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Why it’s so hard to fire bad teachers

Most principals would rather hide or transfer incompetent teachers than try to oust them


 

badteachers

What it took for one Ontario principal to rid her school of an incompetent teacher is a process she’s not fond of revisiting. It began in September 2007, when she inherited a teacher whose performance was already under review. Despite a file thick with evidence of inadequacy, the principal helped draft an “improvement plan”—a requirement in the provincial Education Act—and dipped into school funds to pay for substitutes while the struggling teacher attended workshops.

But, says the junior school principal, it soon emerged that there was “a serious, basic problem of not understanding”—which continued even after the teacher knew she was under review. Students shuffled through reading levels without proof of assessment. Parents complained about spelling test words that weren’t sent home. And the teacher submitted grades for computer class when, in fact, her “inability to use technology” meant the monitors “were rarely turned on,” says the principal. Still, it took months of paperwork and meetings with union representatives before she was able to inch even one step closer to dismissal.

“It was very upsetting,” she says. “I wouldn’t choose to do it again unless I absolutely had to.”

Inadequate teaching has been shown to contribute to dropout rates, low test scores and a dislike for school. So severe are the implications, says Brendan Menuey, an assistant principal in Virginia, that poor teaching is tantamount to “educational malpractice.” Yet in Canada, teacher incompetence prompts so few administrators to pursue termination that the Ontario principal insisted that not even the name of her school board be published, because it would almost certainly identify her.

According to Barrie Bennett, a professor at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, the dismissal process is so onerous, the risk of reprisal from teachers’ unions so great, that “most principals find it’s not worth the effort.” Instead, they approve transfers, or hide struggling teachers where their deficiencies can go unnoticed. The result however, is this: a system that keeps incompetent teachers in the classroom.

The fact that more bad teachers aren’t being fired is “a problem that nobody wants to talk about,” says Menuey, who authored a 2007 study on the subject. Despite research indicating that about five per cent of every workforce is incompetent, he uncovered a truth about his district he describes as “scandalous”: less than one-tenth of one per cent of tenured teachers were being dismissed annually for poor performance.

When viewed through this lens, the Canadian numbers are even more damning. Of the roughly 200,000 educators licensed by the Ontario College of Teachers to teach, only 27 have been terminated due to poor performance since 2004—an annual average of just 0.002 per cent. In the past five years, not a single permanent teacher has been dismissed for incompetence in the largest school boards in Montreal and Winnipeg; Saskatoon Public Schools has terminated just one; and in Edmonton Public Schools, says a spokeswoman, “very few if any” have been let go.

While a report of sexual or physical abuse is clearly grounds for disciplinary action (as well as a police investigation), what constitutes teacher incompetence can be somewhat fuzzy. As a teacher, Menuey says he had a colleague who gave “no grades at all.” When filling out report cards, this teacher would ask around to determine what grades each student had earned in other subjects, and “give them the same,” he says. While working for Edmonton Public Schools, Bennett once offered support to a teacher who would ask his unruly students to choose between the classroom and the hall.

“Sometimes, I’d come to his classroom and there would be 10, 11 kids out in the hallway,” he says.

In most provinces, teacher incompetence isn’t formally defined. Yet long before termination is even a possibility, principals must document alleged instances of incompetence, often for the better part of a year. “It’s very labour-intensive and time-consuming,” says the Ontario principal. “You have to be meticulous or the union will grieve you.” Although the teacher in this case left before she could be formally fired, the principal says a grievance remains a possibility.

But if inadequate teachers are being overlooked, says Frank Bruseker, president of the Alberta Teachers’ Association, it’s not the unions that are to blame. “The school boards and the principals need to step up the plate,” says Bruseker. “To simply say, ‘We’re not doing our job because we’re scared of the unions,’ says to me that they’re abrogating their responsibility. If we’re talking about incompetence, maybe they should be looking in the mirror.”

