Prince Edward Island Teachers' Federation

PEITF Newsletter Article by Shaun MacCormac

Thoughts and Comments by Shaun MacCormac

Well, they say that time seems to pass faster the older you get. If thatís true, I must be 105 years old because this year has been flying by. I canít believe itís almost Christmas break.

On the positive side, things seem to be pretty quiet in the education world in PEI. We are not seeing the upheaval that our colleagues are experiencing across the country. President Aldene Smallman and I were recently in Ottawa to meet with our counterparts from across the country, and things are pretty bleak in most provinces. Most notably, major battles continue in Ontario and British Columbia. Still, almost every other province and territory, except ours, seems to be experiencing a high level of difficulty dealing with their governments.

The new Government here seems to be taking a measured and patience approach on the Education file. Other than a review on assessments and talk about the possibility of an elected school board for the PSB, things have been pretty quiet. While there are some important issues that teachers need addressing, it is nice not to have to deal with systematic changes for changeís sake. We have seen enough of that with the two previous governments.

Two of the most significant issues teachers need addressed are changes to staffing and the availability of substitute teachers. I donít need to explain these issues to you. The Federation continues to attempt to move these issues forward and to get the help and changes that must occur.

There is no review of our inclusion model insight, and it is sorrily needed. There are more and more classrooms that are becoming unmanageable, and the learning conditions in those are not fair for teachers or students. The system is not adequately supporting students who need help, student learning is being disrupted daily because of behavioural challenges, and teachers are burning out under the strain. In some situations, itís like sending firefighters to a house fire with hand-held extinguishers. It is unacceptable!

The little headway we were able to make with the previous Government included the addition into the MOA of a Joint Committee on Teaching and Learning Conditions. That committee has met a few times and is ready to present a preliminary report to the Minister. The timelines are pretty tight, however. The PEITF, as part of that committee, wants a change to our staffing model in both how the number of FTE teachers are determined and the timing of funding teaching positions. The current staffing model does not work, and neither does the current government budget cycle as it relates to the education file. The budget process for Government for the next fiscal year has started already, however, and will be all but completed early in 2020 for a release by Government in April.

This Government has pledged new teaching positions, at least when they were running for election, and they did follow that up with additional positions for the current school year, which is promising. The system, however, has to have a way to determine the needs and to establish how many positions are actually required to address the challenges that students and teachers are facing at the classroom level. The last time PEI had a model to try to address some of this was under the Pat Binns Government, of which Dennis King was involved. So there is some level of hope here.

Hope, however, is what some teachers are losing sight of. The PEITF continues to hear more and more from veteran teachers who have never before experienced classroom management problems in the past, yet now have classes who are unmanageable even with added supports. We are fearful of what some newer teachers are experiencing, given this situation. Newer teachers are less apt to seek help, as they donít want to seem like they canít manage their classes, and they are still developing the skills and resources that only come with time and experience. This situation is not acceptable, and it needs to be addressed. We await to see how this Government is going to respond.

Sigh... Ba Humbug!

Thankfully, great things continue to happen every day in schools thanks to teachers, administrators, EAs, youth support workers, and the many others who interact with students at the school level. Those students are counting on you, and I know that you all give everything you have to make their experiences positive ones. For that, I sincerely thank you for all that you do to positively impact the lives of your students. I hope you have a restful and enjoyable holiday break and are able to return rejuvenated in the New Year.

Be good to yourselves and to each other.