Three teaching careers beyond teachers college

April 1, 2012
Jowita Bydlowska

A teaching career doesn't start and end with a teacher's college diploma. In fact, many people find themselves wanting to take a less traditional path that will allow them to work with different groups of people other than elementary or high school students. There are those too who would like to try teaching to supplement their other careers or to take a break from what they're doing or to expand their horizons and travel. Then there are people who devote their entire lives to academia, staying in a post-secondary environment to pass on their expertise while working on their own research or studies. Here we discuss three teaching careers that explore education and are a little off the beaten path.

English as a Second Language teacher
Teaching English as a Second Language is the perfect way to test your abilities as a teacher and it offers great experience in the classroom. It is also one of those "in-between" jobs for people just out of university or trying to change careers, as it offers an excellent opportunity to try something new without too much commitment in terms of what you need to prepare to do the job. According to the Thinking about Teaching English Overseas? article you need the following:

  • A four-year bachelor's degree. The degree can be in anything, but better jobs can be obtained if your degree is English-related or in education; a master's or PhD will get you a high-paying job in a university or international school.
  • A TEFL certificate (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) certificate is often required and will give you the boost of confidence required to teach.

The article mentions experience teaching as sometimes being a third requirement but the basic two are a university degree and the TEFL certificate. The important news about the TEFL certificate is that it has to be obtained from a place that is certified by TEFL Canada. According to the esl base site, "These are classroom-based courses of around 120 hours, and involve several hours of observed teaching. They are usually studied over a very intensive four week period and involve a lot of work outside the classroom, preparing classes and writing assignments." The TEFL certificate programs are intense courses that involve a lot of work and energy -- you will be expected to study, pass exams and prepare lessons for presentation. Many centres offer full-time options for TEFL courses but you can take them part-time as well. TEFL allows you to teach in Canada as well.

If you're thinking of leaving the country to do this job, you do need some mental stamina. As exotic and as fun as it sounds, traveling to a foreign place can be quite taxing and it's good to be aware of that. The Thinking about Teaching English Overseas article lists self-confidence as an important quality needed to survive in a different culture without the support of your loved ones as well as good health and a good presence in the classroom (confidence, strong voice). The article suggests acquiring some coping mechanisms -- such as meditation, yoga or exercise -- to help you be able to deal with the stress.

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Early Childhood Educator (ECE)
It's an understatement to say that ECEs work hard. From morning till the evening on their feet, chasing after little munchkins, planning lessons and activities, telling stories, supervising assistants ... it's a handful. According to Ontario Job Futures, ECEs may also be involved in the following duties:

  • Programming and coordinating programs for younger children (aiding age-appropriate development)
  • Leading activities such as songs, crafts and reading
  • Preparing and serving snacks
  • Assisting with eating, dressing and toilet training
  • Arranging rooms and furniture for meals and rest periods
  • Discussing children’s progress with parents and supervisors
  • Keeping records
  • Attending staff meetings and submitting written observations to supervisor
  • Helping with housekeeping duties

An ECE is crucial in providing a positive social and educational environment for the children. In a daycare setting, they often work with ECE assistants in order to handle larger groups of children.

In Ontario, ECEs are regulated by the College of Early Childhood Educators, and in order to work in the field, they need a diploma in early childhood education (George Brown and Humber offer diploma programs as well as Seneca) or a bachelor's degree in education. Ontario Job Futures mentions that you can also work as an ECE through an apprenticeship program such as the Early Childhood Educator program offered through the Ontario Youth Apprenticeship Program (OYAP) in Toronto. (The Toronto District School Board's OYAP is a school-to-work program that opens the door for students to explore and work in apprenticeship occupations starting in Grade 11 or 12. It is set up in partnership with Seneca College.) You can also take an Early Childhood Educator Apprenticeship at Mohawk College in Hamilton.

