Thursday, September 1, 2011

Double time in the instruction line

I took to twitter Wednesday morning as soon as I started reading tweets about the Ontario Liberal Party's announcement that if reelected it would extend teacher-training programs from the current minimum of one academic year (eight months in reality) to two. Here's the OLP release.
A lot of newsrooms got into this today-- here's The Star (which did two), The Globe and Mail, the CBC (which did a radio thing on the Toronto / southern Ontario drive-home show but has no podcast), CTV and even some of my colleagues within Sun Media / QMI Agency.
First and above all else, I like this plan. Eight months -- and it's not because you factor in holidays and it's less than eight months -- and 40 practicum days is too short. I've seen it in the experiences of new teachers and I've heard it, anecdotally, from many B.Ed. grads that aside the practicums there's little for many to learn in teachers' college that they didn't already have a foundation in before starting.
The Libs are correct in stating this province has one of the shortest degree-to-teachers'-college-to-job-market turnarounds. Looking at those countries we aim to match in the skills our students can display, teacher training isn't over and done with in eight months. Over the last three generations this has evolved from the point where becoming a teacher meant graduating high school and attending a few years of normal school to now needing an undergraduate degree before starting your teacher training.
Other nations require master's degrees and then a multi-year or multi-stage teacher education program.
The very proof of the relative inadequacy of initial teacher education in Ontario is a program this very government created when it killed off teacher testing: the New Teacher Induction Program. Every new teacher since the middle of the last decade must complete this mentoring / observation / evaluation program within the first two years on the job. Their certificates with the Ontario College of Teachers aren't given full status until the NTIP has been completed.
These are the reasons why this program should be extended an additional year regardless of who wins the election on Oct. 6.
One of the reasons mentioned by Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities John Milloy Wednesday is tricky. He cited how a two-year program would cut the number of graduates in half. Um, OK.Implied but not specifically stated in this is that instead of throwing 9,000 through per year, they'd throw half that number through and still only have 9,000 in total registered. It does little to address the four-plus years that universities and the college of teachers have been pumping out 9,000 grads a year into a highly oversaturated market-- but I do keep forgetting all those teacher-education grads are supposed to travel the world and feed teacher shortages in the places few Ontario teachers' college grads actually want to teach.
Some were also griping about the added cost of an additional year of teachers' college. Though I wholeheartedly agree the last reason anyone should get into teaching is money, this is a well-compensated profession in Ontario. If you can get full-time permanent work, you're set for life financially as long as you don't do silly things with your money.
Implementation is where this idea starts to get mired in the details. Aside from concurrent B.Ed programs, I'm only aware of a single two-year initial teacher education program in the province, which is the Masters of Teaching program I had the opportunity to shadow in Toronto. Universities will have a lot to say about whether they would accept a mandated two-year program for all.
The Ontario College of Teachers, which for all intents and purposes is the regulatory approval agency for teacher education in this province, would also need to approve -- or be told/regulated to approve.
These are not insurmountable odds and all parties should be signing on to this idea.


D├ębora said...

Nice one, Hugo! Completely agree that more training should be considered for teachers, including how to handle students with special needs, students with bad home situations, how to handle aggressive students, what tools are available to help you set up your classroom and maybe to partner them with a mentor for the first 2-5 years on the job.

Teaching is more than just about training new minds,

Anonymous said...

I like the idea of a second year, but think it should be an apprenticeship, not a second year of a B.Ed. Pair them up with excellent teachers, and have them spend a year in their classrooms and others learning the art of their trade. Keep it away from the universities - they have weak programs for teacher preparation, and the money would be better spent on paying the apprentices. Alberta tried this in the early 80s - the program worked, but they found it cost prohibitive.