Friday, May 30, 2014

An Open Letter to Tim Hudak

Dear Tim,

I am an Early Childhood Educator working in a Early Learning Full Day Kindergarten class. I am one of the 100,000 people you plan to fire if elected. Somehow you feel that by letting me and 99,999 other people go that 1 million jobs will miraculously appear. We all know the math is flawed, it's been proven. Regardless, you're sticking to your guns and for that, I'll give you credit.

Let me tell you a story that happened recently.

We got a new little girl in our kindergarten class. She's a tiny, quiet, 4 year old girl. She was frightened by her new surroundings, her new teachers and her new classmates. You see, we're a busy class. There are 30 children  ranging in age from 4-6. We are actively learning everyday (not just the children - the educators too!)

For weeks the new little girl did not speak. Not one word. She didn't speak to the other children. She didn't speak to the teachers. Don't get me wrong, she didn't misbehave, she wasn't crying, she joined in play with other children...she just didn't speak. After consulting with her parents we discovered that the girl had had a difficult beginning to life. She was quite verbal at home but painfully shy around others.

Because she's so quiet she's just the sort of child that might fly under the radar in a large class with a teacher who is already overworked and overwhelmed. It's the quiet ones who get missed because the teacher is occupied with the children with behavioural issues or physical or developmental delays. The schools are already stretched so thin when it comes to support staff that teachers already have less time for actual teaching when trying to support those who need it with more one on one attention.

But this didn't happen in our class. Our new little girl didn't fly under the radar. In  fact, she was right smack dab in the middle of it. Do you want to know why? Because it's Full Day Early Learning Kindergarten.  That means there are 2 educators in the class - the teacher and the ECE. That means there are two sets of eyes and ears. Two different but complimentary skill sets. Two minds. Two hearts.

We both make a point of checking in with each and every child every single day and  then later we communicate with one another our thoughts on the learning taking place and the next steps for each child. We both took notice that our new little one was not speaking and made an effort to speak with her several times every day; asking questions and hoping for answer but never getting one. We showed an interest in what she was doing each day, encouraging her to try new things celebrating with her when she succeeded.

Today that little girl spoke for the first time in class. We were doing math lesson; we were grouping stuffed animals and then creating a graph based on those groups. Because you see, Kindergarten is the foundation for the rest of a persons academic career. We do REAL learning in Kindergarten.

As I went around the circle asking each child what type of animal they had and to which group it belonged I made a mental note that I would allow my quiet little friend to place her animal in a group without insisting she answer my question. When it was her turn I asked her "What kind of animal do you have?"

And as clear as a bell, with a sweet little voice she answered, nice and loud, "I have a cat."

This is but one victory my teaching partner and I celebrate each day. We also celebrate the child who reads his first book or the girl who can finally count to 20 without skipping 17. They may not seem like big victories to you but they are huge to us. And they are even moreso for the children.

Could this have happened in a Kindergarten class with 20 children, a teacher and no ECE? Possibly. But I invite you, Mr. Hudak, to spend a day alone in an overcrowded class with 20 four and five year olds and tell me that you successfully taught everything you were expected to teach AND assisted 10 with coats AND broke up three fights AND calmed down a child who was having a meltdown AND made sure they all ate their lunches AND made sure you spent enough one on one time with each child to truly get to know them and what makes them tick because while they may just be children they are unique individuals with unique abilities and needs and in order to be a successful educator you must be able to teach to each child's individual abilities.

Two heads.....two hearts.... are better than one. That's simple, kindergarten math.

Firing ECE's, support staff and teachers will not help our economy. It will simply put us out of work. It will also impact the future economy with people who can't compete nationally or internationally because the standard of education in our province will have slipped so low.

Don't punish this and future generations. Keep your hands off the schools.

Sincerely,
A Concerned Voter

Monday, May 19, 2014

Politics

Let me preface by saying I rarely talk politics. I firmly believe that there are certain conversations one should avoid  - religion and politics being two of them.

