Class absences create an overload for teachers

It may seem counterintuitive, but the high rate of student absences in Quebec schools is currently causing an overload of work for teachers. This is because they must catch up with absent students in order to avoid accumulated learning delays. The situation is such that some wonder if it is still possible to provide education to students without being forced to cut corners.

Currently, the number of students absent from schools in Quebec is estimated at 150,000, reports The Press. This is an unusual situation, of course, but which does not surprise the Alliance of Teachers of Montreal.

“We heard all kinds of anecdotes from teachers who told us that they were missing seven, eight, nine, ten students in a group for one day”, comments the president of the union, Catherine Beauvais-St-Pierre.

“In normal times, even before covid, the task of a teacher is already very heavy everywhere in Quebec. But in Montreal, it’s even truer than true,” explains Catherine Beauvais-St-Pierre. “Particularly in high school, we have regular groups that have a very large percentage of students either with adjustment difficulties, or learning difficulties, or at risk. So many students with special needs, who need more support in class. To this, we add the covid, the absences, the fact that in Montreal, the students missed a lot of school days in 2020.

These accumulating issues would also explain the Ministry of Education’s renewal of its applicable instructions regarding the learning to be prioritized to promote student progress.

“For two years, the ministry has offered us prioritized programs in which content is targeted, in the sense that the teacher has choices to make, because at some point, he will evaluate according to what he is capable of teaching”, specifies the president of the autonomous Federation of education, Mélanie Hubert.

On this point, the latter does not hide its concern about the impact of this extra education on the shaping of students. “When we come out of the crisis after two, three or four years of this relief, how are we going to get back to normal, when students will only have seen certain targeted content? We work with prioritized content and we give evaluations that take this into account.”

This fall, we were told that the graduation stats were good, but those contents have been adjusted. Statistics, what do they mean?

Mélanie Hubert, President of the Autonomous Federation of Education

Delay learning?

If the teaching profession involves the ability to find creative solutions on a daily basis to ensure student success, the wave of absenteeism in recent weeks poses a glue to them.

« In elementary school, when there are a lot of students missing, the teacher will wait for another day to do the learning, » explains Catherine Beauvais-St-Pierre, who continues by pointing out, however, that often it is not the same students who missing the next day. « We can’t postpone learning ad infinitum because there’s a school year to go. »

Recovery is part of the teacher’s task, but it is not expected that we will re-teach during the week everything that was taught in class during each of the missed days.

Catherine Beauvais-St-Pierre, from the Montreal Teachers’ Alliance

She underlines another pitfall: the current « unfair education system » still makes « pay » students in difficulty, allophones, and those who do not have adequate space to work, the same ones who have already been scratched for periods of confinement.

“Being absent for two or three days, from one student to another, does not have the same consequences. If you have an autonomous student who learns easily and is able to do their homework, perhaps their absence will have no consequences. If we are talking about a student who is in difficulty or whose parents do not speak French, he will not be able to have support at home to do his homework afterwards.

The President of the Alliance argues that « even if a student is in a situation of failure at the end of the year, often we make him move on to the next year and we end up with students who pass from one year to another without necessarily having acquired them ».

All is not lost, however, assures Mélanie Hubert. They will perhaps be able to make up for these failing achievements the following year, because certain notions come back repeatedly throughout the school career.

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