First day of school could offer a fresh start to stalemate 

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Oh, to be riding a shopping cart through Staples, collecting school supplies and singing, "It's the most wonderful time of the year" in glee.

Instead, just like every other parent in B.C., I'm trolling every news story on the teachers' strike, trying to get some kind of inkling on whether or not we need to hire a babysitter next week, book more DFX days, or try to squeeze into a muni camp, if there's room there.

Of course, we won't know if there's room at Kids on the Go because registration doesn't open until a decision comes down on the school strike. And that has been left to the very last minute, just to keep us living on edge a little longer.

And so, to date, there have been no back-to-school haircuts, no back-to-school clothes, no back-to-school countdown on the calendar. In short, this most wonderful time of the year, the annual rite of passage for parents and kids, isn't so wonderful after all.

It's exhausting. And stressful. And frustrating.

Of course, this may all be redundant by the time we go to press.

Hope springs at the last minute, as senior negotiators for the BC Teachers' Federation and the government meet in Victoria with education minister Peter Fassbender on Wednesday. This is the first time they've met in weeks.

Still, it should have never gotten to this point.

We'd all like to know the real answers behind the rhetoric to these questions: How did we get here at the 11th hour after 11 weeks of summer holidays? Who is to blame? Why was no one at the table in the weeks leading up to the start of school?

To tell you the truth, it just doesn't matter anymore. Not at this point. Not when nothing has been done all summer long. And our kids have been left to languish, and the teachers and the government have been locked in some kind of unhappy dance.

And so, let's hope for a new beginning, a fresh start.

Just like that feeling when you crack into a brand new textbook, sharpen a new pencil, tear open a new pack of crayons — so much potential awaits, as it does at the start of every school year, when you sit in that classroom with your new teacher and a new hairdo.

A fresh slate. Last year's poor test results a thing of the past. Detention record wiped clean for another year.

Perhaps getting back to school and back to the bargaining table will give us some new insight on how to navigate the road ahead. It's a show of good faith that everyone is willing to work for the kids.

After all, what message are we sending them otherwise — that grown adults are unable to find common ground, are not willing to compromise, are willing to dig their heels, happily getting more and more entrenched in positions that bring us no closer to resolution?

One of the biggest lessons in my son's Kindergarten class last year was to work on being a "peacemaker." Just as important as his A, B, Cs and 1, 2, 3s; in fact, arguably much more important.

Just like reading and writing, learning to be a "peacemaker" is one of the most basic skills he will need going forward in life — use your words, solve the problem, share, be respectful, and don't resort to hysterics. And tattle-tale on your friends for some supposed, or real, slight doesn't get you very far.

Welcome to Kindergarten. The government and the BCTF could learn some things there.

Admittedly, the issues at hand are nothing to be scoffed at — wages, class sizes, class composition. Let's not forget the long history on all these points and bear in mind that the government is still waiting to hear from the courts on the later issues over its challenge of an earlier B.C. Supreme Court ruling.

We may feel immune here in Whistler from the larger pressures facing teachers elsewhere, but we're not.

While our classrooms may not be bursting at the seams, the changing classroom make-up and dynamic and meeting the needs of various students with learning challenges are of increasing concern.

Perhaps an indication of this is the growing trend out of the public school system to alternative schools, like the Whistler Waldorf School. When it opened its doors in September. 2000, there were eight students. Last year there were 175. More than 200 are expected in 2014.

Look at the growing interest in the private Coast Mountain Academy in Squamish, billed as standing out for its smaller class sizes to ensure a greater familiarity and more dedicated interaction between teacher and student, and longer class periods that facilitate programming for varied learning styles.

So, while some argue that the only way to fix it once and for all is to stand ground, not give in, stay the course, in fact, the only way to move forward is to find compromise.

Surely our kids deserve that.



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