However, as educators are quick to point out, low dismissal rates don’t necessarily mean that bad teachers aren’t being ushered out of the classroom. In the Halifax Regional School Board (HRSB), where six teachers have been terminated in the last five years for either professional misconduct or incompetence, an additional 33 have resigned or been removed from lists of approved substitutes and those under consideration for future contracts. And according to Mike Christie, director of human resources at the HRSB, “self-screening” is a significant safeguard that these numbers don’t reveal. “Teachers have got a tough crowd in those kids,” says Christie. Many of those who are struggling simply “take themselves out of the profession,” he says.

Still, teachers are well aware that being bad at their jobs will rarely earn them their walking papers. As part of his study, Menuey asked teachers to rank a list of 19 strategies that administrators use to deal with incompetence. They identified “voluntary transfer to another school” as the most prevalent. Dismissal, meanwhile, was ranked 14th. “We all knowingly play this game,” says Menuey. “I believe passionately that we need to get rid of these folks, but I’ll be honest, because of the time and the difficulty in getting what you need, I’m inclined, when [another] principal calls me, to just say, ‘She’s a fabulous teacher.’ ” This practice, dubbed “passing the trash,” is hardly news to Bennett. He says “writing an okay reference letter” to get rid of an incompetent educator is endemic “at all levels. It’s not just teachers in classrooms—it’s principals in schools, it’s central office people too.”

Other strategies are similarly problematic. According to a teacher in Ottawa’s French Catholic board, when one of his colleagues couldn’t cut it this year, the school “purposely gave her the most difficult classroom.” Within months, he says, she “burnt out,” and is currently on medical leave. (Virginia teachers also ranked “increased workload to encourage teacher resignation” above termination.) Oftentimes, Menuey says shuffling inadequate teachers to another class is an attempt to give them students “whose parents won’t pitch a fit”—though these are typically the kids who stand to gain the most from quality instruction. More disconcerting still is something the teachers came up with themselves. The highest ranked write-in tactic on Menuey’s survey: “ignore the problem.”

Not all struggling teachers are beyond help. For some, observing more experienced colleagues or learning to better manage students is all it takes to spark improvement. To that end, many administrators are more than willing to offer every support available, which, in many school boards, is a lot. As Menuey explains, “We believe that all kids can be successful, and we believe that all teachers can be successful.” But in some cases, this culture of acceptance may be blurring the line between effective remediation and a fruitless pursuit. Even the Ontario principal, who says she “had no choice” but to go through with dismissal, expresses a palpable discomfort: “We’re educators. We’re not trained to fire people.”

However, when incompetent educators are left to teach, whether in a roomful of difficult Grade 5 students, or hidden in the school’s art department, it’s kids who pay the ultimate price.


 

Why it’s so hard to fire bad teachers

  1. While the article is true, that it is hard to fire bad teachers, it is equally as hard to fire bad principals and other highly paid adminstrators. They should be the first to be fired as they hired these so called bad teachers. Many of the principals I know were average teachers and have quickly forgot what it was like to be in the classroom. The whole system is in decay. In tough economic times, teachers, with their infallable job security and endless summer vacation, have become the ire of anybody who isn’t a teacher. Yes, we have excellent benefits but most people I know would not last very long in the class. “Bad teachers” are a product of a very bad system, which is making it increasingly more difficult each year with more and more initiatives, to be a decent educator. In the elementary panel, with exception of the primary grades, the classrooms have turned into “ghettos”. Class sizes in the 30’s seems to be the norm, despite the governments promise of 25 or 26. Then add split grades, ESL students, IEP and special needs to the mix and you have a recipe for chaos. All this falls on the teacher. Special Education teachers are too busy pushing paper to see kids in need and ESL teacher might visit the school once a week. So yes it is very easy to become bad because the demands are ridiculous. By dismissal time most teachers have had it and need to go home and rest just to be ready for the 30 students again tomorrow. With all the nonsense going on in education lately, I don’t see it as a profession. Many students are not prepared, and are lacking the readiness. Take away are summmers off and job security and there wouldn’t be any bad teachers, there would be no teachers.

