Over a period of three weeks, teachers at my school contributed their concerns on workplace conditions that they wanted articulated to our union leadership and to the government. Some common themes emerged:
1. Overwhelmingly, most points raised revert back to demands on teachers’ time. Members are concerned with distracting initiatives that divert their attention from classroom preparation and delivery. Members have expressed that data collection, and in particular systems like PowerSchool and TIENET have exhausted personal resources at the expense of teacher/student time. This has a direct correlation to members’ mental health and wellbeing.
2. Educators are saying that they do not feel adequately supported to meet the expectations for classroom learning. This is evident in anecdotal statements on classroom climate ranging from the physical number of bodies in a classroom, to changing demographics within that space. This includes an increase of students on Individual Program Plans (IPPs) and Adaptations creating ‘split classes’ and affecting curriculum. Teachers face dwindling resources such as appropriate textbooks, and limited photocopies. The problems are not limited to physical supplies, but also are impacted by inadequate EAL [English as an additional language], EPA [Educational Program Assistant], and Resource support models.
3. Members have also expressed that monetary issues are of concern. The long-term service award is an issue that many feel is simply non-negotiable. Members also need to feel confident that their salaries will be adjusted for inflation going forward.
4. Members can not accept that the majority of education initiatives and practices are dictated by flawed data and surveys that do not include classroom teachers or only include small segments of the population. Teachers are tired of having their professional voice diminished, and having to participate in activities that distract from best-practices. Excessive meetings, forced PLCs [professional learning communities], and other professional development that fails to acknowledge that teachers are well-educated professionals who are actively engaged in continuing education and embody life-long learning cause increased workloads, stress and increased absenteeism. Classroom teachers need to be included in decision making and professional development delivery.
5. Members have expressed that they feel PowerSchool is the root of increased student anxiety due to excessive monitoring of their grades, and a move away from formative learning. This has placed an unhealthy obsession on summative assessment and increased pressures and workload for teachers.
6. It should be emphasized that the majority of issues raised by our members is directly correlated to student success. Everyone’s concerns relate back to the delivery of best-practice, high quality education. As teachers, we feel we know what is best for our students. It is time to include teachers and empower them to provide input for matters that affect them, and their students.