Teacher candidates struggle to find placement opportunities

‘Treat your students with more respect’

Image supplied by: Journal File Photo
COVID-19 creates challenges for Education students to find opportunities in school boards. 

For students in the education program, a practicum placement is required to register with the Ontario College of Teachers (OCT). This year, however, some students have found it challenging to find placement opportunities.

In an email sent to The Journal, Peter Chin, associate dean of Teacher Education, said this challenge exists for teaching students across Ontario.

“Practicum placements in schools are currently a challenge across all Faculties of Education in Ontario as school boards are navigating the ongoing impacts of COVID,” Chin wrote. 

Chin referenced logistics and modifications to the traditional four-month semester in school boards as a few possible reasons behind placement issues. 

“The alternating week quadmesters in some school boards have created more problems for placement logistics as well since Intermediate/Senior (I/S) [Grades 7 to 12] teacher candidates must be placed in appropriate courses as required by the OCT,” Chin said.

“A majority of the school boards in our catchment area have a centralized system for assigning practicum placements. This process differs from board to board.”

Chin explained that as of Nov 3, only a small portion of the education class was impacted by a lack of practicum placements. He said the Practicum Office, run by the Faculty of Education, is working to assist these students.

“Our Practicum Office is currently working hard to place the less than 7 per cent of students who do not yet have a placement.”

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Maya Haynes-Pool, ConEd ’22, is one of these students.

“We are not getting vital experience. The Faculty of Education and the Ontario College of Teachers[SIC] have all said [practicum experience] is vital,” Haynes-Poole said in an interview with The Journal

Haynes-Poole, who created a petition to advocate for students who are unable to get a placement position, emphasized the difference between teaching and learning the theory behind education. 

“There is a very large difference between being in a lecture hall listening about how to teach and being in a classroom. They are two separate entities, and our program is based around practicum,” Haynes-Poole said. 

According to Haynes-Poole and Chin, the seven per cent of students not placed in practicum are currently doing a “deep dive” log on EDII (equity, diversity, inclusion, and Indigeneity). This log has been designed to be self-guided. 

“We provided an alternative learning task on equity, diversity, inclusion, and Indigeneity (EDII) for teacher candidates to complete while we continue to work with school boards to secure placements. The EDII task is being offered in lieu of practicum placements and will be assessed by the Faculty,” Chin said. 

On the EDII task being offered as a temporary replacement, Haynes-Poole said the activities don’t have the same quality as the traditional practicum. 

“I have already completely missed the first part of practicum, which amounts to 90 hours […] and everyone does it differently. We only recently got confirmation that TAs would mark the [EDII] logs,” Haynes-Poole said.

Haynes-Poole said while students understand the challenges that exist in finding practicum places, they’re disappointed in how the Faculty of Education is handling the situation.

“We are still in a pandemic, and it is very understandable that teachers would not want teacher-candidates in their classrooms. Teachers are already burned out,” Haynes-Poole said. 

Haynes-Poole is particularly disappointed that teacher candidates are not able to get refunds for missed practicum opportunities. 

“No one seeks higher education for the course codes. […] Ultimately, Peter Chin is saying we are paying for the credit, but we are not, we are paying for the education we are not receiving,” she said.

“I think we are entitled to a full if not partial rebate.”

According to Chin, student fees are used to support alternative methods of assessment, and that providing a refund would cause refunded students to lose course credit.

“Although not the preferred experience for practicum, the EDII task is being used as an equivalent in order to grant the credits for the OCT program requirement. A request for a refund amounts to making a request for the money linked to credits that are part of a program requirement,” Chin said.

In the face of losing out on the practicum experience, Haynes-Poole said teacher candidates are facing a lot of anxiety.

“A lot of people were in school boards across the province and there was so much uncertainty. […] This situation has taken a toll on my mental health and the mental health of others—this isn’t being acknowledged by the faculty,” Haynes-Poole said. 

“Treat your students with more respect. Dr. Chin speaks a lot about connecting students with their dreams. […] That is not what’s happening.”


faculty of education, teachers

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