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September 1998

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Front Page

Professionally Speaking welcomes letters and articles on topics of interest to teachers. We reserve the right to edit letters for length. To be considered for publication, all letters must be signed and provide the writer’s daytime phone number. Letters should be addressed to: The Editor, Professionally Speaking, 121 Bloor Street East, 6th Floor, Toronto ON M4W 3M5; e-mail:


No More Teachers, No More Books

As an education activist who has challenged all kinds of prevailing orthodoxies, I am accustomed to encountering critics who disagree with my analyses. However, Mary Beam is the first reviewer to accuse me of teacher-bashing (Professionally Speaking, June 1998). She bolsters this attack with one out-of-context quote from No More Teachers, No More Books: The Commercialization of Canada’s Schools. Of course my book raises questions about the actions of individuals and groups, corporations and unions alike, just as it raises questions about who profits from the current direction of education reform.

I believe that the teaching profession has reached a level of maturity that entails a continuous self-critique that challenges us to move on with new understandings. This requires an examination of the roots of our assumptions about the purposes of education and the motives of those who seek to control schools. Ms. Beam’s strident insistence that teachers "are energized by world change" and thus need not be troubled with its direction is one of the many issues I attempt to address in my book.

Despite Ms. Beam’s injured sensibilities, I do not agree that examining this dynamic amounts to condescension, nor does it justify her accusation that I treat the profession as "stupid." Her conclusion that I "insult" the profession by questioning whether some of us have been manipulated and victimized by the ideology of markets and endless progress through techno-subservience is certainly unique. The scores of interviews I have given and published reviews of my book beg to differ. If anything, I am constantly challenged to justify my support for the integrity of the teaching profession when criticism is what the media want to hear.

In No More Teachers, No More Books, I write that the critics of compulsory techno-enthusiasm are often subjected to virulent and irrational attacks from inside and outside their professions, because they raise questions that profoundly disturb those who benefit from existing power arrangements. I can only conclude that Ms. Beam’s review has made my point in spades.

Heather-jane Robertson
Heather-jane Robertson is director of professional development services for the Canadian Teachers’ Federation and co-author of Class Warfare, as well as No More Teachers, No More Books, which was reviewed in the last issue of Professionally Speaking.


Focus on Teen Violence

We are writing regarding the article entitled Focus on Teen Violence (Professionally Speaking, June 1998). There are a few statements and attitudes that are ridiculous and almost insulting. The psychologist quoted says, "I have the impression that most teachers do not realize that these children are disruptive not only to themselves, but disruptive to the rest of the class."

To imply that kindergarten and primary teachers in particular, do not spend inordinate amounts of time and patience dealing with socializing children is ridiculous. To imply they don’t understand the consequences of disruptive behaviour is even more ridiculous.

Susan Pascoe and Rosemary Parish
Susan Pascoe is a special education teacher and Rosemary Parish is a Grade7 teacher at R.A. Sennett in Whitby.


Hot Time at the AGM

Picture this: Saturday morning, a meeting room on the sixth floor of the offices of the Ontario College of Teachers stuffed with perspiring teachers fanning themselves with their copies of the agenda, staff members hovering attentively in the halls and directing teachers toward the washrooms or to water.

The mood in the room is decidedly tense. Seven committee reports are delivered, then finally – the reason we are here – time for questions.

Questions are limited to two minutes. The answers seem to be limited to two minutes as well. We seem to want quantity here – not quality. Follow-up questions are discouraged. Several teachers with more questions are left standing at the microphones. We are told the question time can not be extended.

That’s it. Two hours to hear seven committee reports and to field all the questions and concerns raised by the imposition of the College, its mandate, its fees, its publications, its Internet schedule of disciplinary sessions.

Mark Henderson
Mark Henderson teaches English at Lester B. Pearson High School in Burlington.


Role Models

I read Jack Berryman’s article Canada’s Courts Say Teachers Must be Role Models (Professionally Speaking, June 1998) with some concern. Certainly it’s difficult to quarrel with the notion that teachers ought to be exemplary role models both on and off the job. I also have little trouble with teachers being called to account for alleged breaches of professional conduct and suffering stern (but appropriate) consequences when it’s clear that such breaches have in fact occurred.

However, I do have serious reservations about holding teachers to higher standards of behaviour under the law than those that would be applied to members of other occupational groups who also occupy positions of power, influence and trust.

I suspect that the statements made by the courts regarding the conduct of teachers are more matters of style than of substance.

Nevertheless, with all the other pressures currently being felt by society in general and teachers in particular, it’s distressing to hear that the judiciary expects the members of one group to be appreciably less human or fallible than everybody else.

Robert Renwick
Robert Renwick of Holland Landing has retired after 32 years of teaching high school English, but continues to supply teach for the York Region District Board.


No More Teasers

I was so angry by the time I finished reading the article No More Teasers (Professionally Speaking, June 1998).

The article was so condescending towards teachers.

I have a child in my kindergarten classroom with what I suspect is an autism-spectrum disorder, and she came with an educational assistant. Since this child is prone to head-banging and other self-destructive behaviour, safety is a key issue. Let me assure you, no teacher in their right mind would set up situations to disrupt their own classrooms.

I am expected, and expect myself, to program for all these children and all the rest, each who have intellectual capabilities across a broad range. Yet you imply in your article that I should be an expert, that I should know more than the parents of a child with such a disorder.

You claim in your article that parents resent their role as "expert." But who better to be the expert on their child’s disorder?

I think it is enough that we try to be expert educators who educate children to the best of our abilities.

Shelley A. Clark
Shelley Clark is a kindergarten teacher in Barrie.