Letters to the Editor

Professionally Speaking welcomes letters and articles on topics of interest to teachers. We reserve the right to edit letters for length and to conform to our publication style. To be considered for publication, letters must provide the writer’s daytime phone number. Address letters to: The Editor, Professionally Speaking at ps@oct.ca or 101 Bloor Street West, Toronto, ON M5S 0A1.
Retired teachers have their say

Elephant in the classroom

No retired teacher should be blamed or feel guilty for continuing to teach  while many young teachers are struggling to find jobs (My ample pension, Letters, September 2011). The system permits and even encourages this, and any individual decision is taken in the light of this and according to personal circumstance. Nevertheless, there is a system problem here which is blighting many intelligent and enthusiastic young teachers coming out of training.

I have spoken to former students, who are fully trained teachers but unable to take that first essential step of getting on a board’s bulging supply list. Others are on the list and successfully supply teaching but not often enough to make an adequate living. The point here is that supply work may be an extra to someone already receiving a pension but absolutely vital to the young teacher for whom it is the sole source of income.

School boards vary in their policies, and while some may offer work to occasional teachers on a main list before those on a retired list, others make no distinction. And individual schools and even teachers may short-circuit the lists by requesting specific individuals.

Again, no one can blame the school that requests that chair of department who retired last semester over some young unknown, since it is only acting in its students’ best interests. But let’s not pretend there’s not an elephant in the classroom here, one that’s bigger than the individual retiree or class of students. We – Ontario students,  the system, even the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan – need those bright, enthusiastic young teachers.

Of course I also know some who got lucky and were able to parlay supply work into LTOs and contract positions. But often the key is getting regular work in the first place.

This is a system problem that should be addressed – by the Ministry, by the training institutes, by school boards, by the unions, and dare I say by the Ontario College of Teachers. We can’t just pretend it does not exist.

John Caryl, OCT, is retired from teaching high school English in Orillia for the Simcoe County DSB.

Can’t we all just get along?

I am a retired teacher (since 2007) and often hear OTs’ arguments that retired teachers are depriving new and career OTs of the opportunity to make a “decent living.” (Elephant in the room, Letters, June 2011). I do agree that for all teachers, especially new graduates, more opportunity for classroom experience and exposure to administrators is essential for future full-time work. However, occasional teaching is what it is – occasional work, not full-time employment.

I chose to retire at age 57 but could have continued until age 65, if not longer. Many of my colleagues also retired early. In my case this means that someone was hired to a full-time position at least eight years before my teaching position would have become available.

In other professions, in both the private and public sectors, individuals can choose to cut back on the hours they work or are called upon to continue their work on a limited basis. In addition, the College has clarified and refined the term volunteer, which further enhances OT opportunities. There is also a need to look at the number of teachers’ college spaces being offered in the province. While there has been some refinement recently to the number of available spaces in Ontario, the greater issue would appear to be in establishing criteria for those who choose to graduate from colleges/universities that are out of country.

To suggest that retirees clearly are the reason for the limited occasional classroom positions does not look at the entire situation. Retired teachers are a valuable resource that could be utilized in many capacities. How about a mentor program for new full-time teachers or OTs that takes advantage of the retired teacher’s experience? Rather than give preferential treatment to one group or the other, it would be in everyone’s best interests to attempt to accommodate both groups. The 50-day limit is one such compromise.

Michael A. Cosentino, OCT, before retiring was a social science and Special Education/Academic Resource teacher at Loyola Catholic SS in the Dufferin-Peel Catholic DSB.

Don’t blame retirees

While we are all aware that there are many more new teacher candidates than there are jobs to fill, I believe that OTs should be very careful when criticizing their colleagues, i.e. retired teachers who have chosen to supply teach to supplement their income (My ample pension, Letters, September 2011). One day, 20 or 30 years from now, those candidates may find themselves in the same shoes.

One never knows what challenges and obstacles life will throw our way. For an OT to publicly comment about a colleague’s “ample pension” is not acceptable, for in truth, that OT knows nothing about another’s pension, nor is it anyone’s business. For all we know, teachers are retiring early with penalties and looking to supplement their pensions to make up for the loss of pension income and therefore creating full-time teaching spots for new hires.

We must also remember that a teaching certificate is not a guarantee of a job. If students are choosing to enter a profession where they know there are no jobs, then they must wait and pay their dues. Most people in Canada retire between the ages of 60 and 65, so why are teachers expected to retire earlier than that?

Krista Doody, OCT, is an FSL teacher for grades 4 to 8 at Prince of Wales School, HWDSB Hamilton.

Hooray for Canadian resources!

Since I began teaching, I have completely embraced the ideals of both inquiry learning and project-based learning. In fact, I was so taken with these concepts that I began my own resource blog on the subject (inquirylearning.ca). Your recent article (Students drive, teachers guide Natural Curiosity, PS News, September 2011) has renewed my optimism that Ontario teachers have what it takes to embrace inquiry learning and all the benefits that come with it.

Until I read your article, much of the feedback and resource material posted to my blog had originated from non-Canadian sources. Very little, compared with other countries, has been written about inquiry learning in Canada. It was truly a pleasure to navigate through the very well and creatively designed “Canadian” site (www.naturalcuriosity.ca), which not only promotes inquiry for environmental studies but more importantly also hails it as the direction we need to take.

Lorraine Chiarotto is very correct when she says that the hardest part about inquiry learning is letting go and being flexible. But once that hurdle is crossed, the possibilities are endless and the students are so engaged that the final bell becomes an unwelcome intrusion into their active learning experiences. Every educator in Ontario should take the time to visit the Natural Curiosity site and take away as much as possible. It is truly a great Canadian resource.

Chuck Stoffle, OCT, occasional teacher for the Greater Essex County DSB.