Algonquin College Professor

I am professor at Algonquin College. I teach in Language Arts.

Why do you love your job?

To me, teaching ESL is one of the most rewarding, exciting, and interesting fields. I get to meet people from such different walks of life and parts of the world - our paths would never cross otherwise. Students let me in on little pieces of their history and experiences and future goals, and I have the opportunity to cheer them on toward those goals. To me, it's honestly so much fun.

What are the challenges you face in your work?

Working at the College has been really hard. The pay is not enough to make ends meet on my own, so instead of living in an apartment I had to rent a room in a house.

I was only paid for my "contact hours" - this excludes prep,marking, and admin time. So not only could I not make enough to sustain myself, but the time I could have spent working another job was instead spent on the unpaid necessities of doing my job well.

 

I am speaking in past tense because I no longer work for the College.

I spent 10 months at one of the most intensive levels in their program, supplementing the sparse curriculum materials provided and giving my own personal time to provide real resources and lessons for the students. I am now on "downtime" for the next 14 months - this means I can only teach up to 6 hours per week.

6 hours per week (divided out over 3 days, destroying my schedule and availability for other work) combined with travel time and unpaid prep mean that I would need to spend at least 20 hours of my time to get paid (poorly) for only 6.

It truly wasn't a feasible option for someone living in an expensive city on one income. I literally could not afford to work in my field because of the lengths Ontario colleges have gone to not provide fair compensation for teachers.

Tell us about your proudest moment:

I ran into two former students in the hallway once. I asked them how their classes were going. They laughed and told me that the following level was easy. "We just finished writing a test. It took us 10 minutes because we came from your class. It's easy to tell which students came from your class. We are always done so much faster than the others!" It was so encouraging to know that I had prepared them for what they needed to take on next - and more than that, they could see it, too!

Would you like to add any other comments?

I'm not bitter because I knew what I was getting into when I signed up for uptime. However, I am a really good teacher and I'm working a 9-5 office admin job to make sure I can pay back my loans from the Master's degree I have in this field.

In the 10 months I was working at the College, at least 3 of my co-workers changed careers. Treating staff as a dime-a-dozen revolving door is damaging the College. They lose the motivated faculty to other work, and there's no way the program - and Ontario college education on a larger scale - won't suffer for it.

What would job security and better working conditions mean to you?

It would mean I could actually return to work in my field. It would mean I could plan a future and invest where I am in students, schools, and curriculum rather than sleeping with one eye open for fear of scrambling at the last minute when my course is yanked because of low enrolment.

It would mean not taking on twice the course load of full time staff for a fraction of the pay - it would mean going to the dentist, having my prescriptions covered, and still being able to make OSAP. It would mean not dragging myself into work when I am sick because I can't afford my unpaid sick days! (Side note - did you know paid vacation and sick days are in the UN Declaration of Human Rights?!)

It would mean building bridges in the education community that would strengthen everyone involved. It would change education in Colleges :)

Teaching is an insanely demanding and rewarding field. Schools need to start remembering they are schools, not cut-corner businesses if they really want to thrive in the upcoming information era.