Nova Scotia

Teachers cite abuse, crushing workload, ask Liberals to halt Bill 75

Teachers who presented to a legislature committee to comment on Bill 75, which would impose a new contract on the province's teachers, painted a vivid picture of classroom abuse and heavy workloads and said the legislation would not provide the support they need.

Presenters at the Law Amendments Committee say teachers need more support than bill will provide

Dozens of teachers and their supporters protested outside Province House in Halifax on Wednesday. (Robert Short/CBC)

Sharon Baker says she is routinely attacked and abused by her students while on the job as a school teacher.

"I've come home with bruises, scratch marks and bite marks on a weekly basis," she told the legislature's Law Amendments Committee on Wednesday night.

"I've been slapped and punched in the face and hit multiple times — by four and five year olds."

Not enough resources

The school psychologist available to Baker's school covers five schools, 1,000 students and has no backfill, she said.

Baker loves her students and knows they need more support for their challenges than what's available in the system now — and more support than she sees offered in Bill 75, which the Liberal government is using to impose a contract on 9,300 public school teachers.

One by one, people presenting to the committee talked about the problems with Bill 75, the lack of immediate help it affords teachers and the idea the Liberal government could bear the brunt of years of neglect by governments of all stripes.

More students with growing needs

Mallory Shemshadi painted a vivid picture of her challenges for the committee.

She teaches Grades 6 through 12, requiring three different kinds of paper work because of the three different school levels.

"Thirty-three of my 78 Grade 6 students have adaptations. Thirty eight of my 68 Grade 7 students have adaptations," she said. The latter group is split between two classes of 34.

Teachers are seeing more and more students with a variety of learning challenges who require individual program plans because of autism and other physical or mental challenges, she said.

"And we do not have the resources to help those students grow and learn within their strengths."

Cutting back on extras

Shemshadi said she doesn't have nearly enough time to do all of the marking, preparation, paperwork, data entry and other tasks that don't involve teaching students.

She also does many voluntary activities that aren't covered by the contract. She does it because she sees the value to students, she said.

But some teachers who presented suggested these extras could become things of the past with a legislated contract. Work-to-rule has shown them they can have more time to actually teach and work with their students while also having a better work-life balance.

"For me, I can't do [the extras] and I don't expect my children's teachers to go ahead and do anything extra," said Baker. "I will be sticking to the contract."

A committee of 9,300

High school teacher Jonathan Church said the government is missing out on an opportunity to work with a newly energized and engaged teachers union and its members.

"We don't need committees. And what I would argue here is you have a committee of 9,300 professionals," he said.

"You have the opportunity to use 9,300 professionals who know their business. And, even more, they know the kids. You don't. And the committees that you're drawing up won't either."

Committee continues today

Government House leader Michel Samson told Church the intent of a workplace conditions committee included in Bill 75 is to get to work quickly, working with teachers to address pressing issues and using hard timelines.

"We're trying to get to the same spot."

The committee is scheduled to continue hearing from presenters from 8:30 a.m. until 8 p.m. Thursday.

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