Our Canada. Our Students. Our Profession.
The importance of raising our teacher voice in this federal election

By Bob McGahey
March 6, 2015

"I am only one, but I am one. I cannot do everything, but I can do something. And because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do the something that I can do. What I can do, I should do. And what I should do, by the grace of God, I will do."

Edward Everett Hale

As teachers, we sometimes find ourselves thinking about what we can and cannot accomplish with our students. Often it seems as if the tasks asked of us and the needs of our students are overwhelming. But then, somehow, we seem to get it all done. Somehow, we find time to meet our professional responsibilities, our personal needs and family responsibilities. But what about the bigger picture? Can we do something to make our community or even our country a better place? Can we do something – or more importantly should we do something?

Hear My Voice

In a national teacher survey, over 5,000 teachers have told the Canadian Teachers’ Federation how much they care about their students’ mental health and how child poverty impacts teaching and learning.

Teachers have also told us these issues should be front and centre in a national teacher advocacy campaign that will lead up to the coming federal election and beyond!

For resources, data, social media shareables, a teacher advocacy toolkit, and what the federal political parties stand on these issues:

I recall the first time that I made the decision to become active on the provincial political front. It was during the 1995 provincial election in Ontario. I had been involved in my teacher association but mainly behind the scenes. I went to an all-candidates meeting in my riding to ask a question of then-candidate John Baird.

The provincial Tories were complaining about the Ontario students’ poor performance in math and science. I did my homework. I had the official test results and data showing Ontario students were, in fact, leading their peers in many measures of math and science proficiency. The moment came – my first time at the microphone. I asked my question. There was not even a moment’s pause and Mr. Baird recited a well-rehearsed party line about education.

My immediate feeling was – what a waste of time. He didn’t even listen to my question. He didn’t even listen to the facts. His mind was made up and all he cared about was getting elected. Upon later reflection, though it occurred to me that even if I did not get the reaction I expected from Mr. Baird, my voice had been heard. Baird heard it, the other candidates heard it and the people in the audience heard it. I’ll never know if anyone modified their thinking slightly but I do know that I did something.

The issue of teacher professionalism has always been near to my heart and it was the attack on professionalism that drove me to act. We are at a time in Canada where the fundamental nature of our country is changing. Among other things, we are no longer the peacekeepers of the world; our social safety net is ridden with holes; inequality is growing daily; and children are suffering through increased levels of poverty and a lack of social services.

It is time for us to act individually in our collective interest. By doing nothing, we support the status quo. Meet with your federal MP or candidate in the next election. Attend an all- candidates meeting. Speak with your friends and family about the issues that are important to you. Vote….

Bob McGahey is the CTF Director of Advocacy and Labour Rights.

Canadian Teachers’ Federation
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Perspectives web magazine is published by the Canadian Teachers’ Federation (CTF), a national alliance of provincial and territorial teacher organizations that represent over 238,000 elementary and secondary school teachers across Canada.

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