By Chad Ingram
This week was supposed to be the annual Haliburton-Muskoka-Kawartha Children’s Water Festival.
For anyone unaware, the festival is a wonderful, decade-old event that makes ecological education a fun, interactive time at the Kinark Outdoor Centre.
The festival has been cancelled this year thanks to job action from the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario, which is seeking to ratify a new collective agreement with the province.
According to ETFO, the main issues at hand are class size and control over prep time. The union doesn’t talk as much about the three-per-cent-per-year pay increase it’s also seeking for its members.
Escalating work-to-rule action is scheduled to evolve into rotating strikes in October if an agreement can’t be reached.
It’s the same old song and dance Ontarians get treated to every time ETFO’s contract with the province expires.
You may recall that a good portion of the 2012-2013 school year had no extracurricular activities.
It’s always the voluntary activities that are first to go, which, conveniently, are also the things that students typically enjoy the most.
Notice refusal to teach math class is never the first move by the union.
As ETFO is always quick to remind Ontarians, extracurriculars are volunteer activities for teachers, something they do out of the goodness of their hearts and on top of their regular duties.
This is true and surely parents are grateful to them for the time and effort they put in.
The thing is, teachers are not the only ones who volunteer their time to provide activities for children.
In fact, lots of people do it.
While admirable, there is nothing exceptional or extraordinary about volunteerism. Many people with and without children volunteer in some capacity, whether it be coaching hockey, teaching Sunday school or leading a Brownies or Scouts group.
Or running an activity station at the children’s water festival.
Particularly in a community as small as ours, not only is volunteerism nothing exceptional, it’s necessary.
The community wouldn’t function without the army of volunteers that make its proverbial wheels go around.
Just looking at colleagues at the Times and Echo there’s representation from the Rotary Club, Highland Storm, Help A Village Effort, the Rails End Gallery board, Canoe FM, the Haliburton BIA and more.
Imagine if everyone in this community just threw up their hands and pulled out of their volunteer activities every time they had a schism with their employer.
So ETFO might want to be a little careful about the piety of the volunteerism of its members.
At least in a community full of volunteers.