All Posts Tagged With: "teachers"
Prof. Pettigrew says it’s worth considering
The idea of an exam for new teachers, similar to the bar exam for would-be lawyers, has been floated in the U.S. and we should consider it too.
As it stands now, teachers generally require only the requisite degrees in order to earn certification in their province. Shouldn’t that be enough?
No. There are simply too many ways to game the system—taking the easiest courses one can find, finding the easiest sections of mandatory courses, inventing dead relatives to get exemptions and extensions—everyone knows the tricks—though not everyone uses them. It would be nice to know which are which. Besides, there is a world of difference between the student who passes with fifties and the student who passes with nineties. And degree status itself doesn’t indicate that. Even among honours graduates there can be a large difference in abilities.
The potential benefits of such an exam are numerous.
The (surprisingly) most-read stories of 2011
Each year, we offer Maclean’s On Campus readers a look back at the Top 10 most-read higher education news stories of the year. There were two big themes in 2011. First, the many scandals over universities’ reputations, from Alberta to Queen’s to St. FX. Second, uncertainty about the job market for grads.
1. Time for this year’s edition of X-ring Idol
Our blogging English professor, Todd Pettigrew, dared to compare the obsession of St. Francis Xavier students with their beloved X-ring to Gollum’s unhealthy quest for the precious. We knew St. FX students would defend their tradition vociferously—and they did, with more than 250 comments over three days. Most were from alumni and students who thought Pettigrew missed the point. They argued that the ring symbolizes their hard work and the family-like bond they instantly glean whenever a fellow X-grad catches a glimpse of their band. Then again, dozens of readers agreed with Pettigrew—some even suggested the flood of emotional reactions reinforced his point.
Professor salaries didn’t grow much last year
Statistics Canada has released their annual professor salary report. Across 29 universities, average salaries for full-time teaching staff grew 2.5 per cent, from $113,148 in 2010 to $116,024 in 2011. Prices also rose 2.7 per cent for the 12 months ending in July, so it’s not much of a gain.
But women did make gains. The report shows a 1.3 per cent rise in the share of women teachers, compared to a 0.3 per cent rise the year before. Still, men account for 62.4 per cent of staff.
Here is the median pay for associate professors.*
Double dipping with pension and salary
Auditor General John Noseworthy released a report on Wednesday that says more than 400 teachers in Newfoundland and Labrador are being paid twice: once for their pension, and then an additional salary.
In 2009, 443 teachers received $5.2 million in salary along with $15.6 million in pension benefits. According to the report, after examining a sample of 138, none had required approval from the Minister of Finance, and 60 were rehired for in excess of 65 days without having pension benefits suspended.
The report notes that this is contrary to the Teachers’ Pension Act and Government policy, and that there were even four instances where retired teachers were hired “even though numerous non-retired teachers had applied.”
One Quebec summer camp for inner-city kids has produced generations of educators
When you think of summer camp, visions of campfires and canoeing immediately come to mind. But along with roasting marshmallows and nature hikes, one very special residential children’s summer camp in Quebec is doing much more. Summer might be over, but at this camp, the impact is felt year-round.
For some university students, Camp Amy Molson has changed their lives, or at least their career paths. But the camp is also creating some of Canada’s future educators.
Susan Chisholm knew she wanted to become a pharmacist. But after working at Camp Amy Molson for a summer, that changed. For her, after spending eight summers at the camp, going into teaching became a “natural progression.” Sue says the camp taught her to “know kids as people,” and today Sue is a teacher near Ottawa. She has no regrets about changing her career path from being a pharmacist to becoming an educator.
Located in Grenville-sur-la-Rouge, Quebec, Camp Amy Molson is a residential camp for inner-city Montreal children, with an outreach program offered from its Montreal office year-round. The camp recently celebrated its 65th anniversary, holding a fundraising reunion for past campers, staff and volunteers.
Kosta Hatzis, who first started working for the camp part-time while he was a student, has been a board member since 2006. He describes the camp’s target group as “socially disadvantaged inner-city kids.” For these campers, explains Kosta, Camp Amy Molson is a safe place, a place where they can “grow in ways that they could never grow in the city.”
