Is Ontario Teachers College Still a Good Investment?

As a teacher I am often asked by some of my friends (many of them with liberal arts degrees and fascinating careers as baristas and bartenders) if I think it is a good job.  This is basically an impossible question to answer, and on any given day my responses could be radically different (i.e. Little Johnny told me to f off and made 4 “your mom” jokes today before delightedly explaining that if he got in trouble his parents would be calling the school immediately since she already knew I was picking on him).  It’s tough to say whether you’re cut out for the highs and lows of teaching, but at this point in the game for teachers across Canada, that’s almost a secondary consideration after, “Will I be able to get a job?”

Fat Cat Teachers

People love to quote teachers’ salary numbers and talk about how overpaid we are – and you know what? – they aren’t completely wrong.  Teachers make a great paycheque and the benefits we’ve negotiated through our unions are second only to those in the fields of police work and firefighting.  In fact, one can vividly see that teachers are paid disproportionate to what the free market demands when we look at how many young teachers out there can’t find work because of the surplus that has accumulated.  I’m not saying we should get a lower paycheque (there are few economic issues more contentious than what teachers should be paid), but one point I think people need to start taking into consideration (in Ontario and urban centres especially) is that those salary numbers disregard a lot of the context for a teacher in today’s job market.

Before you can get to that shiny salary that is the result of a permanent contract, multiple education upgrades, substitute teaching, several part-time contracts, and a decade of experience within a system of bureaucracy that is incredibly grinding are in order.  Most teachers coming out of Ontario Teachers College today believe they will be “the one” to get that job just down the street (or at least in the GTA) and that it will all work out.  This is a longshot dream at best.  Please understand I’m not trying to rain on anyone’s parade, just young students know what the path before them will likely look like.

Several Thousand Mile From Where You Thought You’d Be

The employment numbers for teachers just coming out of Ontario Teachers College speak for themselves, but anecdotally, my experience backs them up as well.  Every year the Manitoba we have a conference for teachers in their first five years.  The last couple of years when I attended there were always a ton of young teachers from the northern Manitoba city of Thompson.  The interesting thing I found out in talking to them is that a majority of these teachers were from southern Ontario!  It made me realize just how overpopulated the market must be down there if these urbanites were braving the confines of Manitoba’s northern outpost.

Related – Moving to get a job

In addition to work within Ontario being difficult to get, oftentimes graduates from Ontario Teachers College have a difficult time finding work outside of their home province because of different accreditation levels across Canada.  For example, in Manitoba all Bachelor of Education graduates are now required to a complete a two year program in addition to having a degree before that.  Consequently, getting the necessary bureaucratic papers in line to work in another province can mean taking more courses, or having to upgrade certain accreditations.  This can be time-consuming and frustrating.  Not to mention the fact that moving to teach doesn’t mean you will be moving to another urban centre.  On the contrary, urban areas across Canada are relatively full of most types of teachers, and if you apply somewhere you will be losing the “homefield advantage” to the homegrown recent education graduates who have a much larger network of contacts than you will.  Instead, you will likely have to send your resume out to rural areas across Canada.  Some teachers even have to go to semi-isolated posts in order to gain the experience necessary to eventually chase that job back home.

Ontario Teachers College: Cost-Benefit Ratio

All of this is not say that teaching is a bad deal or a bad profession.  It just means that people who are considering entering into Ontario Teachers College – or the teaching profession in general – need to do some cost-benefit thinking before committing years of their life to the pursuit of their dream teaching job.  That analysis should factor in not only the time and monetary cost of schooling (although that is always a key consideration), but also the years that will be spent substitute teaching, working on part-time contracts, and having to move (possible several times) in order to get the job they want.

Related – Moving Tips – Making Relocation Less Stressful

Fortunately for me I enjoy living the rural lifestyle and consequently I was able to get full-time work much faster than most; however, even I had to move several hours from the rural area I had grown up in and eventually want to make my way back to.  If more potential teachers begin to address this reality maybe the labour market will start to even out a little.  On the other hand, it’s been a real boon for smaller communities that used to have a hard time finding teachers!

(Image courtesy of Grant Cochrane / freedigitalphotos.net)

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Although I never intended to be a teacher, I find myself one now. I started teaching after 30+ years in industry. I came into teaching because I enjoy it. I always knew the pay was lower than what I could earn in business, but I already accumulated a nice nest egg. Right now there is no openings until the baby boomers retire. In the U.S. there is a huge push to change education. Only time will tell if it works.

Having different accreditation levels across Canada makes things really difficult. Teachers seem to get the short end of the stick pretty frequently, we deal with it in the US a lot. Hopefully people will appreciate the knowledge you’re trying to give them. I love for people to pursue and realize their dreams, but they should have a good vision of the reality of their field before they start so they know if it is what they really want.

Sounds like entry-level teaching is like it was for new grads in the 1980s: be prepared to move north and rural if you want to actually work. We have friends and family who did and they are glad they did. The north has lots to offer besides a job.

Tabytha

Very insightful, thanks for sharing this honest post ??

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