Sorry Teach- Get In Line: How Ontario’s educations regulations are hurting our young teachers

Matt Patriarche was destined to be a teacher.

Since he was a kid Matt knew he loved leading others and teaching those around him. It’s the reason he always wanted a younger sibling. When he was eight years old he got his wish and his younger brother Mitchell was born. Matt calls it the happiest day of his life. He grew up spending his summers at camp and when he was 15 he had the opportunity to work as a counselor in training. Matt says it was that first night in the cabin when he knew for sure that teaching was what he was meant to do. “Spending time with those kids…it was like something clicked and I knew that teaching was something that I not only wanted to do but was something that I would be really good at.”

“I knew that teaching was something that I not only wanted to do but was something that I would be really good at.” 

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Matt and his little brother Mitchell whose birth he says was “a dream come true.”

That passion lasted and Matt went to Queen’s University where he studied History and Fine Arts. In the summers he worked at overnight camp where he ran programs for kids ages 7-17. Post Queens there was no question in Matt’s mind what he was going to do. “It was always teaching.” Matt headed off to teachers college at Ottawa U in the fall of 2014, knowing that he was that much closer to his lifelong dream. Unfortunately that dream was more complicated than Matt anticipated. Matt like many young teachers has been hurt by the changes made to Ontario’s Teaching hiring practices. He cannot get a job in a school board; in fact he cannot even get an interview.

Young teachers in Ontario like Matt are not just jobless they are frustrated. Recent legislation that changed hiring practices within Ontario schools has pushed merit aside and new teachers resumes to the bottom of the pile. This new legislation has forced teachers to either work in the private sector with less security, move overseas for a job, or to change career paths completely.

            In 2012 the hiring rules for Ontario schools changed. Regulation 274 was introduced that stated that school boards must have two occasional teacher lists. One for supply’s and one for long-term contracts. If you are able to get onto a supply list you must supply for a minimum of 20 days in a year to be considered eligible to move onto the next list. The government stated that the idea behind the regulation was “to promote a consistent, transparent and fair hiring process for long-term and permanent occasional teachers.” Basically the government wanted to combat against worries about preferential hiring and nepotism.

When you break it down all this regulation did was make it nearly impossible for young teachers to get a job. New hires and supply positions now have to come from those who have been active the longest with the most seniority. Principles no longer have the option of interviewing candidates who they believe would be the best fit for their school and their students. Instead they are forced to hire teachers based on who has been on a list the longest. Young, bright, excited teachers are far from the top of that list, in fact many can’t even get on that list.

2015 was Matt’s first year out of teacher’s college. Excited about his future and confident in his teaching abilities he began to check the York Region, and Toronto Region’s school board sites daily. Every morning he would wake up and refresh the page hoping that there would be a supply slot that would open that he could apply to. That opportunity never came. He began to work a full-time retail job to make ends meet, and started volunteering in a classroom to fulfill his passions for teaching. For Matthew the new regulations meant putting his dreams aside for a year.

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In the summer of 2016 Matt was offered a full-time job teaching in a grade six classroom. It seemed all of his dreams were coming true. But there was a catch. The school he was offered the job at was a private school. This meant that he would be taking a significant pay cut, he would have little job security, and he would not be in a board. Taking the job meant a full year he would not be able to try to get into the public system. A system that has a union, adequate pay, a pension plan, and security. Matt took the job as it is his dream to teach but says he is aware of what he is giving up. Matt says taking the job has been like a double edge sword for him: “I love my job and my class but the private system isn’t something stable. While I’m it it I am not able to apply to supply, and my years here as an independent teacher wouldn’t translate to the public system. If I left the private system I would have to start again at ground zero.” Not only has it meant walking away from the public boards but it has also meant a pay-cut. Matt has had to continue to keep a part time job in retail to make ends meet. In addition to the 40+ hours he spends at school teaching and coaching he works an additional 20 hours a week doing all he can to make his paycheques last.

“If I left the private system I would have to start again at ground zero.”

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What Matthew means is that because of the new regulations his experience of having his own classroom and working as a teacher would mean little to nothing when applying to public boards. Before the regulations a principle could look at Matthew’s experience and hire him directly as a full-time teacher. Now Matthew would have to go back to outside work to make ends meet while checking his email daily hoping for an opening.

Many critics would argue that young teachers like Matt should be open to moving and commuting to smaller towns where boards may have more openings. The regulation would also make that choice more difficult. If you were a writer, or a banker, or a nurse you would be able to start in a smaller market and if you wanted to move one day you could allow your experience to speak for itself. It doesn’t work like that for Ontario teachers. Board to board transfers do not exist within this new system and so even if Matt was able to get into a board in a different town if he ever wanted to move back to the Toronto area he would have to start all over again.

For young teaching students now it paints a bleak picture of the future. Ron Oswon, the Dean of Education at York warns that these new regulations are harming the profession. Oswon said that the regulations have had a severe effect on education students. “It’s difficult for them to get into the teaching force. It may take several years for them to get a full-time job,” he said.

“The teaching force in general won’t be able to benefit from them and that’s a shame.”

The Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario, said the regulation is being unfairly targeted and that at its core the regulation promotes equity in hiring. A representative from the ETFO who wished to not be named said that the regulation should actually be helpful to teachers. “One of the things the regulation has done is create a clear pathway from the faculty of education through work as an occasional teacher, through work as a long-term occasional teacher and then hired. And what it does is provide lots of opportunities for the teachers to perfect their craft.”

Comments like that make teacher’s like Matt enraged.

For him those opportunities that the ETFO is referencing do not exist. Regulation 274 is a discriminatory practices that is hurting Ontario’s teaching force.


           Matt is not alone. There are thousands of young Ontario teachers in the same position as him. Matt is lucky that he has a full-time teaching job but when he looks towards the future it makes him nervous. Staying in the private system would mean doing what he loves but he would be sacrificing the opportunity to apply to a board. For him a board means security and a job that pays enough for him to support himself. However as long as this regulation is in place seniority will rule over merit, and these young teachers like Matt will have to continue to wait.

 

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