You’ve spent your childhood, teenage, and young adult years in classrooms.
You’ve carried textbooks, written essays, and been conditioned so that, to some degree, the letter ‘F’ strikes fear into your heart.
Almost all students understand the huge role that educators play in our development. Working in the education system is, no doubt, a great and rewarding profession. But is it for you?
Here’s a checklist of things to know before hitting the books again!
1. Do your homework
Aspiring teachers preparing to re-enter the classroom as professionals should start by revisiting their own academic records. Applicants to the BEd program need to hold an average of 70% or higher on their top ten university courses.
In addition to grades, applicants are required to present teachable subjects; areas of the curriculum in which they wish to specialize within the school environment.
Applicants into the the Junior/ Intermediate Grades (Grades 4-10), or Intermediate/Senior( Grade 7-12) need 1 and 2 teachable subjects respectively, while Primary/Junior Division applicants (JK to grade 6) need no specific teachables.
Teachable subjects are determined by additional credits and achievement in the particular area of study.
2. Do the time
Admission into BEd programs is also contingent on relevant work and/or volunteer hours.
Two separate 100 hour teaching experiences are the minimum requirement, though applicants wishing to be accepted should consider increasing this number in order to stay ahead of the competition.
These hours are important not just for the time and experience they bank, but for the credentials they help you build. As letters of reference are a compulsory component of the application process, the principals and administrative staff supervising your work during these hours will be able to provide crucial validation of your skills as an educator.
3. Have your pick
With over a dozen schools to pick from in our province, choosing is no easy task. When picking where you will earn your teaching qualification, consider where you will want to teach once you are certified.
During the completion of your degree, you will make meaningful and important connections that will prove useful when it comes time to look for a job. It is advisable that you attend school in the same district or city that you wish to teach in.
Be aware that universities in largely populated areas have more competitive admissions processes and a more competitive job market.
4. Map it:
Consider widening your prospects by looking beyond our provincial limits.
Mapping out your education outside Ontario’s borders can open up a world of opportunities. When considering schools abroad with the intention of coming home to teach, look for programs that follow a curriculum that are accredited by Ontario governing bodies.
Attending graduate fairs at local universities, or contacting recruitment agencies like CANTEACH (www.canteach.com) are great places to start learning about options abroad.
With local job markets as competitive as they currently are, studying and working outside our provincial and national borders are viable options for new candidates entering the teaching profession.
5. Be “in-the-know”:
When it comes time to apply- know where to go. TEAS (Teaching Education Application Service) is the medium through which those aspiring into BEd programs place their applications.
TEAS centralizes applications for all 13 Ontario Education programs, making it easy to double check requirements and specifications.
TEAS applications are posted a year in advance, allowing ample time for candidates to prepare. Applications are usually due to be submitted to OUAC (Ontario University Application Center) by December of that year.
6. Do the math:
With changes to the duration of education programs, it is paramount that applicants plan for the prolonged stay in the classroom, and out of the workplace.
Two years in school means two years of tuition, bringing the cost of your teacher’s education from roughly $8,000 (based on a 6 credit year) to double that amount; and these numbers do not include books, materials or cost of living.
With many education departments experiencing cuts and redistributions of their budgets as a result of this change, expect fewer grants and scholarships to be offered.
7. Get by with a little help:
The process of becoming a teacher, from application to lesson preparation, can be very confusing. Find yourself a mentor that is willing to coach you throughout the stages of development, give you positive feedback and constructive criticism.
When picking a mentor, look for someone who is honest, objective and shares your passion for education. Most importantly, look for someone who possesses qualities and skills you admire and wish to emulate.
Schedule regular meetings during which you can discuss your progress, developing practice and questions.
8. Keep learning:
Like in any other profession, learning is an ongoing process, and teaching is no different. Additional Qualification courses allow you to widen your scope of knowledge and increase your chances of eligibility.
Consider taking courses that target the needs of your city or board, for example, taking an AQ course (Additional Qualification course) in ESL if planning to work in a culturally and linguistically diverse sector.
Another good option is to take an ABQ course (Additional Basic Qualification course) which will allow you to teach an alternate age division. AQ and ABQ courses are recognized and prized by both the public and private sector, and not only increase your chances of being hired, but also your potential salary.
9. Go private
It would be reasonable to assume that between the 72 school boards and 33 school authorities, new teachers would be able to secure a job. However, a survey released by the Ontario College of Teachers (OCT) earlier this year, cites new teacher unemployment in the province at 38%; a terrifying number for anyone looking to break into the field.
You can avoid becoming a part of this statistic by seeking a position in one of 900 plus private schools that service an ever growing student population. Though private school salaries often fall below what the public boards offer, working conditions are generally considered to be better, and materials more readily available, minimizing the stress that many public school teachers feel to spend out of pocket for teaching necessities.
You can apply to private schools directly, or use search engines like the one provided by the Conference of Independent Schools of Ontario to find full time and part time employment in your area.
10. Look for a window
Just because doors are not opening for you to enter the classroom as a teacher, do not give up. A degree in education is a window to many careers that demand the same skills and interests as teaching, but do not take place in conventional classroom settings.
Consider applying to educationally geared services and programs, like museums, galleries and specialized academies. Places like the ROM or the Ontario Science Center offer openings for both practicum placements and career positions.
You can also explore ways to put your degree to work behind the scenes, working with companies like Scholastic or organizations like PBS, who regularly consult with teachers to create child appropriate and educational products.
The road to the classroom is not an easy one. With a little planning, flexibility, and perseverance, you too can hatch a meaningful and rewarding career in education.
Did you have a teacher who made a positive impact on your life? Share your story in the comments!
TEAS (Teacher Education Application Service): http://www.ouac.on.ca/teas/
Ontario Ministry of Education: http://www.edu.gov.on.ca/eng/general/elemsec/privsch/index.html