Ontario, Education, And Why The Cuts Fail Students Essay

Our Kids Deserve Better

At the risk of getting a blast from Conservative supporters in Ontario, our kids deserve better than what Ontario’s government is trying to give them.

Heck, our people deserve better than what the Ford government is proposing.

For the uninitiated, the Ontario government has either proposed or pushed through widespread cuts prior to the start of teacher negotiations with the four educator unions in the province, all of whom are trying to negotiate new contracts with the government. I am part of the OSSTF – the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation, which not only covers public high school teachers in the province but boasts a healthy membership of educational assistants and other educational staff in its membership. There’s also ETFO, the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario, OECTA, the Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association, and AEFO, l’association des enseignantes et des enseignants franco-ontariens. All four unions have been trying to negotiate new contracts with the provincial government and are now at this impasse where the government refuses to back down on the proposed cuts to education – all of which will ultimately harm our kids.

I’ve heard the arguments about how back in the 1980s (or earlier) we had classes of 30 or more kids, and we all turned out just fine. This is a lovely argument if time hadn’t marched on the way it has. For starters, in earlier generations, kids who struggled with significant cognitive challenges or with developmental issues were not integrated into many of our classes. I’ve taught classes where I’ve had an educational assistant (EA) there to support a student who was trying to get the credit in my class but had some sort of cognitive challenge or learning difference that would make it incredibly challenging, if not impossible, to get on their own. This is not a matter of a student acting out if he, she or they didn’t get their own way; this is a matter of a student needing such support to be successful that if it wasn’t there courtesy of an EA and a teacher working in tandem to help support the student, the student would likely have not found success. There’s also the matter of supporting the other 25 or so students in the room while one is struggling. There’s also the matter of several kids in that group of 25 struggling so hard with not having a caring adult in their lives that if there wasn’t a teacher in front of them on a daily basis, they would be so disengaged with school they would not even attend.

What if there wasn’t a teacher in the room? What if it was several kids in a room, doing e-learning – another of the Ford government’s proposals? Under the Ford government’s plan, students would be required to take two e-learning courses in order to graduate high school. I am not denying that e-learning courses don’t figure in a lot of professional environments where upgrading is required. Goodness knows, I’ve taken a number of e-learning courses myself, mostly because as a parent, I cannot just go and take a course that’s an hour down the road on a regular basis for weeks at a time. However, there’s the simple matter that many teenagers lack the executive functioning skills needed to successfully navigate and manage an e-learning course without significant support from a parent at home, ensuring the kid is on task and working on the course – these courses do have pretty solid deadlines, after all – or significant support from an educator. I don’t deny that there are kids for whom e-learning does wonders, but these are kids who are generally highly academic and who are able to navigate most technology quite well on their own. These are also kids with families who have pretty solid access to the internet.

What about those kids who do not have shelter security – kids who end up bouncing from house to house (if they’re lucky enough to have a house) because their family is in financial crisis? What about those kids who can’t access reliable technology or internet? There’s also the issue of many e-learning platforms not working very well on a smartphone yet, and for many students, that is their preferred mode of working, which doesn’t work if you’re trying to successfully write an essay or prepare a slide presentation. There are also those students who, simply put, are unable to handle the academic rigors of an online course. What about them?

I’m done with arguments that educators are pushing for a higher wage. Educators aren’t doing this for money. In fact, when strike action occurs, educators do not receive their wage for that day – would educators be striking for more money if they were losing money for every day that they were striking?

While I can’t speak for my colleagues and friends, I can speak for myself. I have a daughter in Grade 5 and one in Grade 10. The one in Grade 10 has a math disability and general anxiety disorder. She has attempted online learning and struggled mightily to be successful, and she is techno-savvy. However, when she did her online course, she was only 14 and needed a heck of a pile of support at home in order to get organized in the manner required of the course for successful completion. She thankfully got the credit, but not without a whole lot of stress and not without ending the course, swearing up and down that she will never do another e-learning course again. Both kids dislike super-large classes.

Why would I support anything as a parent which would be inherently bad for my children’s success in education?