Students should not be the sacrificial lamb

It’s 6pm on a Friday and my step-daughter Hayleigh, is in her bedroom sleeping.

She came home today very somber, having gotten the news at school that her class camping trip was cancelled. They had been planning this since September, and were less than a week away from venturing to far off places where the real memories they will look back upon with fondness are made.

Bus rides, singalongs, playing video games, going seat-to-seat to talk with your friends, helping with the cooking and cleaning, roughing it without phones and connections to the wired world, while strengthening bonds with teachers and classmates.

We talked about this in great length over the weekend, including brief lessons on unions, school boards, government, and what are the issues at hand. Hayleigh even started a private Instagram conversation with her Grade 7 peers at Glen Brae, in the city’s east end, over their thoughts on the cancellation.

At least two students were already packed and ready to go. Another talked about how these actions were affecting school experiences. There were many ‘12-year-old’ responses, including one that said, “Now I have to take the garbage out on Wednesday.” The general mood, though, was one of somber disappointment. “None of the kids in the world like it”, stated another. A couple of them, at least, aren’t holding any hopes that this trip will ever happen.

School was soooooooo much better before anxiety, depression, and finding x squared by the power of 9. I wish we could go back to when we were learning ABC’s and making paper chains.”

The kids fundraised for this trip to help offset the costs. Some parents may never be able to afford to give their child this kind of experience adding the cost of themselves and siblings.

Then there is an unfortunate school transition that will happen in September. This group of friends split up into three different schools for a year before moving again to their designated high schools. This trip may have been the last opportunity for this cohort to create lasting memories together.

There is a time slot at the campsite reserved for March should the unions and government come to an agreement, but at least one friend won’t be able to make that date due to prior family commitments.

I reached out to Muskoka Woods over the weekend with a few questions about how this affects their business and their cancellation policy, but at the time of publication I had not yet heard back from them.

I was lucky enough to enjoy winter camping trips to Camp Wanakita in Grades 6 and 7, and to stay at the breathtaking Chateau Frontenac in Quebec City in Grade 8 through my middle school. I have a couple of photo albums full of those memories.

I can barely place myself in my learning from kindergarten to grade 12 beyond the rooms I sat in and the teachers that occupied the front of the class, but I remember the extras with great detail from trips to Ontario Place, a Blue Jays game, distant off art galleries, orcards, week long electives, fun days, track and field, band, choir, and chess club.

I remember the relationships I built with friends and teachers who inspired me, helped me, and got me through some difficult times with their patience, praise, and words of encouragement.

Of course the traditional learning part is important. That’s why our kids are really there. The rest is extra, but I’d argue that the most important aspect of educating our youth, are the experiences beyond the sometimes mundane. This is what keeps kids engaged.

I get and respect why teachers are fighting the government on the items spread across the bargaining table and have shown my support and thoughts on the negotiations, but what the kids are losing out on isn’t only about class sizes or e-learning. Memories shouldn’t be something the students should have to sacrifice.

Cancel EQAO. Get rid of it totally, in fact. Have a one day strike, cancel reports to the ministry, don’t attend professional activity learning, or don’t grade students if it won’t affect their pending post-secondary plans. Find the line between sending a message and hurting our students or parents for that matter.

The anger and frustration, the disappointment and the tears being felt and shed across the province from our youth; that is the sound these negotiations are generating.

My youngest was supposed to see a play at the end of the month. My eldest graduates this year meaning not only the Grade 8 trip, but even graduation is at risk?

This is looking to be a year our girls won’t remember; not with any fondness anyway—which is a shame because Grade 8 is supposed to be a cherished school experience.

Sacrifices today could improve outcomes for the generations that follows. We’ve taught them the importance of standing up for what you believe in, thinking of others, and all those important life lessons, but the students of today should not be the sacrificial lamb, either.

Kids should never be affected by the conflict of their elders.

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