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September 1998

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AG00041_.gif (503 bytes) September's
Front Page

Sweeping Curriculum Changes, Mass Retirement a Double Challenge to the Profession

We all welcome the infusion of talent and energy as younger colleagues join the profession, but the sudden and massive surge in retirements creates its own stresses on an already overburdened system.

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By Margaret Wilson

As we wish our colleagues who "took the 85" a safe voyage into retirement, many of us remember – not entirely with joy – the 60s, when experience and the sound advice that comes with it, were in very short supply. The next few years may well replicate the past as many more of us, hired to teach the baby boom, retire a little earlier than expected.

In my first year of secondary teaching, the average experience across the province was about three years. The small number of experienced teachers were stretched to capacity in their efforts to teach their own classes well and coach us as we struggled to find our feet.

We clearly need to deal better with not only the induction of new teachers, but with helping experienced teachers adjust to the huge variety of changes occurring within the system.

Tim Ralph, a teacher from Whitby, wrote a thoughtful comment on my last column. He made the point that I had concentrated solely on the ongoing professional learning needs of secondary teachers. Very true – I was focussed on the proposed new guidelines for the secondary panel.


His point was that elementary teachers are facing just as significant a curriculum shift and that they also have needs which should be addressed with some urgency. And of course the shift involves much more than curriculum. Some of the reorganization reaches into the heart of what the school is in a democratic society.

The College encourages school districts to allocate both time and resources to staff development, but as they struggle with what the funding formula really means, professional learning for teachers easily disappears from boards’ agendas. Both you and the College must provide constant reminders that the availability of appropriate professional learning is crucial to the successful implementation of change.

Teachers must also play a major role in defining the learning they require. It’s clear from elementary teacher responses to the EQAO questionnaire that programs which reinforce knowledge of the content of the mathematics and science curriculum would respond better to teachers needs than methods courses.

The new science and technology guideline may require updating of content knowledge to quite a sophisticated level. But a single university credit in science won’t cut it.


How can teachers and our professional College play a useful role in the design of appropriate programs to meet the real needs of teachers? The current system, tied in large part to the universities, has difficulty in meeting emergent needs since it must legitimately meet the requirements of academia, which may or may not match those of teachers in the field.

Not this year – but soon – we must have a better answer for the profession and the public than the current random selection.

Two College committees – Standards of Practice and Education, and Accreditation – are identifying some of the areas of concern as they go about their work this year. College staff are also examining the issues as they track the development of the new curriculum.

Who knows, in the near future you may be able to connect to the College web site, check out the offerings of accredited PD providers and register for a course via the site. The problem of geography in terms of access to programs is more intractable, but creative minds will resolve that.

In the meantime, the College staff wish you clear sailing through the turbulent waters of the next few months, and another successful school year. And to our new members, welcome and our best wishes as you embark on your career in teaching.