I’m a teacher in Saskatchewan and my provincial government is trying to send me back to work to
- a room crowded full with the normal number of kids
- a building with 100s of people using the same few toilets
- with no safety measures in place
- and no extra funding to make it safe
I want to go back to work. I agree with public health officials that it would be better for kids’ mental health to be at school rather than stuck at home. But that’s not why the government is doing this.
If they cared about student mental health, they wouldn’t cut budgets every year, and fight against teachers tooth-and-nail when we fight to fund lower class sizes and more student supports. If they cared, they would give the funding to drastically reduce class sizes, and hire more cleaners, caretakers, etc, so we can do this safely.
And it’s not gonna be good for the kids’ education or mental health if they get sick, or they get their parents and grandparents sick, and the outbreak intensifies – all because of reopening schools this way.
I want to do my part for society in this pandemic. Nurses and doctors and grocery store workers and many others have done their part. But nurses and doctors get to enforce health protocols in their space, and they get to conduct a lot of their appointments by phone. Grocery stores control the number of customers who come in the store, put up a plexiglass barrier at checkout, staff extra people to sanitize carts, etc. But teachers and students get tossed into a crowded room of 30 kids?
What did teachers and students do to make the government toss us into the fire? The truth is, this is happening to us – and to the kids – because we fought hard for education funding against a government that hates teachers unions and wants to privatize education.
The truth is we’re not being sent back to work for the sake of kids – it’s happening because the Saskatchewan Party wants to win cheap political points by putting on a false show of “reopening” without spending money. They want to show they can push teachers around, and we’re powerless.
And the worst part is it will quickly turn chaotic as classes are sent home to quarantine, as people start getting sick, etc. So it’s not even real.
I am thinking: if they don’t care enough about me, OR the students, to fund this and make it safe, why should I go back to work? I have the right to refuse unsafe work. Why would I put myself and my family in harm’s way, for a song-and-dance “reopening” spectacle, to help the Saskatchewan Party, who is treating me and my students like dirt?
~ A teacher