Welcome Back to a New Year

And away we go! Our first full week is here!

I know that for many of you, start up has been challenging. I hope that you have had a chance to read my message from last week and have looked for ways to put the caregiver 1st.

With that in mind, I have been getting many questions about what teachers “must do” versus what they “may be asked to do” as we start up the 2017-18 school year. This is a very complex question, with what may seem to be some wishy-washy answers, but I will try to do my best to give you some guidelines.

To start off, the TPA is pretty clear that teachers shall not be required to be at the workplace prior to twenty (20) minutes before the instructional day begins and shall not be required to remain at the workplace for more than twenty (20) minutes after the end of the instructional day.  The simplest way to figure out instructional day is to look at when first class starts for the students. If the students start English at 9:10am, for example, teachers should be reporting to work by 8:50am. If the final class ends at 3:00pm, you would be expected to stay until 3:20pm.

When it comes to lunch break, the TPA is also very clear. Article 13.03 states: Teachers shall not be required to perform supervision of pupils during any period of time that pupils are on lunch and noon hour break. Again, to simplify, if the kids are on lunch break, so are you. Feel free to help out if you wish, but supervising students at lunch is voluntary.

Within the instructional day, each teacher shall be entitled to the equivalent of thirty (30) minutes per day marking and preparation time within the time cycle of the school (the period of time in which the school’s schedule repeats itself). These must be in scheduled in blocks of at least 15 minutes, and can be scheduled over the recess break.  Outside of that 30 minutes, and within that 20/20 timeframe, the employer, essentially, has the right to ask you to do whatever needs to be done, within reason. For your part, anything you do for the employer outside that 20/20 timeframe is, essentially, voluntary, again, within reason.

These are just guidelines, of course; even within this framework there are some professional expectations of “extra time” (i.e. curriculum nights, staff meetings etc). However, it is in that phrase “within reason”where the whole thing starts to get a bit wishy-washy. It is hard for me, or anyone, really, to come up with a definition of what reasonable means for all the members.

The same goes for committees. The TPA does lay out the duties of a teacher fairly clearly, stating that teachers are expected to serve, to the extent reasonable, on committees established within the school to improve student achievement and success. So, it is well within the employer’s rights to ask that you serve on these committees. However, which committees fall under this definition can be a bit more ephemeral. It could be argued that the School Improvement Committee would be covered, but what about the SAC or JOHS? There are seats on both specifically reserved for NSTU members, but can they be said to have been established to improve student achievement? If not, can a member be made to sit on one? And what about the School Planning team? That certainly fits the bill as far as student achievement, but when does the number of SPT meetings go beyond a reasonable expectation?

Not surprisingly, there are no easy answers. I can not pre-determine what is reasonable. What I can offer is some assistance when you are unsure if what is being asked, either of you or by you, is not.

There is a very keen balance to be achieved between professional expectations and our own well being. But, in the end, finding that balance is well worth the effort for everyone in your buildings.

If you have any questions about your own circumstances, feel free to reach out, and have a great first week back.


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