It's Up to You: Participating in Professional Learning Outside the School Day is Your Decision

ETFO Staff

It is five o’clock. and the agenda indicates that the staff meeting should be wrapping up, but the principal mentions some interesting trends in the recently released schoolwide scores and asks staff to stay and  discuss them. As a  staff  member, you feel that there may be merit to the discussion, but you did not get advance notice, you’re tired, and you have other commitments. You want to leave but the principal is asking you to remain. This situation happens frequently in schools  throughout  the  province  and illustrates the misuse of staff meetings and  the  misunderstanding  of  professional learning. In making your decision about whether or not to stay at a staff meeting such as the one described above ETFO urges you to consider

  • the role of staff meetings
  • teachers’ obligations to attend meetings outside normal working hours
  • the nature of effective professional  learning.

ETFOs policy Staff meetings are intended primarily to deal with administrative and operational matters in a school. A good administrator will consult staff about the meeting agenda and will ensure that it ends at the agreed-upon time. Professional learning should occur at staff  meetings  only if teachers have been consulted and have agreed to take part. Teachers should feel free to leave if a staff meeting extends beyond the agreed-upon time. Effective professional learning is voluntary  and  chosen  by  the  individual participant to meet her or his learning needs.  It  recognizes  that  teachers  are professionals. It gives teachers a chance to be  engaged with the ideas presented and  with  their  colleagues. It  provides teachers with the time and opportunity to share their knowledge and expertise. It either occurs as part of  the normal workday or is voluntary. Participation  in  any  form  of  professional   development   outside   the instructional day is voluntary. Teachers may choose to participate in employer-provided professional learning during a school staff meeting if they feel that it meets their professional needs.   The importance of teacher choice Why does ETFO feel it’s  important  to underline its beliefs about staff meetings and professional learning?  Safeguarding teachers’ right  to determine  their  own professional development has been a critical issue for ETFO and its members. In 1999, the Conservative government led by Mike Harris introduced a plan to force teachers to complete 14 mandatory professional development courses every five years to maintain their certificates. The government  delegated the Ontario College of Teachers (OCT) to carry out the plan. The way that the college implement- ed the plan is one reason ETFO members still feel bitter toward the college. This highly offensive plan met with widespread opposition from individual teachers and their federations. Through its Ac


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