Teachers and books are closely entwined. I’m willing to bet, if you look far enough back, your own love of reading was influenced by a teacher or two. I vividly remember listening with rapt attention to Mrs. Sargeant read The Whipping Boy by Sid Fleischman. I know that she read award winning, fascinating books about children like us who lived in distant places or in different times every afternoon, but it is The Whipping Boy that stands out in my mind 25 years later. I was already a voracious reader, but the afternoons when we were read to, as a class, were a magical time. Looking back, it was teachers and school librarians – thank you Mrs. Poetsch – who helped me, and countless other students, find books we loved. Once I hit high school, other teachers helped confirm the value of literature, especially Mr. Leamy and Mrs. Freeman, who gave my advanced English classes a sparkle that other subjects just didn’t have.
And Books & Company would not be the same without the patronage of teachers, teacher-librarians and schools. We love the teachers who shop here for their classes and for themselves. We value their visits and the way they encourage the children they teach to read, which can only benefit us, as a bookstore, in the long run. The teacher-librarians, Mrs. Parker and Mrs. Williams, who run the Red Cedar Readers’ Club out of Café Voltaire on Tuesday nights (but not tonight because of the current job action) are helping a new generation of readers find books that spark their imaginations the way Mrs. Poetsch and Mrs. Sargeant helped me.
Full disclosure, my mother is a teacher, my father who is now a principal used to be a teacher, a couple of my cousins are teachers and I’m applying to the UNBC education program for this fall, so I have a pretty clear bias when it comes to the current teachers’ job action. And I’m angry about how teachers are being treated by our government, a government committed to keeping corporate taxes low but not to educating the children of our province.
So, let’s start with “The Books” which have to be balanced through a net zero contract for teachers according to our provincial government. A big deal was made of the fact that the 2012 BC Provincial budget included a planned corporate tax increase, but what wasn’t made completely clear was the fact that said increase will be only 1% and does not go into effect until April 1, 2014[i]. The corporate tax rate in British Columbia currently sits at 10% – tied for the lowest provincial corporate tax rate in Canada with Alberta and New Brunswick and has not been increased since 2001. Has our kowtowing to big business resulted in more investment? Not enough that we can adequately pay our public sector employees!
The media, and the government, love to say that these contract negotiations are all about wages for teachers, but that simply isn’t true. Teachers are fighting for your children. They are fighting to keep class size limits and to have some control over class composition. In essence teachers are trying to make sure every child gets the attention they deserve so they can thrive in an adequate learning environment. Looking back, can any of you say that you would have benefited from a larger class? With a higher number of special needs students? Classes need to be balanced so teachers can spend time with every student. And students with special needs need attention from teachers who have specialized in special education. Simply putting more teaching assistants into a classroom is not good enough because they do not have the specialized education teachers have.
And, yes part of these negations is about wages. Teachers are looking for wage increases that fall in line with inflation. With the cost of everything from housing to gas going up, is it fair to ask teachers to accept a wage freeze especially when BC teachers are some of the lowest paid teachers in Canada[ii]. When nurses were in the same position in 2009, coincidentally right before a provincial election, a cost of living “labour market adjustment” that increased nurses’ wages by 6% over 2 years was found[iii]. A lot of ink has gone to the fact that MLAs have accepted no pay increases in the last since April 1, 2009, but when you look at the fact that prior to that their pay increased by 34% between 2007 and that last increase in 2009[iv], it’s pretty easy for them to take the high ground.
So, when you see those teachers protesting outside their schools today and tomorrow (and perhaps, in future weeks if the government doesn’t budge from their bullying position) think about the books you love, and the teachers that helped you develop your love of reading.
P.S. There’s a rally to support teachers on Wednesday (that’s tomorrow people) evening at 6 pm outside the Prince George Civic Centre. I’ll see you there!
Events Planner and Coordinator
Books & Co