To the Editor:
The impasse between the Liberal Government and the NSTU could easily have been avoided.
The government’s approach to negotiations was confrontational. Instead of being adversarial, they should have been compromising. Their combative and gladiatorial attitude set the wrong tone. A conciliatory and amicable demeanor would have generated co-operation and trust between the two groups. Stephen MacNeil’s Liberal Government should have responded to the legitimate teacher concerns about eroding conditions in the classroom.
They could have started by stating they were prepared to do the following:
1. Creating a discipline policy and supporting teachers and administrators when necessary.
2. Creating a meaningful attendance policy and supporting the school when the policy is challenged. Regular attendance is essential to help the students to maximize their potential.
3. Re-visiting social promotion. This is the practice of promoting students to the next grade level even when they have not learned the material they were taught or achieved expected learning outcomes. Learning gaps begin to grow immediately and become more severe and consequential with each passing grade. Grade retention is not the only solution to inadequate academic performance. Academic support strategies to accelerate learning can help most students to catch up with their peers.
4. Place a freeze on initiatives for three to four years that continue to spiral downward from the department to the classroom teacher.
The above four suggestions would not be cost factors. All teachers and administrators would require is support when push came to shove. This overture would have built the necessary trust between the two groups. Teachers would feel comfortable with the reality that the government is finally listening and are prepared to address the issues that impede learning in today’s classroom.
The government’s next move is to address the complexity and challenges that exist in our classrooms. This is where we discuss inclusion.
Talk to any teacher in the province and they will tell you inclusion is not working. It is an obvious truth that no one wants to address. If it is not working, change your approach.
The government should be adaptable to change. They continue to ignore this issue. Is it working? Is it effective? Either students are obtaining the results they want, or they are not.
The Department of Education is not willing to admit some things are not working. It is time for a different approach. Let’s make it work.
Ironically, the government created classrooms with several groups of intellectual abilities. However, I believe this classroom environment did not receive adequate materials and human resources to make it work. The government showed no interest in addressing this challenge. Meanwhile, frustrations continued to escalate in the classroom because the government turned a blind eye instead of accepting the challenge and providing the necessary assistance to make our classrooms effective.
Parents and teachers want the best learning environment possible for all our students. I believe we have reached a point in time where the Department of Education should start listening to teachers and parents. They know what works and what does not work.
The government and NSTU have agreed to return to the bargaining table for further discussions. Perhaps, the government will see the error of their ways and show up prepared to do the right thing.
Pictou Centre MLA,
for PC Party