In the midst of a teacher shortage, access to the profession remains strewn with pitfalls for aspiring teachers. Difficulties in getting recognition foreign diplomas, bureaucratic obstacleswhat for education students, substitutes condemned to complex and part-time tasks: candidates for this essential profession recount their obstacle course in order to find themselves in a class.
Armed with diplomas, qualified to teach in Quebec, at ease in three languages, including French, Alexander B. Montoya is desperately looking for a teaching position. This Colombian of origin has responded to dozens of job offers in schools over the years, but he had to settle for changing diapers in a CHSLD during the first wave of the pandemic, then working in a vaccination and COVID-19 screening clinic, rather than living from his passion: teaching high school mathematics.
“I knew it would be difficult when I arrived in Quebec, that you would have to make an effort to get a job in education. But I didn’t expect to see so many obstacles,” says Mr. Montoya, whom we met at his home in Longueuil.
“I am disappointed, discouraged. I feel betrayed. I no longer know what to do to get a teaching post,” he adds in very good French with a Spanish accent.
This 48-year-old Canadian citizen taught for 10 years in his country of origin before arriving in Quebec in 2012. Since then, he has done everything to realize his plan to return to a class. He passed his French test opening the way to teaching. The Quebec Ministry of Education recognized his mathematics diploma. He has a provisional license to teach here.
Moreover, Alexander B. Montoya obtained in Quebec a master’s degree in mathematics, a certificate in French, a certificate in English and 18 university credits in programming.
He spreads the documents on the kitchen table. Everything is here. The qualifications. The experience. Without forgetting the motivation, the energy, the unfailing will to work.
But aside from temporary assignments as a supply teacher in a CEGEP and in a private school, as an exam supervisor, as a teaching assistant and as a proofreader at the university, this mathematics enthusiast had to resign himself to small jobs.
Not so small, the jobs, in fact. Alexander B. Montoya responded to Prime Minister Legault’s call when the pandemic devastated seniors’ residences in March 2020. He registered on the I contribute platform. As a service aide in a CHSLD, he changed diapers, fed patients with a spoon, accompanied them to the toilet, monitored their general condition…
“I saw residents die. My colleagues were falling sick with COVID one after another. But I was never afraid. I had no time to worry. I like to work, I’m in good shape, I wanted to do something other than stay at home,” he says.
He was offered paid training to become a beneficiary attendant. He declined the offer. “That’s not what I want to do in life. »
The following year, he accepted a mandate in a mobile COVID-19 screening and vaccination clinic. He did everything except hold the needle or stick the swab in the patient’s nose.
Alexander B. Montoya wishes to teach in French. It’s his first choice. He sent resumes to Victoriaville, 150 kilometers from his home. Without success. Despite his diplomas, despite his impeccable French, school administrators always have questions about his ability to communicate, his training in mathematics, his class management…
He plans to turn to the English network, where teachers are also sought after. “I’m a math geek, what do you want me to do?” I have everything it takes to teach, I know it. »
He also does not rule out changing careers. You have to make a good living.
Teacher in Lebanon, student in Quebec
Sarah (fictitious name, because she is not authorized to speak to the media) experiences the same difficulties in having her experience and diploma recognized. She taught for 10 years in Lebanon and six months in France after obtaining a teaching license with a major in psychology. Arriving in Quebec in September 2020, in the wake of the terrible explosion at the port of Beirut, the 38-year-old woman learned that she did not qualify for her teaching certificate.
Small consolation: Sarah is doing substitute teaching for a second year in a private school in Montreal. And his university education is recognized as a baccalaureate opening the way to a qualifying master’s degree which will allow him to obtain his patent. In addition to teaching full-time, she will take distance learning courses, between 10 and 12 hours per week, for the next five years. She would do without this extra burden.
“Given my degree and my experience, I find it hard to understand why I am being forced to redo the studies I have already done. It’s really strange, especially in light of the shortage of teachers,” she says.
Ironically, Sarah will have to do two teaching internships of three months each during her master’s degree. Even though she has been teaching for 13 years, including a second year in Quebec.
