Skip to content

Robert Barron column: B.C. needs trained teachers

Pros in a subject aren’t necessarily good teachers
Robert’s column

My Grade 10 math teacher was a terrible educator.

He knew his subject well, but he just didn’t have the ability to communicate that to his students.

Even worse, he was not able to control the all-male classroom and even seemed a little scared of some of the students,

That led to pandemonium during his classes as teenagers can sense weakness and are good at exploiting it, so little teaching was actually done as the students pretty much ruled the room.

Math was never my favourite subject anyway, not even close, so I barely passed that class.

Fortunately, he was a big exception to the teaching standards I was used to and I had a much better math teacher in Grade 11.

That teacher commanded respect, so most students were reluctant to cross him and sat quietly through his classes.

Better still, he really knew his stuff and made his classes fun to keep the interest of math-phobic students like me.

I remember he would draw the curtains when he put the Pythagorean theorem on the chalkboard because he said there could be Russian spies across the street with binoculars trying to steal this most important math equation.

He also allowed us to bring soft drinks and potato chips to his classes, which we considered quite a treat because the schools I attended were pretty strict about those sorts of things at the time.

So my math marks jumped from 57 per cent in Grade 10 to 89 per cent in Grade 11, which says a lot for the need of well-trained and quality teachers in the school system.

Thankfully, the vast majority of my teachers over the years have been very good at their jobs, and I usually did well in school as a result.

So I’m more than a little concerned about teacher shortages in the province and the impacts that could have on our children’s education.

A report from the B.C. Teachers’ Federation that was published in January states that northern and remote districts in the province have had teacher shortages for decades, but now most school districts in the province are having to cope with the issue as well.

The report said that a perfect storm of issues, including baby-boomer retirements, the pandemic, increasing enrolment, rising societal expectations, and the high cost of living has resulted in the massive teacher shortage across the province.

A number of strategies are being put into play in an attempt to draw more teachers here, including recruiting from other provinces.

But it’s worrying that some other jurisdictions are now trying to close their teacher gaps by recruiting working professionals, who don’t have any teaching credentials, to go into classrooms.

A biologist, for example, would teach biology and an economist would teach economics.

But, like my Grade 10 math teacher, just because they know their subjects doesn’t mean they would be good teachers.

Professional teachers spend years learning not just the material they will teach, but how to teach as well, and most are pretty good at it as a result.

Years ago, my editor asked me to go to a career day at an elementary school in Chase River and speak to students about journalism.

I had to give a 20-minute talk and take questions, and I found it to be one of the most frustrating experiences of my life.

I figure that about a third of the kids were interested, another third were bored and half asleep but at least they were quiet, while the last third were boisterous and disruptive.

A trained teacher would have been taught strategies to ensure that all the students in their classroom became interested in the subject matter, including making it fun like my Grade 11 math teacher did.

But I didn’t have those skills and I’m pretty sure that about two-thirds of the students in that class learned nothing from me as a result.

I couldn’t wait to leave and get back to my office.

The only ones who should be teaching in classrooms are those with all the credentials to be there.

To have it any other way is a disservice to our children, and the future of the province.

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Robert Barron

About the Author: Robert Barron

Since 2016, I've had had the pleasure of working with our dedicated staff and community in the Cowichan Valley.
Read more