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September 22, 2017

To say that this September has been an eventful one is certainly an understatement. I have visited a number of classrooms since this school year began. Class size and class composition are concerns – not just for teachers, but for students. I have seen firsthand the problems that arise when large class sizes exist and the necessary supports aren’t available. I have seen firsthand how students, if not given the supports they need and deserve, can have challenges in a classroom setting. Teachers, parents and students are all in this together. The best chance for positive outcomes for students is achieved through positive teaching conditions. Everyone can get behind that!!

I have visited three of our schools where tragic events have affected that school community. I was saddened to hear of the losses in these school communities and wanted to offer my support and assurance that all supports that could be provided would be. It was pleasing to see that the NLESD offered supports for both students and teachers. It was also encouraging to see so many teachers in these schools stepping up to comfort the students, parents and even each other during this difficult time. Witnessing this makes me even prouder to say that I am a teacher. I am part of a profession that has always stepped up to provide our students with the support they need – in so many ways.

Since becoming part of our Provincial Executive I have always held that in order to claim we are speaking for our members, we need to be speaking to our members. This is something that I have been actively doing since the start of the school year. The messages I have consistently heard are that teachers are frustrated because they know that students can do more – outcomes would be improved if they had more. Learning would be enhanced if government provided a little more. This isn’t a new idea. Teachers have long known this.

If you were to ask the people of the province, “Is education important?” the answer would undoubtedly be a resounding “Yes!” Some might even pause to think why they are being asked a question where the answer is so obvious.

Education is an investment in the province’s future and the provision of a strong system for today’s youth improves their chances of a brighter tomorrow. The road to getting the brighter tomorrow that we all want to see runs through the classrooms of today.

With this in mind, I was pleased to see the findings of the report of the Premier’s Task Force on Improving Educational Outcomes. This report identified many of the same concerns that teachers have been raising all along. Concerns about inclusive education and the delivery of student support services, student mental health concerns, and concerns about supports for curriculum delivery are not new. These, and others, have been identified by our province’s teachers. These same concerns were identified in a report entitled, “Better Together: The Final Report of the Panel on the Status of Public Education in Newfoundland and Labrador 2015-16”. The Panel that produced this report had input from the citizens of the province. Memorial University, the Federation of School Councils and the NLTA as key stakeholders in the province’s education system determined that the current education system has issues that need to be addressed. The province’s teachers couldn’t agree more.

Like teachers, the public know that more is needed for our students. And to further add credence to the argument that more is needed the Premier’s Task Force report also clearly confirms this.

As Government begins the process of developing its action plan for implementation of the Task Force report, I would strongly encourage them to involve the NLTA in its creation. The province’s teachers are the professionals who understand education best. Teachers are the front line practitioners who know what is needed in our schools and how best to provide the quality education system that our children deserve.

In any field, the greater the extent that those on the ground are involved in setting direction, then the higher the likelihood of success. In education, those on the ground are our teachers. Involve us and the plan and its implementation will find success.