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Putting students in the middle is unprofessional

November 17, 2015 Gaylene Schreiber, ATA Secretary to Professional Conduct Committees

Pitfalls and Precautions

“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. The committee dealt with the following case during the 2014/15 school year.

What should a teacher do about concerns with another teacher’s practice? Refer to section 13 of the Code of Professional Conduct for advice!

A teacher whose students were involved in a jurisdiction-sanctioned initiative took offence to a feedback activity, organized by other teachers, in which his students were asked to participate. The feedback activity was approved by the jurisdiction and each participating student had parental permission.

The teacher took offence to the activity’s content because he believed the information collected could constitute commentary on his teaching practices. His comments and actions with the participating students made them feel uncomfortable with participating and caught in the middle between their teacher and the initiative.

The teacher’s comments and actions led to conversations with students that ultimately undermined the students’ confidence in the teachers associated with the feedback initiative. Additionally, the teacher reported his concerns directly to members of the school’s administrative team, but at no time did he make his concerns known to the colleagues associated with the initiative.

In its judgment, the Professional Conduct Committee noted, "In order to protect professional and collegial relationships, it is essential that a teacher take up concerns directly with the other teacher(s) involved. Teachers have a right to expect that colleagues will address concerns about their practices directly with them prior to taking those concerns to school administrators. When presented with complaints or concerns from students about other teachers’ practice or competence, it is the professional responsibility of the teacher to terminate the conversation."

This teacher failed to treat students with dignity and respect and consideration for their circumstances when he made comments and engaged in behaviour that caused students to feel conflicted about their participation in a sanctioned activity.

In its consideration of penalty, the committee noted several mitigating factors and subsequently ordered a penalty of a letter of reprimand. ❚

Read more Pitfalls and Precautions articles here.

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