In Karl Ove Knausguaard’s fourth volume of his My Struggle series he secures a job as a teacher in northern Norway. He is eighteen years old and has no post-high school education. This is not an aberration for the school as the students are cognizant enough to blame their ignorance upon being taught year-after-year by unqualified and inexperienced teachers.
With the BC Liberals now offering us a Status Check on Rural Education , I have decided that an unvarnished accounting of the life of the non-delusional rural teacher in BC should be presented. First of all let me talk about what I mean by rural: When someone raised in Coquitlam gets a job in Hope they feel they are teaching in a rural school. And for them they are, but for me that would be an aspirational urban school. For me and for those of us who have been raised in small towns, rural means somewhere even smaller and more remote than the place we grew up in. For instance Hope could never be rural as it is just down the road from Chilliwack, but up the Number One into a place like Lytton, yeah that is kind of rural.
The new teacher in British Columbia may not be eighteen like Karl Ove, the freshest are in their early twenties, but they too are able to find work in remote communities. Teachers may get jobs in Zeballos, Tashis, Fort St. John, Diese Lake, or any number of small communities, with, let’s be honest, a high concentration of First Nations students, that have to import teachers. These teachers present themselves for duty keen, ready to excel, and to use their newly taught pedagogy.
Soon enough they realize that the the superintendent of the remote district adheres to Vox Dei while running their personal fiefdom. If they stray or fall afoul of the theocratically inspired sycophants that surround this monarch they can go on sick leave and/or plan their next move. Perhaps this one year of experience will earn them enough experience to get on a TTOC list in a less remote area. Perhaps, they will leave teaching altogether.
One solution is the idea of district amalgamation. Why can’t Vancouver Island West be a part of the Campbell River School District? No convincing reason can be offered. What would the point of this be? If a young teacher gets their legs under them in Zeballos, they could hope of moving into a job in Campbell River. This amalgamation could be replicated throughout our province to create larger districts, perhaps of equal size to health authorities. These educational authority districts would allow for some flexibility in employment location in an increasingly transient society.
Should the idea of amalgamation be nixed (and I suspect both the BCTF and the BCPVPA would oppose it), maybe an incentive program could be offered to have some of our more experienced teachers be put out to pasture in these remote locations. Many of these teachers have become comfortable denizens of the upper-middle class, and would likely relish the chance to have an adventure away from the dull confines of their home district. I suspect many would take the plunge for, say $20000 extra a year. This would open up a space the less remote home district that could only be filled by a recent graduate (say within the last five years).
I suspect nothing will happen. The Status Check on Rural Education will amount to nothing and things will carry on as usual. A status quo that, with a little imagination could be changed. Change that would benefit both the teaching profession and the students.