Out of practicums

Labour dispute leaves some teacher candidates scrambling to fulfill requirements

Some members of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation are choosing to abstain from voluntary activities, including mentoring teacher candidates.
Some members of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation are choosing to abstain from voluntary activities, including mentoring teacher candidates.

As Bachelor of Education students prepared to embark on their placements this month, some were informed they’d have to make alternate arrangements.

Because of the current labour dispute between the Ontario Secondary School Teachers Federation (OSSTF) and the provincial government over Bill 115, some associate schools have been turning candidates away.

“There are some schools ... that are no longer taking on teacher candidates as it is not a part of a teacher’s contract to do so,” Alex Love, ConEd ’12, told the Journal via email. “Schools that are taking teacher candidates are full from [taking] on those that were originally displaced.”  

“Those looking for placements have been encouraged by the Faculty of Education to essentially take whatever they can get,” he said.

The Faculty is home to a total of 2000 consecutive education students and concurrent education students of all years.

Teacher candidates are required to complete 12 weeks of in-school practice in three teaching blocks at their choice of over 20 Ontario associate schools in areas including Kingston, Peterborough, Toronto, Ottawa, Oshawa and Waterloo. They also have to do an alternative practicum, which can be completed in the Canadian north, abroad or at Ontario schools outside of those the University is associated with.

According to Love, the dispute left some students scrambling to fulfill their alternative placement, which typically takes place in March, instead.

Bill 115, the hotly-contested Act introduced by the Ontario Liberal government, caused protests among students and teachers in Kingston and across the province since it passed on Sept. 11.

The legislation enforces a pay cut on teachers and has led to many OSSTF teachers refraining from all duties outside of their contracts, such as overseeing extra-curricular activities.

Love, who’s completing his own practicum in Ottawa, said he thinks even those of his classmates who did find placements aren’t getting the full experience.

“When a school does not have extra-curriculars, teacher candidates cannot help out in additional aspects, connect with their students beyond the classroom, and really get a feel as to what a teacher’s job is really like,” he said.  

“It is tough to hear some of my colleagues say that they cannot help students with their math homework until 8:00 in the morning because any minute [is] deemed as “extracurricular” math homework and beyond a teacher’s contract.”

Declining an interview, Queen’s Faculty of Education instead released a statement to the Journal that addressed the “difficult decisions that teachers have been making in terms of whether they are taking our teacher candidates.”

“It is a stressful and difficult time in Ontario history as the passing of Bill 115 raises concerns that affect all workers who are part of any collective agreement,” the statement read. “We appreciate the efforts of all involved in these efforts to minimize the impact caused by the displacement of placements.”

The Faculty plans to work with partner teachers, schools and districts to move forward.

Love said he understands the point teachers are trying to make with their abstention from voluntary duties, but that it doesn’t make sense why teacher candidates are being deprioritized.

“We are their future colleagues and if a teacher felt very passionate about the bill, it would be a wonderful opportunity to take us under their wings and teach us about the union we are about to enter and all the politics that come in hand with teaching,” he said.   Following Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty’s announcement on Monday that he would resign and prorogue parliament, union leaders have vowed to continue to fight against the Bill his government introduced.

Elizabeth MacDonald, president of the local OSSTF branch, said decisions about whether to take on teacher candidates to mentor is at the discretion of teachers, as it’s purely voluntary.

“Right now staff are deciding to make individual choices around their voluntary activities, especially in light of bill 115,” she said.

MacDonald said after the branch gave notice to bargain and met with the government, the collective bargaining process hit an impasse and the Federation applied for conciliation to the Ministry of Labour. Following their meeting with the conciliator on Oct. 16, they requested a no board report, which means the bargaining is currently at a standstill.

“17 days after receipt of report, we will be in a legal position to strike, or to take strike action I should say,” MacDonald said.

“Once we’re in a legal strike position … then teacher candidates who are in the school would follow those particular actions,” she said.

“The teacher candidates are associate members of OSSTF while they’re on placement and so they have all the protections and responsibilities of OSSTF members.”

‑— With files from Vincent Matak

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