For the Love of Learning: 10 years later

Commissioners reflect on their report released in 1995 and where we stand now

by Beatrice Schriever  

Plus: Transition to Teaching - reports for year three

Integration of Special Needs

2004 Survey respondents differ on value of including students with special-education needs in regular classrooms 



New Teachers Thriving by Third Year

The third year of the College's five-year study of teacher education graduates drew 2,354 responses from recently certified teachers - 2001, 2002 and 2003 Ontario graduates and newly certified teachers trained in other provinces and internationally.

by Frank Mcintyre

Class of 2001

Most well established by third year

Most of Ontario's new teachers are well established in teaching jobs by the third year following graduation from teacher education programs. Regular teaching appointments are the norm. However, many were not well supported in their entry to the profession - with late hiring, underemployment, second-choice daily occasional teaching jobs, difficult early assignments and a paucity of mentoring support and classroom resources. Despite these initial challenges, most are highly committed to teaching, satisfied with their choice of profession and optimistic for the future.

Shawn Sheppard has completed his third year teaching and is now at Greenland Public school where he teaches Grade 5.

In March 2004, 93 per cent of 2001 teacher-education graduates were teaching. Fewer than one per cent report that they were not teaching because they could not find a suitable position. Maternity leaves account for most of those not teaching at the time of the survey.

"I love my subjects, my students and my school's staff, and I feel competent in my position, finally. "

More than 84 per cent report that they are employed in regular teaching positions, with 11 per cent in limited-term appointments and fewer than five per cent teaching on a daily occasional basis. Employment opportunities appear well distributed across Ontario for this generation of teachers. Thirty-seven percent say they are teaching in the Greater Toronto Area, 27 per cent in southwestern Ontario, 14 per cent in the east, 11 per cent in central Ontario and eight per cent in the north. Although more of them taught abroad in the first and second years of teaching, only 2.4 per cent report employment as teachers outside the province in 2004.

Progress from daily occasional to regular

Most teachers settle into regular positions by the third year.

Beyond turmoil and uncertainty

For many, the third year finds them emerging from the turmoil of late hiring, frequent job and assignment changes and inadequate support. Underemployment or situations in which new teachers are holding down two or more part-time teaching jobs were common occurrences in their first and even second years in the profession.

"I would have had a much better start if there had been more administrative support when I first started teaching," says one central Ontario Grade 3 teacher of her first two years. "I walked into a class with no resources and had three days to find my own resources with no money. There were no supplies and staff were too busy to help me, though they tried."

Of teachers now in their third year, 56 per cent say they have not changed jobs or assignments from the previous school year, fully 87 per cent were hired before the current school year began and 93 per cent teach in only one school. As an eastern Ontario mathematics and physics secondary teacher comments: "This is definitely easier than last year because of having taught the courses once before. Minimizing the number of new preparations in the first years is critical to the sanity and survival of new teachers."

Eighty-nine per cent of third-year teachers are satisfied with the way their careers are unfolding - 54 per cent report that their current teaching job is an excellent match and 35 per cent report a good match to their teaching qualifications. As a Grade 6 teacher for whom teaching is a second career comments, "The beginning of my teaching career was very challenging and nothing could have prepared me for some of my experiences. It gets better with time; my confidence in my job and in myself as a teacher have increased. I thoroughly love my work and could not imagine doing anything else."

One in three say that their current assignment is more appropriate than last year's, with only one in 10 reporting it less so. Half report more professional satisfaction than in the previous year, while only one in five express less satisfaction. A southwestern Ontario teacher of visual arts in Grades 7 and 8 remarks, "I love my subjects, my students and my school's staff, and I feel competent in my position, finally. My job is extremely fulfilling." Other satisfaction measures are consistent with these reports. For many, stress is down and they report more support this year from colleagues, plus a greater sense of job security and optimism.

Still, change remains a reality of professional life for many third-year teachers. Forty-three per cent expect to change teaching positions for the following school year. Six per cent plan not to teach in the next year and four per cent plan to teach outside Ontario.

