Monday 31 March 2014

Being an Ontario Certified Teacher in 2014

Ever since I was a little girl I wanted to be a teacher (okay, fine I will be honest there was a 2-4 year period where I wanted to be an actress – specifically a soap opera actress!). But in terms of a realistic career goal, teaching was always it. When I was in my last year of university I eagerly researched application dates and requirements and applied. Around the same time, I found the Event Management program at Niagara College. I can’t even remember how I came across this but I remember when I did I was equally excited. Event Planning was something I loved to do – I was the one who planned all of the functions for my dad’s company as well as family events, and I just loved it. From the booking entertainment, to finding someone to play Santa, to shopping for favors or gifts, planning the food/drinks – I was in my element. The idea that I could do this for a living was suddenly just as appealing as teaching.  

I put together a portfolio and decided to apply but I didn’t think I had any chance of getting in, as they only accepted around 30-35 students each year. But, I was just as passionate about teaching and was loving a volunteer placement I was doing in an grade eight classroom and my time running a local brownie unit, so if I didn’t get in, I knew I would be fine.  

When the acceptance letters started coming in, I was at a crossroads. I ultimately decided to try event management. It was something new and exciting, and involved moving away and living on my own which was something I wanted to try – plus it was in Niagara, an area I had always loved.

That year was incredibly tough – both personally and academically. There is sometimes a stigma about college being easy and all about having fun and partying – that was so not my experience! The event management program was intense! In addition to a full class schedule (with many assignments and projects), we were in teams planning two events (mine was a charity dinner dance and a wedding) and doing hundreds of hours of volunteer placements. At the same time my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer so it meant frequent trips home. Fortunately I was able to find a placement in Toronto, and the drive from Niagara back home could be done in just under two hours.

Teaching was still a passion of mine, and some of my placements reinforced that often. I worked with the Angel Foundation for Learning whose offices are in the TCDSB offices and work closely with Toronto schools to assist students in need and I also spent a week doing an Education trade show. So I decided to again apply for teachers colleges, and see what happened this. Just after I got accepted to the program I wanted (York University’s education program in Whitby) I was in a meeting with one of my event professors. I mentioned my acceptance and she strongly encouraged me to accept. She was very open and candid about the event industry – first off, how there weren’t currently many jobs to be found in it. And secondly, what a demanding career it can be personally. Many people in the industry are either divorced or choose to remain single, because their work hours are primarily weekends and holidays. She encouraged me to really think long and hard about what I wanted in life, while pointing out the incredible opportunity teaching was.

That night I accepted the offer.

I would never say that teaching was settling or giving up on a dream, because honestly I loved them both. Even today, I know I would be happy in either field. In terms of event planning, I would want more of a job within a charity that has more regular hours in addition to the occasional events.

Teachers college was just as intense as the event planning, and I found myself thankful that I was prepared for it. As soon as I started my placements I was in my glory! Yes it was hard work, and some days/lessons/students provided a challenge but it was just as amazing as I had thought it would be. That was almost five years ago.

Since then, I have completed five additional qualifications courses, been a member in good standing of OCT (always paying my dues on time) and even gave up working for 6 months to volunteer at a local school. I am constantly sending in applications to various school boards – ones in and out of the GTA – but have had no luck. I did make it on the TDSB eligible to hire list at one point, but due to new regulations wasn’t able to actually be hired at the school level.

I won’t lie, it’s frustrating. To have wanted something and worked so hard for it, yet have it not happen is hard. Fortunately, I know I am not the only one. Many of the people I went to teachers college with are in the same boat and all the teachers I speak to tell me the same thing – it’s really tough out there. I try not to let it get to me, and I keep on sending resumes in and quite possibly annoying people, but it’s hard to always be positive.

Each year I see more new graduates becoming certified. I hear of experienced teachers moving to Ontario, or being laid off from their board due to school closings. Now there is talk of further changes and lay offs occurring if the election goes a certain way. Adding to this is the fact that many retired teachers are still using their seniority to be on the supply lists – meaning there isn’t much room for teachers like me to get on and gain the experience needed. 

If this wasn’t frustrating enough, each year the cost of an OCT membership increases – and if you aren’t a member in good standing you can’t be hired. So you’re stuck paying it, along with paying for Apply to Education credits which is mandatory to apply to many school boards. When I add up my OCT membership and my Apply to Education credits – it’s over $300.00 just to apply and even be eligible.  Then when you add in additional qualifications which start at about 800.00+, you are over $1000.00. It’s really hard to spend that much, especially when nothing is panning out. But I still try, and try not to focus on the frustrating aspects.

I don’t know what the future holds for me. I no longer only focus on teaching jobs – currently I am looking for anything. I am fortunate to be working for my parents company, but I want to find something else soon. All I can keep doing is applying, and keeping my fingers crossed that I can find something I love! 

But in all honestly to any younger students who mention wanting to be a teacher, it’s not a career choice I can recommend.

I have an online portfolio at:

And have wiki devoted to additional qualification courses I have taken at:

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