uOttawa Faculty of Education Orientation FAQ

Yesterday, I was fortunate enough to attend the Faculty’s orientation session as a guest speaker. While doing so, I noticed some confusion about the program, and it reminded me how I felt in 2015 during my own orientation. Due to time constraints, certain aspects can’t be adequately explained.

In order to help alleviate the confusion I’ve decided to make a quick blog entry. Hopefully it finds its way into the hands of people frantically googling what different terms mean.

(Sidenote: My graduating class was the first to go through the two-year program. We were very vocal with our recommendations on how things could be changed. So if the details I listed aren’t exactly the same as your experiences, then chalk it up to the Faculty being receptive to students’ concerns).

What’s a “Cohort”?

Each student is placed into a Cohort. There are around half a dozen of these. I was in the Global Cohort (which was the largest at the time), but there are also the ICI, Urban, Second Language etc. You can think of the Cohort as your “extended family”. This is the larger group of people you are likely to spend the most time with.

The Cohort you are placed in determines the content of your classes (to some extent). The Global Cohort focused on global issues, social justice, environmental sustainability, etc. My professors tried to tie those themes into many of my assignments. You can say the Cohort helps determine the lens for the content of your classes.

Cohorts are composed of different Sections, and each Section is basically a family unit. In efforts to build community, the Cohort might organize events and trips within itself. It will also host events that touch upon its themes open to the Faculty at large. Get to know the professors leading your Cohort.

(Think of it as a House at Hogwarts)

What’s a “Section”?

The Section you are in is the letter code at the end of your classes, particularly 3150. For example: A/AA; B/BB; C/CC.

I was in Section E. All the Global Cohort Junior/Intermediate students were in Sections E/EE. Aside from your teachable subject, and your second year elective, you’re likely to spend the entire two years with your Section. These people will be your family in the program, and you will get to know them incredibly well.

Each letter Section is split into two groups (for example, E and EE), and each group gets their own 3150 prof. This prof is basically your homeroom prof for both semesters. They will also be your practicum supervisor, and your immediate go-to source should anything go awry during CSL/practicum.

What’s a “Division”?

This might be called different things, but essentially it’s the basic qualification you will be graduating with at the end of it all. I was J/I which is short for Junior/Intermediate. There are also Primary/Junior (P/J) and Intermediate/Senior (I/S). This is what qualifies you for the grades you will teach.

For us, the Global J/I students were all in Sections E/EE. We rarely encountered the J/I students from the other cohorts.

For employment purposes, you might want to get an additional basic qualification, which will allow you to teach other grades. You can do this while getting your OCT licence, or after obtaining it.

What’s “PD”?

It’s Professional Development. Throughout the school year you will see many events advertised. We had PD hours baked into our first year classes, but I don’t know if that is still the case. Generally speaking, PD is something all teachers do, so this is to get you accustomed to putting hours aside for it. Some of them will be extremely useful, while others will fall flat.

The best PD workshop I ever attended was one put on by the Canadian Red Cross called Exploring Humanitarian Law. The university fronted our fees, and we got an amazing toolkit at the end. I highly recommend it (it’s usually held in October).

Whats a “CSL”?

Community Service Learning. It’s a mandatory volunteer position in your first, and second, years. Your first CSL allows you to get acquainted with your school, students, and associate teacher (your mentor) prior to an evaluated practicum. It gives you the chance to settle in, and do as much teaching as you are comfortable with. Go wild and experiment. Now’s your chance to make lots of mistakes and learn from them.

The CSL in your final year gives you the chance to try teaching in a capacity of interest to you. You can choose where you want to go and truly make it your own. Some will go abroad. Others will go to rehab clinics for teens.

You’re also welcome to sign up for other CSLs. Your professors will let you know when they become available. I did one with Elections Canada, and it opened a few avenues for me.

What’s “Practicum”?

This is your on-the-job-training as a teacher. Over the course of two months you teach classes to students, and are supervised/evaluated by your associate teacher (who hosts you in their class) and your 3150 professor. Other Faculty heads might drop by at different points to check in with you. This is where you really become a teacher, and you will return to university a changed student.

Your practicum typically takes place in the exact same class as your CSL, unless problems arose. Your practicum in your second year will be at a different location. Should you fail a practicum, you will have to make it up at a later date (at your own expense) so you can pass the program. It is essential you speak with your 3150 professor well before you think that might happen.

What’s a “Teachable”?

This doesn’t apply to P/J students. If you are J/I or I/S then you have teachable subjects. J/I students have one, and you have a class dedicated to it in your first year (mine was History). I/S students have two. This is a subject you specialize in for intermediate and senior grades.

If you want to gain additional qualifications in other subjects (to be more employable), you can do this while getting your OCT licence, or after obtaining it.

What’s “FESA”?

