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Democracy Needs You!

“Love and hate, what a beautiful combination …. I love to hate you!”, this is a song from Erasure called I Love to Hate You and it truly sums up so many people's opinions of Educational staff - especially those towards teachers. These feelings only come out when it is time to negotiate a deal. Whether money is on the table or not, the sentiment is always the same,

“How greedy can they be?”

“They truly must not be there for the kids if they are asking for that!”

Never truly looking at what they are fighting for.

These comments are always directed at the teachers when it is time for their negotiations. Comments and feelings, I believe the Ford Government was hoping the citizens would feel while they negotiated, or rather didn’t negotiate with CUPE. Now keep in mind, CUPE is the first to go to the table for bargaining, others will follow. What happens with them would set the stage for future negotiations for other bargaining parties. Who does CUPE represent you may ask. This group consists of Administrative staff (secretaries), Caretakers, Educational Assistants (the human punching bag in every sense of the title), and Early Childhood Educators. (If I forgot someone I apologize) Now let’s first talk about what these amazing individuals do every day to make sure the day is set for students to have the most successful days they can.

Administrative Assistants

These amazing people are the ones who you see upon entering the schools. They are the ones who make sure that information is entered properly to alert you when your child is absent. Being the first contact in the school, however, is not always the best thing. They get to deal with the nastiness of individuals who may be pissed at a teacher, another parent, an administrator, or just be in a crusty mood, to begin with. They get to try to calm these individuals down so that they can direct them to the right person all with a smile and all while truly just wanting to tell them to ‘fuck off. They too may be having a shit day and don’t need someone else adding to that. All orders for the school are done through them. Calls made home when children are sick are often done through them as well. They are the gatekeepers of the school and take a great deal of crap being in that role. They are the last people (aside from the teachers who stay hours after) to leave the school.

Don’t get me wrong, many wonderful people speak with them every day, however, it is more the opposite lately with entitled people.

Caretakers/Custodians/Bodily Fluid Cleaners

One of the silent and invisible people of the school. They are the ones who will make sure you didn’t even know there were any kids in the school the day before when you show up to start your day. They are the ones who make sure everything is sanitized and clean. When a student empties their stomach and misses the garbage can, it is them who comes to clean it up. When a student misses the toilet (this happens more than you would think and it is as disgusting as it sounds, well no, it is worse.) they are there to make it look like nothing ever happened. Assemblies, fun days, furniture …. Yep all done by them and sometimes with the help of the senior year students because they always love to help out even though it means missing class.

Early Childhood Educators

You have to love these individuals. Truly. To be stuffed in a room with 30 four and five-year-olds and one or two other adults for 6 hours and not be insane is amazing! I have worked in kindergarten classes and by the end of the day, I was ready to go home and lock myself in the bathroom for quiet. When you have five children and a dog, yes the bathroom is the ONLY space to get peace. Sort of. These amazing people help plan out your children's day. They help them adjust to being in an environment that is busy, away from mom/dad, and at times very loud and violent. ECEs handle the accidents, which happen frequently, and the disagreements over toys, which also happen frequently. They also get the love and smiles of some of the most honest and heartwarming people in the school.

ECEs go to school for 2 years and they do continual upgrading to keep them in tune with the new guidelines and programs available to their little friends.

Educational Assistants/Human Punching Bags

These individuals are a Godsend to the educational world and when I say they are Human Punching Bags they are. They protect your child from those children who are unable to control their emotions. They know just by looking at a child’s eyes what kind of day they will have upon entering the school. They deal with parents in good ways and bad ways as they are the ones to generally pass off the student to the parents at the end of the day or when the student has asked to be sent home for a situation that may have occurred at school. Fun fact - did you know that while EAs are the ones who deal directly with the students each day, they are not allowed to have conversations about the student's day with the parents? They are not allowed to say that the day was bad or why. They can simply say that the teacher wrote in the agenda about the day and you can’t wait to see them tomorrow. However they do have conversations with parents, that is until it goes wrong. By this I mean, the parent gets upset with something that has occurred or twists the words of the EA. Then they are back to passing on a simple, the information is in the book, see you tomorrow buddy. When a child has an outburst or struggles they are the ones who are questioned and the fault is always placed there first.

The job of an EA takes a great deal of delicacy because they have to navigate very icy waters every day. Not just with the students, they work with but also with other students and yes even other staff as well. You need to have a strong team. One where you trust one another to literally have your back every day!

