Nova Scotia

Work-to-rule could jeopardize graduation for future teachers

The longer work-to-rule job action by Nova Scotia teachers goes on, the more likely it is to impact those who wish to join the profession's ranks.

Students left in limbo as contract dispute plays out between union and Nova Scotia government

Sal Badali is dean of Mount Saint Vincent University's faculty of education. (CBC)

Graduation for some education students in the province could be jeopardized if the Nova Scotia Teachers Union work-to-rule job action extends very far into January.

There are five universities in the province that offer education programs, each operating in slightly different ways but all including time spent teaching in the classroom.

Contract talks between the union and government resumed last weekend, but teachers continue their job action and are working to the letter of their current contract. Included in the list of things they aren't doing is taking student teachers. 

Students have already missed a week

At Mount Saint Vincent University, for example, students in the two-year education program put in 22 weeks working in actual classrooms. Because the majority of that time — all of the final semester — is supposed to be spent in a school classroom, the situation is most critical there.

"In my particular case, because [placements are] just starting, it puts them in a much more awkward situation in a worst-case scenario," said Sal Badali, dean of the school's faculty of education.

Baldali said students already missed a week from Dec. 12-16, and are now waiting to see what happens when they return Jan. 3 from the holiday break. This year the program has 80 students in first year and 100 in second year, he said.

Placements stopped

Because of the way the placement is structured in the program, Baldali said students are left in limbo right now.

"There isn't sort of something you can swap with it."

At St. Francis Xavier University, students in the two-year education program do five weeks in the classroom from November to December and six weeks from March until April in each of their two years.

Jeff Orr, dean of the school's education faculty, said placements this year were stopped half way through the fall semester, with nothing to take their place. 

Dean 'dismayed' students excluded

There is some flexibility, said Orr, but there will be problems if March approaches and things haven't been resolved.

"If it comes to be the first of February and this is not solved, then we're going to be putting 90 students' graduation in jeopardy."

The university tried to appeal to the union to reconsider its stance on not taking student teachers. Orr said it is a missed opportunity for students to learn about union education and work-to-rule by doing the same things as their teacher monitors.

"I'm just dismayed that our NSTU colleagues would exclude pre-service teachers, some of whom are weeks away from being certified teachers — or months away — from that experience."

Meeting scheduled this week

A spokeswoman for the province's Education Department said in an email the government is aware of the concerns about student teaching programs. The subject is scheduled to be discussed this week during a meeting of the council of Nova Scotia university presidents.

Representatives for the teachers union declined comment on Monday.

About the Author

Michael Gorman is a reporter in Nova Scotia whose coverage areas include Province House, rural communities, and health care. Contact him with story ideas at michael.gorman@cbc.ca

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