Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Race To The Bottom Continues for Northland School Division

Since I haven't mentioned it in quite some time, I thought I'd touch base with an a former employer of mine to see how things were coming about.  As school boards go, one can certainly do better than to send your child to Alberta's Northland School Division. As it turns out, not a lot has changed among the enlightened geniuses in the offices over in Peace River. If anything, things seem to have gotten worse for the inept Northland School Division.  With luck these continual consultations and review processes will result in what the Minister of Education should have done in the first place....disband the board, much like putting a feeble horse out of its misery.

My guess is that this will eventually happen.  Of course government by its very nature, moves at glacial speed.  You really can't fix stupid.  It goes way beyond funding levels.  The only real silver lining I can pull out of this mess is that, while the board's superintendent hails from my home province of Ontario (which when I was teaching, was a bit of an embarrassment) at least she is here and not not back east, buggering up my own son's education.

Saturday, February 1, 2014


As a kid I never really realized how many different work schedules there could be.  It all seemed rather simple then.....work 9pm to 5pm, Monday to Friday and the rest of the time was your own.  My parents own a small business so they never really fell into this particular demographic (if it really even existed)  but for the longest time I remember assuming that for quite a number of people the 9 to 5'er was the norm.  I only bring this topic up because my own work schedule has changed recently.  Yes, it's changed in the past as well but this one is very new to me and will no doubt take a bit of an adjustment.  While I'm not clairvoyant, I know this particular schedule won't last forever so rather than grip over it, you just pick up and soldier on.

Now as you might imagine, questions of work schedules (particularly for those who work at site) come up quite often here.  After the ubiquitous northern Canadian winter question of "Cold enough for ya?", the question "What's your schedule?" provides some healthy competition.  The answer to this question leads to answers that almost seem like a strange code.  Or least it seemed to me initially, as person with no experience with the resource industry.  10 and 4, 14 and 7, 18 and 3, 24 and 4 were only some of the possible answers.  There are also 8 hour shifts (for office staff), 10 hour shifts and 12 hour shifts.

I started out with my first employer working 10 days on, 4 days off, one of the more common ones.  About a year and a half ago, I was on 11 and 3.  Initially, I wasn't keen on losing a day off but soon came to appreciate an extra day's pay...plus I figured if its too cold and dark during the winter, I'd rather just suck it up and work it rather than staying home.  It wasn't too long before I was asked to do a lot of overtime so in reality my 11 and 3 schedule morphed into an 18 and 3 schedule which I pretty much worked for the bulk of 2012.  A bit gruelling at times, yes but I'm one of those people that once they get into a solid routine (I thank my military training for this) I'm good to go and adjust rather well.  

As a bit of an aside, one of the things my parents taught me, and taught me well, was that no matter the work you do, find something no one else wants to do and do it well.  I've always found this to be good remedy to ingratiate yourself with your employer and make you a bit more lay-off proof.  So for the better part of two years I was dealing with scaffolding from another sub-contractor that was being dealt with in our yard.  It's mainly used in Europe and while there are a lot of similarities (scaffolding is scaffolding after all), it was a different system that I soon became familiar and comfortable with.  This led to a great deal of overtime for me, hence all the 18 and 3's I worked.  These were 10 hour work days although I did my share of 12 hour days too, which turned out to be a smart move on my part if I may way because....

At the moment I am now on a 7 on, 7 off rotation of 12 hour days.  Oddly, its not the 12 hour days, but the 7 days off part that is the challenge.  Its a bit outside of what I'm used to having worked for longer stretches in the past but, as before, I'll adjust.  I suppose the cat is happy I'm around the house more and it does give an opportunity to get more things done around the house.   As I mentioned earlier, I don't see this particular schedule lasting for me as things will invariably get busier once the spring rolls around.  I suppose my dream schedule would be to work 14 and 7 but its not a decision in my hands.  In the mean time, since I find myself with a few extra days off and a leisurely morning, I think I'll go grab another coffee.