Absences with leave

Three in 10 (29 per cent) report that they did not teach in at least one of the years since teacher education graduation in 2001. By far the most common reason is maternity leave - with 13 per cent of female teachers taking maternity leave since joining the profession, and an additional two per cent taking time out for other family responsibilities. While only two per cent of male teachers take time out for parental or family responsibilities, the high proportion of women in the profession accounts for an overall statistic for absence from teaching for at least one of the first three years of 12 per cent - due either to maternity or family responsibilities. An additional nine per cent took time off for travel, study or other reasons. Only seven per cent of third-year teachers had at least one year of not working because they could not find a suitable teaching job.

Limited attrition

New-teacher attachment to the profession in Ontario is much higher than in other Canadian and US jurisdictions, and higher than Ontario has experienced at other times in more challenging employment markets.

Of the 6,955 Ontario teacher education 2001 graduates who joined the Ontario College of Teachers, 6,430 are current members in good standing in 2004, an attrition rate of only 7.5 per cent over the first three years. By contrast, in the years 1993 to 1999 the Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan reported a 22 to 33 per cent attrition rate over the first three years for new teachers. Thus far in this decade, new teachers appear to be staying with the profession in much larger numbers.

Furthermore, fewer than one per cent of 2001 graduates plan to stop teaching after the 2003-04 school year, and 2.6 per cent indicate that they will not be teachers in five years, for an overall known and expected loss rate of about one in 10 teachers.

Although attrition to date is comparatively low, there continue to be teachers who self-identify or appear at risk of leaving in the next few years. In response to the question, "Do you expect to still be a teacher five years from now?" 19 per cent report that they are uncertain. And as in last year's Transition to Teaching report, some new teachers can be identified as at risk of leaving the profession - those reporting declining satisfaction in their third year along with either increased stress or decreased confidence in their teaching ability. This at-risk group now accounts for 11 per cent of teachers.

For some, the stress of the early years continues. As one long-term occasional physical education teacher currently assigned to two schools remarked, "I've taught 14 different courses in five semesters. I've received little or no support from my board for in-service or with problems that arise. I've been in a constant state of upheaval, being moved about almost constantly - four schools in five semesters."

Class of 2003

Most 2003 grads teaching

Employment opportunities to teach in Ontario continued to be robust for Ontario's teacher education graduates of 2003, with most finding teaching employment and many obtaining regular teaching appointments in their first year. Ninety-three per cent of these new teachers taught during the 2003-04 school year, with 89 per cent of them teaching in March 2004. Occasional teaching was the entry point for 35 per cent of them, but by the time of the survey, the occasional teaching component had dropped to 20 per cent, with 45 per cent holding regular teaching positions and the remaining 35 per cent in long-term occasional or other term contracts.

Employment rates continue high for secondary-school qualified graduates, despite worries about the potential impact of the movement of the double cohort out of secondary schools. Indeed, their success in the 2003-04 year is marginally better than that of Primary-Junior qualified graduates, with only five per cent of Intermediate-Senior and Junior-Intermediate program graduates reporting they are not teaching because they could not find a suitable teaching job, compared with six per cent for Primary-Junior qualified.

Class of 2003 graduate, Melanie Silveira has a full-time occasional position teaching Grades 9 and 11 religion and physical education at St. Martin Secondary School in the Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board.

Despite successful outcomes, many of these new teachers report very negative experiences in looking for and starting work with Ontario school boards. Confusion, late hiring, poor communication, allegations of unfair hiring practices, lack of follow-up and non-transparent or inconsistent procedures are repeatedly and often bitterly cited by these new teachers. As one elementary teacher put it, "The process seemed haphazard, inconsistent and more like filling holes than hiring professionals."

