Retired teacher Heather Hogan has a clear message for the minister of education about New Brunswick's education system.

"Stop changing. Teachers are in a constant state of flux. We don't know what changes are coming down the road."

The recently retired vice-principal from Meduxnekeag Consolidated School in Woodstock said when it comes to the issue of inclusion and classroom composition, the education system needs stability.

"We need to know that next year we have all the resources that we need," said Hogan, adding that includes access to more social workers and mental health resources. 

"Teachers want to do their best. Parents send us their best every day and we have to try and take those students from where they are and move them forward."

More flexibility

Rebecca Halliday, a teacher at Riverbend Community School, a private school in Moncton, said from her perspective, there needs to be more flexibility in the inclusion model to allow for more grouping of students. . 

"I feel kids that are already three or four grade levels behind don't feel included with their peers in their classrooms. What you need to be able to do is go back to where it all started falling apart and start teaching from there and that's a real tricky thing to do."

Halliday feels the education system could be a doing a better job to offer more for the students who struggle and find more alternatives.

Hogan said when it comes to classroom composition, what it is today is very different than it was when she started teaching 32 years ago.

"It is different in terms of the needs of students today," said Hogan.

Hogan told Information Morning Fredericton teachers need to be listened to in terms of class composition and what it really means.

"We need time. Teachers need time to plan, to meet, they really need time to build relationships with their students."  

Hogan doesn't want to see a return to segregated students. "Although they were in the same school, there was no working together, there was no intermingling with the other students, with the other teachers."

Hogan said in addition to students with autism and learning disabilities, classrooms now include children with mental health issues and extreme behavioural issues.  

Families in crisis

"We have families that are in crisis ... we have children who are in poverty. It's just not about special needs issues ... we have children who are broken. They are purely trying to exist in the classroom."

Heather Hogan

Heather Hogan says classroom composition has changed over her 32-year teaching career. (CBC)

Hogan said these children come to school as part of a routine where it is safe. But it is at school that the issues they deal with at home come out.

"Having to deal with this as well as students at a variety of learning levels is very tough for teachers who have to learn the individual needs of each student," said Hogan.

When asked by Information Morning Saint John why she thought inclusion was causing so many students to fall through the cracks in the regular classrooms, Halliday said she thinks it is the demand being placed on teachers to meet all the needs of 27 to 30 students in a classroom. 

Halliday said when she considered opening a school for students with learning disabilities, parents were almost desperate to get help for their children.

"They really felt like they needed a different alternative for their child."

The school opened in 2013 with six students, and has grown to 16. Halliday said she has grouped her students by ability, and not by grade.  

"They start to learn that we just focus on their learning ability. We teach from the curriculum but it's done at a different pace."

Halliday said she hears from teachers and parents often seeking her help. 

"It feels overwhelming to know I can't help more than a handful in my community."

With files from Information Morning Fredericton and Information Morning Saint John