STF strike supported in protest

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Teachers walk in a large group in front of the Saskatchewan Legislature. In front of them, just off of the sidewalk, two children stand on ice.
The future of Saskatchewan teachers and youth alike is on thin ice.  Allister White

Classroom size and complexity still pressing concerns for teachers and students in Saskatchewan

The Saskatchewan Legislature saw a massive gathering of teachers, students, and supporters of the Saskatchewan Teachers’ Federation (STF) during a one-day province-wide strike on Wednesday, March 20.  

A two-day withdrawal of extracurricular activities took place on Thursday, March 21 and Friday, March 22. The withdrawal of extracurricular activities has since been extended to March 28.  

The STF gave two days’ notice for the strike, announcing it on March 18, and chose budget day – March 20 – to make clear the need for additional funding. 

Picketing took place across the province, however, when people gathered outside of the legislature in Regina where the opportunity for discussion was rife. Meara Conway and other members of the opposition spoke with striking teachers outside the legislature. Others were happy to share opinions about the strike, its impacts, and their outlook on the STF’s choices.  

Wednesday morning, large crowds gathered on the legislative grounds, walking laps around the building, carrying signs, encouraging drivers to honk their horns while driving past to show their support, dancing around, and so much more. According to the STF, the gathering ultimately called for governmental action in support of the current strike. 

The STF stated in a news release that “supporters are encouraged to join the demonstrations to show that proper funding for education is a concern for more than just the teachers. […] The Premier and Education Minister are not listening to teachers, and they are not listening to the thousands of parents, caregivers, and students who are calling on the government to respond to the needs of education.” 

The Carillon attended portions of Wednesday’s strike, collecting photographs and perspectives on it. A student, Sydney Wszolek, opened the discussion by expressing concern for her teachers. “When I see my teachers in class, I see them being overwhelmed quite frequently. Because they are not given the resources to succeed,” Wszolek explained.  

During the strike, Wszolek held a sign that stated “Students only succeed when teachers succeed.” Wszolek stressed that the sign “is the truth,” continuing to stress that education in Saskatchewan “is not being the best it can be because our teachers aren’t given the tools to make it the best it can be.” This, Wszolek explains, is far from fair to the teachers, causing stress and burnout.  

The effects are also not exclusive to current teachers. Wszolek says it’s hurting future teachers, like herself, who are planning to study education in university.  Wszolek says she will be attending the University of Regina next year, studying French Education.  

Kira Durealt stood beside Wszolek. ”Teachers are not feeling the support from the government,” said Durealt. “We are constantly being lied to about what they are going to do for us. They refuse to put in a contract because they are not keeping their word. It is sad to see.”  

Durealt added, “Teachers are working after hours to support [students]. Before school, after school, and during their breaks, they do not even take lunch because they are supporting students.”  This labour extends far past lunch breaks, with many teachers coaching both before and after school, supporting students for free. According to Durealt, “[Teachers] are extraordinary humans who just want to see us succeed and it is sad that they are burning out and there are very few of them left.” 

Todd Malagride works in a class to help students who have disabilities such as cerebral palsy and autism. He discussed burnout and underfunding in his classroom, where students need additional assistance with eating and hygiene. “During our lunch routine, I often get lunch supervision paid as me and my [Educational Assistants] are working the entire day. But this year we felt the cut,” explained Malagride.  

Malagride’s classroom size increased by 50 per cent, but the group received a 50 per cent cut in lunchtime supervision pay. Now, Malagride says, half of the team no longer works at lunch. The result, according to Malagride, is “jobs take longer to do, which means less time to do it in or [it] takes longer and kids get taught less in time.”  

“What comes as well with less staffing comes more behaviours or, for instance, with seizures occurring and attending to them, kids get left behind and that is a safety concern,” he added.  

It’s not only classrooms like Malagride’s that require support they’re not receiving, but other teachers as well.  

Kelsie Yates commented further on the diverse needs present in schools. “The biggest thing we need is classroom support for the diversity of needs in our schools,” said Yates. She went on to explain that teachers having to spend time dealing with behavioural issues means that the work for other students simply becomes practice. “You need them to be able to progress as well… other students are suffering. […] This could be helped by an extra education assistant or even another teacher.”  

Teachers are primarily seeking more resources and supports. These include smaller class sizes, more teacher support such as psychologists, social workers, speech pathologists, and educational assistants. More physical teaching space is being called for, as well as more jobs to mitigate burnout from overwork.  

The government did not create an action plan following the one-day strike. As a result, teachers will still be withdrawing extracurricular support from March 25 to March 28. STF President Samantha Becotte told CBC on March 22 that teachers need to be involved in processes and frameworks that the government may develop.  

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