A teacher in Cape Breton says "inclusion" is the elephant in the room when it comes to classroom working conditions, and it's one of the biggest frustrations facing teachers today.
Inclusion is a concept that sees students of varying learning capabilities being taught in one classroom.
"I've never seen teachers so upset," Sally Capstick told CBC's Information Morning Cape Breton.
She said inclusion is something people don't want to mention as a problem, adding the idea behind it sounds wonderful in principle.
"But it's gotten to a point that the diversity in the classroom is unbelievable," said Capstick, an art teacher with the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board.
Demands have increased
Her comments come as unionized public school teachers in Nova Scotia are set to begin work-to-rule job action on Monday after contract talks with the province collapsed last week.
Capstick is the president of her Nova Scotia Teachers Union local, but she said she is raising the inclusion issue as a concerned teacher, not as a union spokeswoman.
She said she's seen a significant increase in the demands placed on teachers in her 30 years in the profession.
Capstick said she once taught a Grade 8 class where the ability levels of students ranged from pre-primary to Grade 9.
"People say, 'Well, 40 years ago we did 40 kids in a classroom.' And yeah, that's true. But all of the things that we deal with now weren't known so much about, and there weren't so many things that you had to do to try and address those needs," she said.
Don't want kids to fail
As part of inclusion, students are put on individual program plans (IPP) that are based on their strengths and needs.
Capstick said no one wants to raise the issue for fear of looking like they don't want children with special needs in their classes, but the result of teachers trying to be all things to all people is that no one gets what they need.
"You don't become a teacher because you want kids to fail," said Capstick.
CBC News asked for comment from the Department of Education, but no one was made available on Friday.