ECEs work in such settings as daycares and before- and after-school programs, kindergartens and primary grade classes. They can also work in special education setting as well as Ontario Early Years Centres, HeadStart programs, drop-in centres, health care settings and so on. In order to move up in this position -- to a supervisor position -- an ECE needs a minimum of two years of experience on top of the educational requirement.

Since 2010 there's been a full-day kindergarten initiative in Ontario. A full-day kindergarten means "[i]ntegrated programs before and after school hours designed to complement the regular school day." Because of this initiative there's been an increase in demand for ECEs in the province. The future job opportunities in this career sector are good, according to Ontario Job Futures but here's the thing: an average hourly wage is $12.64 to $16.88 per hour.

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Post-secondary instructor
Now that we've spent a little bit of time in kindergarten it's time to get to the other end of the teaching spectrum and discuss the job of a post-secondary instructor. Depending on what type of post-secondary institution you aim at working, you will need a different type of degree to perform this kind of a teaching job. For example, in order to teach undergraduates courses at Humber College you need at least an M.A. To teach at a place like the University of Toronto you will need a PhD.

Writer and professor of Canadian literature Natalee Caple says that "the typical way you become a professor is by achieving a PhD in your chosen field." She adds, "Jobs are incredibly specific when advertised and competition is fierce and cutbacks are rife so you might be looking for the one position (i.e., Canadian literature) with a secondary specialization (i.e., drama, creative writing). Once that job comes up at a university and is filled it won't be advertised again until the person that got it passes on and then only if his/her peers haven't shifted their course requirements and desires in some way. So this type of work is really for the passionate academic who is willing to move to the job. It's tough." Speaking of passionate, Caple is very passionate about the Canadian literature course she teaches and says, "I try to create readers who feel some national pride and appreciation for living culture and who experience real pleasure exploring their own ideas and potential contributions. I concentrate on reducing stress in the classroom (offering unlimited rewrites, the opportunity to self-assess) and really focus on the depth of engagement possible with reading and writing and the social functions of art."

At a college level, one full-time professor (who asked not to be identified) at the Humber School of Media Studies, got into her teaching position by "my experience in the industry, plus the M.A. (Shakespeare, of all things) made me a commodity as [there are] not many media folks with a grad degree."

The same professor talked about her own experience getting to teach at Humber. She didn't get the original posting she applied for but was willing to teach a "sessional" (part-time) course, which then led to her teaching four courses in the next semester and then she applied for a full-time position. Asked what advice she has for someone who wants to get work at her level, she says, "Always apply for any job that interests you even if you know you don't have a hope. Get your name out there, get them to know you and next time they need to fill a position, you can come to mind. Be co-operative, have a good attitude and don't complain about the relatively low pay part-timers get -- or about anything. Say 'yes' to everything. I ended up teaching a course that was not a huge interest of mine but kept me in the pool. Then I got one class in the subject that really interested me and was brought on full-time."

Amber McMillan, who also teaches at Humber, says she applied through a posting on and was called in for an interview. To teach the courses (English literature, writing essentials and occasionally another course) she needed to have at least an M.A. degree, although, as she says, with a PhD she'd have a better chance at a full-time position. Right now she is teaching part-time, contract to contract, which she says is not ideal but she considers herself very lucky to have the job. She says, "Hold on to your job and don't complain because [the administration] can throw a stone and find someone like that to take your position." And the perks aren't too bad, she says -- she gets a summer off, she has time to work on her writing and be a parent.

Caple finds the teaching experience extremely rewarding. She says, "I hope my students get a great deal of pleasure out of learning and when I see the creative works they produce at the end of a course, engaging with Canlit and history as something they are a part of -- it is really exciting."

The full-time professor enjoys the perks of being an inspiration to students as well. She says, "The hours are flexible, the students are passionate. It's actually a great job for folks with young kids who can't do the kind of hours [other industries] demand. But you have to like young people: any cynicism about youth and you'd be miserable doing a job like this."

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I enjoyed reading the information provided since I am interested in becoming a College
instructor. It was very helpful, and pleased to see that others are passionate about
knowlege just as I am.

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