Good Teachers Are the Key to Quality Education
The College and the public value a strong teaching profession that is committed to students, lifelong learning and the highest standards of professionalism.
By Joe Atkinson
Quebec is embarking on a similar journey to one that the teaching profession in this province began some years ago, launching a consultation on the creation of a college of teachers. The idea has already received the editorial support of Le Devoir, one of the province’s leading newspapers.
Whether or not Quebec decides to proceed at this time, following in the footsteps of British Columbia and Ontario, I feel that it is an inevitable development that every province in the country will eventually undertake. In fact, at least two other provinces are currently looking at setting up a college of teachers.
On May 20, the Ontario College of Teachers will have been in operation for five years. And while the education reform agenda set by the current government continues to put the College at the centre of a debilitating battle between the government and the teachers’ federations, the College has been able to accomplish a great deal. But the approaching milestone — and the news from Quebec — has caused us to reflect on whether we could do more.
One of the key elements of a self-regulated profession — and one of the issues that Quebec society will grapple with — is how well its members serve the public interest. For the teaching profession, the issue is how satisfied the public is that its interests are being served by those who teach and supervise in Ontario schools. For the College, the question is how much does the public value our members?
TEACHERS AN EASY TARGET
The value of teachers seems self-evident to us. The three-party support for the Royal Commission on Learning’s recommendation that teachers be given self-regulatory powers recognized that teachers are the linchpin of a quality education system.
So why do teachers not feel the strength of that public confidence?
Few people deny that teaching today is a physically and emotionally demanding profession. But I think that — lacking any easy answers to what the uncertainties of our times mean to the future of our children — people find in teachers an easy target for their questions and recriminations when the education system does not live up to expectations.
Can we do anything about that, or do we just accept that the demands on teachers will increase each year?
The College works hard to ensure that there are qualified and committed teachers in our schools, because quality teaching is in the public’s best interest. But we also have a responsibility to remind the public frequently and fervently of the success of our efforts.
Our schools are staffed by highly qualified people, teachers do make extraordinary efforts every day to meet the needs of their students, teachers do spend a great deal of their own time and money improving their skills and expanding their knowledge base. Moreover, it is the profession itself that ensures that those who don’t deserve the trust of students, colleagues and the public do not remain in the profession.
Last October, on World Teachers’ Day, the College ran prominent advertisements in major daily newspapers featuring remarkable Canadians talking about remarkable teachers in their own lives. It was a very successful undertaking.
Professionally Speaking continues to be the College’s best vehicle for prominent Canadians to acknowledge society’s debt to the teachers who made a difference to them. The Day in the Life feature in our last issue highlighted the reality of teaching and supervising in schools today.
The College will continue to look for ways to remind the public of the underlying confidence they show when they leave the education of their children in the hands of teachers. We will continue to find ways to acknowledge the efforts teachers make on behalf of their students. We will take every opportunity to express our appreciation for the dedication of our members to their demanding profession.
Whether in Ontario, British Columbia, Quebec or any other province, this must be a priority. That, too, is in the public interest.
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