'It's not reasonable': Ottawa teachers dismayed over move to revisit class sizes

Some Ottawa teachers are reacting with dismay to the Ontario government's plan to consider lifting caps on class sizes, saying it will put both students and educators at risk.

Province launching consultations on class sizes, education minister announced Wednesday

Marilyn MacIvor, left, and Rachel Inch say larger classes will negatively affect both students and teachers. (Leah Hansen/CBC)

Some Ottawa teachers are reacting with dismay to the Ontario government's plan to consider lifting caps on class sizes, saying such a move would mean more stress for both students and educators.

In an interview on CBC's Ottawa Morning, Rachel Inch, a Grade 8 teacher with the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board, said larger classes prevent teachers from building relationships with individual students. 

"It's really challenging to build relationships when you have more than 30 people in a class," she said. "The kids respond to relationships. The kids don't respond to math homework. They need to feel like they have someone in their corner."

Retired teacher Marilyn MacIvor, who taught grades 2 and 3 for nearly 20 years, said as class sizes gradually grew, her ability to connect with her students diminished.

"I couldn't individualize for the children that needed it," she said. "You can't be the effective teacher that you want to be."

Consultations coming

In an announcement on Wednesday, Education Minister Lisa Thompson said she's launching consultations on both class sizes and teacher hiring practices. 

In a statement, Thompson said feedback from the consultations would help the government "ensure greater financial responsibility in the education system while providing the best outcomes for students."

Parents reacted swiftly, with some saying classrooms are already bursting at the seams.

Kindergarten rooms are currently limited to 29 students, while grades one to three are capped at 23 students, though at least 90 per cent of classrooms in any school board must have 20 students or fewer. 

MacIvor said increasing class sizes will mean more challenges for teachers who are already stretched to the limit, and will have an impact on the educational experience for children. 

A parent drops off a child at Elgin Street Public School in downtown Ottawa Thursday morning.

"It's not reasonable for the students, and it's not reasonable for the teachers," she said.

"Every student in your classroom is like an educational puzzle, like a challenge. And if you have the luxury of smaller classes, then you have the time to solve these puzzles."

'It's not going to get better'

It's not just a potential increase in the number of students that some teachers find daunting.

Inch, whose Grade 8 class consists of 31 students, said she has a wide range of kids with unique learning needs — from those whose first language isn't English to students with behavioural challenges.

But there's no in-class teaching support to help her students, she said, leading to sometimes dangerous situations.

"I've had a student removed from my class for a prolonged period of time because [of] violence against me," she said. "And if you add more bodies, it's not going to get better."


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