FALL RIVER: Pam Doyle has a lot on her plate right now—but she’s anything but complaining.
On top of being the registrar and Guidance Counsellor at Lockview High School, Doyle also sits on the Council to Improve Classroom Conditions, a group of nine teachers and provincial education department staff selected from applicants province-wide, looking at ways to improve classrooms for teachers and students. It came about after negotiations between the province and N.S. Teachers Union broke down and resulted in Bill 75.
“I guess I was rather surprised to be selected because there was so much interest in the council from teachers,” she said in an interview recently with The Laker.
She thought of putting her name in just because she felt guidance should be represented as sometimes teachers don’t understand mental health or career counselling issues.
Afterwards, she was told they felt someone from guidance should be at the table so they looked at all the guidance counsellors who applied and selected her.
Doyle said it is a privilege to represent guidance at the table, to represent the voices of teachers and other specialists like psychologists, speech pathologists, etc.
Last month the council put forth 18 recommendations following three days of meetings they held in March. Doyle described the meetings like a “whirlwind trip of Europe in a week.”
“There was so much to talk about it and there was so little time,” she said.
Of the 18 recommendations the council have made, eight were able to be immediately implemented. The other 10 require a presentation from the provincial education department and school boards.
Doyle said the group talked about the bigger issues such as PowerSchool; how to simplify things for teachers so its not as time consuming; teachers being permitted to put in marks less frequently; and more.
“I know some teachers are concerned that they weren’t big monetize items, it wasn’t really spending a lot of the $10 million,” she said. “Our thought was if we were going to spend the $10 million wisely, we want to have a lot of the information at our disposal.”
She said having marks change once a month rather than every time a mark entered was part of the discussion.
“We wanted teachers to know they don’t have to respond to parents right away, a lot of teachers feel the pressure to do that,” said Doyle. “It’s impacting teachers own personal time with their own families and things like that.”
Doyle said they spent some time looking at the draft attendance policy that the Education Department had worked on from a pilot in 2012; that will be further discussed at the coming meeting in April.
She said the council wants to have an in-depth look at how much testing is exactly happening.
“Maybe some of those tests are redundant that we can get rid of,” said Doyle. “At the high school level we see so many kids with test anxiety.”
Doyle said class sizes is on tap to be discussed at the next meeting. That includes concerns from rural classes where large class sizes isn’t so much a concern as are small class sizes.
“If we put in minimum class sizes, ideally that sounds good but when you put it out into perspective how does that affect a school on Big Tancook Island and rural East Hants?,” she said. “We’re very cognizant of that and we want a lot of information before we really get into class caps.”
She said the group does have similarities in their reasoning for putting forth their names to be on the council.
“We all definitely want to see change in the system,” she said.
Doyle admitted to being uncertain if any recommendation the council would bring to the province would actually be listened to.
“However, after sitting at the table for those three days and with the Deputy Minister of Education there, and the fact out of these recommendations the majority of them have been approved gave me some hope that change can happen here and that I am doing meaningful work,” said Doyle. “I guess it’s going to come down to seeing whether our recommendations around the money items are going to be approved.
“I’m hopeful they are listening and it’s not just for political reasons. I hope it’s because they truly want to see change within this system.”