Teacher’s college blues

It’s a difficult time to be an education student

I was sitting at a desk with four boys in their applied history class. Instead of diving straight into the political issues of World War Two, I started by comparing it to a schoolyard fight where everybody begins by taking their friends’ sides.

After this comparison, the boys were far more receptive to the details. When they were able to recall it almost perfectly on a test many days later, I was proud of them and surprised at myself.

That was three years ago when I was volunteering at my old high school and considering high school teaching as a career option. It was a time before lesson planning, hiring freezes and politics. It was a time of blissful naivety.

At some point during the past few months I found myself disillusioned by teacher’s college here at York University. It turns out I’m not alone. My classmates and I are feeling pressure from all sides, including the issues that come with the recently passed Bill 115, which freezes Ontario teachers’ wages and allows the government to intervene in school board negotiations with the unions.

On top of that, we are also constantly reminded about how new teachers like us will never get jobs. It may or may not be true, but it sure is demoralizing. Some of us are considering backup options. Do we want to stay at home or go abroad where there may be more jobs? Some of us are reconsidering the profession altogether, feeling we may be meant for other fields.

I suppose it’s normal to be disappointed with the realities of one’s dream career, and that politics, wages and hiring freezes aren’t issues limited to teaching. But it’s still difficult to read about how teachers are viewed by the public and about how hard it is to get hired without taking it to heart. Over the past couple weeks, I’ve discussed these issues with fellow students. Here are our stories.

H.L. completed his Master of Science before teacher’s college. He’s enjoyed the practice teaching, but is disappointed overall. “Between low job prospects and learning theories that aren’t applicable, it’s in need of a major facelift,” he says. “Almost all of our courses are a waste of time and money.”

R.C. did her undergraduate degree at York University. In between courses, she works and volunteers. She is learning time management and leadership, but admits to feeling burnt out already. “I’m not enjoying teacher’s college as much as I thought I might,” she says. “There’s a lot of unnecessary courses and not enough time spent on lesson planning,” she adds.

C.C. worked in the performing arts and completed several shows and musicals before she realized she wanted to teach drama. Like others, she is disillusioned by the politics in teaching, but that doesn’t stop her from wanting to share her experiences with students, so she carries on.

When I was accepted to the program, I was over the moon. Today, I constantly feel drained. I wish I could have more time in the classroom honing my skills instead of worrying how many more words I need to fill my minimum page counts on assignments. I tell myself this is all part of the motions I must go through to prepare for my career.

Still, teacher’s college has been good to me. I’m going through it with a solid group of people who support each other, accommodating instructors and a fantastic mentor teacher. For those times that can’t go by fast enough, being surrounded by those people really makes a difference.

There may be reality checks along the way, but I’m sure all teachers have gone through the same things, so I plan to keep moving ahead. After all, nothing makes me feel more in my element than being in front of a classroom. Perhaps with some luck and skill, I’ll be able to make that same World War Two as a schoolyard fight comparison as a certified teacher, hopefully sooner than later.

Yuni Kim (@YuniKimchi on Twitter) is an education student at York University. Are you a teaching student or considering an education degree? Tell us your thoughts in the comments section.