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Teachers gather for BCTF annual general meetingMarch 16, 2014

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Hundreds of teachers are in Vancouver this week for the annual general meeting of the B.C. Teachers’ Federation (BCTF), which began Saturday.

Bargaining will be a key issue during the four-day meeting, but other high-priority subjects include government underfunding, aboriginal education and solidarity with Latin America teachers, the union says in a release.

There are also several resolutions of particular interest to parents, although there’s no guarantee they will make it to the convention floor for a vote. (The AGM always has more resolutions than time.) Those resolutions urge the BCTF to:

–          Create a parent presentation titled “Working together: Advocating for Quality Public Education.” The Delta Teachers’ Association, in its supporting statement, says the union already has three workshops for parents, offering information about anti-bullying, internet awareness and supporting children’s learning. While the BCTF has recognized the need to increase parent communications, “there is currently no presentation with the express purpose of bringing teachers and PACs together to advocate for quality public education,” the statement says.

–          Lobby the Education Ministry to move to an anecdotal evaluation system for elementary schools and away from letter grades and numerical assessment. This resolution is from the Vancouver Elementary School Teachers’ Association and says “non-graded assessments can help students learn in ways that are not focused on getting As or the highest percentage, but on the process of learning and authentic progress that relies on intrinsic motivation, not extrinsic. It allows teachers greater freedom and autonomy in their assessment strategies.”

–          Oppose the “bring your own device” philosophy in schools while pressing government to adequately equip schools with up-to-date technology. The Surrey Teachers’ Association (STA) says the “bring your own device” approach increases the digital divide between students who can afford personal devices and those who can’t. “Education should be a free and fundamental right that helps eliminate the socio-economic divide, not widen the chasm,” the statement says.

–          Continue to oppose the reduction/elimination of services to students with special or unique needs, including aspects of the BC Education Plan that aim to de-categorize students. “Throughout the past decade, services to students with special or unique needs have been eroded; this has often been accomplished through student de-categorization,” the STA says.

–          Strongly condemn the use of educational materials developed by any affiliate of the fossil fuel industry. In its supporting statement, the Langley Teachers’ Association (LTA) says the “highly trusted” Canadian Geographic joined with Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers “to inundate our schools with free hands-on and online materials under the guise of energy education.”

–          Consider establishing a task force to review the impact of mental health issues in schools. “Mental health concerns are the silent epidemic that is crippling the educational system because government is reluctant to address the complexity of mental health concerns and the impact on the school system,” the LTA says. “The task force needs to hear from parents and community services to gather evidence on the overwhelming frustration at the lack of direct services and supports for students struggling with mental health issues.”

–          Insist the ministry and school districts use only wireless routers that can be turned off or unplugged. The Greater Victoria Teachers’ Association (GVTA) says the BCTF should develop a plan to ensure members are aware of potential health concerns associated with Wi-Fi and manufacturers safety warnings; the Nicola Valley Teachers’ Association (NVTA) wants all districts to conduct regular monitoring of peak and average radiation levels in schools – and publish results – to ensure they don’t exceed Health Canada standards. The NVTA is also calling for all schools to have at least one wired computer lab, saying that without a wired lab “teachers who are concerned about radiation exposures are unlikely to make full use of the positive aspects of computer technology.”

–          Engage in a long-term public relations campaign called “BCTF 21st Century Education” that portrays teachers as the driving force for innovation and change in education. “We have allowed the government to seize the media high ground as champions of the change agenda and we must work aggressively to challenge this public perception,” says the Comox District Teachers’ Association.

–          Prepare the membership for job action, up to and including a province-wide strike. “The key is preparing well before it might become necessary to walk out. Waiting until then it will be too late,” says the GVTA.

In addition to media coverage of the meeting, you can catch a glimpse of the action by following hashtag #BCTF2014 on Twitter.

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