Care, Trust, Respect and Integrity.

When grouped together, these words are the ethical standards of our profession.

The standards were established by the profession to inform our professional judgment. They inspire us to reflect and uphold the dignity of the teaching profession. They guide our decisions and actions. Demonstrating them promotes public trust and confidence in teaching.

Over the past few months I have reflected on my own actions during my career.

In 1997, the profession participated in a political protest. It wasn’t about salary or benefits. Teachers were not alone. We were joined by administrators, parents and other unions across the province. We knew that we were giving up pay, benefits and pensionable earnings to fight for what we believed to be fair, just and right.

Fast forward 15 years.

Yet again, we find our system in turmoil.

We hear:

“Times are tough for everyone. We all need to tighten our belts.”

“Teachers need to feel the crunch too.”

The government says that they had to do something about the deficit — and banked sick days and retirement gratuities are fiscal liabilities.

Teachers have expressed to the government that they are incensed because they feel that their democratic rights have been ripped away by Bill 115, which limits bargaining rights and the right to strike.

Some teacher candidates have expressed concern that Regulation 274/12 — which provides guidelines for hiring practices for district school boards — is a barrier to employment as the guidelines are based on seniority among occasional teachers.

Principals, supervisory officers, even directors of education are caught between the heat they feel from parents, who are confused; students, who want their extracurricular activities returned; and their teacher colleagues. Add to that mix their own beliefs.

Each day members of this profession encounter situations where they must make decisions in a heartbeat as to how to act when faced with serious ethical dilemmas. We use our ethical standards as a touchstone of how we behave.

The decisions educators have had to face in the past few months have been excruciatingly difficult. How could I not stand for what I believe in, and yet, expect to be called an ethical practitioner who governs herself with integrity? Would I then maintain the respect of my students and their parents? How can I expect my students to stand up against social injustices if I were to continue to go to work as if my rights have not been trampled on?

I have a duty to teach students and care for their well-being. I am committed to students and their learning.

My students knew that they could trust me as a practitioner to put their needs first. They respected me because I was honest and forthcoming. So did their parents. They knew that I set high standards for them yet I was there to support them and guide them to be successful — to be good citizens.

What kinds of practitioners do students and parents want us to be? What type of society do students want to grow up in?

Let’s add another twist to the situation. Bill 115 is repealed. Did that action change anything? If not, what was this all for?

My friend, whose family is in Egypt, tells me that they are watching us. They tell her that they see what is happening here and are questioning whether their fight for democracy is worthwhile.

Having choice is what democracy is all about.

Liz Papadopoulos, OCT