Montreal Gazette

Let's compare work of MNAS and teachers

Drainville's derisive words about educators missed the target, David Dollis says.

- David Dollis is a high school history teacher and naval reservist from Ormstown.

In an interview with Le Devoir last week, Education Minister Bernard Drainville was asked why teachers don't deserve to be among the highest paid in Canada, when MNAS are about to vote themselves into becoming so.

His response: “Are you really comparing the job of being a teacher to the job of being an MNA?” He called the comparison “shaky” and even “a tad demagogic.” Far from a misstep, these comments seemed more like spontaneou­s sincerity regarding how Drainville feels about the educators under his ministry.

The thing is, despite the scorn in his reply, he is right. A comparison between a teacher and an MNA is, in fact, not apt. The reason is that teachers inevitably show themselves to be better. As a teacher myself, I can say this with confidence.

Let's start with the base qualificat­ions. To be a breveted teacher, you must have one or several university degrees, provide a police check, and pass a writing exam to be certified by the government as competent. To become an MNA, one needs to be an 18-year-old citizen who has lived in Quebec for six months, and then win a popularity contest once every four years or so. Hardly the same bar to clear.

In terms of working conditions, the raise for MNAS is in distinct recognitio­n of the long hours they must work. However, teachers regularly work those hours, much of them unpaid, carrying out tasks such as planning, marking and extracurri­cular activities.

Ah-ha, the minister might say, but what about ministries and committees? And true, that extra committee and ministeria­l work does add up. But it does for teachers, too. Many are involved on governing boards, school councils, special education committees and so on, often outside of teaching hours for no extra pay. And heads of department­s get

Assaults against teachers are becoming frightenin­gly routine; I don't recall this being the case for MNAS.

no benefits; they are simply assigned fewer classes to free up time for their department work. This is balanced against MNAS, who can receive anything from $15,000 to $100,000 for extra duties.

But surely the extra scrutiny, the extra access, the extra questions from the media, means I have more accountabi­lity, the minister might exclaim. This ignores the fact that teachers are consistent­ly questioned and scrutinize­d by administra­tors, ministry officials such as himself, and most important, parents. They are routinely answering emails, taking phone calls, conducting meetings and interviews. Teachers also don't have staffers allotted to them to help manage these communicat­ions, unlike MNAS.

Politician­s also have the challenge of spirited debate in the assembly chamber. To do one's job successful­ly while being verbally harangued is indeed tough. That's something teachers know all about, since they can deal with sometimes as many as several hundred youths in a single day — many of whom can be not only insubordin­ate, but verbally abusive, or even violent. Assaults against teachers are becoming frightenin­gly routine; I don't recall this being the case for MNAS.

Finally, I have no doubt that Drainville also was thinking of the inherent levels of responsibi­lity that elected officials must face. To be fair, that is significan­t, when their decisions affect most aspects of our lives. But teachers exercise their own vital responsibi­lities as well — chief among them the safety, security and growth of the youth under their charge. There is no greater responsibi­lity than that; just because teachers carry that weight in the micro instead of the macro is no less valid.

So overall, I'd say teachers require better qualificat­ions, are just as hard working, and carry similar responsibi­lities in worse working conditions than the minister and his colleagues. And teachers do their job for substantia­lly less money, not to mention respect from our minister. So indeed, they are not comparable; Drainville does not stack up against any teacher I know.

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