Many objected to the processes in place for hiring daily and long-term occasional teachers. The widespread presence of retired teachers taking many of the most desirable occasional teaching roles is a frequent complaint among new teachers, who say they are underemployed as daily occasional teachers or blocked from moving on to the next step of a long-term occasional appointment. The career- limiting implications for new teachers of this blockage from choice entry opportunities was captured well by one elementary occasional teacher: "Extremely difficult to get supply work. The majority of schools hire retired staff, which makes it difficult even to get known to principals."

High-demand qualifications

The College and other sector partners have identified French, physics, chemistry, mathematics, computer studies and technological studies as disciplines in which school boards continue to have difficulty recruiting replacement teachers. This year's surveys provide further evidence that confirms these as continuing high-need fields.

"The process seemed haphazard, inconsistent and more like filling holes than hiring professionals."

New graduates with these high-need qualifications are even more successful than other new graduates in entering the profession. They report more than a 50 per cent better success rate in obtaining regular teaching appointments - an overall rate of 63 per cent regular appointments in the first year compared with 40 per cent for other first-year grads. One secondary teacher noted, "Because I teach French and science, obtaining a position was quite easy. I had three offers."

Tough assignments, little support

The teacher-education graduates of 2003 recount the same first-year challenges described in our earlier reports by 2001 and 2002 graduates. Despite eventually being hired, only 41 per cent were hired before the start of the school year, more than one in three started on daily occasional teaching lists and, for many, assignments changed during the school year. Even those with high-demand qualifications report late assignment confirmations. One Junior-Intermediate science teacher commented, "I was hired by the board in June but didn't find out my placement until the night before school started! Needless to say I was very unprepared for my first day of school."

Highly demanding first-year teaching jobs continue to be reported. Twenty per cent of first-year elementary teachers face combined grades, eight per cent teach special education and eight per cent are assigned to French as a second language. Meanwhile, more than one in five new teachers juggle teaching jobs in two or more different schools.

New entrants to the profession continue to receive far less than the ideal entry. This year's survey shows no evidence of progress by Ontario school boards in providing formal mentoring support for new teachers. Only 17 per cent of new teachers were assigned an experienced teacher mentor. Even among those who report that they hold regular teaching positions, only 29 per cent say they are in a mentoring program. Fewer than half give a positive rating to their orientation or board-based in-service opportunities.

"I was hired by the board in June but didn't find out my placement until the night before school started!"

Given the scarcity of formal job-entry programs, informal supports are very important during the first year. These informal supports fared better - with four of five giving a positive rating to the support they receive from their school administration and nine in 10 rating support from teacher colleagues positively.

Survival in the first year is also built on new teachers' confidence in their preparation for the profession. More than three in five give positive ratings to their teacher education courses (61 per cent) and practicum experience (90 per cent) and 83 per cent respond positively in assessing their overall preparedness for the profession.

High stress levels remain a factor for most first-year teachers (72 per cent). Forty-three per cent report concerns about job security and 64 per cent expect to change teaching jobs before the next year. Nevertheless, a remarkable 87 per cent give a positive rating to their confidence as teachers, 79 per cent rate their professional satisfaction as positive and 79 per cent express optimism about the future for their teaching

New-Canadian teachers

Job access challenges

Immigrant teachers certified by the College in 2003 have less success in obtaining teaching positions and gaining entry to regular teaching positions than Ontario graduates, Ontarians who pursued their teacher education abroad and those trained in other Canadian provinces.

This year's survey found that immigrant teachers who obtained teaching credentials outside Ontario and were Ontario-certified in 2003 had much lower scores in each of the key teaching-job access categories of the study. The majority of these immigrant teachers are employed at a comparatively low 72 per cent employment rate, falling well behind the 89 per cent employment rate for 2003 graduates of Ontario teacher-education programs.

Fully 15 per cent of immigrant teachers report that they are not working as teachers in 2004 because they could not find suitable teaching positions. This compares with five per cent of new Ontario graduates, nine per cent of border-college graduates and eight per cent of Ontarians who studied abroad or came to Ontario from other Canadian provinces.

