Teachers mark papers at Metrotown

Aman Rai, a teacher at Clinton elementary school, marks class assignments  during a
Aman Rai, a teacher at Clinton elementary school, marks class assignments during a 'mark-in' at the food court at Metropolis at Metrotown on Wednesday.

If Burnaby students find a grease stain on their essay or a coffee stain on their pop quiz, it might be because their teacher marked it at the food court in Metropolis at Metrotown.

Dozens of teachers from elementary and high schools in the Burnaby school district convened at the fast food venue Wednesday afternoon for a "mark-in," to give the public an idea of the amount of work they do outside of school hours. It's the teachers' latest salvo in their ongoing quest to win public sympathy and support in contract negotiations with the provincial government.

"It's a chance to start a conversation," said Frank Bonvino, the effort's spokesman. "It's all about visibility and connecting with the public."

As a chemistry teacher at Burnaby North, Bonvino said he regularly stays at school after classes end for the day so he can help students.

"Chances are most students don't have someone at home who can help them with chemistry problems."

Bonvino said teachers routinely put in unpaid hours in the evenings and on weekends planning lessons, preparing course materials and marking papers.

"You can't just show up at nine o'clock and wing it," said Bonvino . "You don't sign up to be a teacher for the pay. We care about the students."

As teachers arrived at the food court, they spread folders of class assignments over the plastic tables and propped up small, brightly coloured signs detailing what they were doing and why they were doing. Some took advantage of the unique surroundings, fuelling their chores with an order of fries, a plate of Chinese food or a coffee.

And while the fast food restaurants encircling the food court may have been enthralled by the extra business, mall security guards spoke furtively into walkie-talkies and looked about anxiously. It seems the teachers didn't have a permission slip from management to be there.


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