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Difficult first year highlights need for support for new teachers

May 29 2003

About the Transition to Teaching study

This is the second year of a five-year study, Transition to Teaching, done by the Ontario College of Teachers with funding from the Ontario Ministry of Education and Training. The Ministry of Education contributed $50,000 in each of the first two years towards the cost of the study.


In March 2003, the College mailed surveys to 6,223 first and second-year teachers (3,015 who graduated from a faculty of education in 2002, and 3,208 who graduated
in 2001)

Precisely, 27.5 per cent responded, making the results accurate within 3.5 percentage points, 19 times out of 20. Almost all respondents included comments about their experiences.

The College conducted surveys of teacher education graduates upon their graduation in June 2001 and followed up in March and April of 2002 regarding their first year experiences

The Respondents

The teachers who responded to the 2003 survey are representative of the 2001 and 2002 graduates from Ontario's 10 faculties of education and from seven U.S. border colleges.

  • 13 per cent were French language program candidates
  • half held Primary-Junior certificates
  • 17 per cent graduated from Junior-Intermediate programs
  • 28 per cent graduated from Intermediate-Senior programs
  • 4 per cent were Technological Studies teachers
  • one-third of the respondents were age 30 or older

Why is the College doing this?

Transition to Teaching helps to address a provincial focus on teacher supply and demand and supports the College's mandate to ensure that there is a certified and qualified teacher in the classroom of every publicly funded school in Ontario

The College is tracking 2001 and 2002 teacher education graduates to find out:

  • how many new teachers 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 new teachers need, and
  • how school boards can retain them.

What new teachers are saying

The passion of Ontario's new teachers can be heard in their collective voices. The following quotations are drawn from comments submitted by new teachers with their survey responses.

About getting a teaching job...

"Each board has their own hiring process and you get very confused."

"It is highly stressful and competitive, and the interview process seemed so rushed when it finally happened."

"Obtaining a job was hard because my district school board has budget problems that led to late recruitment."

"My board posted 100 positions, but unfortunately very few of them were full time. Many were .1, .2 and .3 positions. In order to get full time, I had to take two different .5 assignments in different towns. Travelling between towns during my lunch break was difficult, especially when the weather was bad."

"I was hired in the second-last week of August and was bumped through four different grade level positions before school started. These changes were not voluntary, but they did end up changing my status from long-term occasional to regular status."

About support in the new job...

"I just got thrown in two weeks after school started, with no preparation time, no guidance from administration; it was basically sink or swim. I'm still trying to learn to float."

"The mentoring program has not really been helpful as the time to be 'mentored’ is not worked into our schedule, either for the mentor or the mentee."

"Mentoring would be so wonderful. Time management is really difficult, classroom organization is very difficult, and parents can be very unsupportive. It would be great to have someone help when setting up the classroom in August. It would be ideal to work side by side for the first year."

"It is very hectic and expensive to teach a combined class, with very limited classroom resources. I had to purchase 35 books for book study."

On their outlook for the future...

"It's tough and a lot of work, inside and outside the classroom. You have to love it. Good thing that I do. Can’t wait for next year."

"I'm having the time of my life and have never been happier in a career. I'm never bored, which is fabulous."

"Amidst the stress of the politics of teaching, I would not choose any other career. The students make my job worthwhile and provide motivation for me."

"It's been a roller coaster of ups and downs, thankfully mostly ups. The good news is that I will never have to experience my first year of teaching again."

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