Thousands of teachers and education workers marched at the Ontario Legislature as Ontario’s four major teachers’ unions held provincewide coordinated strikes on Friday, Feb. 21.
The demonstrations are intended to put bargaining pressure on the provincial government, sending what union leaders hoped was a message of strength and unity. The joint walkout by all four major teachers’ unions marked the first time since 1997 that educators from all the labour groups were on strike on the same day, they said.
While the ongoing strikes have been disruptive for the students as well as the teachers, many parents still stand in support of the teachers and the education workers.
Vaishali Tailor, a mother of a primary school student and a high school student in Oakville said that she supports the teachers and stands with them because she believes that their fight is not to get higher salaries but for the students and the quality of education they receive.
“My son has Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD). So he needs the one-on-one attention and support from his teachers. It is already difficult for teachers to provide that in a class of 24. Larger class size and online learning would make it really difficult for him and others like him to learn and cope,” she said.
Tailor suggests that the e-learning courses should not be mandated but could be optional. Making the courses mandatory will add pressure on the parents. Tailor, who is a single mother feels that it would become particularly difficult for her to come home after work and teach her kids.
A Pelmo Park Public School teacher who chose to remain unnamed said that she stands with the teachers and feels that these changes would have serious impacts on students and the education they receive.
“As a teacher, I feel that the strikes have been very difficult for us. It is not easy to stand outside in these cold days. The inconsistency also makes it really difficult to teach the students and for them to learn. As a parent of an eight-year-old who goes to a school under a different board, it is really difficult for me to make arrangements when her school board is on strike ,” she said.
The strikes have been very stressful for parents, teachers and students alike.
“The kids have lost respect for the whole system. They go to school to learn structure. People who are supposed to shape their future cannot come to a decision. It’s made school a joke to them. The kids are more distracted than ever,” Tailor said.
“The strikes have been very disruptive and the sense of routine is lost. But the teachers are trying their best. They share lessons on Google Classroom. But it is difficult for me to find time to teach them,” she added.
In all, nearly 200,000 teachers and education workers demonstrated in 72 school boards on Friday, affecting nearly 5,000 schools and two million students across the province.