Support for new teachers required immediately

New data shows that newly certified teachers still have a rough go finding stable work and system support. The province and school boards need to pay heed to our newest recruits.

by Doug Wilson

If you're a newly certified teacher hoping to find full-time employment in Ontario's public schools, it helps to speak French - or teach math, science or technology.

Most others are in for a bumpy ride.

The latest results from the College's Transition to Teaching study, a five-year longitudinal survey of teachers newest to the profession, show that French-speaking teachers find full-time employment immediately after graduation. English-speaking and internationally trained teachers find they have to wait up to three years - or longer - before settling in.

The data proves earlier projections: If you've got the qualifications in high-need subject areas - French, science, mathematics, computers and technology - you're in high demand. Sixty-three per cent of all French, math, science and tech grads in 2003 found full-time jobs, compared to 40 per cent of all other graduates. Of those who were working as of March this year, 20 per cent were in occasional teaching positions, 35 per cent were on term appointments and 45 per cent had regular positions.

"They often have to piece together part-time jobs for the first couple of years until they are hired full-time."

Fully 100 per cent of the 2003 French-speaking teacher education grads found full-time jobs, two-thirds in French-language boards and one-third with English-language boards and private schools.

But shortages persist. The number of temporary letters of approval issued to school boards for French-speaking teachers - even after hiring all available grads - has more than doubled in the last four years. As well, more uncertified people (236 French as a Second Language and 41 French Immersion in 2003) are working under Letters of Permission granted by the Ministry of Education.

The third-year Transition to Teaching data also reaffirms the need for a province-wide induction program for new teachers. The College recommended to the Minister that the province fund a mandatory two-year program for all Ontario schools exactly one year ago. It appears the need for such a program is greater than ever.

According to the research, not much has changed in the last year. New teachers find school board hiring practices inconsistent and unclear. They say confusion, poor communication and lack of follow up reign. Some allege unfair hiring practices.

Internationally trained teachers don't think their experience receives due respect. Even with five or more years' teaching experience, many cannot find teaching jobs. Of those who do, half are limited to daily occasional assignments.

Those newest to the classroom believe they get the worst assignments and little support. They often have to piece together part-time jobs for the first couple of years until they are hired full-time. A frequent complaint is that they also have to compete for long-term occasional work with retired teachers.

"Applaud them for their resilience. And push for greater support."

Fewer than one in five new teachers told us they had a mentor. Over half of those surveyed said their orientation was unsatisfactory or non-existent. An equal number felt the same about school board in-service.

The study also found that three in 10 members of the class of 2001 did not work in at least one of the three years since graduation. Thirteen per cent took time off for parental or family responsibilities.

One in five of the third-year teachers polled said they were unsure they would still be teaching in five years. Eleven per cent reported declining job satisfaction and increased stress or lower confidence and, as such, are also at risk of leaving the profession.

Remarkably, despite challenging teaching assignments, high stress and uncertain job situations, most new teachers are highly confident and optimistic about their futures. Eighty-nine per cent said their current teaching job was "good" or "excellent."

Congratulate them for surviving. Applaud them for their resilience. And push for greater support. Their futures as teachers - and the learning of their students - depend on it.