PDF Version“The more things change, the more they stay the same.” This old adage holds true when we look at our current pandemic predicament and member responsibilities. This bulletin focuses on conduct members may keep in mind as they navigate distance teaching and learning.
Continuing to provide instruction to students in a non-traditional manner outside of classrooms and schools creates a unique set of challenges for members. It is important that members remember that their communication and interactions with students, families and colleagues need to continue to be professional. Members should be aware of the expectations of school boards and understand their role as work is conducted from home. Questions and concerns should be raised with the direct supervisor or school administrator.Members should make sure they take time to ensure that electronic interactions with students, parents and guardians are positive and thoughtfully communicated. Members should be careful to take the necessary time to review their electronic communication with students and avoid quick interactions that aren’t carefully composed. Interactions with students will be more widely observed than might normally be the case as parents and guardians will be taking a more active role in their child’s learning. Wherever possible, ensure communication to your students is done in a group setting rather than individually. Think of how you might keep your “virtual classroom door” open while you continue to instruct your students.
Members should refrain from sharing personal information relating to family, health, relationships or other personal topics. It may be tempting to try to engage with students on a more personal level to alleviate some of the stress that they might be experiencing at this time. Related to this is the temptation to post to Instagram, Facebook or other social media platforms updates about what is happening in your life. You wouldn’t normally do this while you are at work and you should avoid doing so during the normal instructional day at this time. While you may not be physically at work, you are being paid and expected to be available for work. To avoid concerns you should save such posts for outside of the normal workday.A challenging situation like the COVID-19 pandemic is bound to have an impact on student mental health. ETFO members need to remember that we are not mental health experts. Rather than engage in discussions about how students are coping, encourage students to discuss those concerns with their family. School boards have made numerous resources available that parents and guardians might access to support their child. If you become aware that a student is in distress you should reach out to the appropriate board personnel immediately so that they can provide needed supports.
One of the challenges of moving to a distance education model is that the day is no longer controlled by start times, recess, timetables and bells. There is a blurring of the boundaries between professional and personal life. Try to set reasonable expectations for responding to students and parents and guardians. Members are expected to be available during the regular workday, however, it should not be an expectation that members are “on call” at any hour of the day or on weekends. While the Ministry is not requiring that educators interact with students via video platforms, it is possible that some members might opt to do so. When participating in such interactions, it is important to maintain courteous and respectful relationships. Members must remember to exercise appropriate conduct while being aware of maintaining professional boundaries when interacting with students via video connections; be mindful of your surroundings and what others might see and hear, as well as how you present yourself and are seen by others.Always remember that educators are held to a higher standard. In addition to legislative requirements that prohibit conduct that is unbecoming of a member, both the Ontario College of Teachers and College of Early Childhood Educators have codes of ethics and standards of practice regarding the treatment of staff, students and parents and guardians. School board policies may also have standards that apply to maintaining positive and respectful relationships within a learning community. All of these policies, standards and legislative responsibilities must also be considered while working from home.
COVID-19 has created an unprecedented time for the world and education. Members are faced with the challenges of creating and delivering a continuation of learning program in a different learning environment for their students. Parents are tasked with facilitating the learning experience for their children. Members may be approached by parents to provide private tutoring for their child. Some members may be contemplating providing tutoring services to supplement their daily wage. Before engaging in private tutoring, members should know the Ontario Teachers’ Federation policy on tutoring: