Former educator discusses issues
Jim Ryan is following negotiations between the province and the Nova Scotia Teachers Union from a unique perspective.
He was a teacher for 21 years, followed by 13 years as principal of Pictou Academy. Now retired and serving as the mayor of Pictou, he said he’s been closely following the ongoing labour dispute.
Because his memories of the classroom are still fresh, he understands the issues facing teachers that have led to the work-to-rule job action that began in December.
He said in recent years, teachers have had a lot more on their plate to deal with, such as inputting data and changes in the way students can be disciplined or handled if they don’t successfully complete course material.
Ryan said at Pictou Academy, they found the data collection particularly time consuming and something that kept teachers from doing what they love to do and were trained to do in the classroom.
The approach also fails to see the uniqueness in schools, he added.
“I really think a big part of that is that they want every school and every teacher and classroom to be the same,” Ryan said. “There’s no room for any flexibility.”
Another issue that has been raised during the dispute is inclusion, which means having all students included together in classrooms regardless of whether they have special needs.
Ryan said he believes in inclusion and it has good components, but it can be taken too far and lead to a result that is neither helpful for the students with special needs or those without.
Rather than leaving those students without the support they need and putting a strain on classrooms, he believes those students need to get individualized attention to help them succeed.
Ryan also believes that in some cases it would be better for students to fail a grade, not to punish them, but to give them more time to learn the material they need before moving on.