Teachers unable to find suitable teaching jobs

New-Canadian teachers are much less likely than others to be successful in finding Ontario teaching jobs.

Immigrant teachers certified by the College in 2003 are highly experienced educators. Eighty-three per cent have taught for more than two years and 74 per cent have five or more years experience. Despite this extensive teaching experience and the fact that they have all met the professional, academic and language requirements and have been certified, they are far more often limited to underemployment on daily occasional teaching lists than Ontario teacher education graduates or Canadians who completed their teacher education outside the province.

Teachers in daily occasional teaching

New-Canadian teachers who find jobs in Ontario are much more likely to be in daily occasional teaching roles than any other type of newly certified Ontario teacher.

A Catch-22 theme is clear in responses from a number of these new Ontario teachers. As one part-time occasional teacher with 16 years of teaching experience in India comments, "Boards are looking for references from school administrators or other evidence of experience in Canada, which is hard for new immigrants. It's even getting harder to get volunteer work in schools."

Some express concern about the long-term career implications of the difficulty of gaining an initial teaching job. A Toronto-area elementary teacher with four years teaching experience in China writes, "I can only get early-childhood-type jobs in a private school. It's such a dilemma. I have to complete 194 teaching days within six years, yet no one appears willing to hire teachers trained outside Canada."

"It's such a dilemma. I have to complete 194 teaching days within six years, yet no one appears willing to hire teachers trained outside Canada."

Forty-eight per cent of immigrant teachers certified in Ontario in 2003 who do find employment are daily occasional teachers, compared with five per cent for 2001 Ontario teacher-education graduates, 18 per cent for 2003 Ontario graduates, 23 per cent for those from other Canadian provinces, 24 per cent for Ontarians who graduated from teacher-education colleges in New York State and 33 per cent for Ontarians educated elsewhere.

Jasmine Misra taught for 11 years in India before moving to Canada in January 2002. She took ABQs at York University and was certified in 2003. While she has not yet found a permanent position, Misra has been working on an occasional basis for the Peel DSB since January 2004.

Even those who manage to gain a stronger foothold in their new Ontario teaching careers perceive barriers to further progress. As one central Ontario long-term occasional teacher says, "I have been in the ready-to-hire pool with my school board since February 2003. I was a strong candidate at the interview. I have seven years of teaching experience in UK schools. I have excellent references. I have applied for 30 regular teaching positions since May 2003 and I have not had one phone call or any interest shown. I feel frustrated and demoralized by the fact that my overseas experience appears to count for very little."ps


The College's Transition to Teaching study follows new Ontario teachers through their first five years in the profession. Funded in part by the Ontario Ministry of Education, the study informs government, school board, faculty of education and College policies and procedures to foster placement and retention of a new generation of teaching professionals in Ontario.

In this third year of the study the College surveyed 2001, 2002 and 2003 graduates from Ontario teacher education programs as well as from six colleges in New York State near the border of Ontario and from the University of Maine. These border colleges are the source of about 1,200 new Ontario teachers annually, almost all of whom are already Ontario residents who enrolled in these US programs designed for the Ontario teacher education market.

The study expanded this year to include teachers newly certified in Ontario in 2003 who obtained their teacher education in other provinces and in jurisdictions outside Canada, beyond the border-college group.

In March 2004 the College mailed surveys to 6,507 teacher education graduates of 2001, 2002 and 2003 - representing 20 per cent, 20 per cent and 40 per cent respectively of the new teachers in each of those years from Ontario teacher education faculties and the border colleges. In all 2,092 responses were received for an overall response rate of 32 per cent. Surveys were also mailed to the 1,136 newly Ontario-certified teachers who had trained in other Canadian provinces and other countries. The response rate for this group was 23 per cent - 262 surveys returned.

With these return rates the results reported can be relied upon to be accurate reflections of the four survey populations sampled to within three to six percentage points, 19 times out of 20.