Letters to the Editor / August 29, 2012
Many high school and junior high school teachers have returned to a new and unfamiliar work environment of a long, 40-hour week. This is the result of the collective agreement signed between the Secondary School Teachers Association and the Ministry of Education in August 2011, known as the Courage to Change reform.
There was heated debate over the pedagogical effectiveness of the agreement even before it was signed. Will the new work arrangements improve teaching and turn out more teachers with a greater commitment to their educational mission, or will the opposite occur? Opponents argue, correctly, that burn-out in the teaching profession will increase, an inevitable outcome of the burdensome work week. The program's reliance on teachers gathering the emotional strength and patience to deal with students - when their work week becomes so much longer - is unreasonable. The teachers association argues that the reform will work wonders, but on this subject the association cannot comment because it has a vested interest in implementing the reform.
In any case, no once questions the damage the reform causes two groups of teachers: mothers and veteran teachers. The previous agreements enabled mothers to work a 19-hour week and integrate child-rearing into their work schedule; for many of them, this was the main motivation for going into teaching. Under the reform, they will be required to work 38.5 hours per week in a full-time position. The immediate significance of this is that the mothers must find daycare programs for their children, which could swallow up the entire salary increase the reform offers those mothers, or even leave them with less than they used to earn for a shorter work week. Will the motivation of teachers who work longer hours and are left with less money increase? That is highly doubtful.
Until now, teachers over the age of 50 with at least 25 years on the job benefited from reduced hours; as teaching is known for being an exhausting profession, they longed for the day when they could work only 20 or 22 hours a week.
Now these veteran teachers will not have reduced hours, and on top of that they will also have to remain at school for at least 36 hours a week. Will these new conditions give them renewed energy. Again, highly doubtful.
It should also be noted that the salary supplement for such veterans is insignificant. In effect, they will receive a salary much like what they'd been getting before the reform, only for more hours of work.
These two groups, mothers and veterans, constitute at least 50 percent of the total number of secondary school teachers. The Courage to Change reform does not serve their interests; it harms them. Still, the reform passed with hardly any opposition. All secondary school teachers will pay the price for this silence.
History and civics teacher