College advisories help teachers navigate the grey areas.
By Liz Papadopoulos, OCT
Photo: Matthew Plexman
Every day teachers are faced with situations where they need to consider the consequences of their decisions. Whether it’s deciding to accept a Facebook friend request from a student or dealing with a student who has suffered an injury in gym class, teachers are bombarded with information, opinions and advice on the best course of action.
Teachers understand that students depend on them to differentiate between what is right and wrong. It can sometimes be challenging, though, because things are not always black and white. So, how do you navigate the grey areas?
Through its professional advisories, the College aims to guide members of the profession in their practice and judgment. It’s one of our core responsibilities to our members, and it’s a way in which we mitigate areas of potential risk for them.
These advisories help to clarify teachers’ obligations so they can govern their conduct and understand what does and doesn’t meet professional standards.
The advisory topics often come from concerns that members and the public report to us. For example, the advisory on the professional use of electronic communication and social media was created because the College was receiving a growing number of complaints about the misuse of texting and email. It published its advice to members to help them avoid situations that could lead to professional boundary violations.
Last summer, the College held focus groups with teachers and the public across the province to obtain feedback on our communication products and services. We also wanted to know what they thought were the pressing issues that deserve more of our attention.
During our discussions on professional advisories, three of six potential topics, were identified as topics of interest: communicating with parents, special education and duty to report.
Communicating with parents
Communicating with parents about homework or behaviour can be intimidating, especially for newer teachers who need to establish boundaries on what, how and when to communicate.
Parents participating in the focus groups said they like to receive regular updates about their children’s academics and behaviour.
Both parents and teachers agreed that an advisory providing guidelines on how best to achieve effective two-way communication between families and schools would be helpful.
You may have noticed that inclusive policies have led to greater integration of students with special needs into your classrooms. The teachers we met said they are creating programs for an increased number of students with exceptionalities. They indicated a need for extra support and guidance, especially in developing the Individual Education Plan (IEP) and in managing their classes.
Furthermore, they recommended that an advisory on this topic focus on guidelines and best practices for integrating students with special needs into regular classrooms.
Duty to report
Teachers participating in the focus groups said they encounter a number of students during the course of their careers who may be in need of protective interventions. Teachers know they have a professional duty to report suspected cases of child abuse to the appropriate authority.
Some teachers said they find the presentations on child abuse prevention from the Children’s Aid Society helpful, however, many said these presentations were not offered in their schools.
Participants said they would benefit from guidelines on current reporting practices, a better understanding of potential barriers confronting teachers, and communication strategies they could apply to parents and students, especially after reporting suspicions of abuse.
The College regulates the teaching profession in the public’s interest. It cannot operate in a vacuum. We depend on all our partners in education to get the word out to members. The more voices that broaden teachers’ perspectives, the better. School boards, federations, associations, agencies and other regulatory bodies all have a part to play in keeping our students safe.
The Executive Committee has chosen our upcoming advisory topic. Over the next few months, the College will conduct a series of consultations with experts in the field, our partners and with stakeholders to develop an advisory that we hope will address your needs and support your professional practice.