Project Play- Aftermath

Today I attended Project Play, London’s first (or is that most recent? not sure) gaming convention of the universal sort. What I mean by that is that there wasn’t just Role Playing Games, or Tabletop Games, or Electronic Games, or Console Games, or Mobile Games, or Tablet Games or Classic Games or even Card Games- there was all of them! And more!

Fanshawe’s Student Union building was filled with game sellers, producers, and players. It also played host to Doll fans, Cosplayers, and Anime fans, who each had their own little areas, and other oddities like the Personal Computer Museum. (Which made me feel quite old as I looked at all the consoles I used to play as a kid, like the Atari 2600, the Intellivision, and the Commodore 64. I remember when the Vic 20 was new!) A nice collection of different smaller fandoms all under one roof that wouldn’t normally have enough people for a con, but could collectively benefit from being together.

I arrived about halfway into the event and I spent my time flitting from place to place and visiting with different people I knew, but mostly I spent time at the Forest City Go Club table playing teaching games of Go with Matt and Mark (who were kind enough to give up their day to man the table). When I first got there the club had been relegated to a back room, but eventually we managed to get moved to a more central location between a number of video game producers and things really started to hum! Quite a few people were interested in learning about Go, and with luck we made a few new Go fans. (And maybe club members! We’ll see in the coming weeks!)

I’d say somewhere between two and three hundred people came out to Project Play today. That’s just a guess, but by the afternoon that place was really moving, and it was a joy to see. There have been attempts to hold Comic and Sci-Fi conventions in London before, with varying degrees of success, but none of them really brought together so many diverse groups and done it so well.

I hope that there’s another Project Play next year, and that it’s bigger and better advertised than this one! I think they’ve only tapped their potential, and will just get bigger and better from here!

Rob

Stop Certifying New Teachers in Ontario

In London, Ontario right now if you want to become an elementary or high school teacher, here’s what you have to do:

  1. Do four years of undergraduate university education in your major of choice. ($40,000 basic tuition)
  2. Go to teacher’s college for one year (or more for some specialties) to get your certification. ($10,000 basic tuition)
  3. Get certified by the Ontario College of Teachers. (Start paying $138 a year for membership.)
  4. Apply to get on the waiting list to become a supply teacher in the Thames Valley School board. (Which covers much of our section of Ontario).
  5. Wait 1-2 years to get on the list (for no pay).
  6. Get on the list, and become a supply teacher. (Find out if you actually LIKE teaching.)
  7. Spend 1-2 years (or more) on the supply list, while working nearly random hours where you may not make money for days, months, or weeks. (Oh, and you can’t take other jobs during school hours because it means you’re not available to teach at the drop of a hat.)
  8. Succeed in sucking up to local principals and people who are influential in the system.
  9. Apply for jobs as they come up. (If they come up.)
  10. Get a job with the system.
  11. Spend 3 years as a probationary teacher with the school principal or VP looking over your shoulder while you show them your lesson plans and undergo reviews.
  12. Teach.

From Step 1-4 will take you approximately 5 years (not counting multiple tries to get into teacher’s college) and you will graduate with a minimum of $50,000 of student loans- if you did it all through loans. (And that’s just tuition and books)

You then get to shoulder that $50,000+ for 2-4 years with little to no income, while making monthly payments on top of trying to survive in HOPES of getting a teaching job, which may never come. After which, you hit the goldmine and get to make $42,000 a year, while paying that debt off and trying to survive.

How did this monstrosity of a system occur? Well, you see, here in Ontario there are several factors at play right now:

  • Ontario’s Teachers Colleges (alone) are pumping out at least 9,000 new teachers a year. (Plus the ones returning from the US or Australia where they did their training instead.)
  • Ontario’s population isn’t having children.
  • School boards have less money due to recessions.
  • Schools are being closed and consolidated because of dropping student populations in many areas.
  • Baby Boomer teachers are retiring, but their jobs are going to other experienced teachers from their school or schools being closed and consolidated.

So, the end result is that we have a system in Ontario glutted with new teachers, 2/3rds of which have minimal prospects of finding a job, even if they do manage to survive the process.

Does this sound healthy to you? Or like a good system?

So, what can we do about it?

Well, I lived in another country that had a similar problem- Taiwan- an island nation with a shrinking youth population which was pumping out a glut of new teachers each year who had almost no hope of employment. There, the government did the most responsible (not to mention ballsy) thing they possibly could have done- they put a moratorium on certifying new teachers for a period of several years.

Yep, no new teachers could be certified in Taiwan for several years. That let the system work itself out and the excess number of teachers to drop because it gave the people who were already certified the time they needed to find jobs as the older ones retired.

That’s also what I propose Ontario do right now. Tell the Ontario College of Teachers to stop certifying new teachers in Ontario until such time as there are jobs for new teachers to fill. Without membership in OCT, you can’t teach, so this effectively means no more new teachers for the already massively overloaded system.

The teachers colleges don’t need to close, and people can still get their credentials, but they can’t teach here in Ontario and will need to look elsewhere (other provinces or countries) if they want to follow that path. It’s my experience that people who truly have a passion for teaching will still find ways to teach anyways, and those who were just looking for a public sector job will look elsewhere and forget the whole idea.

It’s the responsible thing to do.