It’s the Faculty of Education Students’ Association. It functions as a student council which reports to the Faculty. Each Section will send two representatives to FESA throughout the year. They sit in on meetings and report back to their Sections afterwards. FESA helps organize social functions, fund-raising events, and smooth out student concerns. Representatives can also run for executive positions, if they want the extra workload.

I did FESA for my first year. If you’d like a hand in shaping the program, or getting to know the Faculty leads better, this is the job for you.

What’s “uoZone”?

It’s the digital hub for the University of Ottawa. You access your mail and other web applications through it.

Scrubbing MacDonald

The Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario has been criticized these past several days for wanting public schools to remove Canada’s first Prime Minister from their names. There is an uproar over how people are trying to erase history, and overwrite Canada’s national identity. Social media is alight with people furious with the teachers, and proclamations that teachers need to re-study the subject and learn how to teach real history.

The prevailing argument against removing MacDonald’s name is that he shouldn’t be judged by the values of 2017, and instead be placed in the context of his time. Such arguments ignore that MacDonald did not exist in a vacuum in the 1800s. He faced criticism for his racism then, and his contemporaries were shocked by it. For those claiming that “identity politics” are being foisted upon MacDonald, they need to understand that identity politics is what he built his career upon. Identity politics are what created the problem 150 years ago.

When the word “values” is mentioned in these arguments, whose values are being addressed? We can essentially label them “settler colonial values”. Yes, the values of many settler colonials have indeed evolved since the 1860s. However, I am willing to bet that many First Nations peoples, who were intentionally starved so the MacDonald government could save money, never agreed to be ethnically cleansed. Why then, are the values of Indigenous Peoples discounted in these discussions?

If the argument is that MacDonald should be judged by the values of his time, then why are only contemporaneous settler colonial values the ones being considered?

What many people (basically non-BIPOC) fail to realize is that our public schools in Ontario are very diverse. Indigenous children do attend these schools, and do so while names complicit in their cultures’ destruction hang over their heads in big bold letters. MacDonald deemed Indigenous Peoples to be savage, so his name means something very different to Indigenous students. If schools are to be places of inclusion, and equity, then the glorification of a man like MacDonald flies in the face of that.

Should Canadians glorify an individual who ethnically cleansed populations he found a drain on resources? Yes, he had a strong hand in creating the current country, but let us not kid ourselves on whose land this country was built upon. Let us not forget that many of these public schools, bearing the names of Prime Ministers who presided over the atrocities of the Indian Residential School System, are on unceded land. Again, whose values are more important?

Commemorations of Past Wrongs

A while back I had written a piece on the glorification of revisionist history. It primarily focused on Confederate memorials in the US, and was capped off by a statue to the Second Boer War in Ottawa. Since writing that piece, things have come to a head in the US, and here in Canada.

Local governments are beginning to pay attention to these statues, and some are making efforts to remove them to stave off potential protests. As I noted, revisionists and pseudo-historians are loudly putting up a fuss, and claiming their heritage and history are being erased. This is hardly the case, as many of these statues were put up in the 20th century, during the Jim Crow era. Their intended purpose was to intimidate the Black American population, and remind them of whose history was ultimately more important.

Now Canada has its share of questionable statues and memorials spread out across the country. Some steps are being taken to fix this, to an extent.

In my native city of Halifax, there is a statue dedicated to Edward Cornwallis. In 1749, the British officially ‘founded’ Halifax, with Cornwallis. Cornwallis signed into effect laws that put bounties on Mi’kmaq scalps. Nearly three hundred years later, those laws are still on Nova Scotia’s books, as ridiculous as that sounds. A statue of him was erected in 1931, on public land.

On Canada Day ’17, Indigenous activists met at the statue, and were confronted by white supremacist counter-protesters. The counter-protesters displayed a lack of basic knowledge of the Treaties their province is beholden to. The Mi’kmaq had entered into Peace and Friendship Treaties with Great Britain, and as such, never ceded any of their territory. Britain, and subsequently Canada, essentially took control of the land and denied First Nations Peoples their legal rights. The entire province of Nova Scotia is thus unceded land, and so Indigenous Peoples are entitled to protest how public land is used. If the white supremacists were concerned about the preservation of history, and heritage, they would have taken the time to do the most basic of cursory research prior to the confrontation.

This casual dismissal of Indigenous concerns is a pattern one notes running throughout Canadian history. Certain attitudes are ingrained within society, and it has led to ethically questionable material put on display. One can wave their hand, and dismiss such things as stemming from the past, where attitudes were different from today, but that would be erroneous. Up until this week, a carousel in Montreal featured a cowboy horse that included a decapitated “Indian head”. These attitudes aren’t constrained to this past, nor are they restricted to trollish comments on Canadian media postings. They are here now, and they need to be confronted.