Courtney Langton

Courtney is an aspiring high school teacher. Her teachables are History and English, but she's happy to teach anything that doesn't involve numbers or formulas. Her particular interest is in promoting gender equity and anti-oppression both in and outside the classroom. She writes a detailed To-Do list every morning, and enjoys nothing more than a good book and a plate of bacon on a rainy Saturday.

Jonathan Wong

Jonathan's primary interest is moral education. His teachable subjects are English and Music. He encourages critical thinking and hopes to teach his students to recognize, and strive for, what is truly important to them without forgetting to be compassionate, tolerant, and open-minded along the way. He likes making analogies and his favourite is one that compares life to jumping on a trampoline.

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Practium Woes - Part 1
Thursday, July 2, 2009

"Everything will be ok in the end. If it's not ok, it's not the end."

Well, stumbling block #1 in my quest to become a teacher has arisen. I'm trying to tell myself that a test of my resolve is important, that frustrating set-backs will just convince me even further that teaching is my passion and my life's work. But all that is hard to believe when you hear bad news that seems, at the time, to be catastrophic.

We had all be impatiently awaiting news of our practicum schools since we first filled out applications back in February. Without this knowledge, it's hard to plan things fully because you don't know where you'll be living for half the year. For some, especially those whose parents and relatives live outside of Ontario, it's pretty crucial to be placed in a school board that is within driving distance of somewhere you could live without paying double rent.

My four choices, in order, were school boards in Kingston (where I have an apartment), Ottawa (I could stay with family friends), Peterborough (I would live with my grandma), and Mississauga (my best friend's family has kindly offered to adopt me). Then when my boyfriend got into vet school in Guelph, completing my placement there became another possibility.

Well, it came to the end of June and we still hadn't heard anything. Then, on June 30th, we all got an email. Finally, I would have some answers (I'm not the type to cope well with a lack of control over anything). I open my email from the Practicum Office, and here's what I see:

"Welcome to Queen's Faculty of Education.

At this time, we have been unable to arrange a practicum for you in
any of the district boards you requested.

Please do not contact the Practicum Office, and do not contact any
schools or principals to try and secure a placement on your own. We
work only with Associate Schools that have been chosen in specific
district school boards. We will contact the boards within our
catchment area in the fall, to try to secure additional
placements. All Faculties of Education throughout the province are
having difficulties in securing placements due to the sheer volume of
teacher candidates admitted to the education programs. You are one
of over 100 Queen's teacher education candidates who do not currently
have a placement. We will be working on arranging a placement for you
over the summer and into September. If you do not receive an email
over the summer, informing you of your placement, come to the
Practicum Office after Monday, September 8 and we will work with you
to secure your placement for October."

Once I got over the whole brain-exploding-with-rage-and-disbelief thing, I... actually, I don't think I've quite gotten over it yet. But once I'd at least processed the information, I was left with this overwhelming dread-- all I could think was that I'd get a crappy placement (or worse, no placement), get less than ideal evaluations as a result, causing me to have no job, and leading me into a life of perpetual homelessness and degeneracy.

Ok, so clearly I'm overreacting. But it's a hugely unsettling feeling nonetheless. I don't know who these "over 100" candidates are, because I only know of three other people in this situation, but the Practicum Office has got some serious work ahead of them if they expect to fix this colossal bung-up.

Now, one of my very awesome friends/classmates who is in the same boat contacted the Practicum Coordinator for a more thorough explanation. Our Practicum Coordinator claimed that the form is time sensitive, which is not very plausible since most of us got our applications in almost immediately after they were circulated. However, he also suggested that the province just has more teacher candidates than they have willing host teachers, schools and boards. That I can believe. There is apparently the potential that our practica won't be confirmed until August or even September, as schools become more confident of their numbers and if other students drop out of the program. So that's that. While it's nice to have a bit more information, that information is making me want to tear my hair out.

I did call the practicum office (I'll be damned if I listen to their orders not to contact them) to ask if I might be placed in a school in Guelph, but it turns out that Queen's doesn't place any students anywhere in the Upper Grand District School Board. That's another university's territory or something. It's all very discouraging.

I think a discussion of why established teachers should or should not become mentors and hosts to teacher candidates requires a separate post, a post which I am anxious to hash out but wish to approach with a more nuanced understanding than I currently possess. I will say that in this case, I think the problem is a culmination of shortfalls from all directions-- too many students, not enough host teachers, uncooperative boards, and the fact that Queen's is either unwilling or unable to expand their placement possibilities.

And who is the unfortunate recipient of the fallout from all of that?

I am. I and some of my fellow Concurrent Education students are, we who have been in this program for four years and have so much to give to our potential students and host teachers. We're left disillusioned and disappointed and deeply concerned about our future, and there's nothing we can do about it.

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Courtney posted at 7:25 PM - Comments (1)


I had to comment to applaud your Latin grammar with practicum and practica! Hahaha. I would say this sucks, but I just read the other post in which you GOT a good placement, so yay!

By Blogger Hezabelle, at July 22, 2009 at 5:58 PM  

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