keeping student safe, by tracy huffman, features

A Grade 1 student begins to wrestle with and choke another student. A school is under lockdown because of police activity outside the school. A Bunsen burner malfunctions, sparking flames in a science lab.

Ontario Certified Teachers not only deal with potentially dangerous scenarios, but feel they are prepared to deal effectively with threats to student safety.

Teachers related how they had headed off danger from an overheated classroom, a flooded gymnasium floor and a warning from a parent about potential gang activity by taking proactive steps to minimize risks to students.

“The results of this year’s survey highlight our members’ commitment to keeping students in their care safe,” said College Registrar Michael Salvatori, OCT. “It also recognizes our passion for ongoing learning. We know that our members value the availability of a broad selection of Additional Qualification courses and this data recognizes that teachers value professional development in many forms, including at the school and board levels.”

Methodology: Professionally Speaking invited 17,000 randomly selected members to participate in the 2012 survey. A total of 1,934 people completed the survey. The Listening Post, a firm specializing in member, employee and stakeholder relations, was hired to help design the questionnaire and analyze the results. For brevity and presentation, the results here represent only those who answered a question with a response other than “don’t know.” Question wording and order have also been modified. For complete results and questions, see

Rounding Due to survey rounding rules, percentages for some questions may not add up to 100 per cent.

A love of learning: Teachers not only love teaching, they love learning too. Teachers engage in a variety of professional development opportunities and spend an average of 101 minutes each week — or 175 hours in the past two years — learning about topics other than the ones they teach.

Seven out of 10 respondents said they feel prepared to deal with situations that threaten student safety and analysis of the data suggests teachers who have had related employee-sponsored training in the last year feel most prepared to handle safety issues. Teachers who have not received employer-sponsored training are more likely to feel unpre­pared (44 per cent) compared with those who say they feel prepared (27 per cent).

More than a third of teachers said they received employer-sponsored training on student safety in the past 12 months. The majority of respondents (69 per cent) who said they received in-service training sponsored by their employer rated the training as good.

When seeking advice on student safety, teachers turn to their colleagues (60 per cent) and school administrators (45 per cent). Few (14 per cent) said they’ve never sought advice. Other sources include online research (29 per cent), a department head (25 per cent) and a community expert (20 per cent).

New teachers feel better prepared as a result of their pre-service program than experienced teachers. Twenty-seven per cent of new teachers said their program did a good job of preparing them to assess and manage risks compared with only 17 per cent of experienced teachers.

This awareness may also reflect the explicit safety content incorporated into every Additional Qualification course approved by the College. From the use of scissors in kindergarten to industrial equipment in tech ed to classroom bullying, College members who take AQs now study relevant curriculum on providing a safe school environment.

The College is also developing a Professional Advisory on safe learning environments for review by College Council.

To what extent have you... 1=Never, 5=Often

1 2 3 4 5
Had to deal with a serious injury, like a broken bone or concussion, to a student in your care? 2% 4% 8% 22% 55%
Refused to permit or start a proposed class or student activity because you felt it presented a risk to student safety? 3% 5% 11% 26% 56%
Ended an ongoing class practice or student activity because it presented a risk to student safety? 4% 6% 13% 30% 48%
Modified an ongoing class practice or student activity because you felt it presented a risk to student safety? 7% 10% 18% 33% 32%

How are members continuing to expand their professional knowledge?

Reading professional literature, staff meetings, participating in a professional learning community, independent research/professional inquiry, school-wide professional development and board-wide professional development are among the top ways members expand their knowledge.

Why do teachers devote so much time to ongoing learning?

According to Professionally Speaking’s annual member survey, about nine out of 10 teachers have cared for students with a serious injury like a broken bone or concussion, and 71 per cent feel prepared to deal with situations that threaten student safety.

The most common answer: their students.

Helping to respond to a student’s needs draws two-thirds of teachers to expand their professional knowledge on topics other than the ones they teach.

Other top answers include a general professional interest (65 per cent) and a new personal interest (53 per cent). And like other parents, 49 per cent said they have studied new topics to help their own children.

New and experienced teachers share common motivations for learning, with a few exceptions:

New Teacher vs. Experienced Teacher on performance of pre-service education program in preparing them to assess and manage risks to student safety

All New Experienced
Poor Preparation 80 73 83
Good Preparation 20 27 17

When was the last time you received employer-sponsered in-service training on student safety?

All Feel Prepared Feel Unprepared
In the last year 34 39 22
In the last 3 years 22 23 21
In the last 10 years 12 12 13
Never 32 27 44
Don't know, no response, refused, removed from calculation 15 15 15

As lifelong learners, College members also invest in providing professional development to teacher candidates and beginning teachers. More than a third of respondents (36 per cent) said they are significantly involved in mentoring and 34 per cent provide professional development materials for colleagues.

“Our annual survey provides us with significant data that allows us to work with our members to develop professional advice and to build and support ongoing learning opportunities,” Salvatori said. “We appreciate that our members continue to provide us with this feedback so that we, in turn, can continuously improve the work we do in the public interest.”

What you said:

Members are well aware of Find a Teacher, the College’s online public register, and have used it on average 5.4 times over the last three years. Although more than three-quarters of respondents are familiar with the site, very few — just 16 per cent — have told parents about it.

College e-newsletter for members Your College and You, the monthly e-newsletter for members of the College, is a useful resource according to 54 per cent of respondents. Members who subscribe to the e-newsletter responded that they have clicked links, discussed the content with colleagues and shared it with others.

Social media Ontario teachers are not turning to Twitter as a source of information. Only 22 per cent of respondents said they have a Twitter account and even fewer — 10 per cent — post anything on the social media platform. Overall, only 10 per cent said they have any interest in hearing from the College through Twitter.

There is a slightly larger appetite for information from the College through Facebook, but the majority, 61 per cent, said it is not important that the College communicate through Facebook.

Library services Members are most likely to use the College’s Margaret Wilson Library for resources on specific subjects, such as mathematics, science or drama, with nearly half of those surveyed indicating it as the top reason prompting them to use the library.

New teachers ranked resources for new teachers and classroom management as top picks while experienced teachers ranked student assessment and curriculum development as second and third choices, respectively.

Only 13 per cent said they have had books shipped to them by the library, but 12 per cent of total respondents would use the services again. Eighty-five per cent said they were unfamiliar with the library’s services.

For the full report, visit

Which of the following best describes why you were learning about topics other than the one(s) you teach?

All % New % Experienced %
To help respond to a student’s need 66 61 68
Out of general professional interest 65 62 66
Out of a new personal interest 53 54 53
Out of a long-time personal interest 46 43 48
Preparation for a new teaching assignment 35 41 33
Responding to developments in education policy 33 22 36
Preparation for a subject you would like to teach 33 51 27
Pedagogical theory or research 32 32 32
As part of leadership development 30 19 33
Preparation for a new division 13 19 12