In the President’s annual address to the Saskatchewan Teachers’ Federation Annual Meeting of Council, Patrick Maze commended teachers for their daily contributions for not only their students but also communities across the province.
“One thing that we must never forget is that a quality, publicly funded public education system is the cornerstone of a healthy society. Teachers are a central part of that system and their voice cannot be ignored. Your representation of teachers, as elected councillors, is important for ensuring that teachers have a voice in decision-making,” Maze said.
Maze drew a parallel to the work of the STF Executive to that of those attending Council as their respective local representatives. He reminded councillors that the Executive also exists to help foster unity of that voice, both within and outside of the Federation.
“As you know, we have over 13,000 members – a diverse multitude of voices. It is the job of the Executive to help articulate these voices in a coherent, unified way. It is our job to foster unity and confidence in the Federation. As trustees and stewards of the Federation, the Executive acts on Council’s decisions with care and loyalty. Like you councillors, the STF Executive are working teachers who know and understand the classroom.”
Maze added that the Executive also advocates on behalf of all teachers in the province in order to advance the professional objectives of the membership.
“This means creating and maintaining strong, effective processes that place the voice of teachers at the centre of our work. We work on your behalf, representing teachers across the province,” he said.
“Teaching, as you know, is not easy work but it is fulfilling work; in many ways this also describes the work of the Federation: challenging, but fulfilling. Over the past decade things have not always been easy for individual teachers or for the Federation as a whole. And our professional organization has not been without its own recent troubles,” he conceded.
“Last year, as in the several previous years, fundamental changes to the Saskatchewan education system have altered the way we experience the classroom. In particular, a number of educational reforms focused on ‘accountability,’ continuing to transform teaching and education as we know it.”
Maze noted that in his first year as President, and through the work of the Executive, he has learned that the Federation is still strong.
“Supported by committed Federation staff, the Executive and teachers can, and will, change education for the better. After all, teachers are natural problem-solvers. We are a strong collective with diverse voices and our ability to effect positive change comes from our desire to work together and meet challenges together,” Maze said.
In Maze’s words, the Executive advocates on behalf of teachers so that any changes to education are not made arbitrarily and so that the beliefs of teachers are heard throughout change by providing effective advocacy.
In terms of advocacy this past year, Maze said the Executive undertook a number of key initiatives, citing the issue of workload intensification as being a major consideration given that it is having important consequences on teachers’ ability to fulfil their professional duties. “A great deal of Federation energy and effort went into discussing and negotiating real improvements to the ever-increasing workload of teachers. These efforts to address workload intensification continue and won’t stop until teachers are satisfied that there is an appropriate balance between time spent teaching students and the paperwork created by the administrative need for system accountability.”
Maze said, “the STF’s role is to advocate on teachers’ behalf to government and other educational partners to respect that time needed for teaching students. It involves reminding our partners to trust the professional teachers that they have hired to do the job. Listen to and support the professionals. Provide them with what they need. And let them do their work.”
Alluding to the Final Report – Task Force on Teacher Time, which was released just a few weeks ago and puts a cap on the quantitative side of our assigned time workday, Maze acknowledged it remains a prominent issue that needs to be resolved.
“As a member of the negotiating committee, I personally saw the dedication of Federation staff members who worked hard every day on behalf of teachers to see this work to its completion. There was commitment around the table from other education partners to resolve this issue amicably.
“The report recognizes the special nature of teachers’ professional work, while also providing guidelines and definitions to regulate teacher time. The maximum of 1,044 hours per year for assigned time isn’t perfect; however, the security provided by it being placed within the Provincial Collective Bargaining Agreement is a step in the right direction. The report recognizes that while teachers are highly motivated and dedicated to excellence in their work, they cannot continually be asked to do more with less.”
According to Maze, “there is still much more work to do for improving teacher workload pressures. However, the Final Report of the Joint Committee on Student and Teacher Time is an example of effective, collegial advocacy by the Federation and we trust that our partners in education are still committed to helping us deal with this challenge. Partnerships are not always easy.
“But improvements to teacher working conditions depend on our working together and arriving at mutual agreements. This kind of unity of purpose will help build and maintain public confidence in the Saskatchewan education system.
“This is not only a goal, but also a responsibility and the STF Executive will continue to advocate on behalf of members for that respect by emphasizing the need for time and resources in order for teachers to do their jobs well,” Maze summed up.