Teachers at one school put their heads together on workplace conditions, and this is what came out

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.


6 thoughts on “Teachers at one school put their heads together on workplace conditions, and this is what came out

  1. Many of these issues could be resolved by Union members who are VP’s etc realizing that they owe as much to the mandate of Union membership as they do to Management who puts them in a conflict of interest position. Shit man this whole notion is being overlooked. Where are the VPs and Principals and HRSB Union employees on these issues?
    I would suggest a referendum question at this crucial period of time so that those who would vote NO would not have a voice in our Union decisions.


  2. I was a teacher but I taught in a private school where every child was on their own IPP. It was very much like teaching in a one room school house. I had to individually program plan, assess and track each student without getting an “off” period or lunch break. I admit I am not fully aware of all the reasons behind the implementation of PowerSchool, but it seems to me to be a method of tracking student (and therefore teacher) performance in a standardized way. How is this a negative? Isn’t teacher accountability necessary? I can’t tell you how many students I taught that came from the public system that were still reading at a grade 3 or 4 and were in grade 10. How is that solely the Department of Ed’s fault? Do teachers get a pass on failing the needs of that student?
    On the issue of the Service Awards. Are those based on performance? If so, how? To an outsider it seems like a nice bonus for simply putting time in (butt-in-chair award) instead of rewarding exception teachers or even those that simply ensure each child achieves a certain level of learning that school year. Why should taxpayers pay for that if those are handed out for simply showing up to work each day (gee, can I have one?)?
    I actually support the teachers going on strike, but not for many of the reasons listed here. I support them going on strike simply because the wage increase proposed by the government is insulting (to anyone, in any industry). But to claim teachers are going on strike for the “impossible” working conditions, well you’ve lost me (and probably a lot of the public) there.


    1. First off, you taught at a private school. Usually these cost money, so the kind of students you are getting are well-off socioeconomically. Their parents probably also support them with their academic and social growth – and if they cannot, they can turn to outside resources for support. I’m not saying it was easy. There are challenges to every group;HOWEVER…

      Imagine this: you are teaching in an inner-city public school. 60% of your students live in a single-parent house hold and nearly everyone in your class is supported by a family assistance cheque. Some kids are fed for the first time in 2 days after they come to school over the weekend. Some parents are illiterate. Just like in your class, a large portion of children are on PLPs, but there are twice as many of them. They also have struggles to face that are not/cannot be addressed by the current educational system.

      Not a reality? It is for me. The days when I don’t get spit on or give my own lunch to a child are few and far between. I think about those children every night. They become a part of me. So, no, I’m not just a seat filler. I’m a difference maker. And it is very difficult for one person to do it alone.


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