Doing ‘a little extra’ unlikely
Teachers dealing with aftermath of imposed contract
Some Nova Scotia teachers working under a governmentimposed contract say they will not resume old norms of making themselves available after class and offering to coach teams and clubs.
Art teacher Sally Capstick said she doesn’t see herself returning to volunteer roles she’s held over the years, ranging from art gallery field trips to co-ordinating lunch hour clubs at her junior high school in Sydney.
“To legislate a contract, it destroys that little part of you that wants to do a little bit of extra,’’ she said in a telephone interview Thursday, two days after the Liberal government imposed a four-year contract.
Capstick said she felt remorse that teachers were refusing to provide additional help during the work-to-rule job action, but “now I feel my employer doesn’t care.’’
Paul Wozney, a high school teacher in Halifax, said in an interview he’ll be asking his students to formally schedule time for extra help rather than expecting he’ll be in class at noon for drop-in visits.
“This idea of on-demand, extra help ... teachers are thinking long and hard about whether that’s sustainable or desirable or something they’re willing to do,’’ he said in an interview.
He also said the days may be over of teachers posting material such as tutorial videos or class notes on websites for parents and students to view.
“We’re already dreading the angry emails and accusatory emails ... We never had to do it, and now I think teachers know they don’t (have to),’’ he said.
After years of volunteering to schedule the junior varsity basketball league — working out when and where 13 teams play 20 regular season games a year — Wozney said he will find other uses for his time.
“It’s hundreds of hours of phone calls and emails ... I did it because nobody was stepping forward,’’ he said.
“I’ve come to the realization it’s time I can spend with my family, or marking or communicating to parents. It’s not a vindictive, stick-it-to-the government thing.’’
Robert Berard, the director of graduate education at Mount Saint Vincent University, said the union’s membership has become militant in recent years.
“The anger and passion of teachers in this particular dispute is the boiling-up of a lot of frustration of curricular reforms tossed at them,’’ he said. “Added data gathering requirements and the posting of material online every single day ... has changed the nature of teachers’ work in recent years.’’
“I would say that at least for a while there’s going to be a reluctance for teachers to take on things that aren’t specifically outlined in the Education Act,’’ he said.
The province imposed a contract on teachers on Tuesday, ending a 16-month contract dispute that saw the majority of the 9,300 members of the Nova Scotia Teachers Union vote down three tentative agreements.
The imposed contract contains a three per cent salary increase and incorporates many elements included in the first two tentative agreements rejected by union members.
Last Thursday, dozens of teachers testified before a legislature committee about the neglect of children with special needs, educators being attacked, and a lack of resource teachers to help with behavioural problems.
Education Minister Karen Casey has suggested many teachers want to get back to helping with extracurricular activities, but it will be up to them to decide whether to volunteer their time.
“School boards are currently working with schools on the transition from work to rule,’’ said an email provided by a spokesman for the Education Department on Thursday.
“This process will take some time, and the transition may vary from school to school.’’
Liette Doucet, the president of the teachers union, said in an interview that in some instances teachers enjoy the extracurricular activities — such as coaching school teams — and may take them up again.
She added that under the Education Act, teachers must resume assisting student teachers, participate in professional development and return to inputting data into various programs designed to track student progress.
However, Doucet said the short-term impact of the imposed contract is that teachers remain overburdened with unnecessary tasks and continue to lack time to prepare for lessons.
“Right now that is the impact. The impact is there is no change. It’s the way it was before . ... Teachers are very discouraged,’’ she said.
The new contract includes the creation of a council that will be co-chaired by union and government representatives and will recommend ways to spend $20 million to improve the classroom environment.
The province says it has already received applications from 300 teachers from across the province seeking to become one of nine teacher representatives on the council.
The department says a facilitator will also work with the committee and an arbitrator will be appointed in the event the co-chairs cannot agree on a recommendation.
Initial recommendations from the council are expected by April 28.