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A protester carries a rainbow flag from the Ontario English Catholic Teachers Association (OECTA) outside MPP Dave Smith's office on November 4th, 2022. Photo credit: Sebastian Johnston-Lindsay

Trent Teaching Candidates and CUPE

Written by
Bethanie Dusome
and
and
November 24, 2022
Trent Teaching Candidates and CUPE
A protester carries a rainbow flag from the Ontario English Catholic Teachers Association (OECTA) outside MPP Dave Smith's office on November 4th, 2022. Photo credit: Sebastian Johnston-Lindsay

If you have been keeping up with the news recently, or at least with Arthur, you may have noticed a lot going on with CUPE.You may also have seen CUPE strikers and other protesters outside MPP Dave Smith’s Water Street office

As teaching candidates, our semesters end early so we can do our in-school placements. The year one teacher candidates also spend most of their first nine weeks of classes doing a "Supporting Literacy Placement," where we go into schools for about two hours to do literacy tutoring, with two learners we are assigned to. Throughout the first few days of picketing, one of our tutoring sessions was cancelled because schools were closed to the students. Although it was only one session, it made a number of us more worried than we had been previously. 

Some of us were worried and confused as we did not know what the strike would mean for our tutoring placements. The practicum also starts on November 21st for most of us. As I write this article on November 18th, we are still determining if our placements will take place.

I decided to talk with some of my classmates who are teaching candidates. I personally found it hard to put into words why we’re not all just saying that “I stand with CUPE” and am angry, like most of us are. 

From my conversations with first-year teaching candidates, Emeline Abrioux and Katie Hoover, who are not CUPE members, our overall stance was “frustration” as we believe this labour action is very much needed as CUPE members are just asking for what they deserve. Yet the government keeps dismissing them and does not value how vital these workers are for our schools, to support all students. “These positions play an important role in a student's education. The dedication to students and the extra training which CUPE members put into their career should be accounted for in their pay,” Hoover said. We want them to get what they rightfully deserve, and as Abrioux added, “it's frustrating that strikes are the only thing that seem to make the government pay attention.”

CUPE members Tesla Douma and Denise Mattos, believe a strike is needed as they know firsthand that their wages are unlivable, and all members/people deserve a living wage. They feel disrespected and undervalued by the government, as they skim the poverty line while being told that asking for that change means they do not care for the students. Mattos mentioned that “there is a current lack of educational workers within schools due to the overwhelming need present.” If the government wants to keep the schools running smoothly for these students, then they must listen to CUPE’s demands, or else the need will be greater.

  The five of us are worried about placements being cancelled for not only us in our first professional year of the program, but especially for the second professional year students. This is not about us, but we are still being affected, and between the first and second-year students, the second years have the most to lose. The program is only two years long, and to graduate and become certified teachers, we must complete a certain number of teaching days in schools. Although, as first-year candidates, we have more buffer room if the strike proceeds, the second-years are at risk of not being able to finish their practicum hours, thus putting them at risk of being certified.

We appreciate Trent's Education Department, as they have been doing everything possible to support us. We understand that they do not have all the answers and, most of the time, are just as lost as we are. They cannot control any of this and are sending us updates as soon as possible, even if it is last minute. They are showing their support for CUPE members and not only those who are part of the program.

We have seen Trent students supporting CUPE members at past events, and we keep seeing their support which is very much appreciated. If anyone is still looking for how they can help CUPE, we have a couple of ways you can do that. Wear purple, stay informed, keep your friends and family informed, talk to a CUPE member and see what you can do, show your support on social media, show up to the lines, make signs, and use them for picketing. If you need help understanding what is happening or what happened, then ensure you are reading up-to-date coverage, such as that being produced here at Arthur. Just do what you can, even if it is just cheering and it seems so little. As Tesla Douma told me, “the simple honking of your horn as you pass, lifts the spirits of those fighting for better educational environments within schools.” 

Most importantly, understand that this is not happening because of the students or the CUPE workers. It is happening because education workers need a living wage to continue supporting the students like they want to, which is why they went into these professions.

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