Teachers don’t want or need coffee mugs…. ever.

We are getting close to another winter break in the school year and many students and parents will be trying to think of some small token to give to the teacher who keeps the kid happy, engaged… and safe during the school hours (and then some). Here is one thing that teachers don’t want or need – ever…. another coffee mug.

Do we drink coffee… sure! Most of us do. Some don’t start off drinking coffee. Maybe they are tea drinkers or a cola soft drink because they prefer things cold – but eventually ever. single. teacher. needs a vessel for caffeine. BUT…. and this is a big but… they already have… plently. Honestly, they do.

Unless you are going to plate one in gold and engrave the teachers name on something that your child created with their own hands and forged in the fires of… whatever… don’t get your teacher another mug. Just… don’t. We beg you.

If you feel you must provide a token of appreciation (and honestly you don’t need to do that), think personal and specific. The more specific you can get, the better – ask your student about their teacher(s) – a reminder, don’t send something to one teacher and not the prep teacher who takes your student to the gym or art or music – those folks deserve your appreciation just as much (if not more) than the “regular” classroom teacher.

Supplies they can use in the classroom are great. Gift cards are great – coffee, food, WINE, books, pens, etc. these are all great because then the teacher can choose and make a selection that will help them. But, if you have the time, knowledge and inclination to search for something really personal, that can make all the difference.

Failing that… the BEST thing you and your student can offer is a special note on a personally created card (or any other attempt at art work) is your best option because it will resonate with the teacher in a way that no box of chocolates, (we don’t need the calories), or coffee mug could ever manage.

Going into 2nd Covid Teaching Year…

In just a few short weeks, Ontario teachers will be returning to the classroom for the 2nd year of Covid teaching.

Let me tell you, the first year was no picnic. You probably heard about it. But maybe you’ve let it slip from your mind or blocked it out, since you don’t have to fully live it. Well, the teachers in Ontario are preparing for round two – and I promise you, we’ve not fully recovered from round one.

That’s what the summer months are for – a reminder – they are not a holiday. The “time off” that teachers get is unpaid time. Even if the salaries are spread out over the year (still, in many places they are not). Any day off from the classroom is an unpaid day. The days in July and August are recovery and replenishment time. That is when most teachers rest, relax, and rejuvenate themselves so they can tackle a new school year with positive energy. (or any energy for that matter)

In my nearly 25 years of teaching, I’ve generally needed a full two weeks in July to just sleep, lounge and clean my clothes and home to begin to feel like a normal person again. Yes, I have travelled, not since early 2019 of course, but in past summer months I have and that has definitely been a part of refilling my cup with excitement to face another year.

This summer was different.

This summer it took a full 24 days of June before I BEGAN to feel like myself again. Then, I’d have a pretty good day or two, but need another full day of rest to recover from that! So the summer of 2021 has been a total on again/off again kind of lame adventure.

I’ve gardened – a lot. I’ve binged all sorts of things, mostly comfort shows that I’ve seen one hundred times already. And I’ve tried to declutter my house. Last weekend, my mother and I had a day trip – our first in three years. It was lovely, but a bit surreal at the same time.

So what is my point? Well, my point is, that in the past (pre-Covid) hundreds of people would slyly point out the July/August break and show their jealousy because their employment isn’t structured the same way. THIS year, as the teachers around you return to the trenches, keep in mind, they’ve all been in self-preservation and healing mode for the past 6 weeks. All the while preparing for another year of potential chaos as we face new variants and challenges with keeping everyone safe.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m actually looking forward to working with my kids again and seeing my colleagues because I hope we will all be in the building and I’ll actually be able to see them this year. But the recovery is continuing and the fear, hasn’t really gone anywhere.

Plus, it is a contract negotiation year. So, there’s that too.

Why you should not wish Educators a happy “vacation” in the summer months…(or during any school break, for that matter)

Here we are at the end of another June. The teachers, EAs, Caretakers, Secretaries and Administrators of your local school(s) have bid a fond farewell to your children. You have them all to yourself now for a couple of months. Sure, you’ll send them off to camp, or to Nana and Grandpa’s for a week or two, and maybe you’ll take a little trip with them, or head out to the cottage for a bit, but they are all yours now, and you think to yourself…”Gee, those Teachers, (education teams), are sure lucky to have the summer off! I wish I had a vacation that long.”

