I am a teacher. I am currently on strike to defend public education in our town and around the province. I am writing this letter to express the gratitude my colleagues and I felt for the support we received from the public on this miserable rainy, windy day. It was a day to quite literally dampen the spirits. And yet, while walking our information lines and huddling under tents, we continually received affirmation that what we are doing is the right thing to do; that it is respected; that it is appreciated. Thank you so much to each and every Chilliwack resident who nodded, waved, and honked to show their support for us, for the job we do, and for the stand we are taking.
This government has perhaps miscalculated the situation. They seemed to believe that the public would be so upset by teachers’ strike action that we would receive no support. I heard the message spun out that daycare issues would be so inconvenient that the public would be angry. But, I witnessed an awful lot of cars driving by with school-age children in the back and their parents, grandparents, and caregivers were honking and waving enthusiastically. That warms the heart on a cold day like today. Supporters of public education know that it is not daycare; it is about knowledge, about learning from the mistakes of our past, and about opportunities for the future. And let’s remember that a great many teachers are also parents. I had to make plans for the care of my children today, too (thank you, thank you, thank you grandparents). So did my colleagues. Teachers will have to make more plans for their children’s care on Tuesday and Wednesday just as other parents will. We are all in this together. That’s why the waving and honking mean so much to us. And the cookies. And the coffee and tea. Thanks to those citizens who delivered such sustenance to the lines—did I mention the freshly baked cookies?
Oh, yes, and thanks also to the one curmudgeon who drove up to my information line to express displeasure with us. Although you made it quite clear you were not a supporter and stated how gladly you would curtail my rights to a legal strike, I wish to say politely again, “Thanks for your opinion.” You see, I would not trample your rights as you would mine. We should both be able to express our opinions. We don’t have to agree. But, if it was vital that we come to some form of agreement, I suppose someone truly neutral could mediate our discussions….
At any rate, if you are one of those citizens who supported teachers today, I hope that you will consider drafting a letter or e-mail to tell our government how and why you are supporting us. Encourage them to negotiate rather than legislate. Encourage them to restore the damage they’ve done in the last ten years. It isn’t too late. I think that the Liberals are banking on people feeling demoralized and disengaged; that there is nothing that can be done, or it’s too late, too overwhelming to try. However, governments are often made to change their minds when they hear enough people speaking out. Given that we are teachers, our government will be swayed neither by our actions, nor by our words. But the voices of all the supporters we saw out there today…? Your voices need to be heard. Please let our MLAs, the Minister of Education, and the Premier know how you feel.
Thank you once more, and see you out there again tomorrow,