Teaching- a walk in the park. More like a climbing expedition

It’s a school year end , albeit fragmented, it’s been another expedition of a kind. Some say it’s a walk in the park. Ha, like hiking or climbing, if it was so easy and an overpaid career, everybody would doing it. As I was hiking today in our city’s Knox Mountain Park, it was surreal how I saw so many signposts of our challenges in today’s BC classroom. We have had obstacles thrown in front of us. Ever changing routes and plans without genuine consultation. Extra weight is added to our loads and rest spots are considered frill not sensible programming. The classroom is a kind of treacherous adventure. It is no walk in the park. The truth is that teachers are holding the integrity of the system together and people are breaking.

It was apparent to me that unless stakeholders, including children, never lace up boots and actually climb they can only sit comfortably at the bottom and wonder. We want our children to experience or see up close the majesty not just look at pretty brochure pictures. Only a few mountain top views can be driven to by car and when one actually summits by foot, the view is always breathtaking and more meaningful. Our kids deserve to be breathless from a challenge well done. Every child deserves to learn the skills required to climb. To find personal joy and well being in the 21stC is more than a walk in the park. Educating a child is a huge rocky and hazardous ascent that deserves our focus. It’s a difficult but rewarding journey not a game.

I have seen dozens of cohorts pass through our doors. They were served well by the people in our schools. BC students perform very well. It’s not an accident or simple birth right. It takes many assets to nurture a child into an adult. Caring committed parents primarily but schooling is subsequently critical in our modern age. Public education provides the largest rewards to the largest population for the least cost. Providing a strong educational experience and opportunity should be a vital goal of a civil society. Building schools and servicing them is not cheap. Everyone needs to pay but that is why we are an enviable society. We look after our own- or should.

As I reflected during my hike, I found myself very tired and sad for BC public education, despite feeling happy and hopeful for this year’s Class. We should honour those students we have known and invested so much. These grade 12 have worked hard and teachers have invested in infinite ways to help them through this milestone. I attend as much for my absent K-12 colleagues as for myself. They deserve some recognition not absolute anonymity. Every job is important to our society but teachers are not building widgets. They are more than babysitters. We should treat them appropriately and fairly. The added responsibility of caring for children should be considered in any compensation deal. They are not installing pipelines. They are developing future citizens and employees- valuable cargo on board! Like a challenging climb or long backpack trip, many things are required to complete the journey safely and successfully.

Teaching at any level is no walk in the park. It’s just an easy stroll for those lazy greedy teachers. Ha! It takes huge human resources to successfully manage a class of 30 kids day in day out, never mind, actually teach them the increasingly expanding list of expectations. Society wants schools to raise their children but give this pseudo-parent no authority or resources to do the task. Many teachers chose the career to help kids and our community but not to be everyone’s whipping boy for social ills. The world would be much rockier and gloomy place without the calibre of teachers BC relies on.

Our society and specifically the BC Government politicians, expect superior service without paying for it. Children don’t grow or transform into productive workers and strong citizens by inattentiveness or neglect. Children do not climb to their education destination alone in isolation. Schooling is also not like laissez faire capitalism where only the bully survives. Nor is education today a walk in the park for our healthy kids, never mind those with special needs. Who advocates and cares for the weakest and smallest among us? Do we really want a ‘Hunger Games’ school system? Do we only want the elites and entitled to be properly educated? I chose to forgo more wages and benefits in order to be a career educator over the long haul. We wanted stable skilled loyal teachers didn’t we?

Common sense tells one that creating an atmosphere of stress and disrespect will make recruiting long term talent very difficult. We already have a serious problem attracting talented men into education. Why? Teaching has gradually been unfairly tarnished by the petty, foolish and idealogues. Demeaning the profession hurts everyone not just teachers. It’s difficult raising children in 2014. Does the BC community really want to damage a stellar institution for a game plan that has repeated failed elsewhere? Why ruin what isn’t broken. BC schools are good value.

It takes slow steady dedicated patience and hard work to guide a student up the education hill. A colleague of mine suggested that we could be considered ‘sherpa librarians’ because of our multiple skills and uphill climb.
The Sherpa is an honourable title but also rather on target to. Like a Sherpa, our goal is to get the client to top and back home safe. It’s not a race for profit at all costs. It’s not just a one dimensional service. It’s not a walk in the park. It’s an expedition for many unique and personal Everests and teachers are the unheralded Sherpa.

The Sherpa does not complain but also cannot achieve success for the climbers by being bullied or disrespected. It takes teamwork, planning, passion and plenty of hard work to summit any mountain. Children cannot be forsaken and told to make do. They need professional assistance in many areas or fall away. A teacher, like a Sherpa, has many gifts and a great deal of training and experience. Even a strong helpful cannot get their child to the top. No more than a teacher can without the parent doing a good job child rearing. The team must make sacrifices and invest resources into the project.

The Sherpa carries the burdens. They are cooks, medics, navigators and leaders. The project needs resources too. The expedition needs an accurate map not a fuzzy plan that changes every election cycle. It needs equipment outfitting, no short cuts here. It needs specialists on the team. Avalanche experts or medics. Sherpa librarians with the tools and skills to support. It needs experienced certified guides to pull all the elements together. Mostly, the Sherpa love the mountains and love the people who climb them.

The expedition requires teachers who can tackle the challenge for the long haul if the climbers are to have their glorious day and accomplishment. Simply hiring an inexperienced untrained stand-in weakens the team and increases likelihood of failure or disaster. Our BC kids deserve the genuine Sherpa- the proven long term professional who gets the job done, who knows the optimal pathways inside the landscape.

The team also needs a sponsor- a patron for the cause. Our children need leadership with integrity. Not every four years but for 12 years. It’s a long trail and a big climb. The sponsor funds the project because he believes in everyone. The teams glory is his glory- if they survive. Our Government needs to step up and protect the public education system in British Columbia. Our elected officials need to support the expedition members not just channel their own views. They need to trust not patronize. They have not hiked in our boots. Fassbender and Clark never finished college. They need to trust not torment.

Our BC system, not unlike our wonderful western cordillera, is world famous for challenges and achievements. It needs to respect and compensate the team members for their service. Students, like climbers, have desire and talent but they need the expedition team to help them express it. The teacher is a key member.

The teacher, maybe, like the Sherpa, is the backbone of the enterprise. Sponsors get the glory but they can’t will people to the top. The exursion, the blisters, and the determination to achieve, to reach new heights, is something we need to cherish. If we treat teachers like slaves and not like Tibetan Sherpa, the casualties will grow and fewer children in the future will ever see those lofty places they deserve. The urban park is nice for a walk but the majesty of a mountain summit is Devine. If we only reserve our assets for the entitled few, the majority of our people will never stand tall and touch the sky.

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1.a park needs grooming, maintenance, and support.

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2. The trail can become steep and unmarked.

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3. Anything of value to humanity has to be cherished

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4. Obstacles come in all shapes and sizes

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5. We need to stop and reflect more on the journey, not just crunch numbers

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6.a burned out forest grows back beautifully. You can always come back from defeat.

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7. The goal seems so large and difficult but can be achieved one small step after another.

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8. Some hazards need marking by experts who know the routes

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9. Danger areas need marking and sometimes guide rails.

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About KSS Library

Teacher-librarian at Kelowna Secondary School, Kelowna, BC, Canada 1079 Raymer Ave, Kelowna, British Columbia
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