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Anyone else feeling déjà vu?


February 1, 2022 Jason Schilling, ATA President


I often connect with former ATA presidents, many of whom have been great mentors and sounding boards as we navigate these tumultuous times. 

Recently, I was able to sit down and talk with Larry Booi, who was Association president from 1999 to 2003. We talked primarily about the circumstances that led to the job action by thousands of teachers in 2002. Many of the issues that were of great concern then are of concern today: class size and composition, learning conditions, and the disrespectful treatment of teachers by the politicians of the day. 

Larry, as elegant and animated as ever, talked about how the teachers of the day rallied to work together to push back on the attempts to deprofessionalize teachers and their work. We recalled what led to the job action, what it was like during the strike and after teachers were ordered back to work. I recall those days clearly, as I was a young teacher volunteering on my local’s negotiating subcommittee. They were not easy days. But like Larry, I remembered how the profession united and worked together to see improvements to learning conditions. The teachers in 2002 united for what they believed in. 

As we wrapped up our conversation, Larry noted that teachers today are dealing with challenges that they’ve never faced before, from the pandemic and how that has affected our classrooms, to the government’s approach and attitude toward the profession and public education. Though the issues in 2002 and today are similar, the tone from government is entirely different – it’s more aggressive now.

After the interview, I thought about the parallels between the current efforts by government to remove our professional functions and our circumstances 20 years ago. In 2002, teachers united to defend public education; we need to do the same thing in 2022. 

This fight needs our attention, every single one of us. This is a fight for our very profession. If the removal of our professional function starts, we could see further damaging erosion to the profession. If they weaken our Association and our profession, we lose our voice to advocate for what we believe in: our students. 

We are teachers; we are the ATA – one profession, united. ❚


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