The Front Line: In Numbers

Today, I went on strike. And I really wish I hadn’t.

But I had to.

Not because my union made me, or because I have no free will, but for completely opposite reasons. I do have free will. I have freedom of thought. And I have freedom of association, no how many times the government of BC refuses to accept that Charter guaranteed right (note: we’re at three times and counting if you factor in the initial contract break and two subsequent court cases).

So, I was on strike. Because I don’t believe that a government has the right to be above the law. Because I believe that the future of our province is a worthy investment.

And I’m not a gambler; these kids will give us a good return on investment if we give them the chance.

They deserve that chance.

So, today, I stood on a picket line. And this was no ordinary picket line. My current school (note: “current school” because budget constraints mean that I’m laid off each year) is on one of the busiest streets in the city. It’s a trucking route, emergency vehicle route, commuting route, residential traffic route – it covers the whole gamut. There is no time during the day that this street is traffic free.

Today was no exception. But it was exceptional.

And, for four hours, I became the unofficial data collector – data that I would like to share with you.

So, here it is, Ms. MacKenzie’s day: in numbers.

4 – the number of hours that I spent on my feet, curbside, wearing a homemade “Standing up for BC’s Future” sign.

3 – the number of people who yelled some variation of “Get back to work!”

1 – the number of people who yelled a succinct “F_ _ _ you!”

10 – the number of middle fingers I saw. Well, technically there were 11, but one of them was from Alberta (where teachers are paid $20,000 more a year and have double the preparation time), so that doesn’t count.

3 – the number of drivers who felt the need to honk in order to get our attention before flipping us the bird.

2 – the number of UK finger salutes I saw. Maybe I’ll just tell myself that they got the peace sign backwards.

5 – the number of actual peace signs directed at us.

1 – the number of metalhead horns sent our way. I would have responded in kind if not for fear of that “Satanist Teacher” headlines to follow.

1 – high school student who rode his bike to school on his day “off” to bring his teachers apples.

21 – the number of apples kindly provided by a representative of the Hospital Employees’ Union.

2.5 – the number of hours that one of my students spent walking the line with us.

8 – the number of seniors (and I’m talking seniors, who, if anything, have great-grandkids in school) who honked and waved in support.

3 – the number of Canadian Veterans who honked for education.

6 – the number of police cruisers who beeped their horns.

2 – the number of emergency vehicles (police and ambulance) who blipped their lights and sirens for us.

1 – the number of college textbooks rescued from the middle of the road, and later returned to their owner. As if teachers would let a book get run over in the middle of the road. We know what those things are worth.

15 – the highest I could count between horn honks. And I didn’t even attempt to count waves, which continued during this 15 seconds. And no, I’m not exaggerating. Don’t believe me? See for yourself.

Strike Support

> than I can count – the number of waves and thumbs up sent our way over from people of all ages, backgrounds, and socioeconomic status.

Not everyone was siding with democracy and opportunity today, but you know what? Those who didn’t want a fair deal for teachers and better support for students were clearly in the minority. And, in a democratic system, that means that the government does what the majority of its citizens want, right?

Oh. Right.