Commitment Strong

By Frank McIntyre

The College Transition to Teaching study finds commitment, preparation and professional satisfaction is solid among Ontario’s new teachers and confidence in their own competence grows with classroom experience. These findings suggest the next generation of Ontario’s teachers have a solid foundation despite entering a profession that many of them also describe as chaotic, confusing and stressful, with resources and organized induction in short supply.

Only 24 per cent of first-year teachers gave their school board highest marks for orientation.
Forty-seven per cent found orientation services wanting or non-existent. Two out of five new teachers rated classroom resources less than satisfactory. Second-year teachers gave a similar assessment of school board support.

One teacher expressed it this way: "I just got thrown in two weeks after school started, with no preparation time, no guidance from administration; it was basically sink or swim. I’m still trying to learn to float."

Informal Supports Fill Gap

Despite strong advocacy within the profession for mentoring and new teacher induction programs, in the past two years most of Ontario’s teachers started their teaching careers without formal mentoring support. Fewer than 18 per cent of first-year teachers surveyed in 2003 reported that they were in a mentoring program. Similarly 18 per cent of second year teachers said they had received such support during their first years in the profession.

"Mentoring would be so wonderful. Time management is really difficult, classroom organization is very difficult, and parents can be very unsupportive. It would be great to have someone help when setting up classroom in August."

Informal support of colleagues, principals and vice-principals, and of family and friends sustained these new teachers in meeting the challenges of their first years. They rated these supports sharply higher than resources and formal programs.

New teacher priorities for professional development focus on survival skills and practical knowledge. For both first and second-year teachers, classroom management tops the list with more than 6 in 10 rating this as the highest priority. Further knowledge of evaluation techniques follows closely, with more than half ranking this as highest.

Two in five respondents rated observation and feedback on their teaching practice as a top priority, while for second-year teachers this need recedes somewhat, with 30 per cent assigning this a top priority rating.

Top Motivators

This year’s surveys probed why teacher education graduates chose this profession, and what motivates them now that they are teachers. More than four in five of teachers surveyed reported that "making a difference in people’s lives" was very important. A close second, a very important motivator for four in five teachers, was the opportunity to "work with children or young people."

Despite the shortfalls in school resources and formal new teacher support programs, personal motivation and informal encouragement and help appear to be holding new teachers in the profession. Almost all respondents plan to continue, as 96 per cent from both first and second year say they will teach in the 2003–2004 school year.

To view the full Transition to Teaching report, go to

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