Thursday, April 2, 2009
Teacher's Training in Canada: How Do Teacher's Colleges Compare?
I interview teachers across Canada for teaching positions in London, England. I've been doing this for almost 5 years now, so I'm in a unique position to comment on our teacher's colleges and how they compare. Some teachers graduate fully prepared for teaching and sadly, some graduate without any clue as to what the "real world" of teaching will be like. So, here are my thoughts on a few that really stand out.
This is the university that accepted me into teacher's college (Ottawa U & Nipissing both put me on waiting lists), so I am obviously biased here. But even if I didn't go to Queen's I would notice that their training is quite different than other universities across Canada.
They have 2 things going for them in particular - an alternative practicum and a placement office. The alternative practicum is a chance for teachers to expand their skills and do something outside of traditional teaching. It is also well funded for students with OSAP debt, giving them opportunities they wouldn't have otherwise. In my case, I went to Bangladesh for a three week practicum and helped to build latrines, screen for eye cataract surgery and assist the doctors with pre and post operation work. Certainly different than typical teacher's college right?
The placement office at Queen's helps teachers to write resumes and prepare for interviews. The team (Elspeth, Alan and Sharon) does an outstanding job at preparing teachers, so when I go to interview them, they sound professional, confident and capable of teaching in any school. This is probably the #1 reason to go to Queen's for teachers college! You need to know that when you graduate, you will know how to get a job at the end of it all.
2. McGill University
McGill is a lot like Queen's in that they also have staff on hand to help teachers prepare for the job hunt. Antonella Nizzolla works with teachers and helps them make good choices about where to apply and how to be successful in their applications. Kind of like a guidance counsellor, Antonella knows her stuff and is excellent at her job. McGill grads always interview incredibly well and their teaching experience in London has been excellent. Their resumes are always well written, and end up on the top of the pile.
3. OISE - University of Toronto
OISE is massive, which I would normally say is a problem, but in this case, it works for them. The best & brightest get into U.of T. so you know that the teachers who get into OISE are in an elite class of their own. But it's not just that they are academically smart that puts them above the rest. They are also professional, capable, and very well researched. They have an 'inner-city' cohort that teachers love. In my world, that's very important. Inner city school teaching is different from the suburbs. It just is. So, it's always refreshing to interview teachers from OISE as I know they know what I am looking for when it comes to inner city school teaching in London.
4. University of Victoria
Again, I'm biased here as I live in Victoria so spend a large amount of my time with U.Vic grads. 10% of the graduates from last year are teaching with us in London this year. That is a very high number! The real reason I like this program is that it's small (about 100 teachers in each program) and the faculty clearly really care how their teachers do. Every time I visit, they ask about the teachers from last year. They know where each and every one of their teachers is now, which says a lot about their staff. The teachers are usually very well prepared for interview and do incredibly well with teaching in London.
Nipissing makes this list because they have one really good thing going for them - their focus on technology in the classroom. Every teacher has a laptop and is tapped into technology throughout class. The downside to this? Well, let's face it - they're on facebook and twitter when they should be participating in class. So, I've interviewed some that are outstanding and others that are...well, not so much. I love that Nipissing grads already know how to use Smart Boards (IWB's) as we use the same technology in London. That really helps when they arrive and are thrown into a classroom with an IWB.
I spend more time in BC and Ontario than anywhere else, so can't comment on most other provinces education programs. What do you think? Do you think another university should be in this list? Please share your thoughts below.
Also, here is a comprehensive list of all the teacher's colleges in Canada.
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