New Teacher Unemployment Statistics Are ‘Staggering’

A recent article in the Globe and Mail highlighted the bleak job prospects for new graduates from Teachers College.

The unemployment rate among recent teaching grads is staggering:

“It’s the continuation of a frightening trend in the province where involuntary unemployment among first-year teachers has grown to 24 per cent from only 3 per cent in 2006. For those who did some teaching in their first year, the underemployment rate rose to 43 per cent in 2010 from 27 per cent in 2006. So two-thirds of teaching grads could not find a full-time job in 2010.”

The crux of the problem is bad demographics. The median age in Canada is about 40. As you can see from the population pyramid below there is a huge bulge of people between 40-65. The baby boom generation  is comprised of 8 million people and most Canadian schools were built to accommodate the swelling number of youngsters in the 60’s and 70’s. However, nowadays the picture is wildly different. Parents are having far fewer children and subsequently that means far fewer students enrolled at Canadian public schools.  Of course, this means less demand for teachers.

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/4/49/Pyramideca2010.jpgThe second problem is that older teachers are not retiring at 60 as was expected. People are in much better health and the retirement dream has lost it’s luster especially as the financial markets have been volatile over the last decade.

The obvious fix to the problem would be to lower the teacher/student ratio. One would assume that students would be better served by classes of 15 students rather than 30 students. However, the academic research has produced mixed results on whether small is better.

In addition, it would be costly to reduce class sizes. Provinces are under enormous financial strain.  For example, Ontario has a greater deficit per capita than California which many economists view as bankrupt.

. Ontario

Secondly, because of the aging population, a greater percentage of government spending will have to be re-directed towards health-care rather than education.

The factors above mean that enrollment at Teachers Colleges should be curtailed to allow the supply of new Canadian teachers to be absorbed by the teaching job marketplace.

Lesson Plan For Nuclear Energy

After the tragedy in Japan, many teachers and students are trying to understand the risks and benefits of nuclear energy. Several reactors in Japan are in danger of “melting down” as emergency workers work round the clock.

The media is abuzz with stories about radiation contamination even on the West Coast of the United States.

In order to help students, teachers and parents separate fact from fiction we’ve compiled a lesson plan that helps understand nuclear energy.

Objectives

A. Teacher:

  1. To ensure students understand how nuclear energy is generated.
  2. To help students learn how a nuclear power plant works.
  3. To inform students about the benefits and risks of nuclear power.

B. Students should be able to:

  1. Explain the process of nuclear fission.
  2. Explain how nuclear power plants provide energy.
  3. Differentiate between different types of nuclear power plants.

Background

Nuclear power plants are similar to coal/fossil fuel powered plants in that both create heat that produces steam that turns a turbine.

Instead of coal, uranium rods are used as fuel. To generate heat,  neutrons collide into the nucleus of the uranium atoms. This process is called nuclear fission. Once they split in half, energy is released.

Steam is created and this turns a turbine generating power.

A reactor has four main parts: the uranium fuel assemblies, the control rods, the coolant/moderator, and the pressure vessel. The fuel assemblies, control rods, and coolant/moderator make up what is known as the reactor core. The core is surrounded by the pressure vessel.

Q and A

  1. What percentage of total power does nuclear energy make up in your city/state/country?
  2. What are the different types of nuclear plants?
  3. What is a cooling tower?
  4. What is uranium and where can it be found?
  5. What are the main components of a reactor?

Routines are Key To Classroom Management

I recently reviewed some classroom management by Candace Davies, the founder of A+ Resumes for Teachers. She authored a book called “101 Classroom Management Tips.”
Here is my understanding of her tips on using routines for classroom management.

Established routines can greatly enhance your classroom management.

Students respond to an outline of appropriate behavior. It is the teachers’ responsibility to outline this standard of behavior and to enforce this standard with consistency. The consistency element benefits both the student and the teacher.

Routines also serve as a time-saving device for teachers. Like any successful business, the automation of a routine creates an efficiency. For example, when you visit McDonalds the entire order and deliver process is a highly defined routine. The structure is basic enough for high school students all around the world to serve food in under 60 seconds. Similarly, students appreciate easy to follow classroom rules. After an established standard of excellence is defined routines make it possible for students to follow through on their promised behaviour.

Like the McDonalds example above, well established routines eliminate confusion at any point in a lesson. Students always know what is expected because there is consistency from day to day.   Without clear and concise instructions that establish fine-tuned routines, classrooms can easily turn into chaos.