It is true that she experienced a culture shock when she found herself in front of an elementary school class in Montreal last fall. “I had to learn how to say…to do my job in a different way. In Lebanon and France, the teacher-student relationship is quite rigid. In Quebec, it’s very different. »
The culture shock is over. But not that of having to go back to university to continue doing his job, hoping one day to obtain tenure and better working conditions. If she doesn’t give up the profession by then.
A ruthless machine
“People who have qualifications recognized elsewhere must be very motivated to legalize their situation in Quebec. They come up against a painful and rigid bureaucratic system, which encourages them to give up, for lack of means, because they have to earn a living,” says Isabelle Samoisette, teacher in a private school in Montreal.
This 52-year-old teacher, who worked in the organization of events, reoriented her career about fifteen years ago to start teaching. He was recommended to go to the University of Ottawa, which was the only establishment at the time to offer training in education to aspiring teachers from another profession (the equivalent of the current qualifying master’s degree in Quebec ).
For three years, Isabelle Samoisette took evening classes in Ottawa, sometimes remotely, while teaching full-time in Laval and raising her elementary-aged son. “A crazy schedule. The Ministry of Education also demanded that she pass the certification test in written French for teaching (TECFEE) and that she obtain a “recognition of diploma”, since she had studied in Ontario. However, she lived in Quebec.
She now wants to do a qualifying master’s degree in orthopedagogy, to better help students in difficulty, but the selection process promises to be difficult. A university tells her that she must take seven courses before being admitted to the master’s degree—probably because of her “Ontario” degree. Another obstacle for this almost “foreign” teacher who has almost always lived in Quebec.
Young teachers tossed around
Obstacles, students in education sciences constantly face, explains Romain Goffoz. He was a personal trainer when he started doing occasional physical education in high school eight years ago. To become legally qualified and improve his working conditions, he undertook a Bachelor of Education at the age of 36.
Three years later, he finds that education students are being discouraged from coming to help out in schools during their studies. They generally have to make do with occasional substitution, being tossed around from one school to another, from one day to the next, according to the specific needs of the network.
Romain Goffoz is however available to teach two days a week (Thursdays and Fridays) until the end of 2022. However, he cannot apply for this two-day task at the Center de services scolaire de Montréal, which requires Availability for the whole school year. The aim is to prevent children from changing substitute teachers during the year. But he doesn’t know his schedule for next winter at university.
The school network is thus depriving itself of quality substitutes, believes Romain Goffoz. “Fourth-year baccalaureate students like me are very well trained. We are able to manage a group, we are trained to help difficult or different students. It is motivating to help children in difficulty. »
The rules for assigning public schools, framed by a bureaucracy and complex union rules, test the determination of young teachers: they can be squeezed out at any time by a colleague with more seniority and find themselves in another class (often the most difficult), another school or even several schools (for part-time tasks) far from their place of residence.
Romain Goffoz loves public school, but he understands the young teachers who decide to work in a private school. “There is more stability in the private sector. The rules are simpler. »
An unreachable dream
Stability? It is an inaccessible dream for Véronique (fictitious name, because she is not authorized to speak to the media). This 46-year-old mother interrupted her studies in education sciences to take care of her children. She has accumulated 32 credits out of 120. Even without a patent, she has been doing substitute teaching for about ten years in the public network.
The shortage of teachers is so glaring that Véronique has had the chance to work in the same school for several years. But during each new school year, she learns at the last minute which group will be hers. Or which groups: this year, she teaches every day in a different class!
I am formed. But I remain a non-legally qualified substitute. I have no recognition, no stability. I don’t have access to my service center’s priority list. It’s tough on morale.
Véronique has however passed a certificate in school support created to better prepare the thousands of teachers who are not legally qualified. This 30-credit program does not lead to a teaching certificate. “I don’t regret having done it, it gives me confidence in front of my class. I am formed. But I remain a non-legally qualified substitute. I have no recognition, no stability. I don’t have access to my service center’s priority list. It’s tough on morale. »
However, the school network needs Véronique. But she wonders if she can continue.
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