No one said it was going to be easy. No one said, “Don’t worry, you’ll find that contract position right away!”
As I entered my final year of university before graduating with a degree in education, I was fully aware of the dire situation for new teachers in Ontario. I had read the statistics – tens of thousands had graduated the year before me, and the next, only to realize that positions across Ontario were becoming more and more difficult to attain. Yet, I was resolved to continue my learning journey and enter the teaching profession, knowing it was what I was meant to do.
In light of recent changes in hiring practices across Ontario school boards, things just became that much more challenging. Reg 274 has changed the rules for both new and long term occasional teachers – we are now hired based on seniority lists and additional qualifications courses, allowing principals to select only from a list of the five most senior teachers. These new regulations have escalated the frustrations of many hopeful certified teachers in Ontario who continue to seek permanent contracts in their local school board. Internal message boards are buzzing with questions and concerns, Facebook group walls are dedicated to complaints and proposed petitions, and in school staff rooms and hallways, supply teachers and LTO teachers are talking about their place on the seniority list and their subsequent future.
I get it. I’m right there in the middle of it. I share in the frustrations, and too, have wondered where I will be in the next year…or five. I’m saddened these changes in hiring practices have created limitations for principals to select from a list of qualified applicants, based on the needs of their schools, rather than the date of their hire. I am a number in line, waiting my turn. However, I’m more disheartened by the changes seen and heard in schools and in public domains – new teachers questioning their placement on seniority lists in relation to others, arguing their qualifications override another, based on one more AQ or experience having graduated the year prior.
I am grateful to have had the opportunity to work in an LTO position for almost a year, however this too will pass, as the contract teacher is scheduled to return in May. I understand that in order to continue on this path in my school board, I will need to apply to be on an LTO list based on seniority, which I will interview for, regardless of the fact I successfully gained entrance onto the OT list more than a year ago. I could argue that my experience in an LTO position has placed me above others new to the board, but what purpose would it serve? I could withhold strategies and resources, in hopes of maintaining my level of expertise over another, but where would the spirit of collaboration be in my actions?
Every day I am in the classroom, I am reminded of the responsibility and opportunity that is present. My hope is that every teacher believes that students have the ability to learn, and commit to planning and differentiating instruction to maximize their learning experiences. Whether we are in a classroom volunteering time to help a young student read, filling in for another as a guest teacher, or working after school as a tutor, we are fulfilling our role as teachers. Teaching isn’t about us. It’s about our students. Unfortunately, I think our focus on students is increasingly becoming lost during this transition, leaving many to feel anxious and angry about the teaching profession in Ontario.
In three months, I don’t know where I will be, but I do know that I will be a teacher. Sure, I may not have a classroom to call my own to share in the everyday joys and challenges of teaching children, but there will be other opportunities. I do not plan on spending my time widening the negative conversations present in our schools today, waiting by the phone, or staring at my name on the last page of the seniority list. I commit to keeping calm and carrying on. I will offer my time in nearby schools, helping to provide where needed. I will stay informed and involved by reading and sharing resources with teachers, through social media and within my own school network. I will continue to reflect on the diverse learning and teaching experiences I have had, knowing these will serve to benefit me in the future. I hope to encourage others in similar, unknown situations, by sharing my passion for the teaching profession and love of learning.
Coming into this, I knew it was going to be a long road ahead – changes in hiring practices, while discouraging, come as no surprise. The chances of me landing a permanent contract in the next year are slim, but that is not going to alter my decision to pursue this career for which I am so enthusiastic about. The life of a teacher is an adventure, and though it may have bumps along the way, I sincerely believe it will be worth the ride!