Bill 22’s Devestating Effects to a Dual Coquitlam Teacher Family

Good afternoon Mr. Austin and Mr. Farnworth,

Please find below the letter that I wrote and originally sent to Ms. Diane Thorne of the New Democratic Party in response and support of your party’s efforts to deny the passing of Bill 22. I was encouraged by colleagues and friends to forward it to your offices to encourage further readings and impress upon more members of our legislative assembly how devastating this bill is to public education.

My wife and I find ourselves in the privileged position to educate the youth of British Columbia.  We also find ourselves in a position of being able to embark on an adventure out of the country to educate the youth overseas.  The original intent was to bring back to British Columbia a new, refreshed perspective on education and experiences that would enhance our professional development.  As you will see in the letter, our plan for after we get on the plane for our temporary international positions is not so clear anymore.

Thank you so much for your time and efforts.

Hopeful regards,

Original Message:

Good Afternoon Ms. Thorne,

I am a teacher at Gleneagle Secondary School in School District #43, Coquitlam and I am leaving.  More accurately, my wife and I are both proud teachers in School District #43, our eldest daughter is old enough to start kindergarten next September and we will all be leaving.  What is heartrending for us right now is that it is difficult to see how and why my family and I might come back to British Columbia.

We began looking at the option of teaching internationally last year.  The time in our lives and careers seemed perfect to take the opportunity for travel and experience other educational systems to grow personally and professionally.  As we began this process, our intent was to teach abroad for a couple of years and bring our newfound experience and expertise back to our home here in British Columbia and continue work in our current school district, a district that we have found to be nothing but supportive of new ideas and professional growth.

From the beginning of last April’s bargaining process, we remained optimistic that a negotiated settlement would resolve at least some of the issues that exist in the education system, easing the strife between teachers and the current government.  As the Liberal negotiators presented more outrageous positions regarding what they were prepared to offer, our optimism began to fade.  With the presentation of Bill 22, we were crushed and realized how misguided Mr. Abbott and the Liberal Party are regarding what it takes to provide quality education.

Researching the philosophies of international schools, even briefly, will give you an idea of how flawed Mr. Abbott’s rhetoric in support of Bill 22 is.  Quality schools offer smaller class sizes and more supports for teachers, including preparation time for classes.  Bill 22 would further erode, in some cases destroy, what limited resources teachers have to support their students.  I am very disappointed, even insulted by Mr. Abbott’s use of rhetoric, comparing his political science class sizes, which he taught at a post-secondary level, to what we experience in the public school system; we do not have access to teacher assistants to grade our papers and I would bet that in his class of adults who attended his class, by choice, he did not have a single individual that he had to adapt his presentation or grading scheme for as we do for our students with an individual education plan (IEP).  He has not produced one shred of research, report or piece of evidence beyond poor anecdotal remarks to support any piece of this bill.  Every reputable institution and member of academia that has a stake in education would not hesitate to contradict the majority of this bill.

I began my service as a teacher with a belief in public education, that our populace should have access to quality education and with an educated society we shall have a more civilized and caring society.  The actions of Mr. Abbott and his party and the words of Ms. Christy Clark continue to show that this is growing into more of a dream than reality as teachers and the education system are treated with increasing contempt.  I want to fight the good fight, and continue to support public education as best I can.  Bill 22 is an affront to education and a clear signal of disrespect to my chosen profession.

In February, I was offered that job overseas and accepted.  Over the last few days I am feeling less compulsion to come back to BC and teach.  As educators currently in the system, we are very conscious of the environment that we would be introducing our daughters to: the overcrowded classrooms, stressed teachers, limited resources and poor environmental conditions that currently plague British Columbia’s public education system because we experience it every day.  Bill 22 and the attitudes Mr. Abbott and Ms. Clark display when speaking to teachers and about education certainly guarantee that if this bill is passed (or “when,” according to Ms. Clark) the education system that is currently band-aided with the immense care and efforts of teachers will crack, split and break, leaving a disarray of struggling students, broken children and introducing problems that we cannot even comprehend yet.

In July, my wife and I, two teachers who each hold a Masters and with over 20 years of combined teaching experience in this province, are leaving the country with their two daughters, one of which is becoming school age in September.  We will fight the fight for students and an undervalued public education system until we leave.  We will spend time on the strike line and in the classroom, engaging, informing and teaching with all of our hearts, but we will leave on our adventure in July and our hearts are getting on a plane and we are taking our education and experience and daughters to a school in another country.

If Bill 22 goes through before that time, our hearts will be heavy indeed as it will be a difficult decision to return to British Columbia.  This decision goes beyond our own professional decision, you must understand, though we are very conscious as to the increase in workload and stressors that would come with returning to our teaching profession as a result of this piece of legislation.  The bulk of our decision would rest on the learning environment that we would be exposing our two children to upon returning to this province.  We would also like to ensure that our children are able to look at their parents with a degree of pride and a province that is determined to strip away the voice of teachers and villainize the profession is not conducive to this. When the government does not carry a degree of respect and support for the education system, it becomes difficult for a teacher to walk into work without feeling defeated.  A government not respecting teachers cannot respect what it is teachers do and, by extension, cannot truly be putting children and families first.

I thank you, Ms. Thorne, for reading.  On Monday when I attend our first day of “non-picketing,” I will return to my optimism that you and your party will do what you can to assist the teachers and those that support us in our protest to defeat Bill 22 by exposing what it truly is; an affront to the education system and all of those associated with it, particularly the students that the system was designed for.

Deepest regards