  2. This is the comment I made to a local BC newspaper blog concerning this excellent Macleans article:

    Dereliction of Duty in Failing to Remove Incompetent Teachers

    The answers to the problem of incompetence in the classroom are to be found in the very article that exposes the issue. Please carefully re-read the excellent Macleans article – “Why It’s so hard to fire bad teachers”.

    1. “meetings with union representatives” are endless before inching forward to dismissal. While teacher unions are indeed very diligent in their protection of members, this is normal, business as usual. Why, in BC, for the first time ever in the world, we will even have a Masters Program at our Simon Fraser University starting this Fall in teacher unionism! Don’t expect sincere education reform efforts to come from this source. Books on teacher protection of their turf are legion, e.g. “The Teacher Unions: How They Sabotage Educational Reform and Why” by Myron Lieberman 2000.

    2. “Inadequate teaching has been shown to contribute to dropout rates, low test scores and a dislike for school”. This is child abuse plain and simple. A researcher on the topic of teacher incompetence clearly identifies poor teaching as “educational malpractice”. Law suits in education malpractice have notoriously been unsuccessful. Why? It’s hard to pinpoint, but superior economic resources by teacher unions in defense may be one reason. In any case, discussion of this topic often cautions concerning the possibility of “opening the floodgates” so enormous is the problem. This does not mean that malpractice suits should be discouraged. In fact, a successful one might just release the logjam now blocking the removal of bad teaching in the classroom.

    3. “the dismissal process is so onerous, the risk of reprisal from teachers’ unions so great” that it’s “not worth the effort”. Surely, these reprisals should be itemized and put in their proper context. Aren’t they part of an arsenal of intimidation, fear-mongering, and threats? As such, aren’t they subject to some kind of legal remedy? Or at the bare minimum, some training in circumventing these threats and reprisals?

    4. “The schools boards and principals need to step up to the plate” says the president of the Alberta Teachers’ Association. To excuse inaction because they are “scared” of the unions is abrogation of their responsibility. “If we’re talking about incompetence, maybe they should be looking in the mirror.” This fits the classic definitions of Dereliction of Duty – a) failure, through negligence or obstinacy, to perform one’s legal or moral duty, b) avoidance of any duty which may be properly expected, c) civilian dereliction is usually classed in common law as criminal or civil negligence, recklessness or malpractice. Definitely, we should seriously explore this route to remedy. Who can provide some procedures to follow using this angle?

    5. “passing the trash” or shuffling inadequate teachers to schools “whose parents won’t pitch a fit” says a lot about parents, doesn’t it? To me, this means that parents have an enormous duty and the power to effect correction so that their children have a hope in meeting expectations. Why then are parents so discouraged from having an effective role in their schools, especially in poorer socio-economic areas? Why can’t parents have a wider choice of movement, using vouchers or tuition tax credits, to find the schools where their voice counts?

    6. “The whole system is in decay.” This is a comment from Frank in discussion of this topic in the Macleans site as referenced above. Isn’t this topic just another reason why we should have a real, wide-ranging, public Royal Commission on Education in BC before any further tinkering in the system? Wouldn’t a new regime, with a new Minister of Education, and a government with an electoral majority like to hear from the people, examine serious research in the field, and reconnoiter before proceeding? The models of the past need some serious re-examination. How come we seem to be living in the Dark Ages in education?

  3. I would like to congratulate Rachel and Macleans for producing and publishing a very important story on the desparate need for education reform. I think this story might be the spur we need to get at least some progress in some parts of Canada. Keep us up to date on the topic. Meanwhile, below is what I just had posted on The Report Card, a blog of the education reporter from the Vancouver Sun.

