Want to be a teacher? Time for a plan B

So you want to teach in Ontario, eh? That, unfortunately, may not be such a good idea. Faculty of education grads in the province are finding it almost impossible to secure full-time employment as job openings dwindle every year within Ontario’s school boards.

I sympathize with those who have always pictured themselves working with and shaping the minds of children and young people — the current situation is unfortunate and unfair.

Yet the sudden oversupply of teachers seems puzzling to many, as it was just a couple of years ago that a number of provinces in Canada prepared for a shortage. Now that shortage has been filled and then some. All explanations for this surplus of teachers point to one thing — demographics.

Indeed, it seems that demographics are against teachers in every way. Experts have been telling us for years that as baby boomers age the Canada Pension Program (CPP) will experience a substantial strain that will be felt by younger taxpayers. In fact, the fun starts this year as the first wave of baby boomers heads into its retirement years.

What is more, Canada’s birth rate remains steady at a low figure of 1.5, whereas the replacement rate is cited as 2.1. It doesn’t take a genius to put two and two together and realize that Canada is fuc… er, not in a very good place. Canadians are having fewer babies than needed to sustain the population; the result is a greater proportion of individuals fall into an older age bracket and there will inevitably be a lower demand for teachers.

In 2009, the Ontario College of Teachers reported that there were about 12,000 new teachers in the province that year, but only 5,000 positions. Thus, teaching is quite possibly one of the most competitive careers out there.

Canadian universities continue to pump out new grads every year, many of which will not find full-time employment any time soon upon graduation.

The reality is quite frustrating as it is clear that universities have chosen to capitalize on this very profitable situation rather than being honest with students.

Take Laurier for example — the fact that it opened its own faculty of education is rather pointless, given People for Education’s report released in 2009 that found 172 elementary and secondary schools are closing or recommended to close between 2009 and 2012.

Schools have [quite strategically] failed to respond to the changing times because once students are enrolled in a bachelor of education program and have paid their tuition the universities’ interests have been met. From then on they can wish their students good luck in finding employment after graduation, as they’re laughing all the way to the bank.

Until Canada’s birth rate increases — if ever — it seems that teachers college grads will continue to be stuck in this predicament. The proposition here is not for individuals pursuing a career in teaching to flush that dream down the toilet, but rather to think of a plan B.

Taking a year to teach overseas is an option that new teachers should consider. Many have already jumped on the bandwagon, as there are a plethora of international opportunities that provide individuals with steady incomes and experience that may help these teachers find full-time employment in Ontario once they return.

For those who are not particularly keen on living halfway across the world for an extended period of time, a two-year study published in the Canadian Journal of Education in 2010 found teacher shortages in a number of school districts in Northern Canada in British Columbia, Yukon Territory and Northwest Territories due to poor teacher retention. Many of these school districts are located in what some would call “undesirable” locations, but with the lack of jobs in urban school districts, what good is it to be picky in deciding where to accept a position?
New teachers with families and spouses may find it harder than others to relocate, but those who can should seriously consider the idea until the situation changes in Ontario.

Since Canadian universities will continue to maintain enrolment at current numbers and Canada’s birth rate is unlikely to drastically change in the near future, teachers college grads must look to other opportunities if they wish to pursue a full-time teaching career any time soon.

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