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Preparation, fees and faculties

Teacher-education study

We shouldn’t be surprised at the results of the teacher-education study (PS News, Groundbreaking study probes teacher education in Canada, September 2008). All classroom teachers have frustrations with classroom management and motivation, no matter their experience. What new teachers need is palpable support, with more in-class experience and practical strategies for addressing special needs.

Many become teachers because they loved school and found success there. This personal experience does not prepare us for the students who find every day frustrating. It was not until I chose to spend some years in a self-contained Special Education class that I truly began learning not only the unlimited scope of children’s needs, but how best to use the education system to support each child.

The report notes that faculty members at teachers’ colleges feel their theoretical work is meaningful and should be given the greater emphasis. But one of the theories I learned (and actually use) from my time in teachers’ college is that if my teaching methods and strategies are not reaching all of my students, it is incumbent upon me to change them.

There is some irony in the lack of adaptation among teacher-education faculty.

Valerie Harrison is a Grade 6 teacher in the Grand Erie DSB.

Fees debate

As a semi-retired teacher with over 40 years experience, I take exception to some of the comments made by College Chair Don Cattani, when he says that fees must increase from the present $104 (From the Chair, September 2008). Notwithstanding arguments that leases are running out, more work must be done, and so on, some of his statements are misleading and even disingenuous.

He states that “Ontario’s teachers pay by far the lowest fee among self-regulating professionals in the province.” He ignores the other compulsory fees that Ontario teachers must pay. Take the OSSTF for instance. Teachers are obliged to pay 1.3 per cent of their gross pay. In the case of an Ottawa high school teacher at category one max that amounts to $885.54; at category four max it is $1,093.22. These plus the College fee total $989.54 to $1,197.22.

The totals compared to fees paid by other professions in Ontario stretch the meaning of the expression, “by far the lowest fees in the province.” For example, a doctor practising in Ontario pays a total of $2,075 (CMA and OMA fees), while a dentist pays a total of $1,287.

Furthermore, it is interesting to note that even if a teacher teaches only one day a year he must pay the full $104, while the OSSTF collects only 1.3 per cent of actual earnings.

Cattani supports a fee increase; unfortunately the vast majority of teachers will not have a say.

Ian Rayburn is a vice-principal at St. Louis Adult Learning and Continuing Education Centres in the Waterloo Catholic DSB.

Declining enrolment

An uninvited guest moved to Ontario a few years ago and is causing major problems for new teachers.

This guest is declining enrolment in our schools, brought on by changing demographics. Instead of looking forward to starting careers in their own classrooms, the best outlook for most new teachers is to teach occasionally in other teachers’ classrooms.

The trend, according to the Ministry of Education web site, “is expected to continue – enrolment is projected to decline by an additional 39,000 students between 2006–07 and 2009–10.” For the majority of graduating teachers, the situation is discouraging to say the least.

The College seems to stand alone in articulating a realistic and honest account of teaching jobs when it states in its brochure for potential teacher candidates that “Ontario has more qualified teachers than it needs.” This message, however, is not being supported by faculties of education when they continue to accept thousands of new students each year, despite a concurrent decline in teaching jobs.

While the government and the faculties appear to be ignoring the problem, the problem doesn’t ignore the new unemployed and underemployed teachers.

Just as most boards of education recognize the authority of enrolment data and respond by reducing teaching positions, so should the faculties of education. The faculties may not have a penchant for this, but reducing admissions and doing so substantially must be on the government’s agenda.

Dave Launslager teaches Grade 12 history, economics and law at Canterbury HS in the Ottawa Carleton DSB.

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