Class­room re­al­i­ties

For­mer ed­u­ca­tor dis­cusses is­sues

Cape Breton Post - - NEWS - BY TC ME­DIA STAFF

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.

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