Editor's note: This month Mr. Melanson departs from his usual topic of working with sight impaired students to provide an eye witness report on recent events in the province of Quebec.
Teaching Is A Full Time Profession
In Quebec Many Politicians Do Not See It This Way
by Dave Melanson
Teachers here in the Province of Quebec have been fighting for the recognition and respect that should and must be associated with their profession. As a teacher one is part of a dedicated, professional group of individuals who play a major role in shaping our future generations, guiding them along the path to becoming mature, responsible citizens. It would be expected that since teachers have such an honourable and responsible role in our society, the Government of Quebec would recognize teachers officially as full time workers and pay them accordingly. This is not the case.
So, on Thursday, May 2, 2002 Quebec teachers began a two and a half day vigil in front of the Offices of the Minister of the Treasury in downtown Montreal. (A similar vigil was held simultaneously in Quebec City.) It was a peaceful, non-violent way for the teachers to make their point. Buses brought many teachers to the vigil from nearby places such as Joliette, Sherbrooke, Lac St. Jean and the South Shore. The CSQ (French Teachers' Union) along with QPAT (English Teachers' Union) joined together in solidarity to send one message to the Quebec Government: that it is a reasonable expectation that they be recognized and paid as full time professionals.
Following the vigil, which wound up on Saturday at noon, 4000 people participated in a rally at 2 pm in Jean Mance Park. Speaker after speaker spoke of the need to stay strong in the fight for equality, stressing that this can be achieved only through solidarity. The rally concluded at around 4pm with a live band and the selling of hot dogs and beer in the social tent which had been set up on the grounds of Jean Mance Park.
Quebec teachers believe there are many reasons why they should be displeased, including lack of recognition for full time work, pay inequities, and conditions making it difficult for many teachers to obtain Master's Degrees and the associated higher salary.
Ardele Warr, President of the Riverside Teachers' Union, a division of QPAT stated, "In an attempt to resolve the issue of salary equity the Government of Quebec has an obligation by law to respect the provisions in a law that they passed recently on salary equity."
An elementary schoolteacher who has a Master's Degree at present may be paid $5000 more a year than an elementary teacher who does not hold a Master's. According to Ms. Warr a teacher may not be able to obtain a Master's. Since teaching is still predominantly a female profession, many teachers have children at home to take care in addition to writing lesson plans, correcting work, communicating with parents, participating in extracurricular activities, etc., leaving little time to participate in courses toward higher degrees.
And the Quebec Government has referred to teachers as "part time workers" which Ms. Warr feels was to attempt to save money. "Teachers evaluated the number of hours worked in the classroom as well as the hours of work done outside of the classroom. Despite this, the government still sees teachers at 90% of rank 20, which means the government failed to recognize the work teachers do outside the classroom . The government fails to see these things as part of a teacher's main job description," according to Ardele Warr.
Madam Labelle of the CSQ (French Teacgers' Union) stated, "With the new reform program that the Quebec Government wishes to implement teachers must teach levels 1, 2, and 3 as well as plan projects to teach math, reading and lesson plans which take more than 30 hours to organize all hours outside of the classroom. At the moment the government does not recognize teachers' work done after 35 hours a week."
It is easy to understand why Quebec teachers are upset when you look at the 30 extra hours it will take to organize lesson plans under the new reform program, a whole extra 30 hours "outside the classroom," and at present the government recognizes only 35 hours per week by teachers.
Madam Labelle also said that teachers have many other responsibilities in schools today that the government does not even recognize as part of a teacher's job description. "Often teachers have to be like a guardian to some children in their class. They talk to them and help them sort out many problems which their parents never help them with because the parents are never around to care about them."
Madam Labelle also mentioned the extra help teachers provide for underprivileged children, such as calling the Salvation Army to buy coats and boots for needy children in their class, or providing the money to buy these clothes themselves.
Mr. Hogue of the CSQ (French Teachers' Union) and organizer of the vigil stated, "There are two main elements the government agreed that they would have to focus on: teachers work over 40 hours a week and the fact that the government does not recognize over 35 hours per week.
The vigil resulted in a meeting on Friday, May 3rd with the Minister of the Treasury. At the moment teachers are still waiting to see what the government will offer next, with the contract being up at the end of June and a new contract due to be in place for the new school year beginning this fall. Teachers are crossing fingers that this issue will be settled fairly and that Quebec teachers will finally be treated with the respect and dignity they so greatly deserve.
I attended the vigil for a total of 18 hours of the two and a half day time, and the rally on Saturday afternoon. I would like to take this opportunity to thank those who agreed to be interviewed for this article: Ms. Ardele Warr, Madam Labelle and Mr. Hogue.
I am pleased to say that the vigil along with the huge rally had a positive impact. On Thursday, May 16th, the Quebec Government came to an agreement with the teachers of this Province.
The vigil and rally were peaceful, non-violent ways for Quebec teachers to draw attention to their situation.
I would like to wish all Quebec teachers good luck "bonne chance" in your new contract. You do deserve to be treated with respect and dignity.
I would like to invite any teachers who have had a sight impaired or blind child mainstreamed in their classroom to please email me at email@example.com if you would like to be interviewed for my second book. The interviews can be done by email. I am also trying to connect with teachers here in the Montreal area who have taught sight impaired and blind children. So, if you are a teacher in the Montreal area who reads this, please email me.
To enter the June 21, 2002 drawing for a copy of my resource manual, "Integration A Rewarding Experience," write to me (firstname.lastname@example.org) by June 20 with the correct answer to the following question:
In October 1970 Prime Minister Pierre Elliot Trudeau passed a law in the Canadian House of Commons to give the military and police in Montreal extra powers. What was the name of that legislation and what was the reason for its passing?
David Melanson, frequent contributor to the Teachers.Net Gazette,
has just self-published Integration: A Rewarding Experience, a manual for educators on the topic of working with sight-impaired students. As a sight-impaired person whose parents persisted in having their son placed in "regular" (public school) classrooms, David's experiences, perspective, and advice are particularly interesting and helpful. The manual is interesting and worthy of reading even if one does not currently have a sight-impaired student in class.
The cost in the U.S. is $10 plus $2 .45 for postage. In Canada: $15 Canadian plus $1 .45 postage. Money orders are preferred. To order the manual, contact Mr. Melanson by e-mail: email@example.com. Should you have difficulty reaching Dave directly, contact Kathleen Carpenter firstname.lastname@example.org with "Melanson Manual" in the subject line.
To access monthly chats on the topic of working with sight-impaired students, moderated by David Melanson, visit the Teachers.Net Archives.
Working With Sight Impaired Students, April 24, 2002
Sight Impaired Students , January 17, 2002
Sight Impaired Students, December 12, 2001
Working With the Sight Impaired Students, October 23, 2001
Working With the Sight Impaired Students, August 6, 2001
Working With the Sight Impaired Students, July 19, 2001
Working With the Sight Impaired Students, May 7, 2001
Working With the Sight Impaired Students, February 15, 2001
Sight Impaired Students, January 17, 2001
Working With the Sight Impaired Students, December 6, 2000
Working With the Sight Impaired Students, Sept. 21, 2000
Accommodating the Visually Impaired Child, May 2, 2000
Integration Of Visually Impaired And Blind Students Into The Regular Schools, December 8, 1999
I have developed several audio tapes from previous seminars I have given on the topic of mainstreaming and integrating sight impaired children. I am willing to sell these tapes for $10 U.S. each. If there is any school district that is interested in purchasing a tape, please contact me:
702 Riverview Ave
Verdun Quebec Canada H4H 2C1