Teacher candidates’ practicum returns after suspension due to strike

(Photo by Element5 Digital on Unsplash)

When CUPE 3903 went on strike on Feb. 26, many classes were suspended. This also meant the suspension of practicum for teacher candidates (TCs) studying at York, who are represented by the Ontario Teachers’ Federation (OTF). 

Practicum is a monitored, practical application of teacher candidates’ learning in the field of education. TCs join a certified instructor, assist them in the classroom, and apply their education in a practical setting to prepare for teaching positions at other schools. However, the strike meant all of this was put on pause.

The choice to suspend practicum was due to a policy by the OTF. According to Yves Durocher, president of the OTF, the policy states: “In the event of a faculty of a teacher education institution declaring a strike in the course of collective bargaining, OTF considers the practicum to be suspended for the duration of the strike as well, and OTF members can’t provide associate teaching services to teachers who are at the faculties in their pre-service program.” 

One student started a petition to ask the OTF to amend its policy regarding the suspension of practicum before the month of March. As of writing, the petition has gained 127 signatures of its 200 signature goal. The petition organizer, Oriana P. writes, “The impact of this policy and its implications are detrimental to the quality of education we receive as future teachers and subsequently affects our courses, schools, students, professional relationships, and more.

“This policy does not only affect me, but hundreds of other future educators who are also deprived of this essential learning opportunity whenever there is a strike action by teachers or support staff at York University. Although I am in full support of the strike, this policy does not impact the strike itself, but rather our program and futures specifically.” 

The OTF has acknowledged that they were aware of the petition. Durocher states that “the policy is set by the OTF with our four affiliate teachers’ union — Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario (ETFO), Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association (OECTA), Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation (OSSTF), and Association des enseignantes et des enseignants franco-ontariens (AEFO).” He also adds that it is possible to change policies, although that “requires convincing arguments that can be made that move the board of directors and executives to change the policy.”

The reason for lifting the suspension could be attributed to its effects on 20 students in the Waaban Indigenous Teacher Education program, which is a condensed teacher program designed for Indigenous students. Unless the students resumed their practicum by March 19, they would not be able to meet certification requirements for the year.

“The Ontario College of Teachers won’t make an exception for missed days due to a strike,” says Durocher.

When Waaban students could not finish their required practicum, CUPE 3903 contacted the OTF to end the suspension. After negotiations, they agreed it would be best to end the suspension for all TCs at York.

In a letter addressed to Tharmithaa Tharumaraaj, president of the Faculty of Education Students’ Association (FESA), Lindy Amato, director of professional affairs at the OTF, writes: “Late in the day on March 7, the OTF received a message from the leadership of CUPE 3903, requesting that the federation lift its suspension of the practicum for all TCs at York.” 

After roughly 10 days of suspension, practicum has resumed as of March 18. While university courses may still be suspended, TCs will be able to fulfill a crucial component of their certification. Durocher also confirms that TCs will still receive their certification and be allowed to begin their teaching careers so long as they pass exams, finish practicum, and are approved by their college educators.

“All education practicums will be running as of Monday, March 18. This means that students will be able to complete their required 80 days before the end of the school year,” says Yanni Dagonas, York’s deputy spokesperson. 

Durocher also thanks CUPE 3903 for working to get practicum started again. “We received communication from CUPE 3903 that their executive leadership had requested from us to suspend that part of our policy and permit candidate teachers to finish their practicum.

“A lot of credit goes to them for bringing it to our attention and to ask us to suspend our policy,” adds Durocher. 

Excalibur was unable to reach CUPE 3903 for a comment.

About the Author

By Bradley Hoskins

Assistant News Editor


Bradley Hoskins is a writer, actor, theatre playwright, and filmmaker, who has been studying at York University for over eight years. He has been studying in both film and theatre, focusing on writing and performance. As the Assistant News Editor, he hopes to broaden his field of knowledge into the territory of journalism and reporting.


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