    Obstacles to Education Reform

    Teacher unions are not the only ones standing in the way of needed education reform. So far in this conversation across Canada following the Macleans article we have come across other obstacles:

    1. Principals who use contracts as a cop-out for inaction. They say, “My hands are tied.”

    2. Trustees, beholden to teacher unions for their electoral success, forgetting to work in the public interest.

    3. Individual teachers who are afraid to speak out about “bad apples” on staff out of fear of rocking the boat.

    4. Parents who are gun-shy because they have received “cease and desist” letters from a union and fear going further.

    5. People who deny the very concept and existence of teacher union reprisals.

    6. Senior governments failing to overhaul a wasteful education system glaringly out-dated.

    We have had comments about a system in decay, a corrupt system with everyone in the “line of command” passing the buck.

    Some parents actually tell horror stories about how these school issues have affected their family life to the point of family break-ups.

    This is a very serious matter – this pent-up frustration, bitterness, and discord which leads nowhere. Venting complaints only provides fleeting relief. New generations keep repeating the suffering of previous generations. It’s amazing that so many accept these pains as just a ”rite of passage”. Parents can’t wait until they “graduate” (when their kids do) so they don’t have to be involved again. Wipe their hands clean.

    And the many numbers of teachers who just can’t wait to retire so they don’t have the stress and pressure…..

    Education reform requires openness. If we are to get anywhere on the two fronts of getting better educational results for students and making the lives of workers and parents better, then we need to talk more openly about the problems. This Macleans article serves a very useful purpose by getting the debate out into the open.

    Other blogs which are engaging in discussions of school reform topics are: Schools We Need (BC) http://www.theschoolsweneed.com/
    and School for Thought Blog (Ont) http://www.societyforqualityeducation.org/index.php/blog/

    To help bring things forward I’ll provide some brief quotes from one of my published letters in the North Shore News in 1986 on the topic of “Teacher unions can bankrupt school boards via legal challenges”:

    “Parents have despaired for years about the lack of quality control in the public schools and the latest setback adds to this frustration. The dismissal of a teacher held to be unsatisfactory by the West Vancouver School Board has now been reversed and is on appeal to the BC Supreme Court.

    Not only is the decision-making around quality questions frustrating, but there are enormous costs entailed. The estimate was $70,000 for this case so far. As well, there is the veiled threat that the teaching fraternity could bankrupt school systems who try to pursue quality efforts. I’m sure the message by Pat Clarke, former leader of the BC Teachers’ Federation got through to parents and school boards alike when he said, ‘If school boards are looking for a way to spend some money, then they can try doing what West Vancouver has done. We’ll take them to court and appeal every one of these cases.’ (Vancouver SUN, Feb. 26, 1986)”

  4. I don’t mean to dominate this Macleans opportunity but I would like to draw your attention to how this topic has caught on in BC. There are over 46 comments so far, and I feel the momentum is gathering for much advancement of the insights and suggestions for reform. Please see: Incompetent teachers safe from dismissal http://communities.canada.com/vancouversun/blogs/reportcard/archive/2009/07/03/macleans.aspx#comments

    I think we need a national forum for these discussions and failing the emergence of such, I suggest tapping into the above Vancouver site. I will try to keep summarizing the advancing insights and new information.

    I hope Macleans can do some follow-up reporting in future articles.

  5. “It’s not just teachers in classrooms—it’s principals in schools, IT’S CENTRAL OFFICE PEOPLE TOO.”

    I could not agree with the above statement more. As a teacher in one of the school boards named in the article (I will not identify which one in fear of repercussions – unfortunately I wouldn’t put it past them) I cannot begin to tell you how demoralized I feel following the job allocation process this year. While I did manage to secure a position, it is not the one I wanted and unless the union can resolve the situation I will have no choice but to head to work in September versus the unemployment line.

