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Clearing up misunderstandings

Dear editor:

I’m writing to try to clear up some misunderstandings that Mr. Watt indicated in his letter of last week regarding secondary occasional teachers.

Numerous newspaper articles and radio reports have clearly stated that the secondary occasional teachers are not interested in obtaining more money than was negotiated recently by their elementary colleagues.

What the secondary occasional teachers want is simply a clause in their contract that will prevent their salaries from continuing to drop in comparison to those of their full-time local colleagues and their provincial counterparts, as they have over the last six years (i.e., total wage increases of five percent for the occasional teachers over six years compared to 21 percent for their full-time colleagues for the same time period; and a drop from sixth position to 26th out of 31 settlements for occasional teachers across the province during the last six years).

One would think that a lawyer would recognize the inequity and injustice of that.

As for why some retired “as soon as they were able” and yet remain available to be called back to the classroom on an occasional basis, apparently, Mr. Watt, you haven’t noticed that it’s a widely-growing trend for professionals facing retirement to remain in or return to their occupation under looser time constraints.

It’s not that we didn’t continue “to like the classroom.” After 35 years in a very demanding profession, we just become tired. We still enjoy being with the students and helping them with their education. Being able to do so on a less rigorous than full-time yearly schedule gives us the opportunity to do so.

It also provides the board with some highly-experienced, highly-qualified personnel to carry on the duties of some of the full-time teachers who are absent.

That being said, for the record, the majority of secondary occasional teachers throughout the district are not pensioners. The majority are qualified teachers, either new to the profession or returning to the profession after having raised a family, for example, looking for an opportunity to sharpen and display their skills in the hopes of obtaining a full-time position.

It is not “glorified babysitting.” The daily occasional teacher, after being notified at 7:30 a.m. and being expected to be in the classroom at 8:30 a.m., having no first-hand knowledge of what has transpired in the classroom the day before, and armed only with the teacher’s instructions on the lessons to be presented, is expected to carry on with the classes as if he/she were the regular teacher.

On top of that, you can imagine the resentment—if not antagonism—of some of the students in those classes whose parents might have led them to believe, as you do, that they require “babysitting,” “glorified” or not, in the absence of their regular teacher.

Finally, the board is not resisting paying the secondary daily occasional teachers what the elementary daily occasional teachers have settled for. Nor are we. We are simply trying to negotiate a guarantee that our salaries will not continue to drop in comparison with our full-time colleagues locally and our counterparts provincially.

Please try to understand, Mr. Watt, and avoid inflaming the situation further with cheap shots.


Ronald D. Erb

President, Occasional Teachers

District 5B, Ontario Secondary

School Teachers’ Federation

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