Criticizing teachers is a sure way to get people upset and to put a target on your back, but here goes.
Recently, the GNWT rejected a proposal to allow teachers going south over the Christmas break to get paid leave while in self-isolation upon their return to the NWT. While those of you who read this column know that I can be a critic of the GNWT, in this instance I think government officials made the right decision.
The NWT Teachers Association (NWTTA) made the case that NWT teachers are experiencing heightened pressure and anxiety while doing their jobs under pandemic conditions. Many teachers come from outside the territory and going south during the Christmas break is an important opportunity to visit loved ones, relieve stress and restore their energy.
Teachers work extremely hard and should be appreciated for their efforts. I dabbled in teaching courses at Aurora College in Fort Smith for a few years, and I was astounded how absolutely exhausted I was all the time. Overseeing a classroom full of youthful energy takes planning, poise and discipline. It requires you to be “on” all the time. And the work doesn’t stop when the school day is over. Evenings are filled with lesson preparation, grading, and administrative matters. Don’t get me wrong – I have tons of respect for the work teachers do in their trusted roles as our children’s educators.
Teachers are not the only ones who work hard. Some of us work two or three jobs to keep up with the high cost of living in this territory. Others are responsible for caring for large extended families. We are all experiencing increased stress and anxiety during these pandemic times, from the restaurant owner struggling to stay open to the health-care worker operating under strict Covid-19 protocols. Many of us also have family and friends in the south and have good reason to want to visit them. They may be elderly, or they may be ill. They may be achieving a significant milestone in life, such as a wedding or the birth of a child.
All of us, when considering travel to the south, must weigh its benefits against the cost of self-isolation upon our return. Most of us are not able to do our jobs while in self-isolation – you can’t pound nails at the job site, cut hair at the salon, or care for patients at the health centre. For most of us self-isolation means time that is unpaid. For some of us it is still worth it to travel south despite the financial loss. People are making this difficult decision every day in this territory.
This pandemic really sucks. But it sucks for all of us. We all deserve to be appreciated for the decisions, hard work and sacrifices that we have made to keep our territory running and unharmed by Covid-19. Teachers certainly deserve it. But so do many others. It would be unfair to provide teachers with paid self-isolation should they choose to leave the territory over Christmas break, when most others would not have this privilege.