Teachers urged to watch their tempersMarch 11, 2015
A story in the North Shore News last month described punishment for a teacher who had a meltdown at school, blaming his “undisciplined, unmotivated, socially unaware and low-functioning” students.
Those events in 2012 resulted in a letter of reprimand and an order for the Grade 5 teacher to take an anger management course.
While his conduct was extreme, it is an example of the kind of cases that prompted Bruce Preston of the B.C. Teacher Regulation Branch to issue a professional conduct advisory – the third since he was appointed commissioner responsible for complaints about educators’ conduct and competence.
His advisory says a significant number of complaints from the public and reports from school boards are a result of teachers losing their cool. But he doesn’t heap blame on the teachers.
“Dealing with these complaints and reports has impressed on me the challenges that teachers face in today’s classroom compared to the distant past when I was a student,” he writes in the latest issue of the TRB’s Learn magazine.
“Today’s students are more assertive than I recall, which may be interpreted by teachers as being confrontational, whether or not that is the students’ intent.”
In some cases, complaints about teacher behaviour arise from misperceptions or misunderstandings, Preston says. Nevertheless, he adds that teachers should be aware that angry outbursts, if found to be professional misconduct, may result in discipline and a requirement to take an anger management course, such as those offered by the Justice Institute of B.C.
They can also have a profound effect on the teacher and the student, he said. Find his advisory here.
Glen Hansman, first vice-president of the B.C. Teachers’ Federation (BCTF), acknowledged the problem and praised the work of the Justice Institute. However, he said what’s more effective is when school districts have behaviour consultants on staff who can work directly with teachers and help resolve their specific issues.
“There’s only so much you can get out of a one-day course, no matter how comprehensive,” he said of the Justice Institute.
Unfortunately, most of those conselling positions, where they existed, have been lost due to budget cuts, he added.
Earlier advisories from Preston stressed the importance of educators respecting boundaries in their relationships with students and warned sports coaches not to use belittling comments when coaching student athletes. Regarding that second advisory, I’ve been told that CTV’s W5 and the Toronto Star will have stories this weekend about coaches who bully, featuring a B.C. case that I blogged about in 2013. (UPDATE: Toronto Star story is here; CTV W5 story is here.)
Hansman said his union is in complete agreement with the warning against coaches belittling students. “That sort of behaviour . . . has historically been given a pass. Clearly that’s not on and has to change.”
The TRB is responsible for ensuring that educators in B.C. public and independent schools – teachers, principals, superintendents, directors of instruction, etc. – uphold standards for professional conduct and competence.