Sadly, ignorant people will find a school to teach in Canada!
By Opiyo Oloya
This past weekend, I interviewed some of the candidates that will be hired to teach in our classrooms in September 2002. Essentially, the successful candidate would have a teaching degree and the skills for teaching a classroom of children from diverse socio-economic background, gender, abilities, race and ethnicity. The last two criteria are especially important because Canadaâ€™s demography has shifted toward a larger number of immigrants. Where formerly a classroom would have mostly white students, there are now students from Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Middle East. The ideal teacher would therefore be someone well versed with the curriculum as well as broad-minded with a larger worldview. On both counts, I was utterly disappointed.
Out of the 10 candidates my team interviewed, there was not a single Black, Asian or Latino candidate. Only one candidate came from a mixed native and white background. He was also one of the strongest candidates with excellent interpersonal skills and ability to communicate very well. However, when I asked him how he would go about teaching a class with a diverse cultural background, he answered that he would use the Internet extensively to seek for material. Then, perhaps because he read my quizzical face, he added that he would also use the knowledge that students bring into the classroom. At no point did it occur to him that the community could yield a goldmine of educational resources for the enterprising teacher eager to teach about other cultures. There are parents from many cultures who are storytellers, artisans, dancers, and creative artists with immense knowledge and talent they would be happy to share. But, as if that was not bad enough, many of the candidates failed to answer some very basic questions about the curriculum. When asked how they would go about planning a teaching unit, the majority neglected to mention Ministry of Education curriculum documents which are the first and most important tools of the trade anywhere around the globe. On numerous occasions, as the candidate warbled on and on about his or her fantastic lesson plans, I felt like yelling, â€œSTOPâ€. How can you plan a lesson when you have no clue what the curriculum says you should be teaching? How would you know the objectives of your lesson? How would you know that your students have learned what they are supposed to be learning at their age-level? One particular candidate who came with extreme confidence did not even have an idea what to do with a slow student who is falling behind in class â€”the simple answer would have been, â€œI would consult with resource teachers, the parents, administration and colleaguesâ€. The candidate, instead, launched a monologue about doing research on students with learning difficulties. I mean, whatever happened to commonsense? Perhaps, the question that many of the candidates flunked badly was the one about safety. We asked each candidate what he or she would do if a student staggered into the classroom drunk or high on drugs. The standard procedure is to ensure the safety of the drunk student and the others. This requires that the teacher seek immediate back-up support from another teacher or from someone from the office-the intoxicated student cannot stay in the classroom at all. Yet, the majority of the teacher candidates answered that they would speak with the culprit to find out how to help him or her. While you are busy playing social worker, where is the rest of your class, I felt like asking. One of the candidates, who answered all the questions with a great deal of wisdom and maturity, was an ordained priest who left the priesthood to pursue a teaching career. Not only was he savvy, experienced and extremely knowledgeable, he was humble enough to admit that he is still learning. So much that if the interview was any indication on how he will perform in the classroom, this man will make an excellent teacher.
Unfortunately, he was only one of a kind and, because Canada is currently scrambling for teachers due to acute shortage of qualified candidates, those I interviewed will likely land a job somewhere.
It may not be with my school, but they will almost certainly find employment. Sad, but true.
Good teachers have gone with the wind