By Fran Squire and Lois Browne
The standards are touching a nerve with
people. They just seem to capture something that teachers need. Were a bit
beleaguered now, as a profession, and this really is an exercise that makes people feel
very good about what they do," says Ottawa teacher and guidance counsellor Kevin
The Standards of Practice for the
Teaching Profession consists of five statements commitment to students and
student learning, professional knowledge, teaching practice, leadership and community and
ongoing professional learning and key elements of how committed teachers practise
During 1999, a number of faculties of
education, school boards and classroom teachers were invited to incorporate the use of the
draft standards into a number of activities such as mentor programs, pre-service education
and staff development.
Some teachers report having to overcome
some initial reservations about another new document. Others expressed apprehension about
what impact it might have on their workload or uncertainty about its purpose. But early
wariness quickly disappeared as teachers and administrators began to see themselves and
their work in the standards, often using stories from their professional lives to
highlight what mattered most to them.
Two mentoring programs in Ontario,
formed in response to a growing need for planned and sustained support for beginning
teachers, have found the standards useful.
Janet Wilkinson, superintendent of the
Keewatin-Patricia District School Board, introduced a mentoring program last year.
"We cant afford to have a school district full of first-year teachers going
through trial-by-fire initiation without any additional support," says Wilkinson.
Wilkinsons work as a member of a
College accreditation panel gave her the idea of using the standards as part of the
An effective activity in a workshop on
standards is to ask the mentors-in-training to think of stories that illustrate what they
might want to say to new teachers. For example, says Wilkinson, the standards
statement on professional knowledge includes the key elements of assessing and evaluating
student learning, student approaches to learning and achieving curriculum expectations. A
mentor might describe to a new teacher their own experiences in drawing up report cards at
the end of the year and realizing that they didnt have all the data they needed.
"That becomes a comment on the
need for good data collection, and accurate and complete record keeping throughout the
year. At the same time, it makes clear what the expectations of a good teacher are,"
says Wilkinson. "The strength of this approach is that you have removed the
Margaret Dempsey, principal of staff
development for the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board, used the standards with a group
of elementary and secondary school teachers she drew together to design workshops aimed at
helping teachers recognize best classroom practices.
"They became the focus group that
wouldnt go away," says Dempsey who had hoped the group a combination of
experienced and beginning teachers would see themselves in the standards. "I
knew that teachers speaking to teachers would be powerful, but I didnt realize how
powerful. I think that each came to feel ownership in the standards. Its not just a
One of those who became involved was
Kevin Gilmore, a history teacher and guidance counsellor at Rideau High School in Ottawa.
"I had heard vaguely about the standards, but I fully admit to knowing very little
about them at the time," says Gilmore.
The most interesting part of the
process for him was an exercise that had each experienced teacher recall an outstanding
teaching moment in their career.
"I remembered a time when I was
talking to my students about Greek sculpture and body form. I was very interested in the
subject, but I wasnt sure the students would be. I related the Greeks
definition of the human body and sculpture and how they saw the human form to how we
perceive the ideal human form today. And that ended up being a real magical moment in
teaching because the kids just took the ball and ran with it," remembers Gilmore.
"They talked about body image, issues that teenagers deal with regarding body image,
what society says we should look like."
"I found that particular moment in
many different key elements of the standards, and thats part of the whole point. The
standards are all about descriptors, about the many things that teachers do that we
dont usually quantify."
THE CRAFT OF TEACHING
After the project was completed, the
group decided to continue with discussions on teaching practice. "We wanted to help
other teachers use this document," says Gilmore. The result was a series of workshops
on the standards to discuss what it means to be a teacher. So far, over 100 teachers have
"Weve had two workshops and
the feedback has been 100 per cent raves," says Gilmore. "People have said
I really see what I do as a teacher. Im surprised at all the things I
do. Participants have come away feeling good about being teachers, and thats
so important these days."
Faculties of education, charged with
producing classroom teachers, are also finding the standards to be a useful tool. Last
year, Clare Kosnik, assistant professor with the Ontario Institute for Studies in
Education at the University of Toronto, introduced the standards to students of the
pre-service education program.
