Nova Scotia public school teachers are in a difficult position, possibly poised to strike; something nobody in the schools wants. I really fear they’re up against the wall, and if they want change, they need to stand firm. If you’ve never spent time in a school lately, I’m pretty sure you’d be shocked at the myriad of challenges students bring with them to school each and every day. Beyond academic struggles, kids have to deal with family break-ups, socio-economic, emotional and behavioural difficulties, including pent-up anger, violence and mental illness. And then there are the kids who are simply unable to “play nice” with others, for a variety of reasons; the ones constantly seeking attention, the ones looking to be loved. The magnitude of these complicating factors has to be overwhelming for teachers, especially given the fact there are so few educational assistants in elementary classrooms these days.
As one young teacher recently told me, (after telling me about a year spent with two students in her upper elementary class, one who came to school each day wanting to kill somebody and the other who wanted to kill himself) it’s not that there’s not enough money for education, the problem lies in the allocation of those financial resources. There are too many people in offices being paid too much money to create more paperwork for the people on the ground, in the schools. Teachers want to teach, they want to help kids succeed and be happy, and they need sufficient time, energy and assistance in the classrooms, to do their jobs. Period.
And don’t even get me started on the many school libraries that are now staffed by part-time volunteers (thank goodness for those parents), rather than dedicated librarians. How did reading get lost in the educational shuffle? In rural areas, the school library is often the only library available to kids, the only source of good books.
A couple of smiles from recent school visits. Kids always want to know how old I am – big thanks to the grade 3 student who, when I said that I’d seriously started writing toward publication when I was about 40, exclaimed: “You mean you’re older than 40 now!” I guess when you’re 8, 40 seems super old. And a big smile to the grade 2 boy who, in writing/drawing about Nature’s treasures, wrote me this poem:
The grass is green,
the sky is blue,
Nature is beautiful,
and so are you!
Thank you to all the schools who invited me to visit through the Writers in the Schools (WITS) program over the past six weeks – it was such a pleasure spending time with your enthusiastic, eager kids. Keep up the great work!