Do you? Do you really? Do you even know what those 6-8 weeks are like for the folks who are so committed to educating and raising your offspring to be positive and contributing members of society? You think you do, but you would be very surprised.

These days, with the progress of autopay and direct deposit, the salaries for educational staff are, by and large, spread out over the school year and made relatively equal for 26 payments. But that wasn’t always the case. And it may not be the case in your district even now. You see, teachers don’t have agreements with their employer that pay them for 50 weeks of the year with 2 weeks paid vacation (or whatever other folks might receive). Educators are contract workers. Like a plumber, or a dry-waller, or a carpenter. Educators are paid by the job. Approximately 40 weeks of the year, Educators do their direct work with their clients. And like lawyers and doctors, they do lots of after hours work, they take their work home with them. Their marking, their professional development, their planning, etc. Teachers are paid to spend time with your children, educate them on a particular topic and then follow up with the necessary paperwork and meetings to track what they accomplished. And in the past, when that final June cheque arrived, that was it until midway through September of the following school year. Budget, or else!

Since there is “no school” in the summer months, educators don’t go to the buildings, because their clients are not there. But that doesn’t mean they stop working. And that doesn’t mean they have vacation pay. Do you give your plumber extra funds when he fixes your toilet so he can fly to Vegas on the weekend? No, you don’t. You expect that person to save up for that sort of thing and if the plumber isn’t, well, plumbing… he/she/they aren’t getting paid.

Make sense? I hope so.

Here’s the other tidbit. Plumbers generally make huge amounts of cash for fixing your leaky toilet. So, they do a lot of that – maybe even more than they’d like, in order to amass more funds for that holiday. You know, overtime? But educators can’t do that. Their jobs are fixed in time. The only way they can supplement their income (and believe me, many of them need to do so) is to get another job. During the school year, or all through the summer. Waiting tables, teaching summer school, tutoring, retail, driving Uber/Lyft…. That, is in addition to all of their other professional activities that they need to do in order to be ready for the following year. This isn’t even taking into account their need to recover from spending the last school year with your offspring (and everybody else’s from the hood!). I’m sure your child is and angel, but that Jimmy… let me tell you….

So, consider this the next time you decide to tell any educator that you envy their “time off”, and say things like, “it must be nice…” or “you’re so lucky” or “I should’ve been a teacher”… They are STILL working. They are ALWAYS working. You just don’t see it, because you don’t recognize it, plus, they are pretty good at it, or you’d do it all yourself, wouldn’t you? Have your darling offspring to raise and educate 365 days of the year! Not even send them to camp, right? Am I right?

Enjoy your summer with your kids. Make the most of your time together as a family, because you’ll have to give them back in the fall.

You’ll miss them SO much!

Why Education is an Investment… a LONG Term Investment!

I believe the children are our future, teach them well and let them lead the way….

We learn from the past. We fix the mistakes of our ancestors (we hope). We study, we develop, we grow… and then we hand what we have learned on to our children in the hopes that they can have a better life and in turn, pass those benefits on to future generations.

Without delving into Climate Change or economic struggles or any of the many ‘-isms’ that continue to plague the human race, the people of earth generally agree that we would like to improve our lot in life, and by extension, the lives of future people. How do we do that? Education.

There’s a really good reason that education became a free and mandatory public offering. Society understood that by educating children they would learn the skills to become good workers and good citizens. People hoped that education would bring about a more just and equitable society.

Photo by Hennie Stander on Unsplash

Nothing about that has changed. Education is necessary for young people to come together and discuss the issues before them, and to attempt to anticipate what issues may face them after they leave public school.

But here’s the thing… education is what your financial advisor would call a Long Term Investment. It isn’t house flipping, or a quick franchise that is a licence to print money. It is a low interest GIC or RSP that you put a small amount into every year, so that many years later, you have something of which you are really proud. Something that will look after you in your old age.

Photo by Taha Mazandarani on Unsplash

If quality educations become available only at private schools, well, it isn’t difficult to see where that can lead. The wealthy will have the knowledge and therefore, the power. They can, (and they will), do what is in their best interests, whether that happens to be beneficial to the rest of the population or not.

So, ask yourself, if you have to pay taxes for education to be free and accessible to all in an equitable manner, don’t you want your personal taxes to offer you and your children as good an education as the wealthy kids? If you answer yes, (and I sure hope you do), then you have got to put in the long term investment. And you definitely cannot skip any payments.

Photo by Honey Yanibel Minaya Cruz on Unsplash