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The power of standards

Revitalized ethical and practice standards give Ontario teachers a chance to reflect on what matters most as they instruct Ontario's children. The standards also spark conversations, enabling educators to share their best intentions with parents and the public.

by Don Cattani

As the new Chair of Council, I am honoured to represent you and the teaching profession.

I'm honoured because, like you, I am devoted to teacher professionalism that improves learning for students. I take great pride in being a teacher in Ontario, one who can say exactly what he stands for. With recently updated practice and ethics standards, I can also say with great confidence that I do not stand alone in my beliefs.

When Council approved the Standards of Practice for the Teaching Profession in 1999 and the Ethical Standards for the Teaching Profession a year later, it was understood that these were living documents, amenable to revisions that reflect changes in teaching and Ontario's classrooms. They were aspirational not prescriptive, presenting a vision of professional practice and a framework of principles to describe the knowledge, skills and values inherent in Ontario's teaching profession.

"I take great pride in being a teacher in Ontario, one who can say exactly what he stands for."

So when the Standards of Practice and Education Committee began a review of the standards in 2004, College members, education stakeholders, students and the public were keen to participate.

The committee gathered insights into the strengths and limitations of the standards via consultation, case institutes, literature review, focus groups, written submissions and questionnaires. Roughly 9,000 people reviewed, revised and validated the changes that Council approved in June.

Throughout the process, we learned that teachers and parents view professionalism and ethical behaviour similarly. The standards express what every teacher wants and hopes to be. They are ideals that guide and inspire each of us as we work with students, colleagues and parents. They also provide benchmarks for continual growth in our teaching practice.

Consequently, the revised standards are holistic, entwined around words and concepts such as privileged relationships, compassion, commitment and equity. They are inclusive, recognizing the work of all College members including those who work outside the classroom.

The 12 ethical rules, practices and principles have been re-cast as four core qualities - care, respect, trust and integrity - that guide our work and the nature of our professional relationships.

"As teaching professionals, we learn and grow. As we develop, so do our students."

Five standards of practice articulate the professional knowledge, skills and practices of College members. These include: commitment to students and student learning; professional knowledge; professional practice; leadership and learning communities; and ongoing professional learning. This emphasis on professionalism, collaboration and accountability has resulted in a stronger use of words like inspire, identify and guide. It focuses on concepts like mentoring and acting as role models for our students.

To support the use of the revised standards, the College has created materials to provide further information and perspective, and will release a DVD and resource guide, which will be of particular use to new teachers.

Education evolves and conditions change. It's comforting to know our profession continues to examine the standards that govern our behaviour in the service of our students and in the interest of all Ontarians.

As teaching professionals, we learn and grow. As we develop, so do our students.

To learn more about the standards and supporting resources, please visit www.oct.ca Standards New Standards.