Going to teacher’s college? 100 ways to succeed!

If you are thinking about becoming a teacher, or are a new teacher, a must-read website is “smartteaching.org.” In particular, mark as a favourite this most recent posting entitled Baptism by Fire: 100 essential tips and resources for student teachers.”

I wish a resource vehicle like that had been available when I started teaching because my first week’s planning for both a grade six language arts class and visual art on rotary was enough to last nearly a full month’s work!!! Ah well, much better to be overplanned than under.

In any event, all practising teachers will no doubt nod their heads when I speak of the stark terror you will feel when you are facing a class of 30-40 students for the first time. What if they won’t listen to me? What if I can’t maintain class control? What ifs galore. But, what student teachers don’t realize is that the kids are just as nervous as you are. The bottom line is to somehow not show that nervousness while being comfortable with yourself.  

Back to the “Baptism by fire” article. It starts off with general tips and relevant blogs. They then go on to list guides and tools, sample lesson plans, classroom management techniques, forums, advice from others, professional organizations, resume and interview ideas and last, but not least, a list of resource books.

With that many tips and resources at your finger tips, you can’t help succeed. But, one thing: Don’t forget about parents. The list of 100 only includes one specific item regarding parents — # 4 under “general tips.” Remember, if you have thirty students, you have up to sixty parents. All of them care about their kids and they want them to succeed even more than you.

So, learn how to communicate with the parents. And please, don’t put a bureaucratic and professional wall between you and them. If you can avoid doing that, plus all the technical stuff you will or have learned — guaranteed — you will have a long and productive teaching career.

Want to be a teacher?

Thinking of becoming a teacher in Ontario? Think about it very carefully because there is currently a surplus of teacher graduates. How could that happen — particularly when we were told during the late 1990’s that there was going to be a huge teacher shortage in the years ahead?

According to a recent Macleans article, one of the reports that made the “shortage” claim in 1998 was by Frank McIntyre, Manager of Human Resources at the Ontario College of Teachers. Interestingly, it is McIntyre himself who released an update last week which states that we actually have a “surplus” of teacher graduates — meaning there are more teachers than there are jobs. For example:

“Just over 40 per cent of 2006 grads found a fulltime job in their first year after graduating. Only 25 per cent of elementary school teachers find work.” 

While the Macleans authors claim that many of the baby boomer teachers (who retired in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s) went back on part-time contracts, taking jobs away from younger teacher education graduates — that would be wrong. While that no doubt happened in some larger Ontario boards of education, most have a policy where they refuse to hire retirees — the District Board of Niagara being one of those boards. Moreover, the teachers’ unions frown on the practice because they want new members.

In any event, how did the surplus happen and why is it significant? Well, it happened after the 1998 report because the Ontario Ministry of Education added 5000 new teacher training spots over five years — suggesting that had enrollment been left as it was there would have been enough teaching jobs to go around. It is significant because bad news does not necessarily discourage a lot of mature students and university graduates who consider applying for admission to a teachers college. Whatever the case, this latest Macleans article is required reading for anyone considering applying to teacher’s college. 

However, contrary to what many think, the current teacher surplus is not a new situation — although it certainly could have been avoided. In the late 1960’s, in Ontario at least, school boards used to have what they called “cattle auctions.” Boards of Education would set up tables in a large hotel ballroom and new teacher graduates would simply go from table to table with their resume, very quickly getting a formal “offer.”

Those days disappeared in 1970. I know because I attended teacher’s college during 1971/72 and by the time I finished, the province was in the middle of its first ever surplus.  However, I was one of the lucky ones because my specialty was visual arts, which was popular at that time because of the Hall Dennis Report “Living and Learning.” I got offered a job on the very last day of my last teaching block in late May, one of only sixteen people hired by a Niagara area public board. I started at the Grades 7 & 8 level that September, 1972 and from then on until the early to mid 1990’s there was very little hiring.

However, a good teacher can always get a job if they are really flexible and mobile — although not always a full-time permanent job. Some can even get jobs in the geographic area of their choice depending on their subject specialties. For example, there are usually teaching jobs available in the vocational subjects, the sciences, French, music and math. 

Whatever the case, if a reader is considering teacher’s college, they need to do a lot of online research.  They need to go to each board of education’s website and look to see what jobs are available now and the year before. And, check often.

As I said at the start of this article, thinking of becoming a teacher? Think again — and again — and again!


Notes:  Having taught in a Faculty of Education, I have a few tips regarding applying for admission to any teacher training program — whether a concurrent or consecutive program. Fill out the volunteer and work experience forms VERY carefully. Include babysitting, camp work, anything at all you have done with children and make sure you can back that information up with references.  In most Canadian faculties of education, admission is based on 60% grade point average and 40% experience.