"It got them talking about what
they needed to work on for their
own professional development,"
says Kosnik. The standards help to give students a vocabulary to discuss curriculum issues
and teaching strategies, she says. "We want them to start using the language of
professionals, and I found that the College standards are written in a way that makes them
very easy to use."
Studying the standards is useful for
re-enforcing elements of the pre-service program such as action research, says Kosnik.
"The section in the standards on ongoing professional development complements the
action research that students do. Our message to the students is that this is the type of
professional development they can engage in when they are a teacher."
The standards also find a place in
initiatives involving very experienced teachers, such as the School Leadership Program of
the Grand Erie District School Board, which prepares people for administrative roles as
principals and vice-principals. Once again the standards combine with action research and
stories to help educators see their own values reflected in their daily work.
Cheryl Black, a music teacher at
Bradford College and a soon-to-be Grand Erie vice-principal, took part in the School
Leadership Program last year in which 20 educators used the standards to examine their own
Black says that before this exercise,
"I guess I took my values for granted." In this, as in other projects using the
standards, stories are central.
Blacks story is of her vocal
music class where she noticed her students were working harder and challenging each other
to work ahead. When she asked why, a Grade 9 boy told her, "Its because you
made us believe we could do it!"
Students have also commented on her
willingness to listen, her acceptance of constructive criticism and her philosophy of
treating students as respected and valued individuals all values that are reflected
in the standards.
The participants of the School
Leadership Program shared a common passion for leadership issues, looking not only at
their own image within the standards, but how they might inspire and influence others.
They spoke of purposefully modelling ongoing professional learning,
an important element of the standards,
and they understood the connection between that and the commitment to students and student
For these participants, leadership was
creating a culture where supporting colleagues, keeping a balance of experience among
staff and clearly stating expectations were all part of a culture of leadership as
exemplified in the standards.
the Standards of Practice Come Alive
It took many months, the efforts of many College staff members and the input of
hundreds of educators throughout Ontario to arrive at a first draft of the Standards
of Practice for the Teaching Profession. By that time, the College was receiving a
lot of feedback on the document through e-mail as a result of presentations or through
formal position papers from stakeholder groups.
"What we didnt have,"
says Fran Squire of the Colleges Standards of Practice and Education Unit," was
any additional information about how the standards would be used in practice by educators
in the field."
The College launched a project to
collect such information through case studies, inviting educators involved in a variety of
projects to incorporate the standards into their process.
Squire and colleague Allan Craig set up
and followed six case studies, two of which the Ottawa-Carleton District School
Board and the Keewatin-Patricia District School Board involved mentors and new
teachers. Squire and Craig also conducted case studies involving Lorayne Robertson,
supervisor, and Judy Arnold, principal, of the Thames Valley District School Board; Jerri
Popp, practicum co-ordinator and consecutive co-ordinator of the Faculty of Education at
York University, and Jackie Delong, superintendent, Grand Erie District School Board; and
resource teachers from the Peel District School Board.
"One of the interests I had was in
finding out how to make the document come alive," says Squire. "A list of
attributes in a paper cant capture the artistry and passion of teaching," she
says. "Sharing stories is the way to do that. Thats been the power of the case
Squire believes that the standards are
now gaining a wide acceptance within the education system and that teachers are accepting
them as their own. "Educators are now starting to understand that this document has
not been imposed from outside. It has been developed by teachers for teachers, and will be
useful in providing descriptors for teaching, as a foundation for in-service and
pre-service learning and as a tool to support professional growth."
The case studies cited in this article
were presented by staff of the Standards of Practice and Education Unit at two recent
academic conferences the American Educational Research Association Conference in
April and the Canadian Society for Studies in Education in May. The case studies are in
the College library, and copies are available from the Professional Affairs Department by
contacting Sandra Bodnarchuk at 416-961-8800, ext. 859 or toll-free in Ontario at
1-888-534-2222, ext. 859.