Here is a small list of issues these amazing people deal with daily:

Visits to urgent care with bites, head injuries, back injuries, and spit in the eye ….(to help the situation they were given bite guards, padded jackets to wear, leg guards, and face shields so that when these events occur the staff member is less likely to lose a day of work)

Classroom items are thrown at them. I have had the following thrown at me, washroom parts, desks, chairs, books, staplers, computers, power bars, scissors, and toys …. All done while working in the primary grades (up to grade 3) and the list could honestly go on

Death threats like Die bitch and pictures of how they will kill you.

Being chased by students

Hit by sticks

Ice balls thrown at them - this happened to me while the principal stood there and watched and the parent knew the student had an ice ball ready to throw at me. Because of another parent who notified another EA, I finally received assistance.

Feces were thrown at them.

Sanitary napkins and period blood smeared on them.

Water bottles were thrown at them.

All of these things plus a whole lot more happen daily within the school system. If you don’t believe me I double dog dare you to go volunteer for a few weeks and see first hand. They won’t let you near any of this but you will see it trust me. Especially when classrooms go on ‘adventures’ to evacuate their areas.

While EAs get to be there for the gains of the students and watch their smiles when they accomplish what may seem so tiny to most, they also get to be there to take the hits. One thing I learned long ago was that the student is 90% of the time not directing any of these actions at you, the person, or the EA but rather at the object that is before them. They need to get what they are upset about out of them and you just happen to be there. Often it is because you are safe with them and other times it is just that you are there. It is the gains that make the job worth it. It is what keeps them going back every day! I was an EA for over 10 years. I left because of hip issues and was in a position I could leave. Not all can do that. It was not an easy decision for me. When I began in 2007, my job was a mix of behavior and academics. By the time I left, it was all behavior. Speaking to old colleagues, this year most schools don’t have any one student they are working with. In many cases, they are going between students because there are not enough EAs to work with all the students who need help. Meaning that uncontrolled emotions that end up in whole emotional outbursts are not able to be redirected to help curb them. While there has been a shortage of EAs within the school system, this year it seems there is an all-time low in the number. They are leaving and not being replaced or schools' allotment of EAs has been drastically cut, although the number of incidents and injuries is increasing daily.

EAs have a 2 to 3-year Diploma and many extra specific courses on the various Developmental Conditions they work with daily. Many of these are done on their own time, which might seem okay but keep in mind when they are at the course they are not able to go to the second job they have to keep or they need to pay for additional child care for their own children. I know what you are thinking, then don’t take the course. While there are good arguments for that side of things, not ones you would think, like the main one, incentive. There are no increases in wages based on the number of courses taken. There should be but there isn’t. Then again you think, why take them? It makes their life easier and while there may be no wage increase, it is looked at when applying to a new school.

Let’s talk about the Ford Government now. Their main goal from the beginning of their very first term was to Privatize Schools and Health Care and get rid of Unions. They go about these things by bullying their way through things. Just last week to get what he wants he overturned a decision The City of Hamilton made about enlarging their urban boundary and demanded that they enlarge by even more than originally asked to. They do this while everyone is busy with a different issue. His government is built around a system of bullying which doesn’t surprise me. Ford is a College drop out and Lecce was the President of a Fraternity, which we all know are not the nicest of people.

When Ford retook office with a majority government, he did so only because people were fed up with the lack of choices. I did not vote for him in either election. When he built his cabinet he increased the assistants by 18, going from 25 to 43. In doing this he created not just more high-paying jobs in the cabinet but gave them a salary increase too. Did you know that an MPP’s salary is an average of $116,000 and a Cabinet Minister's is $165,000 a year? Did you also know that they only work 89 days a year? Another fun fact is the people that are fighting for a pay increase have more education than our sitting Premier!

None of these groups make enough to pay rent and eat. They haven’t had any increase in a decade. They aren’t asking for a lot. If you think Ford is just attacking the Education system because he hates it, while you may be correct, he also hates Unions and poor people. He will not stop until he has destroyed the one thing that protects those who need it. He is NOT out for the best interests of students. He is out to destroy democracy! While parents may be pissed off, it is needed. Take that anger and go after this government because this isn’t just about education. It is about Unions, Health Care, Education, and Democracy!

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