Care and judgment are cornerstones in the foundation of teachers’ professional practice.
Not surprisingly, in 2017 we exercised utmost care and judgment to reflect the standards of the profession and the public’s expectations for member certification, accreditation and discipline.
Notably, we provided new and updated advice to teaching practitioners on two important and timely topics — student bullying and the appropriate use of social media and electronic communication.
We’re cognizant of the care teachers provide to students; the care in their preparation and their commitment to the best outcomes for students. We also respect them as professionals who use their best judgment to assess and address student needs in a variety of learning environments and situations.
Our advisory, Responding to the Bullying of Students, provides a context for discussion and action that includes a definition, statistics, typical characteristics, and consideration of ethical standards and legal and disciplinary outcomes. It also offers a self-reflective framework to address bullying that encourages members to intervene early, support students, promote disclosure, provide guidance and review protocols.
The advisory includes questions for professional self-reflection such as:
- How do I remain current with my responsibilities under my employer’s policies, procedures, protocols and expectations regarding bullying?
- How do I encourage students to safely disclose bullying and cyberbullying behaviour?
- How do I ensure fairness in my treatment of students who bully and those who are bullied?
Council approved the advisory in June. By September, we had included it in our magazine, Professionally Speaking, and mailed it directly to our almost 236,000 members. Further, we travelled to six Ontario communities to share it and to host panel discussions with local police service representatives, school board personnel and community agencies. All College advisories are predicated on our ethical standards of care, respect, trust and integrity. However, the issues are often societal in nature and require a full community response.
Similarly, our professional advisory on Maintaining Professionalism — Use of Electronic Communication and Social Media struck a chord with educators and parents when it was first introduced in 2011. In 2017, we updated the definition of electronic communication and provided current examples. We added more types of incidents we were seeing in professional misconduct decisions and additional advice to minimize risks. We also wanted to make it clear that the College encourages the use of electronic communication and social media to enhance teaching and learning.
Enhancing professional judgment in the ethic of care does not end there.
Ethic of Care
We developed, reviewed and revised Additional Qualification (AQ) courses. For example, the Standards of Practice and Education Committee approved 14 draft AQ course guidelines for provincial validation in subjects ranging from business studies, supporting Indigenous learning and holistic well-being, and teaching and learning through e-learning to Grade 7 and 8 health and physical education. The committee also approved 40 final AQ course guidelines to guide the design and implementation of AQ courses covering classroom management, mathematics, biology, chemistry, dance, dramatic arts, adapting curriculum for the Catholic school system, First Nations, Métis and Inuit Studies, adapting curriculum for second-language learners, teaching LGBTQ students, safe and accepting schools, teaching students who are deaf/blind, and many more.
In 2017, we used the data collected from surveys of more than 2,500 AQ course candidates to inform our AQ policy development and accreditation practices.
The College conducted several reviews of initial teacher education programs at Western, Windsor, Nipissing, Wilfrid Laurier, York and Laurentian universities. These programs — based on the ethical standards and the standards of practice — develop the skill, knowledge and professional judgment of beginning teachers. In late 2017, the faculties of education at Redeemer University College and York University also submitted applications for the general accreditation of their programs.
Care and professional judgment were front and centre in our presentations on the College’s professional advisories to teacher candidates in the second year of the enhanced initial education program at Ontario’s faculties of education — the first full cohort of the program graduated in 2017.
Our standards also influence College policies and practices such as our diversity and inclusion policy, which clearly reflects our commitment to care and respect. Our commitment to student safety and welfare in the public interest was pivotal in our work to implement the Protecting Students Act, which was passed into law at the end of 2016.
We celebrated our 20th anniversary as the regulator of Ontario’s teaching profession in 2017, and with continued foresight and resolve we will see another 20 years of dedication to improving teacher professionalism in the public interest.
Our priorities are clear:
- facilitate the ongoing professional learning of members;
- broaden member engagement in the College;
- enhance Council and committee effectiveness; and
- develop a long-term communications plan to inform the public, improve transparency and work with other regulators to develop a public appreciation of the value of self-regulation.
Our Council provides the leadership, our staff the dedicated industry to realize continuous improvement, and our partners the understanding and support that make serving the public possible and achievable.
Our collective success is a byproduct of care that is intentional and the exercise of professional judgment that is respectful, focused and public serving.
I thank one and all for their invaluable contributions.
Michael Salvatori, OCT