Check-In, Monday, December 17

Well, folks, it looks like we have almost made it to the Christmas break.

This will be my last message to you of the year, and, perhaps not surprisingly, this is often a time in the calendar when I find myself looking back on the year that was. 

And I have to admit, it is not a pretty picture.

2018 was, yet again, a year of incredible strain and tension between the employer and its teachers. With the release of the Glaze report and the subsequent adoption of so many of its recommendations, the educational landscape of our province has been fundamentally changed, perhaps forever. Even now, as the year closes, some of the victories that we were able to claim around Bill 72, such as the prevention of the creation of a College of Teachers, appear to perhaps be in jeopardy.

As pressure continues to be applied by those who would adopt a private enterprise, made-in-Ontario model for our schools, we see teachers remaining a favourite target. This can be evidenced by the recent media declaration that the government is drafting legislation to have teachers under go criminal record checks every five years. There are many things wrong with the way this issue was dealt with, not the least of which involves scope and sequence. That this legislation appears, at least as far as I can tell, to be only designed for NSTU members and not any of the other bargaining units within our schools seems to smack of public placation rather than of sound educational practice.

With the loss of our administrators, the abolition of elected school boards, and the continued lack of meaningful consultation with teachers, things do seem rather bleak.

However, I for one, have not given up hope.

The reason for that is quite simple, really. I believe in teachers.

Not from any pie in the sky vision of “the teacher as martyr” stereotype that I have been accused of so often promoting in my writing, nor from any glassy eyed reminiscence of teachers who may have helped me along my own individual journey.

Rather, I believe in them because of what I see when I visit schools, where the walls are still dripping proudly with student work. I believe in them because of how, even after all that has happened, I still hear the honest joy in their voices when they talk about their students. I believe in them because when they call me, often in their darkest times, they still speak of an abject love of the profession, even when the demands of that profession have taken a tremendous personal toll. Perhaps most importantly, I have seen, through my own experience as a dad, their capacity to help students navigate challenging circumstances, giving up of their own time and energy even when so many have so little left to give.

It could be that Frank Magazine was right about me; maybe I do see teachers through some heavily rose tinted glasses. But every day that I sit as your Local President, through every phone call and through every crises one thing remains perfectly clear.

Ours is a noble profession. Everyday we get up and go to a job that allows us to to something good for somebody’s child. Teaching is an altruistic act that sees us spending whatever energy and experience and passion we have in the pursuit of a common, all encompassing goal; the betterment of others. We may not always do the right thing or say the right thing or serve all of our students’ needs all of the time, but we spend every moment of our professional lives, and often a considerable chunk of or personal ones, trying to do just that.

And there has never been, nor ever will be, a piece of legislation that can take that away.

All the best to you and yours in 2019.

Grant 

 

Check-In, Monday, December 10th

Good morning, County! Happy Monday.

Things are starting to settle down a bit here at the office after a crazy few weeks. Between the new “Unscheduled Instructional Time” (UIT) initiatives, the tripartite agreement (which would see non-NSTU individuals hired to work as substitutes), the ongoing issues of members safety during power outages and the Guarding Minds at Work Survey, December has been nothing if not busy.

Over the course of the past few weeks, I have attended a number of meetings which have been held between senior management of the HRCE and the three local presidents to discuss concerns, particularly around teacher wellness and the imposition of the new UIT initiative. We have expressed on multiple occasions that, as far as we are hearing, the new model for student support has not proven to be particularly effective. The teachers who have reached out to us have expressed confusion and frustration at the way the model has been implemented, and have expressed a wide gamut of concerns.

The local presidents have brought these concerns to the HRCE. One of the key messages that we are trying to get across to the employer is that teachers’ use of UIT should remain within the purview of their own professional judgement. It could be that a teacher may, indeed, have the capacity to go into another classroom and offer support during their UIT, but the effectiveness of that intervention will depend, to a great extent, upon how that particular teacher is feeling about their own classroom. It could very well be that a teacher using their UIT to focus on their own students, as opposed to someone else’s, would be in everyone’s best interest.

