First, let me say that your blog is a great resource. I stumbled on it a few weeks ago and have read almost all of the entries. Your writing is refreshingly articulate, and I have enjoyed reading it.
I’m considering a career in CEGEP teaching down the line. At this stage I have the qualifications (an MA in English), but no teaching experience. My own CEGEP experience was fantastic. I was a Liberal Arts student at — College, where we addressed our teachers by first name and were intimately acquainted with everybody in the program. Knowledge for its own sake was celebrated, and a general atmosphere of intellectual freedom and exploration was encouraged.
I have to admit that while reading your blog has been great, it has contrasted a lot with my own CEGEP experience. When you speak about your students, who call you “miss”, they seem more child-like. It makes me a bit nervous about entering into this career! How much of your job is disciplinary? Would you recommend a career as a CEGEP teacher?
Thanks so much for writing your blog.
Thanks so much for your note. It’s great to hear that you’ve been reading my blog and getting something out of it.
I enjoy my job as a CEGEP teacher, but I find it very challenging. There are indeed disciplinary issues, and some of them are serious. There are also students who struggle a lot with academic challenges. A Liberal Arts program at — College is not at all representative of the general CEGEP population; I regularly deal with students who can barely read and write in English (or, I suspect, in any language) and whose levels of maturity vary wildly. In order to really enjoy teaching CEGEP, I think it’s necessary to embrace the challenges of working with such students.
Most of the CEGEP teachers I know who truly enjoy their jobs are people who have previous teaching experience or education degrees. Working with high school students, in particular, is excellent preparation. Most of the teachers I know who quickly burn out are those who come to the job straight out of graduate school and expect to be working with the equivalent of university English majors. It’s important to remember that English is a core subject at CEGEP – all students must take it, regardless of their program, and many have little interest and weak skills.
I taught in other venues for a number of years before becoming a CEGEP teacher. CEGEP teaching has many advantages over other teaching jobs – we have long holidays, we have a lighter workload than secondary teachers, and we are not expected to research or publish like university professors (although our colleagues are usually excited and proud when we do!) But as far as the teaching itself is concerned, most of my satisfaction comes, not from the celebration of “knowledge for its own sake” or opportunities to encourage “intellectual freedom and exploration” – most of my students have little interest in these concepts – but from seeing students in difficulty overcome obstacles, or from seeing the occasional talented student really shine.
All CEGEPs are different, so you might be able to find a place with a similar atmosphere to the one you experienced as a student. If your general goal is to become a CEGEP teacher, however, I think it’s important to examine whether the challenges of CEGEP teaching really interest you.
If you’d like to know more about some of the stages I went through in relation to my job, you might want to check out a series I wrote for the TimesOnline’s education blog, called “How I Saved My Teaching Career.”
Good luck! I hope you’ll think it over some more and come to the conclusion that’s right for you. Any job is hard, and a CEGEP teaching job is a really good deal as jobs go, if teaching is what you want to do. I’d be happy to know about the decision you come to, or any other questions you have.
Image by srbichara