Chapter Nine: Teachers and the Teaching Profession
The purpose of discussing the professional status of teaching in Canada is not to establish a prescribed list of professional characteristics against which teaching must be ranked or to which it must aspire. Nor is it to make a self-interested case for teachers to be accorded greater status as professionals by society. Public school teaching shares certain characteristics with other professions and differs markedly in other ways. An examination of these similarities and differences can offer insights into the unique characteristics of teaching as an essential and basically moral public service (professional or otherwise), and into the expectations and demands those characteristics make of teachers.
Codes of conduct adopted by teachers’ organizations provide a framework for defining appropriate behaviour for teachers, but as the prologue to this chapter suggested, there may be quite different ways for a teacher to act as a professional. And no matter what steps teachers themselves take, their status is in large measure shaped by others, especially provincial governments, whose actions they cannot control. In defining and pursuing avenues of professionalism, teachers’ organizations, whether they are regarded as professional associations or as unions, provide across Canada a strong and important structure for representing teachers’ interests and for promoting public education in Canada.