For the time being, the UIT model remains very much a work in progress, and the subject of ongoing conversations. Although we recognize that there may be an increased impetus for teachers to be accountable for the time for which they are being paid, we also feel there is a balance which must be achieved. Again, I go back to my airline analogy from last week. There is a very good reason why flight attendants advise putting on your own oxygen mask first.

As educators, we must first put ourselves in a situation where the needs of our own students are being met before we can offer help to others.

That’s it for this week, all. And for those of you who do celebrate the holiday, here’s hoping that the rapidly approaching season does not prove overly stressful.

Check-In, Monday, November 26th

Good morning, County! Happy Monday.

It’s rather hard to believe, but only 3 more Check-Ins until the Holiday. The year has rather flown by, for sure.

Last Monday evening, the HRRC met to discuss a variety of issues common across all three locals. Topics of note included the Tripartite agreement, Tier-two support, and the Guarding Minds at Work Survey results. There was a great deal of discussion (as you can well imagine) around how to best communicate to the HRCE the struggles that teachers are having with the “Tier-two” model as it exists, concerns around the tripartite agreement, and how to best now utilize the data received through the Guarding Minds at Work Survey. Read more

Check-In, Monday, November 19th.

Hello County.

I sit to pen this Monday Check-In with a very heavy heart.

Last Thursday, our local lost a tremendous champion, mentor and friend with the sudden passing of long time NSTU member Susan Noiles.

For those of you who did not know her, Susan was an amazing educator whose career spanned 3 decades. Most recently, she held a guidance position at Lockview High School where she had worked for 18 years. She was also a wife, a mother, sister and a very proud Nana. As an avid unionist, Susan held a number of positions, both locally and provincially, including serving on the Insurance Trustees, and on the Provincial Executive and had long been an active member for Halifax County.

For those of us who did know Susan, however, we understand that her involvement ran much deeper than the positions she held. She had a passion for fairness and a way of seeing issues through a very objective lens that made her someone to be reckoned with. You knew at the meetings that when Susan approached the microphone, you should probably pay attention. She was never anything but professional, and she exuded this calm sense of assurance, but when she wanted you to hear a message, I can tell from personal experience, you heard exactly what was on her mind.

She attended our local meeting last Wednesday night, the day before she died, and as always, was involved in the discussion and the debate. In her last act of Unionism, she remained well after the meeting had adjourned, wishing to bend the ear of her local President on an issue, as she did so often. In typical Susan style, she apologized for taking my time, but felt compelled to speak to how something that had come up that evening was so important to our members.

And that was what she was like; naturally wired to put others’ needs before her own.

To paraphrase a line from Julius Caesar, I owe Susan more words than you will see me write today. She was nothing short of an inspiration, and she will be deeply, deeply missed.

Have a good week, County, and reach out with any questions or concerns.

Check-In, Monday, November 5th

Hello County! Happy Monday!

I would like to start off today with a great big “Thanks” to all the reps who attended our annual training session at Oak Island this past weekend. We had some very engaged members give up their weekend to attend sessions on Saturday afternoon and again on Sunday morning, and many took the opportunity to network with reps from other sites. The sessions this year focused on everything from charter schools to a Q & A session with our Provincial Executive. Read more

Check- In, Monday, October 29th

Good morning County, Happy Monday.

Today marks a very important day. Today, in partnership with Dartmouth and Halifax City, we are officially launching the Guarding Minds at Work Survey.

Over the past few years, mental health practitioners have become increasingly aware of the impact of the work place environment on the workers. Stresses of the job, not enough time, managing demands all place a tremendous burden on people in the work-force. If left unchecked, this can lead to people having to take extended time off work. In fact, by some accounts, mental health problems are the fastest rising cause for both short and long term disabilities in our country. Read more

Check-In, Monday, October 22nd

Good morning County! Happy Monday!

I would like to start off with an official “Congratulations!” to Paul Boudreau for being elected as our Provincial Executive representative last Wednesday evening. As well, thanks to Drew Fournier for putting his name forward. Our organization thrives on democracy, and I am of the mind that having more than one candidate throwing their hat into the ring for a position speaks well of the overall engagement of our membership. Read more