AMHERST, N.S. – Nova Scotia’s teachers continue to struggle with classroom conditions, eight months after the provincial government forced them into a new contract
That was the message from Nova Scotia Teachers Union president Liette Doucet, who visited the Amherst area yesterday to tour six local schools, at the invitation of Cumberland Local president Chris Weeks.
“Teachers are at the point now where they may have been in March-April-May, in terms of being exhausted and stressed,” said Doucet, after meeting with local teachers and hearing their concerns at each school. “They are up to their limits, and just trying to make it through each day.”
The visit was Doucet’s first school visits of the year, and something she hopes to do more, describing it as an “eye-opening experience.”
“What I’m still hearing this year is that many teachers feel they’re failing their students,” she said. “They’re doing the best they can and doing a fantastic job, but they are not getting the resources they need to ensure all students are successful.”
For example, she had praise for having class size caps up to Grade 12, but said it does not address the issue of class composition. A cap of 25 students might work well in one classroom, but another class of 25 might be more like a class of 55 due to the needs of that group.
“I’m still hearing that, and that’s not going to change until they look at needs and look at the combination of numbers along with needs,” said Doucet.
It was February of this year that the governing Liberals forced the province’s 9,300 public school teachers into its new contract, after a one-day strike and a work-to-rule job action that had been in place since December.
The bitter labour dispute was a key issue in the spring election campaign, which saw the Liberals survive, bruised and battered, with the slimmest of majorities.
Although members of the new government said they received the message from Nova Scotians on May 30, Doucet said nothing has improved since the election, and teachers are still feeling betrayed.
“We’re not going to go backwards, we want to move forward, but teachers are still angry,” she said. “They’re bitter about how it all went, and we ended up with an imposed contract instead of a government who listened to what we were saying.”
She said at the time that she was disappointed with the election result, but willing to work with whatever government was in place. She still maintains that commitment, and said she is hoping to have better progress with new education minister Zach Churchill.
“I just have to keep talking, bringing issues forward and letting them know,” said Doucet. “I’m not giving up, and I’m going to do everything I can to make somebody listen. They can hear us, but they’re not listening to us.”