Message to Members. November 21, 2020

Dear WTA members:

I want you to know that you are valued and the work you do is essential.  To Classroom Teachers, Support Teachers, Principals, Vice Principals, Clinicians, Lab Assistants, Specialists, Program Leads, Service Directors, we see you.  Whether you are working with students directly, or providing support to classrooms, navigating the challenges of school life, community, public health expectations, division requirements, we see you and we are here for you.

As President, I know all the work that goes into teaching under typical circumstances. Teaching during this coronavirus pandemic is so far from typical. This school year so far like nothing we have ever faced before. This is not what you signed up for, and yet you are doing it anyway. You are ensuring distancing between students, reminding everyone to wear masks appropriately, sanitizing, preparing lessons, and conducting assessments, while also being asked to provide home learning packages, remote learning, and even live-streamed classes.  Some of you have been reassigned (more than once), moved rooms, shifted between in-person and remote with little notice, and so much more.  In short, you are reinventing your work.

Here are a few things we should keep in mind during this time. First, even though it may not feel like it sometimes, you are teaching. Right now, students are learning social-emotional skills from that no curriculum could account for. You are finding ways to connect with students and their families, even as you are trying to take care of yourself and your own family. Students are learning empathy and compassion from you – a skill we are all need more of in this challenging time.

Second, we are all grieving the loss of “normal.” By this time in the school year, school teams and classes usually come together as a unit that knows how to work together, learn together, and laugh together. But I know from speaking to members and within my own family, this is not happening in the same way this school year. And for now, it’s okay to cry together, or on your own. It’s okay to grieve what is missing or lost.

Third, you have expertise. You have all been learning new ways of presenting information and trying to make it so that all students can access it. You have been finding out what teaching can look like when “school” isn’t always in a school building.

And lastly, the WTA knows you are all exhausted and overwhelmed, even though we are only in November! Please know that the Winnipeg Teachers’ Association is here for you, to support you and to help where we can. I remind all members that counselling services are available to members through both Keystone Counselling and the MTS Educator Assistance Program.  Schools can apply for WTA Wellness grants that support the wellness of teachers. Please call the WTA office if you have questions about your rights and responsibilities under the collective agreement.

Thank you and take care of yourself.

Michelle Wolfe