Editor’s note: Bargaining Unit Boost is a new column that will be featured in Education Forum. Each issue will highlight an OSSTF/FEESO Bargaining Unit and the job class(es) within that unit. OSSTF/FEESO, founded in 1919, has over 60,000 members across Ontario. They include public high school teachers, occasional teachers, educational assistants, continuing education teachers and instructors, early childhood educators, psychologists, secretaries, speech-language pathologists, social workers, plant support personnel, university support staff, and many others in education.
OSSTF/FEESO represents education workers and teacher members that work in a variety of school environments. The focus of this Bargaining Unit Boost is on those teaching for the International Language Schools of Canada.
The International Language Schools of Canada (ILSC) Bargaining Unit in District 34, Independent Educational Programs, was organized in 2003. It has upwards of 60 members on its seniority list, representing as many as 80 during their peak season in the summer months. Members teach a variety of courses (mostly four-week-long sessions).
ILSC has international campuses in India and Australia, and its Canadian locations are in Toronto, Vancouver, and Montreal. Both Toronto and Vancouver campuses are the only two with unionized staff.
In an interview with ILSC members Jaida Fullerton (Bargaining Unit president) and Wendy Wells (Bargaining unit chief negotiator), we found out all about the range of students they teach and the benefits of the ILSC for these international learners. As well, they touched on the rewards of their job, and the challenges faced by teachers in this unit.
Jaida and Wendy have both been teaching for ILSC at the Toronto campus since 2013 as permanent full-time teachers. This teaching position is defined as one who regularly working a 27 (twenty-seven) or more contact hours and/or equivalent duties per week. Other teaching positions at the ILSC include probationary, standard-time, part-time, and casual.
The number of enrolled students at the ILSC varies. During the winter term there may be 200–500, while in the summer term there could be upwards of a 1000, and each class has a maximum of 17 students. Offered at different levels, most of these classes are ESL-based, communicative and academic (in addition to business-centred and liberal-arts-focused specialized programs). They cater mainly to young adult international students, many of whom intend to continue their higher education in a Canadian college or university. However, Jaida and Wendy remark that they have both experienced classrooms where there has been a range from a high school student to a university professor.
When asked about the rewards of the job, both Jaida and Wendy concurred that it was watching the learning progression of their students. They very much enjoy the rapport they build with their students. And along with the rest of the class, they too hear and learn about interesting cultural perspectives the students share. They get to witness lasting friendships amongst the students, including one relationship that grew into marriage between and two students from France and Korea. In general, many of the students keep in touch with the teachers about their continued achievements and daily lives.
Jaida and Wendy, like the rest of us, have been challenged by new working conditions during COVID-19. Not only did they see a decrease in enrolment due to international flights being halted but once set up with e-learning tools, time differences made it difficult for the students to join the class. Luckily however, working together with ILSC’s global partners, students could join in on classes taught in other locations to help with this issue.