From the Chair

Breaking down barriers for teachers

The profession needs to be concerned about our new members.

by Liz Papadopoulos, OCT

My first permanent teaching assignment was a Grade 2/3 in a former City of York school.

On the Tuesday morning of the third week in September at 9:30 in the morning, as I was preparing my class for a walking trip to the library, I was pulled out of my classroom and sent to the principal’s office.

Inside the office, the principal and the superintendant of human resources laid out the news to me as gently as they could – I was surplus to my school. They told me that I had to pack, be out of the school by Friday, and that I was moving on to teach two different assignments in two different schools.

In one hand I held a student’s journal and in the other a bowl of cereal for another student. Tears streamed down my face as I walked back to class to continue with my day.

I was in shock.

That was the reality I faced as a beginning teacher, even after six months of occasional teaching.

New teachers across Ontario are relying increasingly on occasional teaching assignments as they start their careers in the teaching profession.

This reality is revealed in the College’s 2009 Transition to Teaching survey of new teachers who graduated in 2008, which shows that the province’s English-language teacher employment market continues to be highly competitive.

The whole profession needs to be mindful of the growing challenges faced by our new entrants.

There are now roughly 7,000 more certified, qualified teachers entering the profession each year in Ontario than there are retirement spots to fill. Maybe you are one of them.

There may be opportunities for Ontario teachers in other provinces. Canadian premiers signed the revised Agreement on Internal Trade in January 2009, making it easier for certified professionals and tradespeople to move from one Canadian jurisdiction to another.

Under the terms of this agreement, professionals and tradespeople certified in one Canadian jurisdiction will be considered to have met the requirements for certification in other Canadian jurisdictions without having to undergo additional training or assessment or meet additional experience requirements.

The Ontario government passed the Ontario Labour Mobility Act (OLMA) in mid-December to set out in law the obligations for certifying bodies like our College under the Canada-wide labour-mobility agreement.

The spirit behind the new legislation means that you can choose to move to a different province, you can take your Ontario Certified Teacher (OCT) designation and be able to work anywhere in the country without a lot of red tape.

Ontario teachers are not only leaving our mark in Canada. We have long established a reputation around the world as being highly-educated, responsible and caring practitioners who are committed to helping students develop and succeed.

It’s becoming increasingly clear, however, that for English-language teachers in much of the world we have moved quite rapidly in the last decade from a teacher shortage to a teacher surplus.

The OLMA also enables the College to complete its work to remove barriers to certify teachers from other Canadian jurisdictions.

This is good news for Canadian teachers qualified to teach French and for boards and schools that continue to face challenges in finding qualified French-language teachers.

According to our latest Transition to Teaching survey, the job market for qualified professionals who can teach in French or teach French as a Second Language remains stronger than for English-language teachers – though not as strong as in past years.

I’m happy every day that I continued in this profession, despite those early challenges. As the teacher surplus grows in Ontario, the whole profession needs to be mindful of the growing challenges faced by our new entrants.

I wouldn’t have survived that first year if it weren’t for the support of my colleagues. I remember you all with great gratitude.

by Liz Papadopoulos, OCT