KAMLOOPS — Now that teachers have a new contract, there will be many more teachers in the classroom come September, and students will be able to learn better and both they and teachers will have more support resources to do a better job. Although it took a long time to get this resolved, and several court cases in favour of the teachers, it has now happened and it’s time to get on with things.
But although teachers have been quick to decry the failings of the province in terms of educating our youth, teachers themselves need to come to the table to ensure that they are able to do their jobs to the best of their ability. Getting rid of bad teachers is an absolute nightmare. Review procedures are in place, but it is often hard to go through enough hoops to get rid of teachers who should not be in the classroom. While so many teachers do such a great job, there are a few bad apples who bring down the rest. They are out there, and any teacher you talk to can identify them. But they won’t go on record, and they certainly won’t give evidence if there’s a hearing of any sort to judge a teacher’s competency.
Statistics relating to attempts to get rid of bad teachers are hard to come by. A report in Maclean’s Magazine July 2, 2009 covers the problem clearly, and I doubt things have improved since then. While Rachel Mendleson’s story is mostly involved with Ontario schools, teachers here tell me it’s pretty much the same. The story describes a principal’s efforts to deal with a teacher under review and the difficulty in getting the teacher dismissed. The story goes on to say that in Canada, teacher incompetence prompts few administrators to pursue termination. Instead, they approve transfers, and hide struggling teachers where their deficiencies can go unnoticed.
The number of teachers dismissed for incompetence is small, and I don’t believe it’s because teachers are perfect. They aren’t, and just like any profession, there are some who shouldn’t be there. But while teachers are quick to blame the government for lack of resources to teach kids adequately, they seem to avoid looking within themselves for things they could do better. When it comes to things like sexual abuse, things are pretty clear cut, but the general inadequacies are tougher to pinpoint.
I think in fairness it needs to be pointed out that teaching is one of the most difficult professions there is. Teachers get little support from parents, who feel it’s the system’s job to deal with their kids, although discipline is hard to administer with the current laws in effect. They have an extremely difficult job to do under trying circumstances. But there still needs to be a better mechanism for quality control among educators. My point today is simply that teachers have now been given a boost up in terms of support and working conditions. It’s now up to them to ensure the door swings both ways, and they have to come to the table too.