Out of the stock exchange into the climbing gym

Living most of my life on the West Coast has caused me to view our public education system with defensive dismay. Upon entering the teaching profession in the late 80’s no one warned me that I would experience negative perceptions from all levels of society- friends, strangers, media, government representatives and even fellow colleagues.

My first exposure to jaundiced public perception was in my first year of teaching when I listened to MLA’s publicly berate teachers with derogatory comments  such as, “Get your buns back to work” (Randy White, MP, Abbotsford) inferring we were delinquent malcontents who enjoyed celebrating  the disruption of the school year.

I stopped engaging in and defending the “teacher horror story” conversations that would spontaneously erupt at parties and filled numerous newspaper headlines aching for attention especially at the beginning of a new school year. I became numb to the numerous reminders of  how “lucky” I was to have a job that offers so much time off and short working days.

Anyone who lives with a teacher knows a different reality.

Some days I felt lucky to be a teacher.

Some days it felt like a curse…

This rant explains the mindset I arrived with when I attended The Seventeenth National Congress in Rural Education in Saskatoon last week.

Within minutes of being at this conference I immediately sensed a different connection among all levels of those who worked in the education system. The formal introductions at the beginning of the Conference included the Mayor of Saskatchewan, a MLA, the Saskatchewan Teacher’s Association President, the Dean of Education at The University of Saskatchewan-ALL OF THEM were actively involved in this conference.

I soon discovered that the conference was attended by many school board trustees, parents, and reps from the Ministry of Education as well as teachers. I had never attended a conference like this before.

It felt like I had lived most of my professional life in an environment that resembled the stock exchange floor and someone just opened the door to the climbing gym where everyone seemed to express their role primarily as a support for one another.

While sitting there I tried to remember:

When was the last time I saw a MLA or an MP at a public school conference? Never.

When was the last time I attended a conference in which there just as many trustees, parents as there were teachers?


When was the last time I saw a sense of pride for the school system and those who work in it?
I wish I could remember.

Which makes me wonder… Why?

Why don’t I see MLA’s MP’s and representatives from all levels of education attending the same conference and meeting one another to discuss the topics that inspire and challenge them in British Columbia?

Maybe if this happened we wouldn’t find ourselves in acrimonious positions that result in loss for everyone.

2 thoughts on “Out of the stock exchange into the climbing gym

  1. Great post, Kathreen. On average, I find that the prairies are more supportive, welcoming, and ‘warmer’ than here. That’s not something I find easy to say, because I’ve lived here for over 20 years now and I love it here. I think it may be more deeply imbedded in the culture of the prairies, maybe partly because of their history, and partly because many of the people who settled there come from very open and friendly cultures. This goes for work & career support… but also, if you get a flat tire on the side of the road there, you don’t usually need to wait long for random help. I don’t know if this explains what you experienced, but it’s something I’ve seen in many ways. I wish these magnanimous attitudes were more uniform across Canada.

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