In his opinion piece “Where have all the teachers gone?”, Jeff Itcush touches on some of the problems facing the teaching profession in Quebec. He is perfectly accurate in quoting statistics and addressing teacher burnout and the disinterest of young people in getting into teaching. Yes, Itcush is correct, these are major factors in the lack of certified teachers in Quebec. Itcush, however, neglected to address another major element, Law 21.
While politics and teaching have always been intertwined, the adoption of Law 21 has stopped many qualified teachers from having access to teaching positions. As a Yarmulka wearing, certified teacher, I am limited to what positions I can attain. Of course, one can argue that I can choose to ignore my religious obligation for my professional gain, but who honestly would want a teacher that compromises integrity to get ahead? What kind of message does that send to students who are taught that we live in an inclusive society? If wearing my Yarmulka makes me untrustworthy in the classroom in a public school, how does taking it off make me more trustworthy and how am I supposed to mentally reconcile all this and feel comfortable teaching while also feeling like I am being oppressed?
I completed a specialty in Teaching English as a Second Language in 2020. Many of my classmates, who all received teaching certification at the end of the program, were Hijab wearing Moslem women. Nearly all of them told me that due to the law, they would all be working exclusively within their community schools as the option of working elsewhere was closed. How sad that over 20 trained and qualified teachers from my graduating class will be kept out of the general workforce because of this draconian law.
While I was completing my final round of internships, one of my coordinating teacher’s father passed away. Pre-Law 21, being in my last internship, I would have been considered a qualified replacement and would have been hired to replace her for the two weeks and then been kept on the school board’s payroll with the potential of being hired permanently the next school year.
Instead, I was called to the Principal’s office and interviewed. The Principal, impressed with my experience, (I had taught unlicensed for years) looked at my head and asked me, point blank, if I was willing to take my Yarmulka off. When I expressed that I would not, a substitute teacher was brought in.
I was not hired and the school board was forced to pass on a qualified teacher that could have filled one of the many open positions Jeff Itcush mentioned in his piece.
If Mr. Roberge wants to fix the teacher shortage, Law 21 should be repealed. Let School Boards or Service Centers choose qualified candidates who are otherwise left on the sidelines and allow professional teachers to train the next generation of thinkers and doers.
(Silbeger is a High School Teacher and the host of the Howie Silbiger Show, heard Sundays at 8pm on Truetalkradio.com)