Stances: Our Premier vs. Our Teachers

Tension leads to stances:

As tension escalates on contract negotiations between the teachers union and the government, the public is left feeling very angry and confused. The situation is reactive and irrational. The latest straw to fuel another work-to-rule mandate was our premier’s ‘clarification’ that the teachers two ‘new’ days off were for marking and classroom preparation. So I view this as new material to apply and I have identified the importance of stances, defined as a way of thinking about something, especially expressed in a publicly stated opinion.

Our Premier’s Stance:

We may be well aware that Stephen McNeil belongs to a large family. His father passed away when he was young and his mother had to support seventeen children growing up in rural Nova Scotia. She became the first female sheriff in Canada and many of her children have worked very hard to give back to our communities through public service. So what? For anyone who has grown up in a large family, you might very well appreciate the unwritten rules around fairness. Don’t give anything to one unless you are prepared to give it to everyone. I grew up in a large family and I have come to realize that this continues to be a very strong driver behind my behaviour. Given this set of negotiations is the first in a series of many with government unions, he is strongly committed to not giving to one what he can’t give to another. When I hear the comment that he can’t be trusted, I would argue that you won’t find a more trustworthy person. However, he will react if the negotiation committee tries to tell its membership that they achieved a concession that is preferential to other contracts. In addition to other contracts, I would argue that he has a very astute awareness that many Nova Scotians are faced with lack of jobs, pensions and money for the basic life necessities. He cannot justify giving more to teachers when so many are faced with hardship. We can agree or disagree but we elected him as our leader and he is doing his job in holding the parameters.

Our Teachers’ Stance:

We can appreciate that teachers feel overwhelmed and that things need to change. Where we often struggle is in understanding how teachers can say they care about our children and yet we don’t see the interests of our children at the heart of these negotiations. Regardless what contract is signed, teachers will continue to feel overwhelmed. Teachers will continue to feel restrictions from school board directives, to face children with needs greater than they can provide and face parents with demands beyond the scope of their practice. When we are overwhelmed, we are reacting to things that are not ‘right’. To change the feeling, we have to let go of the energy bound in the belief that things should be ‘right’. The situation may be the same but we feel different and our energy is available to approach the situation with clearer thinking. The company where I work has gone through extreme transformation in the past three years. Overwhelmed is a word that is frequently used by myself and my coworkers. I have come to realize that I own that feeling and I own the work in letting it go. Do I have it all mastered? No. Have I had to use stress leave or sick days? No. I no longer feel like I need to fix it all and I can better focus on the work that needs to be done rather than reacting to all the things I believe to be wrong. When I hear comments that teachers are overwhelmed, I would argue that the collective agreement cannot fix this. The focus on the collective agreement is detracting from making changes that matter.

Logosynthesis as a tool for change:

This blog is written from the perspective of my learnings in the Logosynthesis® method to provide insight to what is driving this irrational situation. My goal is that as we can each begin to appreciate the power of our beliefs, we can begin to take action to let go of the energy that prevents us from achieving creative outcomes. As the pressure mounts in these negotiations, we will see more passion around beliefs from both sides and more reactive behaviour. The ensuing quality of decision making is not in anyone’s best interest. The end result will not make teachers’ lives less overwhelming. The end result will not take away the inequity in our society. So let’s take action to put aside this toxic, reactive energy and move forward with creative solutions. Let’s all be committed to working together so we can truly engage our communities and work to bring creative energy back to our schools – together!