Educate Yo’ Self

When I graduated from teachers’ college, with a Drama degree no less, I thought “It won’t be long before I get a job.”

Gaze off into your unemployed future. Enjoy the blissful ignorance while it lasts.

Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha. Also, ha!

When you graduate teachers’ college, you’re qualified to teach, but you’re probably also one of the least qualified teachers out there. If you want to make yourself more available for more jobs, you need to make yourself qualified to teach more things. These are some things to keep in mind when taking additional qualification courses.

  • Take them one at a time. AQ courses tend to be intensive. There is no need to burn yourself out on courses, especially since you’ll most likely be working at the same time. They also don’t take a very long time (typically 2-3 months). You can still get 4-5 courses done in a year, if you really want.
  • Find a format that works best for you. Some universities will offer courses online and in person, and typically both are offered for any type of course. Online courses give you the freedom to make your own schedule and do work in your underpants. In person usually means you have to show up for a couple of weekends. What works best for you? Go with that.
  • Take courses that are appealing to employers. Is there a need you’ve noticed in your school board/area? Go with those. HOWEVER (and I can’t stress this enough), don’t get qualified just to get a job. Make sure you want to teach the subjects you’re getting qualified to teach. There is no point getting qualified to teach something you don’t like or aren’t confident to teach. Find a balance that works for you (more on this next week. Stay tuned!)
  • Find out if your board comps courses. AQ courses are expensive (remember that university tuition you’re still paying off? Yeah, like that). Depending on the board, how you’re employed by them, the course, who offers the course, how it applies to your employment, blah blah blah, the board miiiiight pay for part of/the whole course. It’s a big if, but you won’t know if you don’t ask. The HR department would be a good place to start, but also keep an eye on board news in staff rooms. Sometimes they post info.
  • Make sure you’re taking courses that actually apply to you. Don’t take a course if it doesn’t apply to your province/state. Don’t take a course that is designed for an age level you’re not qualified for (yes, I’ve made that (expensive) mistake).
  • Know how your board calculates pay. Most boards increase pay for teachers the more qualified you are. Usually there is someone you can contact to find out just how qualified the province/state thinks you are, and how much you’re entitled to be paid (here is Ontario’s). But keep in mind that some schools prefer employing lesser qualified teachers because they “cost less.” Quebec and Alberta are notorious for this. Same as above, find a balance that works for you.
  • Find a good time to do the course. Substituting is a great time to take a course because your workload is relatively light. You’re not planning or marking or even leading a lot of lessons. A lot of days you show up, take attendance, assign desk work, and wait for the bell. Sure, you could read a book, but you could also educate yo’ self. And since you’re not bringing work home with you, your evenings and weekends won’t be bogged down with balancing your responsibilities as a teacher and as a student. It’s not impossible, but it’s not fun and is pretty stressful. Also, don’t do courses over the summer if you want to have a summer. It’s also not fun. Teachers, all teachers (yes, even you), need a break. Give yourself a break.

Taking additional qualification courses can be expensive, but they can be really helpful to you and your career. Find what works best for you, and make yourself the best teacher you can be!

UPDATE: I’m so frustrated I forgot this point, and I apologise to those on my mailing list who missed it in the email.
Get qualified in protected subjects. What is a protected subject, you may be asking? It might go by different terminology in your board, but a protected subject is one that, by law, must be taught by someone qualified in that subject matter. Languages and sciences are protected, for example, while things like religion are not. Applicants with the right qualifications by law must be offered jobs before unqualified applicants can even be considered. Another quick call to HR can give you all the info you need to know on protected subjects.


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