Careers: Get Ready to Teach
Immigrant teachers often find that the process of becoming a teacher in Ontario is very complex. Some internationally educated teachers even take to other professions and leave all hopes of teaching in Ontario. But you can reach your goals if you believe in yourself and keep working at it.
In Ontario, teaching is a regulated profession. This means that you need a licence to teach. Just having a Bachelor in Education is not enough. This licence is issued by the regulating body for teachers – the Ontario College of Teachers (OCT). Here are the steps to follow for getting certified:
Step 1: Visit Ontario College of Teachers or go to their website (www.oct.ca) to obtain an application package called Registration Guide for Teachers educated outside Ontario. The package contains information on how to apply, as well as the registration form. It is a good idea to start this step as soon as possible as the waiting time for teachers gets longer every day.
Step 2: Submit the registration form with a fee of $362 (as of July 2010). You will also be required to provide relevant documents. Some documents will have to be sent directly from your institutions to OCT, like your degrees, detailed- mark transcripts and a statement of professional standing or a letter from your B.Ed. College. If your language of education has been English, you should also arrange for a language proficiency letter. If not, you will have to sit for an English Proficiency Test (IELTS or TOEFL). OCT recognizes different systems of education in different countries, so they accept different types of documentation.
Step 3: Ontario College of Teachers will send you a letter to acknowledge receipt and give you a membership number if your application is accepted. They will also send you details regarding missing or further documentation.
Step 4: Contact your university or college in your home country and ask them to send your documents to OCT. Some institutions have standardized procedures for this, but sometimes you need to make a special request. Please note that this step could take a long time, depending on the procedures of your institutions.
Step 5: Once the documents are received, you will be sent a certificate of qualification. In Canada, teachers have to be certified in teaching at least two divisions (Primary – Kindergarten to Grade 3; Junior – Grade 4 to 6; Intermediate – 7 to 10; Senior – 11 and 12). For this, you might be required to take a short course (called Additional Basic Qualification, available at a number of universities) or obtain a short amount of teaching experience. Once the conditions have been met, you need to update OCT and they will then upgrade your licence to a certificate of good standing.
During the registration process, it is usually a good idea to start taking a look into Ontario classrooms. Volunteering is a good idea. For this, you need to approach the principal of the school where you wish to volunteer to discuss your strengths and interests and indicate your availability. Public schools will need a Criminal Record Check. This is a document required for professions that deal with children and you can get it from the nearest police office of your region. It is free of cost for volunteers.
If you have a school-going child, you should consider going to his or her school to volunteer. Schools usually welcome parent volunteers and your child’s school will also be close to where you live. Once in a classroom, the teacher could ask you to assist with creating materials for teaching, providing support to a certain child or a group of children or even helping with bulletin boards and displays. Take every opportunity as a chance to learn something new and keep a positive attitude.
Classrooms in Ontario can look very different from what classrooms in some other countries look like. Here you will find colourful and exciting study areas. All the resources stay unlocked and ready for use. Desks are usually not arranged in rows but in groups as co-operative learning is a big part of education here. You will find carpets, chart stands, play-centres, mini-libraries and computers in most classrooms. Teacher resources are also available for ready reference.
You will also notice different styles of teaching. Students are not expected to stand to answer. However, they are taught how to respect others by listening, appreciating and showing character values like kindness, responsibility, care and honesty. Teachers usually try to create a friendly atmosphere in the classroom. Education is student-centred instead of being teacher-centred.
A helpful website for getting support in finding employment as a teacher is Teach in Ontario (www.teachinontario.ca). Some school boards in Ontario also run specific programs to prepare beginning teachers to enter the profession; one such program has recently been started by the Peel District School Board. It is a three-month co-op placement program where certified teachers will be taught the basics of teaching in the Board and will be placed in a classroom for two days a week. Some universities also offer teaching practice placement courses.
Once your certification process with OCT is complete, you should start applying for teaching jobs. Try to get the maximum out of your volunteering experience to show your knowledge about Ontario schools. Keep in mind that you bring excellent strengths with you as a teacher. The methods might be different, but the purpose of teaching is the same everywhere – to help students reach their highest potential.
Nivedita Shori is a teacher with Peel District School Board. She has a Masters in Biophysics, a diploma in Journalism and is pursuing a Masters in Education from U of T. She is a founding member and editor of a parenting/educational booklet, “A Journey with the Child” and maintains its online version at the blog gomiles.wordpress.com. She also mentors internationally trained teachers and can be reached firstname.lastname@example.org