Every September, at least for the past 26, I have always felt a little excited at the start of another school year. I expect that many of you felt similar sentiments as you began the school year wondering about class assignments, how the students will blend together, what approach you will take to address curriculum issues and how you will meet the needs of the students in your charge.
As you all know, the NLTA has repeatedly called for more resources for our education system. Advocating for smaller class sizes, more instructional support teachers, guidance counsellors, learning resource teachers, school administrators, educational psychologists and speech-language pathologists. As a result of our efforts, the government commissioned the Premier’s Task Force on Improving Educational Outcomes. Through that process government has committed to adding Reading Specialist positions, increasing the allocation of Learning Resource Teachers and creating a new position, Teaching and Learning Assistants. Importantly, government has also acknowledged the failures of the existing Inclusive Education Model. These new resources will be rolled out to the school system over three years starting this September. The NLTA will be monitoring the progress in the Phase I schools and be reporting any concerns to government and the school boards.
With regards to Teaching and Learning Assistants, your Association wanted to ensure that these positions would be utilized to the greatest benefit of teachers and students. As well, we wanted to take the necessary steps to ensure a clear definition of roles and responsibilities was established for these new positions. As a result, the NLTA entered into discussions with government and the School Boards Association and on August 9th signed a Memorandum of Agreement to the Provincial Collective Agreement which specifies that Teaching and Learning Assistants are members of the NLTA bargaining unit. Detailed information on this Memorandum has already been sent to all teachers.
We will have updates for you in the coming weeks on Collective Bargaining as we continue to work on your behalf to arrive at the best possible deal for our members. As well, we will continue to lobby on student assistant allocations. When cuts were announced in June, we imme-diately sought and received impact information from school administrators and engaged both the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development and the Newfoundland and Labrador English School District. As a result of these efforts, we have been successful in having a majority of the hours that were cut in June reinstated.
I had the opportunity this summer to attend the Canadian Teachers’ Federation Forum on Public Education. These Forums have, as a focal point, an issue that is impacting the country’s public education system. This year the focus was on school violence. One thing I have learned as I visited our province’s schools is that violence is an issue in our schools and our members are being greatly affected by it.
I must stress that reporting these incidents is very important. Only by reporting can action be taken. There is an African proverb, “Until the lion learns to speak, the tales of hunting will be weak”. We all must find our voice on issues that face our education system and our ability to perform our professional duties. I will continue to speak on these issues – I am asking that you join me in doing so!
With all of these demands in the system, it is little wonder that many of you have indicated that these demands are wearing on you personally to the point that health may be compromised. At the beginning of the school year it is critically important to build in time for yourself. Take the time to tend to your own health and well-being. Unless you look after yourself, you will be unable to look after your students. Professional duty is important – it’s what we do. But these duties must be balanced with an important, necessary and needed attention to “me” time.
I am hoping that you will find this school year to be a productive one. As always we will continue to advocate for improvements to the education system, to your working conditions and the learning conditions of your students. I hope to continue to hear from you in the coming months as I am only a phone call or email away.
Until next time…