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Home > Articles > Opinion > Time to get back in the game

Time to get back in the game

Posted: February 26th, 2013 @ 9:11pm

The timing of last week's announcement by the Ontario Secondary School Teachers Federation that it would "recommend to members to suspend their political action related to extra-curricular - activities" couldn't have come at a better time. The spring sports schedules will commence in a little less than two months and the teacher-coaches and student-athletes can now begin to practise for their soccer, rugby and track and field seasons.

Two months should also be just about the right amount of time for the guffaws to die down.

What's so funny? The way federation president Ken Coran wrote in a news release that "voluntary activities are just that: voluntary."

Good one, Ken. You're a funny guy. Wait, please, no more. Stop - my sides are starting to hurt.

Back in the fall, when teachers were first expressing their disgruntlement over having contract terms imposed on them by the provincial government, there were, indeed, some teachers of conscience who withdrew their coaching and administrative services from high school sports. Good for them. They were standing on their principles.

For the vast majority, however, their principles dictated that they continue to coach, either because the love of what they were doing was greater than their dissatisfaction with the government or because they understood how withdrawing their after-school attention to athletics, music, drama or student councils wouldn't help their cause. Any coach who has been through a work-to-rule scheme could attest that all it does is punish students, infuriate parents and give the greater community another chance to tar teachers with the greedy brush.

Teachers who chose to coach in the face of the wage freeze spent the fall quietly hoping they'd be able to finish their seasons. Then the winter sports schedules began, and again the vast majority of teacher-coaches chose to continue volunteering their after- and before-school hours to their teams, bands and clubs.

With too few teachers feeling the requisite moral indignation, the union dropped the hammer in late November and said no more extra-curricular activities. We shouldn't be surprised that in a union so bankrupt of new ideas that it resorted to a tactic that has never worked before, no one could explain how the union could enforce a cease-and-desist order on benevolent volunteers.

"We encourage members to - decide if they are willing to return to participating" in extra-curricular activities, Coran wrote in Friday's release. Willing to resume? Ken, most of the teacher-coaches amid your membership were never willing to quit. They only did so when they were ordered to do so by their politically dim-witted union masters.

Let's face it. The coaches, band leaders and dramatists were bullied by their own colleagues, and that's distressing on two levels: First, it was disappointing that the truly good people in the profession who so freely give of their time could so easily yield to fear and blind obedience. Secondly, it's genuinely disturbing to think that people who are supposed to keep our children safe from bullying can be so blind to it when they're either engaging in it or on the receiving end of it.

Let's hope that the teacher-coaches in the Limestone District School Board agree to "suspend their political action" and we have pupils running, kicking and throwing come April. And let's hope that some day soon contracts are rewritten to put tangible value on extra-curricular work teachers do on behalf of our young people, work that is universally recognized as a vital part of the total education package.
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