Thursday, April 15, 2010

A thought on teacher education and the job market

I got a response on my earlier post about faculties of education and how they're responding to changes in the labour market for teaching in Ontario, particularly southern Ontario. Sections of the e-mail, posted with permission and anonymised, are below.
Our son is currently teaching in the Arctic, in a town of 500, in Northern Quebec. After graduating from Althouse College (University of Western Ontario) three years ago, (a school requiring exceptional entry grades and, even, experience), he qualified for the Thames Valley board's supply teachers list, but after several months, was never called. The glowing report cards from the mentors he taught under were obviously false, but make for nice keepsakes, I suppose! The Katavik Board of Education, from Northern Quebec, contacted him in late November of that year. Their board had talked to graduating Althouse students the previous spring. They wondered if he would travel north for a month, to fill in for a teacher on sick leave. The idea of real teaching experience was enhanced by the thought of seeing the Arctic, so he said yes, and we scrambled to get him packed (food included as we didn't know what would be available up there) and off he went, to the tiny village of Tasiujaq (pop 200), Quebec. After a two-day journey on four different planes he arrived, and began teaching the very next day. The experience was unique, and he managed to survive until Christmas, when he was asked to return in January, to replace another 'sick' teacher. Two years later, with no openings in the Thames Valley Board, he is still up in the Arctic, in a slightly larger village, Kangiqsujuaq (pop 500) on a full-time basis. He has had to adapt the maths and science courses he teaches, in order to make them applicable to the Inuit students. Of course, that required much re-writing of texts, so lesson planning took up most of his first year. Adjustment has taken some time, but he has found the northern people very accepting, and he has taken part in several community events, including coaching some students for competition in the Inuit Games, recently held in Northern Alberta.
Going north (or west) might be something to consider before going abroad, but it still doesn't answer the question of why the colleges accept so many students, only to turn them loose with virtually no job prospects near their home base! We would love to have our son closer, and miss him a lot. On the other hand, it has been a life experience you really can't argue with. The downside of the story comes right back to the problem of 'teaching' experience required by the Thames Valley board. Will they see the teaching and life experiences he is getting in an Inuit community, relevant to teaching down here?
Though not a rule, I'm sure this experience is not unique. I can't speak for the board and their hiring practices, but have learned over the years this board does at times hire those with teaching experience outside the norm. There were also years where they hired a larger percentage of D'Youville College (Buffalo) grads as that college was doing more work on early language and literacy than Ontario faculties were. This wasn't reflected in the hiring stats for 2009-10, but boards likely have a better lay of the land on grads than their faculties some times do.
After all, after hiring, boards have only a few years to put teachers through the New Teacher Induction Program, where the hires get all kinds of additional experience in program, classroom management, etc. and the benefit of a teacher-mentor to shadow and learn from.


RetDir said...

The last question your blogger asks is a very good one. The hiring situation is very similar to when I graduated in the late 70s - which led me up north and out west for what turned out to be over a decade before I was able to return to Ontario, albeit not close to where I had started from. After a period of initial frustration I enjoyed the experience, and in hindsight it gave me experiences that I never would have got had I stayed in urban Ontario, and which stood me in good stead later in my career. If he wants to return, the difficulty will be that he is now in competition with people who are on the supply list and who get known by the principals who hire - often after 3 to 5 years on the list, and making inadequate amounts of money. Even at that point there is no guarantee of a job. This will be compounded by the fact that declining enrolment is about to hit the secondary schools, which have so far been relatively immune. This year there are rumours of real layoffs in elementary (many boards 'layoff' teachers during the staffing process, but in the past have been able to find jobs for them later in the process, which appears less likely this year), which ELP may go some way to mitigate once it is fully implemented. There are also rumours of people with teacher qualifications applying to the College of ECEs to try to get equivalencies so that they can apply for the new ECE positions...they may be told they have to take some ECE courses, but once they become qualified they will pose considerable competition for those with 'just' ECE qualifications in that job market. His best bet - get FSL qualifications, which remain a meal ticket throughout most of Ontario. A complicated picture, which makes it difficult to predict, but which doesn't excuse the faculties for not adjusting their enrolments in response to demand.

Anonymous said...

D'Youville college also provided newly minted teachers with all of the information they needed to jump right into teaching after graduation while Ontario grads had to wait months for their information to be in place. I have a family member who lost a job to a D'Youville college grad for that reason.

I have another family member currently living in the Peterborough area, registered to one of the boards there for a year and a half for occasional teaching but has only sporatic jobs..meanwhile in Halton his parent's phone is ringing off the hook every day, one day, 10 calls in one day. That was where he lived before he moved to Peterborough.

My own brother never rec'd his teaching degree in Ontario, did his masters at U.of Alberta couldn't land a job back in Ontario so he went to a combination public/private school in the Bahamas and never looked back. Today he's a prof. at UMass.

This also happened back in the mid 1970's and is part of the reason I picked recreation & community development over teaching. No jobs.
Most of my friends who became teachers ended up overseas.


Anonymous said...

Another good article on this topic by Jen O'Brien in the LFP "with notes from Hugo R" today.

Also, a special report on the glut of fundraising - the reporting almost like clockwork, each and every year. I hope parents will realize that when Dalton levies a education premium he'll use the parent generosities in fundraising to make his case that if parents already have no problem contributing "x" number of dollars each year then the will not mind contributing that much to an education tax..ooops premium.

All rumours at this point but sometimes the stories just write themselves.


Anonymous said...

Long article in the Globe and Mail this morning on this issue.