Last Friday, I called a meeting of my track team and told them I would not be coaching this year.
Throughout Sentinel secondary, other coaches were delivering the same message - that their teachers are withdrawing from all volunteer extracurricular activities including sports teams, clubs and committees. It was an emotional moment for all of us.
I am a coach and club sponsor at school and I love this part of my job. I run Sentinel's crosscountry and track and field teams, sponsor the environment club and organize our recycling program. I've lost track of all the volunteer activities I've been involved in over a decade of teaching, but they are many.
Of course, I'm not alone. One of my colleagues volunteered well over 300 hours last year as a basketball coach, a committee member and a graphic designer for the school. This is almost eight 40-hour weeks!
I have such great memories of coaching my kids over the years at innumerable track and cross-country meets, training camps and B.C. championships throughout the province. In the spring, I'm out on the field at lunch with our javelin throwers and after school I'm with the runners. I also remember staying up all night to paint a 60-foot long mural for Sentinel's Community Day parade float and then being roadie to the R&B band, which belted out their songs on that float the next day. I've been up to my elbows in muck with the recycling program and I've willingly chaperoned school dances in the evenings. Like most teachers, I've penned hundreds of glowing reference letters for kids seeking jobs and university placements. And through it all, parents have supported me enthusiastically and appreciatively.
The decision to withdraw from volunteering at our schools is a personal decision taken by each teacher. My colleagues and I made our choice because we believe we need to make a meaningful statement about the current negotiating situation.
Politically, I am a moderate, but I believe Bill 22, with its unprecedented threat of fines against individual teachers, has strayed into the realm of intimidation. This comes after more than a decade of legislation by a government that has steadily eroded our right to bargain effectively and fairly - actions that have been ruled illegal by Canadian courts and the United Nations. The bill removes any real leverage my union has to negotiate on behalf of teachers and, yes, for students. We feel strongly that we advocate for our kids. Stepping back from my volunteer activities is the only tool I have to show how seriously I take this attack on teachers' rights. This is something worth standing up for.
I apologize to the many students who are affected by my decision, but it is a choice I have to make. To my Grade 12s who have run for me since your were little kids in Grade 8, I'm sorry. I hope you understand. We've had a great time. To my athletes, keep running and keep your spirits up! To parents and school trustees, now is the time to take a stand based on principle. Please find ways - letters, emails, petitions - to support your teachers during this difficult time.
Hugh Wilson Sentinel secondary
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