All five of Debbie Gunn’s children attended the camp. She says it gave her kids a chance to experience things they never could in the city. “Where I lived (in the city) there was nothing for the kids to do. Camp taught them all kinds of things. They got to go boating, swimming, and have lots of safe places to play outside.”
Shauna Joyce, the camp’s executive director, hires dozens of post-secondary students to work for the camp each summer. She says many of the camp’s staff end up becoming educators. “Social work, teachers, and education. They’re all a big trend with our staff.”
Meaghan Higginson is part of that trend. She’s worked at the camp for nine summers now, while attending post-secondary education, starting at age 15 as a counsellor-in-training. Although she describes her first year working with underprivileged youth as a bit of a shock, Meaghan wasn’t scared away. After discovering that she loves working with kids, that first year cemented her future career choice: teaching. But the camp didn’t just help her find a career path. Meaghan says it also helped prepare her for the role, giving her the skills to be a teacher. Meaghan lists confidence and dealing with classroom management as important abilities she learned from her time at camp.
Province says raise will be five per cent, teachers’ association says it should be at least six
Alberta Education Minister Dave Hancock says he’s prepared to stand his ground over wage increases for teachers.
The province announced last week that school instructors will be getting a raise of just under five per cent. The government imposed the increase after months of wrangling over a formula used to determine salaries.
The Alberta Teachers’ Association calculates the increase should be at least six per cent – a difference of $23 million – and has said it will take the province to arbitration if necessary.
“If one side invokes a process, the other side has to be there to defend themselves,” he said Monday.
Alberta teachers have a deal with the government that guarantees five years of labour peace in exchange for annual wage adjustments based on average earnings in the province.
The deal is tied to the Statistics Canada average weekly earnings index, but the national agency recently changed its method of calculating the figure, and that’s where the dispute began.
Hancock says everyone needs to work together to figure out how to slice $80 million from the education budget.
“I’ll be sitting down with school boards, with the ATA, with the parents association and with other stakeholders in the system through the course of the fall to be really focusing on what that means for the next year and the next two years,” he said.
Contract faculty are paid less, get no benefits and have no job security. But they’re fighting back
As the York University strike stretched on earlier this winter, educators and education watchers began to express newfound and not-so-new concerns about the reliance on contingent faculty in Canadian universities. This article in The Times Higher Education Supplement discusses the casualized academic workforce in American universities and reviews the growing backlash against the working conditions faced by adjunct and part-time faculty:
Adjuncts in higher education, estimated to number some 600,000 across the US, are paid the equivalent of 64 per cent less per hour than their full-time colleagues, receive no health insurance or other benefits, may lose their appointments with little notice if enrolments shift or budgets fall, and are typically not entitled to jobless compensation because they are considered temporary. To earn a living, many teach large numbers of courses at different schools simultaneously.
Until now, adjunct faculty have been slow to organise to fight for better working conditions. Much of the problem is logistical; some teach at night or, because they have no offices, are not on campus other than during their class times. Dependent on being reappointed every semester, they fear being blackballed by administrators. They have also received almost no support from the principal traditional faculty unions in the US.
But this is beginning to change. Independent organising efforts by adjuncts have taken root in Boston and Chicago, with early successes at winning higher pay and other concessions. Non-academic unions including those representing automobile workers and government employees, seeing an opportunity to increase their memberships, have started organising adjuncts.
Strike by 73,000 teachers would affect about 750,000 students
Premier Dalton McGuinty is urging elementary school teachers to avert a potential strike and take a “fair” contract offer that his government has put on the table.
Ontario’s public elementary school teachers have until 4 p.m. Thursday to either accept or reject the government’s four-deal deal.
Education Minister Kathleen Wynne says if teachers don’t take the $700-million offer, they will be stuck with a two-year deal that will be worth much less.
A strike would affect about 750,000 students.
Wynne says the contract proposal would give teachers a 10.4 per cent salary increase over four years, and include money to hire more teachers.
School boards have already accepted the offer, but the union says it’s outraged by Wynne’s threats and deadlines.
Last month, the union threatened to hold a strike vote if “significant progress” wasn’t made in contract talks with school boards by Feb. 13.