What can lead to unmanageable situations? Vague instructions can create confusion in the students. They are unclear of what the teacher wants often because the teacher is unclear about what she wants. The best students will behave well no matter what, but some students will invariably take advantage of the vague instructions. These students will use the time to chat, or waste time. Of course what comes next is increased frustration on the part of the teacher and repeated instructions.

Why do many teachers avoid creating routines despite the classroom management benefits? The reason is often laziness. It takes time and effort to create and establish routines. It also takes great discipline to stick to the protocol on a daily basis.

By implementing clearly defined routines, you will have a much more efficient and manageable classroom that leaves no room for misbehaving. Once routines are implemented, when you say something like “put away your materials” at the end of a lesson, there will be no confusion and disorder. Students will inherently know what is expected of them in this situation because it is always the same. Also by implementing routines, students will know what to do without you even having to say anything. For instance, they will know that when they enter the classroom they need to come in quietly and sit at their desks. This is why routines are such an integral part of successful classroom management.

Students are definitely capable of following set routines. It is all about specifics, consistency and practice. Once routines have been clearly defined, and practiced, students will know what is expected of them and will start to complete the routines as second nature.

Want to learn many more invaluable classroom management tips? Candace Davies’ comprehensive eBook 101 Classroom Management Tips that can help you transform your classroom for the better.

Classroom Management Tips

I recently reviewed some classroom management by Candace Davies, the founder of A+ Resumes for Teachers. She authored a book called “101 Classroom Management Tips.”
Every teacher has been overwhelmed with unruly students and it’s always great to receive a helping hand from more experienced teachers.
Here are Candace’s Top Five Tips:

In order to get students to follow your instructions and stay on task, you need to instruct them in specific ways that will achieve the results you want. Students need very structured and clear boundaries and guidelines in order for them to undoubtedly know what is expected of them. As soon as instructions become laidback, chaos will soon follow.

Here are five steps that are sure to help you keep your students focused and minimize disruptions:

  1. The first step is to state what you want them to do calmly and clearly. If they are misbehaving, clearly state what they are doing wrong and what they can do to fix it. Leave no room for misunderstanding and also explain to them why they should do what you are asking. Instead of focusing on the negative, tell them what they need to be doing and explain why they should be. For instance how finishing work in class will eliminate the need to complete it at home.
  2. If they don’t listen to you after step one, it’s time to move onto step two which is to explain the consequences of what will happen to them if they continue to misbehave. Remember to remain calm when speaking; tell them matter-of-factly that if they continue this behavior they will lose some of their break time or they’ll need to clean up their mess, etc. Make the consequence specific to their behavior so the student can easily make the connection between the behavior and the consequence.
  3. Once you’ve communicated the consequences, give them a time limit to fix their behavior and then move off to give them time to make the right choice. Since you’ve explained to them exactly what they are doing wrong, exactly what they must change to fix it, and exactly what will happen if they don’t, you are being completely fair and have also given them a clear cut choice to do the right thing. And, by walking away, you’ve taken the pressure off of them in front of their friends, making it easier for them to do the right thing.
  4. If and when they do the right thing, remember to acknowledge it. This will reinforce that they have made the right decision, gives them some positive attention, and will encourage them to do it in the future. If, however, they choose to carry on, this is the time to follow through on your promised consequence. Communicate to the student what’s happened, and that their continued defiance is the sole reason for the consequence. Continue to be calm, showing that you remain in control which will show any other rambunctious students that you follow through on your promises and that you are fair.
  5. If the student continues misbehaving after the consequence, repeat the procedure with tougher consequences. It is important to start off with small consequences so that you can increase them when necessary. By starting off small and moving to larger and larger consequences, the students will also see this as fair, as they’ve done more to warrant a larger consequence the second time around.

Now that you know the five steps toward minimizing disruptions in your classroom, you can put them into effect. The best part about this plan is that it adapts quite easily into your current classroom management, and once you start using it, you will be amazed at how quickly students react to this plan with improved behavior.

Want to learn many more invaluable classroom management tips? Candace Davies’ comprehensive eBook 101 Classroom Management Tips that can help you transform your classroom for the better.

Does Rate My Teacher Have Any Value?

Does the controversial website “Rate My Teacher” have any value?

Basically, the site allows students to post reviews of teachers based on easiness, helpfulness, clarity, and popularity.

In addition, students can post comments about teachers that are within the site guidelines. For example, comments related to personal or family life, appearance, looks or personal hygiene are banned. In addition, comments centered around race or sex are also moderated.