    While I do not consider myself to be the best teacher out there I think that I do a pretty decent job and I am respected by both students and colleagues alike. I have always had exemplary recommendations and after nearly a decade of involvement in the same school board believe that I should be given more respect than to be told, one week before the jobs started being posted, that I was no longer qualified to teach in an area which I had already taught. This on top of three university degrees!

    The boards’ justification for its new qualification system was that it was for the betterment of the students. I am so glad that decisions about what is best for students are being made by those sitting in quiet offices. It must be nice to have that kind of power, having in most cases probably never stepped inside of a classroom.

    I love being a teacher but the bureaucracy of the school board for which I work is becoming unbearable. It is to the point that I have been made physically ill at the thought of what they are going to come up with next. If it was not for my love of teaching, the money spent on three degrees, and the years of waiting to become permanent in the area which I grew up I would be gone. I guess I just have to hope that the boards’ politics will cause too many headaches for them and their “bright ideas” while be put on a back burner next year. Otherwise I will be looking for greener pastures which at this point shouldn’t be too difficult.

    If the board wants to improve the educational experiences of its students make those who educate students happy and you will reap the rewards!

  6. I am a recent graduate of an education program in B.C. I graduated with a 3.9 GPA, had excellent performance and competency assessments, and was well liked by my students. I was not a super-star teacher by any means. I was however energetic, eager to practice, passionate and ready to begin my career.

    As of this summer, I no longer call myself a teacher.

    This is the best thing I have done for myself/career/well-being in 3 years.

    After earning poverty wages (similar to over 40% of TOC’s in this province) while working simultaneously in multiple districts for 3 years as a TOC (substitute teacher) and seeing continued abuses of ethics, cronyism, nepotism and general malaise in the education system, I have decided to leave and never look back. I am yet another statistic to add to the 30-50%-ish attrition rates of new teachers.

    Trying to get tenure or full-time contract positions is like trying to walk through a brick wall. When I was hired by one district, the administrator told me it would take about 6 years for me to get my first full-time position (in one of the biggest districts in the province). I had just finished spending over $30000 dollars and 6 years in university.

    Not only are bad teachers kept in the system while taking up space that could be filled by a young, well-educated person with fresh ideas and energy, but even the second-class/second-tier poverty wage substitute teaching jobs are few and far between.

    In B.C., retired teachers who earn pensions greater than 3-4x the average salary of a young TOC are allowed to work as substitute teachers and even better, get requested by their still working colleagues or ex-administrators. This is unethical and the union has done nothing to fix this problem for over ten years, even though they state they are for a fair and unbiased distribution method of work allocation for TOC jobs.

    TOC’s are full members of the union, pay dues yet do not receive the same considerations, protections or rights as ‘real’ teachers. Are there any other unions out there that have 2 tiers of members?

    There is currently no language in the collective agreement that protects TOC work conditions. TOC’s are not promised any minimum earning amount, receive no benefits, are not protected from districts over hiring new TOC’s when there are already job shortages.

    TOC’s do not accrue seniority for work done as a TOC.

    I know this article’s focus is on the retaining of poor teachers, and my thoughts may seem to go beyond this, but really, this is just another drop in the bucket of what is a systemic and wide-spread collective decay of the education system in B.C., and likely the rest of the country.

    There are young teachers with the highest education credentials of generations, laden with debt and DESPERATE for work, yet for numerous reasons are unable to get anywhere in this system except for year after year of poverty.

    And this article’s content does not only apply to teachers. I’ve seen administrators who have caused almost unanimous revolts from school staff on more than 1 occasion, shuffled from school after school.

    This is also not a condemnation of everyone in the system. I know some excellent teachers – these were the ones who inspired me to become a teacher.

    The system as it is now inspired me to stop.

    This article does a commendable job outlining the problems with bad teachers. Imagine what else you could find out if you looked into teacher attrition rates, union member salaries and benefits, union budgets for media campaigns, average TOC earnings, enrollment numbers for university education programs that never seem to change despite the thousands of TOC’s who cannot find sustainable work, union inaction on TOC work issues, retired teachers returning to work and on and on…

    The problems of cronyism, nepotism and ethics in this system are systemic, and those with the power to act are complacent.

