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December 1999

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Professionally Speaking welcomes letters and articles on topics of interest to teachers. We reserve the right to edit letters for length. To be considered for publication, all letters must be signed and provide the writer’s daytime phone number. Letters should be addressed to: The Editor, Professionally Speaking, 121 Bloor Street East, 6th Floor, Toronto ON M4W  3M5; e-mail: ps@oct.ca

Paradigm Shift

The September issue of Professionally Speaking appears to indicate a "paradigm shift" in your thinking. At last you have produced an issue intended to meet our needs, rather than your needs. This is a welcome and laudable change.

David Speirs
David Speirs is a special education teacher at Sutton District High School.

Teacher Re-certification

I follow the news on "teacher re-certification" with both interest and more than a little trepidation. Thanks for an interesting and informative article.

I am strongly opposed to written testing for all the reasons stated in your article. As a teacher I am well aware of the limits of written tests but other re-certification methods, while likely to foster more "real" professional growth, will doubtless be more expensive and more difficult to manage. Is this the first step on a spiral towards higher and higher costs for professional teacher certification? And where is the evidence that such a process will have any useful impact on the education our students receive?

What is the position of the College on this matter? Surely if we are "self-regulating" then it must be the College that is the driving force behind teacher certification. We can kindly thank the government for their considered opinion and then get on with the job of making this a better profession – for the benefit of all Ontarians, not just for political points for Mr. Harris.

I am all for accountability in education, but it must be put to our government in the strongest possible terms that it is the College that will decide the hows and whys of such a matter.

Jon Butcher
Jon Butcher teaches physics at St. Andrew’s College in Aurora.

Best Issue Yet

I haven’t even received my copy of Professionally Speaking yet, but have been able to read all of the articles via the College web site. I must say that the September 1999 issue is the very best to date.

The numerous articles that focus on the students, as well as what it takes to be an effective teacher – taking into consideration the student’s point of view – are an excellent reminder of the kind of things that we all need to constantly be aware of.

As teachers, we can have such an enormous effect on students by creating an atmosphere of friendliness that helps students overcome the daily obstacles in their lives that we are unaware of. Every morning for the last five years I have stood at the front doors to the school and welcomed each and every student that enters the building.

I try to put a smile on their face. My smile and friendliness set the tone, and they react in a positive way. From the loneliest student, to the most self-conscious, to the most poorly behaved, they all appreciate respect. And they give it back.

Whatever stresses are put on me as an educator – from working conditions to politics and policies – I can always get away from it all by being in the classroom with the students I work for. They are the best thing about teaching! They deserve to be treated respectfully.

Thank you for the excellent articles, and hats off to those who wrote them.

John Fredette
John Fredette is a technological teacher at Parkview Secondary School in Hamilton.

 Discipline and Gender

The article "Gender Gap Widening Among Ontario Teachers," in the June 1999 issue suggests that one reason men may not be entering the teaching profession, especially at primary levels, is the "fear of being seen as a child abuser or pervert."

All 18 disciplinary cases reported from September 1998 to June 1999 in Professionally Speaking are about men. Seventeen involve sexual misconduct, 16 of which are criminal. Appropriately, discipline panels revoked, suspended or cancelled all 17 teaching certificates.

Unfortunately, the six and one-half pages of reporting in four magazines encourage daily news media to spotlight these anomalies within the teaching profession. The Kitchener-Waterloo Record, for example, presented the following headline on October 14, 1998: "Sex Crimes Top List of Teachers’ Offences."  

The article stated that an Ontario College of Teachers report "showed sex crime is the No. 1 reason that educators lose their certification. In its first disciplinary disclosure, seven of eight licence revocations stemmed from sexual assault, sexual impropriety or sexual exploitation."

By magnifying the behaviour of these offenders, a dark shadow is cast over teachers. Paranoia regarding the motives of male teachers is nurtured by the news media’s inclination to sensationalize the perverse and violent aspects of humanity. The process victimizes us all: the public is afraid and distrustful, and male teachers are stereotyped.

The Discipline Committee’s own reporting style in Professionally Speaking will fuel the suspicions. Its repetitious, aggressive formula reinforces alarming negative impressions.

Readers lose sight of how few current teachers are before the Discipline Committee and generalize about the profession, especially the male component. It should be a foregone conclusion that people convicted of sexually victimizing children will not be allowed to teach. The Discipline Committee’s findings in these cases echo our courts.

While due process is necessary within the operation of the Discipline Committee, reports can be simplified notifications, especially in situations that do not require extensive deliberation.

We cannot control the news media’s reaction to disturbing reports from the Ontario College of Teachers. Nor can we hide from the ugliness. But the College should not underestimate its contribution to the development of a negative stereotype for male teachers. Discipline panel reports must be limited to essential information. The College of Teachers must, at all times, endeavour to properly frame the reality of the profession.

Doug Cook
Doug Cook is a special education teacher with the Upper Grand District Board of Education.