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Stress doesn’t justify unprofessionalism


January 14, 2020 Chris Gibbon, ATA Secretary to Professional Conduct Committees

Pitfalls and Precautions is a series that aims to educate teachers on professional conduct issues by highlighting situations addressed by the ATA Professional Conduct Committee.

As government underfunds education, teachers continue to face larger and more diverse classrooms with many inclusion issues. This causes more work for already busy teachers and teacher principals as they do their best to provide the highest quality learning environment for all their students. With more demands and declining supports, teachers find themselves pushed to their limits.

Teachers, like any other profession, face daily challenges due to underfunding and lack of support from the government. Most teachers work through each busy day to complete their teaching assignments and go home to an evening or weekend full of marking and preparation for the next busy day.

A very small percentage find themselves fighting the negativity of the daily grind and will vent to their colleagues, friends or family about their students and colleagues. Even with many stressors in their lives, teachers must rise above this level of conduct and do their best to honour the Code of Professional Conduct.

Teachers, even under the stress of today’s difficult classroom conditions, must always avoid speaking negatively about their colleagues or their students.

In a case that occurred a few years ago, a teacher was found guilty on four charges of unprofessional conduct regarding both students and teacher colleagues. The committee heard evidence that the teacher spoke negatively of multiple colleagues in the school, thus violating Section 13 of the code. These repeated criticisms of the teacher’s colleagues were shared widely in both the school and the community, thus causing harm to their reputations.

No good comes to the profession or individuals when teachers speak of their colleagues in such a manner. Teachers who have an issue with a colleague need to speak only directly to that colleague before speaking to the proper officials.

Section 13 of the Code of Professional Conduct states, “The teacher criticizes the professional competence or professional reputation of another teacher only in confidence to proper officials and after the other teacher has been informed of the criticism, subject only to section 24 of the Teaching Profession Act.”

This same teacher also failed to treat students with dignity in that he repeatedly made derogatory comments about many of his students’ intellect. The comments were disrespectful and stated on a regular basis within hearing range of many staff and parents. Society expects that teachers will treat students respectfully and in a manner that preserves their dignity at all times. Section 4 of the Code of Professional Conduct states

“The teacher treats pupils with dignity and respect and is considerate of their circumstances.”

Teachers, even under the stress of today’s difficult classroom conditions, must always avoid speaking negatively about their colleagues or students. If a teacher has an issue with a colleague, they must speak to that colleague in a respectful manner. Likewise, a teacher who may have an issue with a student needs to speak to them respectfully and with consideration of each student’s circumstances.

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