A High School Senior’s Perspective on the Teacher Job Action
By: Farrah Khoo, 3rd Year Queen’s Bachelor of Commerce Candidate
Recently, many students have been affected by the teacher job action, and although I cannot comment on the situation of the teachers or the government, I can only tell a story of the strike from my perspective: as a student. Unfortunately, my peers and I were caught in the middle of teacher job action in 2012, which was my final year in high school. Although the year was definitely a struggle, my peers and I managed to pull through with the help of administrative staff and by taking our own initiative to lead.
One day in summer preceding my Grade 12 year, I received a phone call from my vice principal. She was desperately calling me and many other students who were very involved with extra-curricular activities at school to help out with Grade 8 day and with homerooms during the first week of school in order to get organized. Unfortunately, the teachers were only allowed to do minimal work, and so me and a few other students had to take the initiative to help with organizational tasks outside of school hours. The first day of school was hectic and busy but together us high school seniors banded together and managed to run the show with the teachers by our side during regular school hours.
Throughout the rest of the year, our struggles continued. The teachers moved into their different phases of their strike action, slowly stripping away their involvement in after-school activities, and eventually, being unable to stay later to help students with homework and answer questions. They did not talk much about it with us students, but despite our anger, we could do nothing about it except help ourselves. None of my peers wanted to sacrifice their school dances, sports teams or student council. Most definitely, the high school seniors did not want to miss out on a grad dinner dance, and other grad activities. At first, we really struggled to find out what to do. Our teachers, who we use to turn to for help and to sponsor our activities, suddenly could not participate or help even if they wanted to. We turned to administrative staff like our principals and vice principals, but they could only handle so many clubs and events. Eventually we began reaching out to parents to help chaperone school dances, and to meet with us weekly to run events such as dry-grad. Moreover, we desperately begged alumni to come back and coach teams, which they gladly did.
For me, my biggest stress came from my grades. I was working hard on my own to make it into the commerce program at Queen’s University, but I had no grades to send in to universities across the country until the very last minute. The hardest part about my Grade 12 year with the job action was blindly trying to calculate my grades. My teachers did mark my papers and I was able to vaguely calculate my expected grade, but unfortunately it was hard to track my progress and gauge how much harder I needed to work in order to make it into the program. It was hard to judge if I could ease off from studying a subject and allocate my time to look into scholarships and applications. My peers, who also chose to attend university after high school, were also very unhappy about the situation. Luckily, institutions across the country understood what was happening to us in BC and made exceptions since we could not meet the grade deadlines. On top of that, I could not direct my questions to my teachers all the time because they were not supposed to answer questions after school hours. This was not as big of an issue, though, because most students managed to work around this by asking teachers during class or conversing with peers during spare blocks.
From my experience and from hearing the perspectives of my fellow peers during my Grade 12 year, the teacher job action was a huge setback. From our understanding, it was not that our teachers did not care about us, but it was what their union had decided, and we were caught in the middle of a fight. While most students were greatly disappointed about how limited teacher’s involvement in after-school help, grades, and extra-curricular activities, I like to think about how my peers and I had to really work hard to truly run our own school and take the initiative to get outside help. Despite the teacher strike, the greatest lesson I learned from this strike situation is that a group of people can really rally to demonstrate great teamwork. We had to help each other. My Grade 12 year started out uncertain, but my peers and I completed each task and eventually graduated much closer and friendlier than before, simply because we had learned to work so well together.