    Public education will reap tomorrow what they are sewing today.

    ‘All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others’.

    -Squealer

    Animal Farm.

  7. I totally agree with the comments above. There are far to many teachers out there that do not do their jobs. We need to get them out for the sake of the children.

  8. Can someone please explain to me why it’s so hard to even get an interview to substitute for Edmonton Public?!?!

    If I had a dollar for every comment from school’s wishing they’d hire more subs, I’d be rich. It’s terrible.

    Time to evaluate the HR department.

  9. to “Comment by noname” about frustrations with Edmonton Public School System and substitute teachers….

    Please go to this link in Vancouver about the frustrations BC teachers are having in this field. There are already 721 comments there and thus you might find some patterns that might explain the problems for new, eager teachers, and other good teachers interested in substitute jobs — cronyism, nepotism, favoritism, double-dipping, etc……

    This conversation in BC has actually been successful in “outing” some of the people and practices in school board HR offices. This all adds to the dysfunctionality of our public education systems in Canada as earlier described in the Macleans article.

    http://communities.canada.com/vancouversun/blogs/reportcard/archive/2009/03/04/hard-times-for-teachers-on-call.aspx#comments

  10. Bravo to you Jason! I feel for you. I completed my education degree 6 yeats ago after taking time out to marry, work in an office and then raise a family It was a wonderful accomplishment for an over 40 year old woman. I was extremely happy to be going into a profession to which I had been told time and time again that I was a natural. But like you, I have met poverty head on and have struggled for the last 6 years. Being a French teacher makes it even harder trying to explain to people that it isn’t me, it is the system. People not knowing the true facts about what is really happening out there figure that I am making excuses or perhaps I am not getting the work due to some problem with me. I feel it. It infuriates me to find out that my children in French Immersion do not have French subs and I can’t get on the TOC list in any public school. Even more so, that retired teachers are being brought back to TOC. I feel I am struggling with not only what you have said but also ageism. I am normally a very positive person but when teaching is what you are trained to do amd I am 48 years old now without anything else to fall back on for a living but part time work.( maybe 15 hours a week for $15-$20 hour), it just makes me ill. I have even had people suggest that the university needs to have a class action suit against them for adding to their coffers when they know that most of the people who complete their studies will be living in poverty. I still teach but if I were younger like you Jason, yes I would have dropped teaching after banging my head against the wall enough times. Good luck to you in your new endeavors.

  11. I was a TOC beginning in 1990. The problem for TOC’s existed back then just as it does now. In 1991 I was encouraged to relocate to SD 57. In July of 1991 the head H/R asked me personally to come up from Burnaby, BC and start subbing in Sept… Meanwhile, in June 1991 (a month earlier) the SD 57 board of education had already made the decision to eliminate its elementary music program entirely, along with 2 full time secondary music positions. As a music ed. teacher, I had no knowledge of this decision, and I assumed the district never had an elementary music program to begin with. I found out about this crap months later. I subbed for 8 years in that district. It almost drove crazy. There was never a chance of getting an FTE. But H/R was quite content to sucker people from anywhere so they could waste their careers away. Nothing has really changed.

  12. I didn’t find that the age of a teacher mattered very much…I will stick with that.I did find that “when” you taught made a difference.The further back you go,the less you were imposed upon and urged to assume so many unrelated responsibilities….

    Years ago,an education professor said to us beginners that the best teachers disappear after a year or two.Now his words make sense–if you’re working for a system(rather than for yourself)the process loses its appeal.It became apparent that teachers developed a great sense of importance even though they didn’t possess extraordinary credentials.Students are lucky to meet just 2 of them on their way through school.I was fairly outspoken in commenting on my colleagues but I got tired of defending them,listening to them and having to co-operate with them.

