Education student ‘less patient’ as teacher work-to-rule drags on

Job action by NSTU members may delay graduation for student teachers

Student teachers in Nova Scotia are waiting to be let into classrooms.   Louise Andrews

Geena Kelly wants to be in the classroom, but the work-to-rule by public school teachers in Nova Scotia means she can’t.

Kelly, 26, is a bachelor of education student in her last semester at Mount Saint Vincent University. She’s not able to do her final practicum, which she needs to graduate.

She’s losing faith in the process.

“At first I understood why we weren’t allowed in, but then after they pulled off work-to-rule and let us back in, I’m a lot less patient than I was two weeks ago,” she said.

Kelly is just one of about 600 students in Nova Scotia waiting for work-to-rule to end.

Members of the Nova Scotia Teachers Union started this job action in December, which means strictly adhering to what is required of them in their contract. This means they aren’t supervising student teachers.

The NSTU has been locked in a contract dispute with the province for months. A tentative agreement was reached last month and the work-to-rule was rescinded on Jan. 23, but it was reinstated two days later.

NSTU members vote on the tentative agreement on Thursday.

For Kelly, it’s been a stressful time. She says student teachers have been told to “sit tight and wait.” No alternatives have been provided to the student teachers because there are too many of them to place in private schools.

Legal action

Five Nova Scotia universities are suing the NSTU, claiming it’s violating Section 31 of the Education Act that states teachers in Nova Scotia are required to let student teachers into their classrooms for the purpose of observing them and letting them practice their skills. The universities include Acadia, Mount Saint Vincent, Cape Breton, St. Francis Xavier and Sainte Anne.

Student teachers in Nova Scotia need at least 15 weeks of practicum under the supervision of a certified teacher in order to graduate with a bachelor of education. Mount Saint Vincent University’s graduation date is sometime in May.

Kelly doesn’t know what this means for her future. She lives at home with her father and doesn’t have a part-time job to keep her busy now that she has free time.

“They’re just expecting us to put our entire lives on hold,” she said. “It’s not just a bunch of people who live with their parents. There are people who have been waiting years to do this program. It’s not just a bunch of, like, early 20s people, it’s people with real jobs, with mortgages, with children.”

Kelly decided to pursue teaching because of her love of English. She loved her first practicum, which she completed in her first year.

“It was so great just being able to see the students connecting with the ideas and so it really solidified the idea that teaching was the profession for me,” she said.

However, she said, the whole dispute between the NSTU and the government has “killed any desire” she had to stay in Nova Scotia to teach.