Here's why. Religion is a very personal thing. I don't want anyone telling me what I should or shouldn't believe or why. (I understand the irony in that my Priest tells me what I should and shouldn't believe but for me personally my church is a ground zero for my faith and I develop my own beliefs and understanding from there)

Politics is a whole different story. I am not well versed in politics and prefer not to engage in debate over something I don't fully understand. Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and remove all doubt. People tend to be very passionate about their political beliefs and I'm a live and let live kind of girl. At the end of the day there will never be a political party who will do things right. They will all screw things in up on some fashion so pick one and hope they don't screw up something that directly affects you.

And that is where this post comes in.

We are having a provincial election in a month. And there is a distinct possibility that it will directly affect me. Because you see, if the people of Ontario vote in the Progressive Conservative I'll be out of a job.

Let's clarify. That's not "I might get downsized." or "I could lose my job in a few years." That is I WILL lose my job before September.

Tim Hudak, the leader of the PC party has this Million Jobs plan. In some twisted alternate reality he thinks that by cutting 100,000 public sector jobs he'll be able to create 1,000,000 private sector jobs. More importantly he feels that many of these public sector jobs should be in education.



Yes, that makes perfect sense. 

So his plan entails taking Early Childhood Educators, like myself out of Full Day Kindergarten and increasing class sizes to 20 children per teacher.

Let's do the math - without giving away personal financial information. I like you and all but I'm not about to share my income with you.

In my school there are two Full Day Kindergarten (FDK) classes. They have a Teacher (OCT) and a Registered Early Childhood Educator (RECE). There are 30 children in each class.

Hudak's plan is to take those 30 children and divide them into 3 classes of 20, each with an OCT. He'll then have us RECEs fired. (Yep fired because within school boards we are Designated Early Childhood Educators meaning we are DESIGNATED to FDK and there is no where else for us to be used.)

But there are currently only 2 teachers teaching FDK which means in my school another OCT will need to be brought in to teach this new FDK class of 20 kids.

Here's the mind altering part.

A teacher at top pay makes more that two RECEs put together. So, in theory, this plan to save money is faulty logic. It will cost more to have more OCT's only in a class of 20 than an OCT and RECE in a class of 30.

And this genius plan of his doesn't just include RECEs. His plan also includes cutting school based support staff such as Education Assistance (the ones who assist the children with special needs) and Child/Youth workers (the ones who assist children with behavioral/emotional problems) Because you see, in Tim Hudak's opinion, teachers can take time out of teaching their class of 35 children to deal with the child who is throwing a chair because he's angry or spending 60% of the instructional day helping the autistic child in the class deal with being overstimulated by the 34 other children in the class...and the boy crying uncontrollably in the corner because of issues at home.

Sure, your child will have no trouble learning in that kind of environment.

Let's also analyze what this will mean for the 100,000 public sector workers who are now unemployed with is plan.

I am a Registered Early Childhood Educator. I've never done any other job (as an adult) Full Day Kindergarten meant the demise of many daycare positions simply because children were no longer going to kindergarten only half day and therefore didn't need daycare anymore.

I have NO other marketable skills. This is the only thing I know how to do.

I'm 40 years old. I'm too old to start a new career. Sure I can go to school to learn something new but when it's all said and done, no employer is going to invest in a 43 year old new graduate who will be retiring in 17 shorts years. They want the 25 year olds who they are going to get their money's worth from. The ones who will work for next to nothing because they don't have a mortgage and children and are not looking to pad their retirement savings because in the grand scheme of things, it's not that far off.

In one short month I will find out where the people of Ontario stand. I will see whether or not I'll be able to continue working at educating our youngest learners with the same dedication and passion that I've done so with for the past 20 years.

For my Ontario readers....when you are voting on June 12 (and I urge you all to vote) ask yourself.....

Do I want my children (or grandchildren) in an overcrowded classroom with a teacher who is frustrated and tired because the government has taken away all of their support staff?

Do I want my child to be given a chance to succeed?

If so, don't vote Conservative. Doing so will only set your child up for failure.