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Registrar's Report

Framing Your Narrative

The Master of Suspense meets the power of teachers

By Michael Salvatori, OCT
Illustration: Studio 141/Ontario College of Teachers

Last spring, I was asked to deliver a keynote speech on the power of teachers to alumni and friends at a university function. My first challenge was to choose a path within this broad and stimulating theme. I settled on three notions, which I listed in the presentation title: “Recall, Rigour and the Master of Suspense.” My objective was to weave together all three to illustrate the powerful impact teachers have on students and on society.

I’ll begin by ending the suspense. Some of you may recognize the “Master of Suspense” as the well-deserved nickname for classic film director Alfred Hitchcock. I have long been a great fan of his films such as Rear Window and The Man Who Knew Too Much. Although I know the films well, I did not know that he had provided his cast with two scripts — one blue and one green.

A presenter at a recent communications seminar explained that Hitchcock’s blue script was what one would expect: the lines the actors would recite, the stage directions, the description of the set and so on. The green script, however, was more interesting and nuanced. It described how the scene was intended to make the audience feel.

Through this script, Hitchcock telegraphed the feelings he wished to evoke. As I reflected on this approach, I thought about the work we do to prepare students for the future and their role in our civil society. What would it look and sound like if we asked young people how they want to be rather than what they want to be?

Collaborative. Innovative. Creative. Honest. Respectful. Rather than … Engineer. Teacher. Manufacturer. Architect.

It’s our green script that allows us, as practitioners, to help students to develop the skills and attributes they will need to prepare for their futures, and to solve the problems they will face. Often, we set the scene for students by sharing our own stories.

I invite you to reflect on the College’s standards of practice and ethical standards as one means to frame your stories.

Recall, another notion in my presentation, allows us to recount narratives and anecdotes to engage with students and to encourage them to connect their own experiences with their learning.

I invite you to reflect on the College’s standards of practice and ethical standards as one means to frame your stories and to engage students in discussion. Member vignettes and narratives available at reinforce our shared standards and offer a lens to explore how we embed care, trust, respect and integrity in our professional practice, and how this impacts our students.

The ethical standards, whether as the frame for a narrative or as ways to instil values in our students, serve as a strong foundation for our work in the service of students.

Alas, it would seem that I’ve run out of room to discuss the third notion — rigour. That will have to wait for a future instalment. Or, to quote the famed director, “Always make the audience suffer [in suspense] as much as possible.”

Michael Salvatori's handwritten signature.