Ethical Leadership (Illustration: Ikon Images/Masterfile)

Our values are in everything we do, every decision we make as teachers,” says Jacqueline Jean-Baptiste, OCT, who was one of 200 OCT members at the College’s two-day ethical leadership institute in late August. A social studies teacher with the Conseil scolaire Viamonde before retiring two years ago, Jean-Baptiste adds, “Our classrooms are multicultural and diverse and the conflict in the world can end up in the classroom. It is important that we look at dilemmas from different points of view.”

Another member described the sessions as “education at its best — coming together, participating in collaborative discussions that support and further our understanding of the ethical standards for the teaching profession.”

The College’s institute, themed Nourishing the Collective Ethical Capacity of the Teaching Profession, brought members together from across the province for two one-day sessions to inquire into the ethical nature of professional practice and associated ethical dilemmas, as well as the use of a variety of ethical frameworks to help guide the actions and decisions of Ontario Certified Teachers.

For Melissa Fiesser, OCT, a Grade 2 teacher at St. Andrew ES in Oakville, participating in the institute was an empowering and positive experience, and a wonderful way to kick off the school year. “The ethical frameworks highlight that any discussion can begin if we take the time to find something in common. Opportunities like the institute allow us to make changes and grow in our profession,” she says. Fiesser welcomed the institute providing participants with different models for decision-making, resulting in new ways to approach difficult situations.

“I appreciated the opportunity to come together as a collective to discuss case studies,” says Melinda Rapallo-Ferrara, OCT, who teaches Special Education at St. Anne Catholic ES in Richmond Hill. “It was a good opportunity to explore the ethical standards and a good way to dialogue to hear diverse perspectives and meet different people from different boards.” She feels ethical decision-making is a process, adding she will adopt a more holistic approach to handling ethical challenges. “I really enjoyed the use of case studies. It gives a more human dimension, allows us to make connections to the stories. It was important for us to share our feelings and thoughts. Even within our group, it highlighted that different people take different approaches and feel differently about situations. It highlighted the importance of following an ethical framework when making decisions.”

The ethical standards for the teaching profession were developed by teachers and members of the public. “Our ethics of care, respect, trust and integrity represent a vision of professional practice. Our members live and demonstrate the standards in classrooms every day, showing their commitment to students and their learning,” says Michelle Longlade, OCT, Director of the College’s Standards of Practice and Accreditation department.

Although the participants — classroom teachers, occasional teachers, principals, directors, supervisory officers — came from varying backgrounds and experiences, they all shared a common purpose: to enhance their professional practice through collaborative dialogue and case discussion. The sessions also included a reflective circle and drumming by Elder Garry Sault of the Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nation.

“Participants in the institute were excited to take back what they learned to their schools, share different frameworks with their colleagues and discuss our ethical standards,” explains Déirdre Smith, OCT, Manager of the College’s Standards of Practice and Education Unit. “Ethical dialogue can be challenging. Continual reflection is key to the embodiment of our ethical standards.”

Added one member, “Today’s session impressed upon me the importance of having an organization that maintains the standards for a profession. This was an invaluable experience that I will take back to my school to support the work of other teachers.”

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