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March 1999

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College Standards Send a Message:
Today’s Teachers Need More Than a Six-week Survival Course

Teachers now have a tool to help us explain the complexities of our profession to people who are proposing simplistic quick-fix solutions to the teacher shortage.

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By Margaret Wilson

The Standards of Practice for the Teaching Profession invites you to join a discussion that is now engaging teachers in a number of other jurisdictions like Alberta, Scotland, England and Australia, as well as Ontario.

The standards of practice, which will now go through a validation phase, lay out what it is that makes teaching a unique profession. In other words, what does it mean to be a "qualified teacher"? We hope that the standards, when refined by your comments and those of the public during the validation process, will provide us with a basic tool to explain in plain language the skill, knowledge base and values of our profession to a public that has been bombarded to the point of cynicism with negative messages about teachers and teaching.

The Standards of Practice and Education Committee, which developed the document, does not expect you to walk on water. The standards of practice are comprehensive but there is no expectation that teaching requires that every characteristic in them be evident at all times.


Nonetheless, I believe you will agree with the need to clearly describe the complexity of our profession. To reduce and simplify too much only feeds the zealots who believe that any educated adult can teach. And in a period where the supply of teachers is tight, that idea becomes a temptation to many powerful people in education who talk about the need for "warm bodies at the front of the class."

The College of Teachers intends to use the standards in dialogue with the public about the fact that teaching is not merely the pouring of knowledge into empty jugs. You, too, may find them useful in discussing with parents how you manage the learning of 30 to 180 or more students per day, how you assess for remediation, how you manage curriculum change, how you survive when the curriculum documents arrive but the textbooks don’t (or they’re erasable!) and so forth. In other words, this is intended to be a publicly useful and useable document for the profession.

An important point that many in the profession are overlooking is that the Standards of Practice for the Teaching Profession are not just about what happens in the classroom. They are standards of practice for the whole profession. They are about the work of every member of this College, including principals, consultants, superintendents and directors of education.


The development of the standards is very timely. The next 10 years will bring enormous change to teaching – the kind experienced by those of us who joined the profession in the ’60s. We need to be very wary of anyone who proposes simple-minded 1960s solutions to providing the number of qualified teachers we will require.

Six-week teacher training courses just won’t do in the 1990s.

We only need to look at the growing parental and public expectations of teachers, the very different needs of our extremely diverse student body, of ministry and school district expectations in both curriculum and student assessment to realize there can be no return to the simpler days when teacher education was a short course in survival skills.

In her Chair’s report, Donna Marie Kennedy mentions the good news that there was a substantial increase in faculty of education applicants after the good media coverage of the College’s teacher supply/demand study. The increase in applications is across all divisions and in most of the Intermediate-Senior subject areas.

This means that interest in entering the profession remains reasonably strong if candidates believe that there will be jobs. And this raises a question for all of you who have enjoyed your career in the classroom or in a leadership role. When did you last suggest to a student that he or she would make a good teacher?