Monday, September 20, 2010

Jetting away?

Looking for a teaching job sucks. But more specifically, looking for a teaching job in Canada sucks, because the system is stacked against the newcomer, because the job market and the economy are stacked against the newcomer, and because the means of searching for a job are positively medieval. Let me break it down for you:

The system is stacked
Teachers in Ontario enjoy some of the best working conditions for teachers in the world: the pay's good, the job security is good, the time required to reach salary ceiling is relatively short (9 years), the opportunities to raise one's qualifications (and therefore pay) are many, the pension and other benefits are fantastic. All of this, however, depends on powerful teacher unions, and therefore there is a price for all these great benefits. Teachers' unions protect their members (they wouldn't be unions if they didn't), but they do so in ways that make entry into teaching profession difficult. Retired teachers are allowed to be on occasional teaching lists (supply teaching, filling in for disability/maternity leaves, etc.) and speaking from experience most supply teachers I've encountered so far have been retired or returning teachers. By contrast, newcoming teachers are at a disadvantage because of lack of classroom experience. It is expected that they will pick up experience through occasional teaching, but just how one is expected to compete with retired teachers who are favoured by the unions and the schools (schools prefer to call retired teachers and old colleagues rather than new teachers - this is a sentiment that I've heard expressed openly)?

The Catch-22 that all fresh newcomers to a job market face ("How am I supposed to get experience if no one will hire me because of lack of experience?") is especially bad for teachers. I'm not saying this to whine, but this is a simple statement of fact. The vast majority of teaching jobs in this country are in the public and Catholic sector, both with powerful teaching unions. A lawyer might not be able to start in a big firm right away, but maybe he can go to a small firm first, work for less money, get experience, and then work his way up. A teacher faces the same public/Catholic school system and union everywhere s/he goes in Ontario. Ah, but maybe the hopeful teacher can pick up experience elsewhere first? Sure, but experience picked up in other provinces or out of country is not valued as highly in Ontario, and moreover you don't accumulate contacts in the Ontario school system. The adage "it's not what you know - it's who you know" is as true in the teaching profession as anywhere else. Getting hired is a lot easier when you know the people interviewing you, or the principle of the school, or if you both know some other third party, and so on.

The job market/economy is stacked
There is a glut of teachers in Canada. After looking at jobs in other provinces, I can safely say that the supposed deficiency of teachers elsewhere in Canada is largely a myth. There are areas constantly in need of teachers (NWT, Yukon, Nunavut, the reserves). There are good reasons for this constant deficiency, but it has nothing to do with a chronic shortage of teachers. Judging by rejection emails I've been receiving, even tiny schools in tiny towns up north in Ontario receive upward of 50 applications per position. The numbers in south-eastern Ontario are much much higher - the highest number of applicants for a single position I've seen so far is 163. So the job market sucks. The economy also sucks. Even if I was to be able to get at least some employment by doing occasional teaching, in today's prices it's enough to live on, but no money to save or pay off the debts with.

Job searching is medieval
Oh sure, they (education employers) found the existance of the internet, but I think they're still a little baffled by how to use it properly or to its best potential. Dig this. Some boards in Ontario hire through a single website while other boards hire through their own board websites, while other boards choose to post jobs on third-party websites. Now applytoeducation would be the best place to look for a job as most of the employers in Ontario use it (but not boards in GTA area strangely enough), were it not for the fact that you have to pay for its use. It costs 80 dollars or so to register with the website, and then you have to pay 10 dollars (plus tax) per board that you wish to apply to. So I have to pay 10 dollars to apply to Ottawa-Carleton District School Board, another 10 dollars to apply to Ottawa-Carleton Catholic District School Board, another 10 dollars to apply to Simcoe Country District School Board, and so on and so on. Having looked at jobs in other countries I can safely and honestly say that this is just about the dumbest, greediest, and inefficient system for job seekers around.

So what next? So far U.K. seems like a pretty good opportunity, and it's something I'm starting to pursue. Will post more later.