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Difficult first year highlights need for support for new teachers

May 29 2003

May 29, 2003 (Toronto) Newly hired Ontario teachers don’t get the support they need to start their careers properly and many are at risk of leaving teaching altogether, says a new Ontario College of Teachers study.

"New teachers are incredibly passionate about helping young people learn and yet we make their critical first few years the most difficult," says College Registrar Doug Wilson. "They're hired late, shifted around and given the toughest assignments, often with little or no support. If they're to become better teachers faster and improve student learning, they need help now."

The College's Transition to Teaching study of first and second year teachers found that:

  • more than half of new teachers are hired after school starts in September
  • one in five are asked to teach subjects they haven’t been trained to teach, and
  • almost one in five is at risk of leaving teaching altogether early in their career.

Even though they don’t get the material or mentoring help they need, they appear resolute about wanting to help students succeed.

"I'm sure that parents would find it as heartwarming as I did reading the comments of new teachers," says College Chair Marilyn Laframboise. "Their commitment to improving the lives of their students through learning is both touching and inspiring."

New teachers report high levels of stress. They feel their jobs are insecure. They find the hiring process awkward and difficult. They often have to patch partial assignments together to create full-time jobs. And they are given some of the toughest teaching assignments, some for which they are not specifically trained.

"Getting a teaching job in Ontario can be a bewildering and chaotic experience," says Frank McIntyre, the study's author. "There are plenty of jobs out there, but we have to make it easier for teachers to get them and do them if we want to keep them."

The College is tracking teacher education graduates over five years to discover:

  • how many are hired and what kinds of teaching positions they find
  • the rate at which new teachers leave the profession and why
  • whether their experience at the faculties of education has prepared them well
  • what kinds of supports they need, and
  • how school boards can retain them.

"New teachers lack orientation programs, mentoring and classroom resources," the study says. "Survival becomes their top priority."

Novice teachers value their practice teaching experiences, but want more on-the-job help learning how to manage their classrooms, evaluate student work, plan lessons, and communicate with parents, the College study says. They identify mentoring as a priority and want greater help, advice and time from experienced teachers.

Ontario needs to hire between 9,000 and 10,000 teachers a year for the next seven years to replace those who are retiring and leaving. However, the College says that the response to the survey indicates that 18 per cent of second year teachers are at risk of leaving the profession altogether.

The Transition to Teaching (199 KB) study reveals that:

  • 96 per cent of graduates get teaching jobs and 80 per cent are in regular positions by the end of their second year
  • 86 per cent of first year teachers say that making a difference in people's lives is a very important reason for entering and staying in teaching
  • per cent of new teachers in elementary schools teach in combined grade classrooms and another 20 per cent have a special assignment such as special education or French as a Second Language - many without the specialized training required
  • 20 per cent of secondary school teachers have five or more different courses to prepare in their first year
  • 12 per cent changed jobs within the first year, 52 per cent changed jobs between first and second year, 37 per cent expected another change before their third year.

In answer to the problem, the College has developed a white paper on teacher induction that recommends a mandatory two-year support program for new teachers in every Ontario school board. The College is consulting with teachers and education stakeholders across Ontario to gather feedback.

"New teachers are crying out for support," says Wilson. "We have an historic opportunity to influence teaching practice and student success in the next 30 years by acting now."

This is the second year of the five-year Transition to Teaching study. Funded in part by the Ontario Ministry of Education, the study is designed to find information that government, school boards, universities and the College can use to develop policies and programs to retain them.

The College mailed surveys to 6,223 first and second-year teachers. Precisely 27.5 per cent responded, making the results accurate within 3.5 percentage points, 19 times out of 20. Almost all included comments about their experiences.

For more information:
Brian Jamieson
416-961-8800 ext. 255
Toll-free 1-888-534-2222, ext. 255

101 Bloor Street West, Toronto ON, M5S 0A1, P: 416-961-8800 / Toll Free (Ontario Only): 1-888-534-2222 / F: 416-961-8822 / info@oct.ca

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