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I Just Want to Teach

I Just Want to Teach, Nova Scotian Teacher Song... hear the song and read the story behind the song and the labour dispute. #NSTUnited #ReadytoTeach #FocusOnEducation
I Just Want to Teach - Nova Scotia Teacher Song

Table of Contents

Nova Scotian Teacher Song, an open letter in song, to the Liberal Government of Nova Scotia from

Trevor Dimoff, NSTU music teacher

This song is from my perspective as a teacher, but it is for every teacher.

I Just Want to Teach – Back Story

I originally thought of releasing this song anonymously. I don’t feel safe speaking up. Every teacher knows how vulnerable we are to threats and accusations, and how difficult it is to respond to complaints in a professional manner when someone else feels unconstrained by courtesy or manners… Either you ignore it and continue on, or you attempt to address it.

I consulted with NSTU staff while writing and before releasing “I Just Want to Teach” and they asked me to perform the song at a teachers’ rally at the Provincial Legislature on December 5th. Hearing several hundred teachers singing the refrain “I Just Want to Teach” back to me convinced me to release the song.

If you don’t live in Nova Scotia, you might not know that Nova Scotia public school teachers have rejected two tentative contracts, in 2015 and 2016 and this fall, 96% of teachers voted for strike action. I hesitate to describe it further, because if you haven’t been following along… you wouldn’t believe the craziness….

I Just Want to Teach – Meaning of the Lyrics 

“I Just Want to Teach” begins with the chorus, my personal expectations for a settlement: sustainable education and respectful dialogue. As a career where many teachers continue until retirement, it’s troubling when the value of my annual salary is eroding every year until I retire. A “cost of living raise” is the minimum starting point for a sustainable education system.

The first verse is my response to the negative popular culture stereotype of “lazy teacher who gets paid plenty enough.” The second verse includes what I teach, besides curriculum, for successful students… and why teachers aren’t fooled by words from government officials or politicians. In the bridge I discuss the rights of both teachers and students that have been set aside.

I Just Want to Teach – The Rest of the Story

Several months after I released I Just Want to Teach, the public school teachers went on strike after more than three months of “work to rule”. The strike walk out, the only one in Nova Scotian history, lasted one day because the government promised to return to the negotiation table. Long story short the ruling Nova Scotia Liberal party legislated the teacher’s contract and increased the fines for future strike action by a factor of 10. The NSTU (Nova Scotia Teachers’ Union) filed with the Nova Scotia Supreme Court that will likely take as many as 10 years to work through the court system and will cost millions in court costs.

A similar court challenge in British Columbia took 10 years to resolve. Teachers won and the settlement was several times more expensive than the “cost savings” of the original “solution.” 

The End of the Story

Ultimately, the first lesson is: cooperation is more effective and cheaper than coercion.

Lesson two, trade unions exist for a reason and it’s not because workers are lazy, it’s because they deserve to have their rights respected.

You can click to listen to I Just Want to Teach. The complete lyrics are below the SoundCloud Player…

Listen to Who is Premier McNeil? Nova Scotia Christmas Concert Song, written from the perspective of a young child who didn’t understand why their Christmas Concert was cancelled during this labour dispute…

I Just Want to Teach – Lyrics


It isn’t much to ask,

As a teacher I expect:

Cost of living raise,

Treat me with respect.

Can’t improve my classroom with 

PR campaigns.

In my opinion: you 

haven’t made the grade!

Education minister, your attention please.

I Just Want to Teach!

I Just Want to Teach!

Verse 1

Dear education minister, where do I begin?

I’m a teacher I’ve watched the system break down from within.

I get homework every day, I give it to myself. 

Some call it teacher’s guilt, but I call it overwork.

Education minister, a little help please

I Just Want to Teach!

I Just Want to Teach!


Verse 2

I stand up to bullies, protect the weak.  

Arbitrate disputes and then take the heat. 

I teach Community, Inclusion, Diversity; 

Higher order thinking, and how to know the truth!

Miss Education Minister, if you please,

I Just Want to Teach!

I Just Want to Teach!



I have the Right to Assemble, the

Right to Unionize, the

Right to Strike to

Protect my Charter Rights.

The right to an education, the

Right to open schools.

Legislate my contract… and I’ll work to the rules….


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Trevor Dimoff

Trevor Dimoff

Trevor Dimoff has taught, played and written music professionally for the last 25+ years.

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