    I’m going back 50 years.Things have changed in many ways but the teachers with limited ability and unpleasant temperaments are still there–they come and go and slowly kill our enthusiasm.Classroom education all over the country is placed in the hands of “C” adults who would have you believe otherwise.At least it’s a four-year process before the next stage begins.

  13. An administrator I worked with in Ontario some years ago became a V.P. but admitted privately it had been a great mistake to leave behind the pleasurable nature of the classroom.That was the way so many of us felt in spite of the lures of promotion with its variety of perks.
    Now schools are in the business of marketing themselves to a more aware public and potential teachers are obliged to do the same.
    I was intrigued by Jason’s remarks at the beginning of his submission.A fine GPA doesn’t really count for much in determining just how much you know or how to use it.Time teaches you the “how.” Your popularity with students,yes,that’s important, assuming you don’t give 100% to all of them following a bout of lithium-induced affection.As for written assessments,I’d be inclined to pay little attention to them–after all,you’re in the very early part of creating a reputation for yourself.
    Our school was a good one to start in.You were given freedom to be yourself,to develop as you decided to develop,and to pay as much attention to Ministry of Education Documents as you thought they deserved.Our Dept. Head was a firm believer in a teacher finding his own comfort zone and discovering a personality which he could call his own rather than trying to absorb a tone that wasn’t suited to everyone.
    Jason reminds me of a friend’s daughter in Ontario who quit after two years working at a very good school.She would have been excellent,I think,except for her disillusionment over the various intrusions of bureaucracy.Both of her parents had been teachers and had set extraordinarily high standards for themselves.She remarked several months ago about how everyone seemed anxious and unwilling to laugh and that she was not prepared to adapt to such conditions.
    You have to adapt constantly these days or at least give that impression.People are not concerned about your opinion;they are concerned much more about the way you present yourself.
    I’ve always thought that time spent on self-presentation wasn’t a waste.So,Jason,I spent my first 2 or 3 years doing my own watching and assessing,with a view to surviving,learning,and dealing with ambivalence.Teachers tend to be followers and overcautious.You have a lot more freedom than you might realise.You can choose to minimise the inevitable irritations by not worrying about them.

    A good administrator understands that a really outstanding teacher,a guy who’s a “keeper,” isn’t the kind of person who’s going to let policies stifle his independence and that such a person is vital to the student community in having valuable,creative energy.
    Grade 12 I spent at school in England as my father had sabbatical leave.The teachers were excellent,highly competent and eccentric,and totally committed even though a couple of them had poor health.Canada seemed to offer stale air,stale platitudes,stale commuters trapped by the same old destination.
    The job in Canada today,as it always has,offers surprise and reciprocity–even adventure.I don’t think it’s worth giving those up for anything.But that’s just me.Jason and others might look back at their decision to find different employment and say “Thank God.”Or they might subscribe to the idea “it makes{me} wonder.”Best of luck wherever you end up….

