U of C teachers take a timeout

By Вen Li

Though the Calgary teachers’ strike is barely a week old, some students at the University of Calgary are already feeling the effects.

"[The strike] affects 140 first-year Education students with practica in the Calgary Catholic and Rockyview school district who are back on campus with us," said Faculty of Education Associate Dean Bruce Clark. "It’s a chance to do some additional stuff like lesson planning over and above what we normally do."

Clark explained that vacant classroom bookings at the U of C are currently being used for large group lectures. Should the strike be prolonged or expanded, the classrooms will be used by field instructors, who normally work with education students in schools, to conduct seminars at no additional cost to students or the university.

Despite the altered learning experience, Education students’ reaction to the strike has been generally favorable, according to President Lori Cook of the U of C Education Students’ Association. The ESA represents approximately 600 of the 950 first and second-year education students.

"In general, we are in favour of what teachers are doing," said Cook. "Students are in favour of improved teaching conditions and increased funding for classrooms."

Clark agreed.

"At the moment, we’re in favour of anything that improves working conditions for grads," he said. "Our expectation is that the Calgary board will also go on strike."

Clark did have trepidations about an extended strike, however.

"It will screw us up if they’re still on strike in September," he said. "If we reach next fall and don’t have student placements [for first years], then we’d be in trouble [but] technically, we can wait until January. The bigger question is whether it will affect them come certification time."

While education students and instructors may eventually fall out of the established pattern of two-week learning cycles, students currently in the program will not be affected by the strike.

"Our second-year students who are about to graduate completed their major practicum last fall," said Clark. "Our first-year students lose bringing back day-to-day experience of what they’re doing here, but there’s not going to be any requirement to make up time."

Clark does not expect that the quality of graduates will decrease due to the lost practicum time as the program will provide added support for students who need it.

"The worst case scenario is that some students will need a bit more tutoring and guidance because they didn’t have the intensity of this semester," he said. "That’s something we certainly can respond to next year."

Cook, a second-year Masters’ of Teaching student, has not been affected by the strike, but expressed concern about its causes and effects.

"We don’t want to see student education compromised," said Cook. "It’s frustrating that the government is adamant that there is no more money. They should find the money for something as important as education."