Where Would We Be?

Imagine a world without teachers. What would our world look like without classrooms, without schools, without the teachers our children adore?

This is the path Nova Scotia has found itself wandering along. Our teacher’s union has been in negotiations for over a year trying to bargain for better classroom conditions, better pay, and to save their long-service award – a bonus upon retirement for serving 25+ years. The union’s proposal would an cost an estimated $508 million. The bulk of that, $340 million, would be put towards a better working conditions. The province has countered with a $41 million proposal. That’s a difference of $467 million. I may have been born in the morning, but it wasn’t yesterday morning. I compare solving the the education problem with $41 million to buying a new car with the change you can find in your couch cushions.

After a year with no progress, after a year of the government saying things will change without changing anything, after a year of empty promises and no action teachers have taken a stand. They’re standing up for our kids, our children and their own, for a better place for themselves and for our most precious commodity. Our future. 9,300 teachers voted. An outstanding number of them, 96% to be precise, have voted in favor of a province wide strike. Teachers want to be heard. Teachers need to be heard. The government says they’re listening, but they’re not doing. The government says they’re already putting money into classrooms. However, it’s either so little it’s unnoticeable or it’s putting it in the wrong places.

When was the trust between the government and the classroom lost? When did those who are now removed from the classroom working in administration higher up lose their faith in teachers’ abilities and opinions? Does the government not realize how thin teachers are spread and understand their desire to simply teach again? As it stands, elementary teachers are required to test and track their student’s abilities in reading, writing and math. Report cards can take weeks to complete. Reading assessments for each student takes time away from teaching, not to mention time to evaluate them, score them, and assess their development level compared to how they tested previously. All this while teaching 25 other students.

Teachers work in the public sector and that seems to be the Premiere’s argument because he doesn’t want to treat employees within the public services differently. Aren’t teachers so much more? Teachers come in early and leave late. They take their work home with them. They spend time after school in clubs, sports, bands and countless other activities. Now teachers are taking a stand and demanding to be heard. A “work to rule” strike begins next Monday. This means all the extras are gone. Teachers are to enter school and leave school at the times depicted in the contract, 20 minutes before students arrive and 20 minutes after they leave. No clubs. No sports. No bands. No extra curricular activities. This saddens me because it means my youngest son misses his first performance in his first Christmas concert- there will be no Christmas concert. While I will miss it greatly, I completely understand it and fully support it.

I perceive this to be the next step of negotiations. Teachers have had to take a drastic measure to be heard by the government. However, this isn’t worst case scenario. There is one more step. A full shut down. A full strike that would close schools entirely. A world without teachers.

None of us would be where we are today without someone teaching us, without guiding us to enlightenment, without broadening our horizons and deepening our understanding. If teachers aren’t heard by their government soon, if action isn’t taken soon, a world without teachers will become a reality in Nova Scotia.

To read further please visit Teachers of Nova Scotia.

From left: Kate Ervine NS Parents for Teachers, Liette Doucet NS Teacher’s Union President, Stephen McNeil NS Premiere

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Your Support

The past three days I have written about mental illnesses. While we all know someone struggling in one way or another, we all have wondered what we can do to help. In some cases it’s as simple as leaving that person alone to fight their battle the best way they know how. Sometimes something needs to be done. It could be an encouraging word, it could be a homemade meal, a hug, a talk, or a good laugh or a good run.

Sometimes they will require more help than we can give. But we can still give. The ice bucket challenge to raise awareness of ALS also raised millions of dollars. Those millions of dollars were put forth into research to develop better treatments and hunt for the elusive cure. While there hasn’t been a viral charitable event for mental illnesses there are still some very successful ones.

Bell Aliant’s “Let’s Talk” initiative encourages people to text and tweet in order to raise money. Bell has committed over $73.6 million to support a wide range of mental health organizations, large and small, from coast to coast to coast. The money Bell donates gets used as grant money to any mental health charity who seeks their support. According to their web page their four pillars are Anti-stigma, Care and Access, Workplace Health, and Research.

There is also the CMHA (Canadian Mental Health Association). Their website states:

Your gift supports the Canadian Mental Health Association in its mission to promote mental health and help those with mental illnesses, while keeping our costs low. As the nation-wide leader and champion for mental health, CMHA facilitates access to the resources people require to maintain and improve mental health and community integration, build resilience, and support recovery from mental illness.

These two charities are Canadian based. A quick google search will deliver more local results for you.

Can we save the whole world? I don’t know, but it would mean the world to the to those who receive the help they need.

The Hidden Illnesses

Anxiety. Depression. Bi-polar. Grieving. Anger. Stress. Psychosis. Anorexia. Bulimia. PTSD. Mental illness comes in many shapes and sizes and colors. It can easily camouflage itself from those it affects and from those who surround the affected. Diagnosis can be difficult, especially if those who need the help aren’t seeking it. Perhaps they don’t feel it’ll work. Perhaps they don’t believe they need it.

For a little while I was believing the world was getting past the stigma of mental illness. There is a fear of being weak. A fear of appearing crazy. Or psycho. There’s a fear of not being normal, whatever normal may be. However, I’ve come to discover there are still those out there battling, struggling without seeking the proper support for these exact reasons. The stigma and silence needs to be broken.

If you break your ankle, what’s the first thing you do? Go to the hospital for x-rays and they put a cast or a boot on it, give you crutches, tell you to keep off it for a couple weeks, and send you on your way. You seek help. You get the support you need for that ankle to heal properly.

Realizing you have a mental deficiency is a bit trickier to recognize than a broken ankle. There’s no physical pain. There’s nothing to x-ray. Doctors can’t put a cast on it. Crutches and an ice compression are useless. In many cases, those who struggle with mental illness may not even know it and therefore won’t seek the help they need. Essentially, their mental illness never receives proper treatment and therefore never heals.

If left untreated, in the long run, a year, five years, ten years maybe, the struggle could prove to be too much. At best, they suffer alone in silence trying to cope. At second best, they make their illness more visible through actions and or their words yet refuse to get help. At worst, they decide to end the struggle themselves.

Mental illness can often be covered with a mask, hidden from the world behind a smile. Who would have guessed that Robin Williams battled depression his whole life? He was comedian who loved to make people laugh. Surely, someone as outgoing and funny as Mr. Williams couldn’t be depressed.

I’ve been thinking about this for the past year. A year ago I didn’t have a blog. Now I have a blog, I have a voice to the world. So I’m taking the next few days to write about this because I think it’s something that needs discussing. We need to break the stigma and end the silence that surrounds the topic of mental health?

Read part two- Breaking the Silence written by my wife about her battle with depression and getting through it.