The number of teachers who have resigned has never been higher in five years in several school service centers, a basic trend that the pandemic seems to have accelerated.
“When I started, I had a maximum of nine students per class. From year to year, we went to 14, even if the room was made for 12 students ”, testifies Marie-Josée Goulet, 40 years old.
She taught plastic arts for 15 years in a Montreal school based in a youth center, one of the heaviest clienteles imaginable.
She had a job and a pension fund. But in August, she “plunged into the void”.
In the midst of a pandemic, she resigned to accept a contract as a props assistant on a film set, even if the cultural milieu is shaken.
“When I come back in the evening, I am physically exhausted, but not mentally”, whereas it was the case before, says the one who has three children.
A growing number of Quebec teachers have recently taken a similar decision.
The Ministry of Education does not keep data on quits in schools. The newspaper therefore obtained the figures from around twenty school service centers (formerly school boards).
About fifteen have shown an upward trend in the number of resignations since 2016. In 11 centers, a peak was reached in 2020.
For example, 29 teachers resigned last year from the Navigators Service Center, in the suburbs of Quebec. This is three times more than in 2016.
The most impressive figures are held by the Montreal School Service Center, where more than 200 teachers have resigned.
“It is the reflection of what we hear,” said the president of the Federation of Teaching Unions, Josée Scalabrini.
For her, it is obvious that the phenomenon is due to the complexity of the task of teachers, who have students with increasingly heavy and varied needs.
Added to this was the pandemic, health measures deemed deficient by many, virtual lessons, students absent due to isolation, etc. For the same course, a teacher can have three times more preparation to do because of these adjustments, she illustrates.
Listen to Pierre Nantel’s interview with Josée Scalabrini, president of the Federation of Teacher Unions of the CSQ, on QUB radio:
Often, the resigners are told by the leaders that they were “not in their place”, while they were excellent teachers repeatedly placed in impossible conditions, observes Sylvain Mallette of the Autonomous Federation of teaching.
For UQAM management professor Angelo Soares, these departures reflect the way governments have treated teachers for 20 years.
“A bit like nurses and orderlies,” he says.
For its part, the office of the Minister of Education, Jean-François Roberge, recalls that “we are in an exceptional year” and that the registrations of future teachers in universities have been on the rise since the election of the Future Coalition. Quebec.
“Education is THE priority of the government”, indicates by email its press secretary Geneviève Côté.
Many are slamming the door in Montreal
The “desertion” of teachers has reached an impressive level at the Center de services scolaire de Montréal (CSSDM), struggling with a “vicious circle” that would cause many to flee to other centers, according to many.
Last fall alone, 161 teachers resigned from the CSSDM. That’s almost as much as the 168 who quit during the entire 2018-2019 year.
At this rate, one would expect this year’s number to exceed the peak of 201 voluntary departures reached in 2019-2020.
In addition to the tidal wave that seems to affect a variety of regions, several factors are accentuating the phenomenon in the metropolis: the large proportion of underprivileged students, allophones or with learning disabilities, lists the president of the Teachers’ Alliance. from Montreal, Catherine Beauvais-St-Pierre.
Philippe Balthazar, 32, taught physical education in Montreal. Unable to find a property on the island, he moved to Prévost, in the Laurentians.
“The pandemic played a role,” admits the one who lost his seniority, reduced his salary and now teaches English on contracts at the Center de services scolaire de la Rivière-du-Nord.
But he does not regret his choice: he now has a house, land … and a private ice rink in his backyard.
Still, some factors are specific to the CSSDM, according to Mme Beauvais.
Marie-Josée Goulet used to take a six-month sabbatical every four or five years to “recharge her batteries”. The kind of break that “helps make teachers less flat,” she laughs.
“As long as you do a job, you might as well do it well. “
However, requests for deferred leave and progressive retirement are more often refused than before. Due to the lack of staff, “they are cutting everything that is flexible in the schedule,” says Mme Beauvais.
By removing these small privileges, the CSSDM creates a “vicious circle”, because it encourages teachers to change service center, which ends up amplifying the shortage, she explains.
For his part, Alain Perron, media relations of the CSSDM, recalls that the figures must be put into perspective compared to a total of 9,000 teachers.
Montreal School Service Center
(as of November 30, 2020)
Laval School Service Center
(until December 31, 2020)
Sources: The school service centers concerned