sound horrible, but when those 3-4 kids were absent because their parents withdrew their kids from school for a day to protest the sex ed curriculum, we did a LOT more than if we had the whole class, and the withdrawn kids weren’t even the disruptive ones.

        Yes, quality improves mostly at the 1:12 or 1:15 because that’s the ideal ratio, but as we know, ideals are ideals, and usually remain as such until the government decides to send some higher-up into our classrooms.

        All kids learn at different paces. You may think 10 more people isn’t a lot… but it is when it’s children who are still learning to adjust to social norms, who are learning to form relationships with peers and authority figures, and on top of that, are learning to understand the content in the curriculum. Students have backgrounds; they’re not tabula rasa. Teachers are not the only people who feel stressed in big classrooms: students have a lot of stress, but they don’t always express it. Sometimes they may express it in inappropriate ways that may look like disruption.

        I have a Gr. 6 class of 23, they used to be 25. Comparing with my other Gr. 6 class of 28 kids, it’s a HUGE difference. I’ll cut out the details: the more kids there are, the more it’s about classroom management and the less it is about your kid learning.

  • Thank you for your open mind and understanding. There is so much hate floating around right now. Your post did my soul some good.

  • People think teachers “don’t understand” how difficult a strike makes things for them. We do (many of us are parents, too; we get it), and the strike vote was reluctant as a result. But there aren’t many ways workers can make their grievances known. Thanks for being thoughtful.

  • A very thoughtful, respectful and educated response. Much appreciated! Too many are quick to criticize without knowing the facts.

  • I agree 100% and think it is very un-selfish of teachers to be striking, and losing their pay for their own families, to help the learning environment of other children. Good for them!

  • I just want to thank you for your support of classroom teachers in Ontario. It means a great deal to hear from parents who take the time to really figure out what and for whom we are fighting.

  • I am a parent and i 100% support our teachers.. But im still left wonderin if a strike does happen how is this goin to effect my child who is set to graduate in just a few wks??? There is so many what if questions i have for my children in public school and one in high school if i strike should happen and i can not seem to get a straight answer?? Honestly i attended school at the same one my children now attend and the class sizes are small now then they ever were when i was a student!! Im a very lost and concerned parent.. Will taking student out of school this close to the end actually solve anything and better their schooling??

  • Obviously small class sizes are preferable learning environments, but so are straight grade classrooms. I would much rather see a class of 28 grade 6 students than a class of 10 grade 5’s and 15 grade 6’s. Everyone suffers when a teacher has to juggle so many learning expectations…then add into the mix possible modified learning expectations of special needs students!
    Also, all of my kids were in classrooms that exceeded 30 students from grades 6 onwards, the caps are deceiving and I was not aware of anyone fighting when my child was in a split grade class of 37 last year. Yes, the class size exceeded numbers the union bargained…but it still happens.
    Something else you fail to address in your blog is the fact that the Liberals have increased prep time for ETFO members so significantly over the past few years, that the equivalent of ONE WHOLE DAY per week is “prep time”, this means more teachers are required to cover one class. Full-time elementary teachers are required to instruct students a mere 3.75 hours per day maximum…on top of that, consider the cost of all the substitute teachers brought in to cover when they write report cards, attend training, etc. if you do the math on say 180 working days x 3.75 hours, Ontario’s labour costs for elementary students are astounding!
    I am sorry to say that the no fail policy, current math curriculum, shrinking budget for textbooks etc. and the wide divide between have and have not schools for EC’S and co-curricular activities were not of any real interest to ETFO, in fact, they kept supporting the party in charge of disasterous education policy that has resulted in an epic need for kumon and pre-college/university courses. The bounty for supporting McGuinty/Wynne promised Ontario elementary teachers a reduction in actual teaching hours to be the lowest in the country, also at top wages. In addition, FDK promised more teaching jobs. All this has to be paid in terms of class size or by tax dollars. Sadly, student interest is traditionally the dead last priority on the bargaining table, today is no different, it’s just spun this way now that the “lovers” are quarelling.

  • ………Kavita……., you have no clue what happens in the real world ….., you must of had a troubled life in school and still ticked with your teachers…….if you want to see what’s happening in the real classroom, go get your police check (if you can) and volunteer for 2 weeks straight in one classroom with 30 to 35 kids with a few high needs kids with no educational assistance (EA) or support…and when they start throwing chairs or kicking, biting spitting or chasing other kids with a pencil l hope its you that loses an eye……”NOT the other kids that you’re expected to protect. …………..oh yes remember, you have to remain calm and not scare the other kids with your screaming or crying so they can still learn …….good luck…

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