Monday, April 23, 2018

Learning to Let Go

My friend Lisa Noble has a knack of sensing when I need to hear a message before I even realize it. She posted this on Twitter on April 20 and tagged me.

Sometimes, teacher friends will talk to me about things, and there's an urge to try and "do something" to help out, to rectify or correct situations that we as individuals may see as "not right". Is that always the proper response? I decided to do some research before I offered advice (unsolicited and/or requested).

I contacted the Ontario College of Teachers, and their professional library is in the process of sending some books they thought might be useful. I also contacted the Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario.

The more time I spend with people from my teachers' union, the more I appreciate what they have to offer. I spoke with someone at ETFO, who is a professional relations counsellor and also a teacher. My phone conversation with her was some excellent informal professional learning!

The professional relations counsellor mentioned "18.1.A" and I didn't know what that was. It's part of the document called We The Teachers, published by the Ontario Teachers Federation and it refers to the Duties of a Member to Fellow Members. You can locate the entire document at  It says:

Duties of a Member to Fellow Members
A member shall,
avoid interfering in an unwarranted manner
between other teachers and pupils;
on making an adverse report on another
member, furnish him with a written
statement of the report at the earliest
possible time and not later than three days
after making the report;
notwithstanding section 18 (1) (b), a
member who makes an adverse report
about another member respecting
suspected sexual abuse of a student by
that other member need not provide him
or her with a copy of the report or with any
information about the report. (WB02)

The professional relations counsellor said that, if the conduct or practices of another teacher is not negatively impacting you or the students, then it's not your business to interfere. She showed me a great technique about using yourself as the example when describing a situation, so I'm going to try it here with myself as the person being discussed. For instance, if another teacher saw me, Diana, playing video games with my students on the interactive white board, he or she may think, "Ugh, that is such a waste of instructional time! How irresponsible!" However, that teacher is not obligated to scold me or complain about me, because this is not a case where students are in harm's way.

If a teacher's conduct or practice is such that you feel like it needs to be addressed, then the important consideration is to approach the situation from the role of a concerned fellow teacher who cares about the colleague. If I want to return to the example from above, a teacher might ask to talk to me, Diana, privately, and say something like "I noticed that there was some video game playing in your class for the past few weeks. I am just worried about what the parents might think, if they believe you aren't covering the curriculum." The conversation is not accusatory or judgemental. It's meant to show that you are looking out for your colleague's best interests and hopefully will avoid anyone getting defensive. It also gives the teacher in question an opportunity to explain the reason for their actions if they choose to share it. Another possible scenario: if another teacher heard me screaming at the students in the library, he or she may quietly ask me into the hall and simply say "I heard some yelling. Is there anything I can do to help?"

I really appreciated the ETFO employee's time and I think it was an important reminder that we don't all teach the same way. It's easier to gripe to our friends about Ms. X or Mr. Y down the hall, but if our concerns are genuine, assume positive intent and have a caring conversation.

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