As we all know, ratings and reviews for sites like Amazon.com and Rotten Tomatoes are most helpful. However, do ratings serve any purpose in the educational setting?

First of all, ratings sites do affect which courses students choose. If a teacher has a reputation as an easy marker students will flock to their courses. Of course, students have long shared information about “easy markers” and Rate My Teachers has simply made this information more public and easier to access.

I’ve never met a teacher who has actually changed their teaching style based on comments on the website. The reason is that most of the comments are actually directed towards personality traits rather than constructive criticism.

For example, this would be a typical comment on the website:

“she’s fair, but the way she treats people makes her seem like a rude person.”

As you can see the comment is mostly centered around this teachers’ personality.In addition, most comments are only one or two lines. By contrast, an Amazon book review could be several paragraphs. In addition, Amazon users have an ability to check the other reviews made by the same person to ensure that their objectivity has not been clouded.

Unfortunately, most teachers do not have a web presence meaning that Google searches for their name often lead to the Rate My Teacher rating. For example, let’s say you’re at a cocktail party and meet someone. They run a Google search for your name and see some nasty remarks written by students as the first or second search results. One would hope that people would dismiss such comments but that is often not the case. The ratings can and do affect your overall reputation in the community.

Despite the fact that the site has limited usefulness, teachers have tried to ban the site.  In 2003, the New York State United Teachers (NYSUT) sought a court injunction to shut down the site, though the request was denied on free speech grounds.

Please visit the Canadian Teacher Forum and chime in on the issue. What has been your personal experience with teacher rating websites?

Lesson Plans For Black History Month

As you know, February is Black History month. We’ve summarized a brand new lesson plan for celebrating some of the most notable black Canadians.This lesson plan will open the minds of your students to individuals such as Harry Jerome, Portia White, and Mary Ann Shadd.

Objective: At the end of this lesson, the student will be able to recognize famous Black Canadians and identify their contributions to Canadian History.

Primary Subject – Social Studies
Grade Level – 3rd – 6th
Objective: To read for information and understanding and discover relationships, concepts by utilizing a variety of written and electronic resources.

To enhance the ability to use online tools and timelines to enhance the knowledge of Canadian history.

Standards: Take notes to record and organize data, facts and ideas and produce clear, well-organized reports

Materials: Books or websites pertaining to notable Black Canadians including politicians, activists, artists etc.

Anticipatory set: Who are some famous political activists or artists that students are familiar with?

Procedures: Teacher selects some of the more notable figures in Canadian Black History.  Students can work in teams or pairs to research and identify the areas that they were involved in and how they were beneficial to the history of Canada. Their notes would include the time frame that they lived, their specific role and other historical data or individuals from that time period. Students can create a multi-media timeline.

Assessment: a- The information can be utilized to do a comparative timeline of events in history
to show when they lived and well-known events.
b- Share written reports with documented information of the life and contributions of these individuals.

Does A TFSA Make Sense For Canadian Teachers?

One of the most overlooked wealth building tools for Canadian educators are Tax Free Savings Accounts (TFSA). In this brief article I’ll explain why the vast majority of teachers do not have a TFSA and why they may be missing the boat for superior after tax investment returns.

First of all, what is a Tax Free Savings Account (TFSA)? A TFSA allows a teacher to contribute a maximum of $5000/year which shelters investment income earned from from federal and provincial taxes. You can check the Revenue Canada website for more details.

The vast majority of teachers do not have a TFSA because they believe that their pension plan is a sufficient form of savings for retirement. This is unfortunate because the TFSA is not a retirement account and it is not necessarily a savings account.

Savvy teachers have realized that the TFSA is actually an investment account meaning that you can own stocks or mutual funds. You can contribute $5000 each year and your income and capital gains will be sheltered.

The easiest thing to do is open up an online trading account with an online broker. Questrade was dubbed “the king of low cost investing” by the Globe and Mail’s Rob Carrick and they currently offer $50 rebates for new accounts opened by Canadian teachers.

Let’s walk through an example of how a teacher might benefit from a TFSA:

Alexander is a 27 year old teacher in the second year of his career. He has limited funds to invest and he doesn’t want to lock up his money in an RRSP. He opened up a TFSA with an online broker where he trades growth stocks. In 2010 he made a 14.6% return on his initial $5000 contribution. The entire gain of almost $750 was sheltered from taxes.

The TFSA gave Frank tremendous flexibility as he is mulling over whether to take a summer vacation or buy a new car. Fortunately, he can take out money from his TFSA and pay no penalties.