  14. About 12 years ago the OCDSB actually did fire a teacher.She was excellent in her field but highly manipulative,using inflated marks to get her way and poor ones to prevent students from exercising their independence.I became embroiled in a situation that I couldn’t ignore and things played out in circumstances I had never seen before.
    I was the teacher of some students that this teacher and I had in common.They were university bound and discovered that the rug was being pulled out from under their feet.My approaching the school’s administration led to the principal guaranteeing their fair treatment and no marks whimsically reduced.It ought to have ended there.But,as the woman was a friend of mine,she viewed me as the villain of the piece.
    The next thing I knew,I was to be interviewed by four OSSTF heayweights who were flying in from Toronto to investigate her allegations of my professional misconduct.As it turned out I never met them over an expense-account lunch or at any location.The Board in Ottawa was contemplating firing her and I had to deal with their lawyers instead.
    In an unexpected turn of events,the woman sued various students for “defamation of character.”At this point in time the school year had ended but in a remarkable display of networking,the accused students located all over Canada filed depositions of their own.This was front-page stuff and the Board wasted no time in offering her a cash settlement to resign.The legal battle continued in spite of the Board’s somewhat slow decision to release her.Because she no longer worked for the OCDSB,I had to obligation to deal with the Federation people.
    I was more or less free of any legal consequences but the emotional wear and tear on the students was extreme,even though they had successfully graduated.The principal made it clear that his career would end if she was ever reinstated.She never was.But details about the legal settlement are still pending due to certain technicalities regarding procedures followed.
    Blessed with tremendous presence,personality and language ability,she would have made any serious challenge to her teaching expertise look highly unsound.Her Achilles’ heel lay in her being a “confrontation junkie” that had never tasted defeat.Complete faith in oneself is admirable,perhaps,until it needs fresh opponents-even students-to destroy.
    We so often have a stereotype of the “bad” or “incompetent” teacher as a person who doesn’t belong in the field of public education.She was probably the second least boring teacher I’ve ever encountered.But when you discover there is no bottom to someone’s lethal capacity,you realise you’re in bigger trouble than that which is defined by boredom or personal inadequacy.Meeting one such person in a lifetime is enough.

  15. Every thing Jason said about TOC’s holds true in Ontario too. We have gained some rights for TOC’s but the hiring of teachers for contract positions is corrupt as it gets! Nepotism rules. Of course if you complain, you get black-listed. I love teaching and enjoy the students so much…but I’ve been trying for seven years and am ready to quit. Today I went into the classroom of a gentleman who was recently hired on contract. He had also automatically been given full year long terms for the last several years. He also just happens to be married to one of the superintendents. It was a poor excuse for a classroom…barren and sparse..no student work on display, no activites for students…And the lesson he left for me to teach was a joke. I just wanted to come home and cry. I’m so frustrated. My wife is starting to doubt me…but as Lynda said..its not you..its the system. The unions listen sympathetically but never seem to have the guts to do anything about the system. Be patient….good things come to those who wait… 7 years of supply, countless hours of university courses, AQ teacher’s courses, coaching and starting clubs at schools I have had long terms at, endless workshops…I don’t know how much longer I can wait. My marriage will probably soon be over. These are publically funded institutions. If any other publically funded instution had this much neoptism and cronyism there would be massive public outrage and an investigation. Some people tell me ..well that’s just the way of the world..I should just accept it. But that’s probably the same thing they used to say about slavery!

  16. my comment to is I have done Teacher complain to the Ontario Teachers Collage is been unresonly delay in I have provid the evdince it sees to me so teachers are allowed as the invesigation officer were explaining to me.
    this not a full comment to explain if you can contact me on my cell 416-887-9178 or email the right source to contact.
    kind regerds

  17. Ms. Laseur a teacher at Davie Jones Elementary in Maple Ridge B.C. is entering tenure in 2011. For years I have been at the school I have heard students complain about her constantly yelling and screaching at them. We can all hear her doing this, yet no one does anything about it. Students have been scared of her for years! An average A-B student that goes into her class at the begining of the year leaves with a C grade from stress! She shows signs of dementia and the students notice too. Why does the principal do nothing? Other teachers keep it a dirty secret! The students are being abused!

  18. Rachel,
    I think it is highly in appropriate that you make an annonymous posting regarding a teacher, whom you name and give a working location for. This action consititues defamation of character and is immoral. Rightly, teachers are constantly in the public spotlight because we work with a highly influential and vulnerable sector of the public, children. We are also public servants. If you have a problem with a specific teacher, I suggest you contact the school board or school trustee in the appropriate jurisdiction and air your concern there, privately, where the teacher has a chance to respond. Do not do it on a public forum. By providing the comment above, you have shown yourself as a person of weak character and, if the allegations you make are true, you have trivialized a sensitive situations.

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