That could put more than 73,000 teachers and education workers in a strike position by the end of March.
The province had set two other deadlines with teachers, but an agreement was never reached.
McGuinty dismissed suggestions Thursday that setting a third deadline at the last minute makes his government look weak.
“I think what Ontarians expect of their government is that they will establish a solid, professional, good working relationship with our teachers,” he said.
“I think we’ve done that. And I think the results speak for themselves — higher graduation rates and higher test scores.”
For weeks, Wynne has insisted the souring economy meant there was no more money for elementary teachers.
But the province’s latest offer isn’t that far off the original, $800-million deal that would have given teachers a 12 per cent pay raise over four years.
That was trimmed to four per cent over two years when no agreement was reached in December.
The new offer doesn’t appear to resolve a key issue that the union says is at the heart of the dispute — the province’s unwillingness to commit to closing a $711-per-student funding gap between elementary and high schools.
These innovative and dedicated professors are Canada’s best
Baljit Singh, a professor of anatomy at the University of Saskatchewan’s Western College of Veterinary Medicine, laughs about it now—but during his first year as a veterinary student, he failed the very course he now teaches. “I always tell my students,” says Singh. “I use it as a very inspirational example. I say, ‘Look, this is what happened to me in my first year. And I ended up teaching anatomy.’”
Singh, the one-time academic bungler, has since gone on to receive numerous academic distinctions, and is one of 10 professors named this year to the 3M National Teaching Fellowship. The award was established 24 years ago by 3M Canada in collaboration with the Society of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education. Maclean’s has been the award’s media partner since 2006.
These new fellows join an elite club that now includes 238 professors. To win, it’s not enough to be merely a great teacher. “We’re looking for personalities, for people who are authentic, who are passionate—and Baljit is a great example,” says program coordinator Arshad Ahmad, a Concordia University business professor and a 3M fellow himself.
Singh attributes his pedagogic success to the teachers in his own life. “They have built a fire in my mind,” says Singh. “This is the power of a teacher—once you are hooked up with an outstanding teacher, half the battles are won.”
The 3M National Teaching Fellowship rewards great teaching, and the teaching leadership required to share innovations with the broader educational community. Fellows are regularly brought together to exchange ideas, making the club an incubator for new teaching techniques. In June, they will gather in Fredericton; in November, this year’s inductees will attend a retreat at the Fairmont Le Château Montebello in Quebec. “We bring these people together to get to know each other as teachers and learn from each other,” says Ahmad. “There they are using their cutting edge stuff and sharing it, mentoring others to follow in those footsteps.” Here are a few that will be among them:
Glen Loppnow, Department of Chemistry, University of Alberta
“This is the extract from thousands of fireflies,” jokes Loppnow. Before a class of rapt first-year science students, Loppnow pours a beaker of bleach into a bottle containing the chemical luminol. The result, known as chemiluminescence—what a firefly does inside its glowing tail—transfixes his students. “No fireflies were harmed in this experiment,” Loppnow promises, before outlining how the energy of the chemical reaction has been converted into this blue, otherworldly light. That illuminating glow is a nifty metaphor for Loppnow’s brand of teaching excellence.
Loppnow admits he wasn’t always a great teacher. Had you caught one of his lectures a decade ago, he says, “you would have seen somebody whom the students considered mediocre and grumpy. I was rapidly getting a really bad reputation.” Caught up in the imperatives of research, Loppnow realized he was neglecting his real passion. “I was really denying my true self,” he says. “I really wanted to be a teacher.”
As a kid growing up in a tough neighbourhood in New Mexico, university didn’t appear to be in the cards for Loppnow. No one in his family had gone beyond Grade 12. But it was a high school English teacher, Susan Frye, who saw promise and encouraged him to apply to college. He got in, eventually doing graduate work at Berkeley and Princeton. Frye “changed my life,” says Loppnow. “That’s really the transition from my being a truck driver—which is what I thought I was going to be—to being a professor.” After the death of his father, Loppnow took an introspective sabbatical and realized what he needed to do to change his life—concentrate on teaching as much as on research. “I wanted to change students’ lives the way that my life had changed.”