Teachers’ duty of agency

Teachers’ duty of agency

In my interpretation, agency is an embedded responsibility within the Standards of Practice for the Teaching Profession. In this blog I discuss the wording of these standards from the Ontario College of Teachers (OCT) and the understanding I glean from it.

.    The Standards of Practice for the Teaching Profession exist essentially to articulate the shared vision for the teaching profession, as well as the values and skills that inform and support teacher practice (OCT, 2013). These are: commitment to students and student learning; professional knowledge; professional practice; leadership in learning communities; and, ongoing professional learning. The Ontario College of Teachers website (2013) states,
.     Members strive to be current in their professional knowledge and recognize its
    relationship to practice. They understand and reflect on student development,
.     learning theory, pedagogy, curriculum, ethics, educational research and related
.     policies and legislation to inform professional judgment in practice . . . . Members
    refine their professional practice through ongoing inquiry, dialogue and reflection . . . .
    They recognize their shared responsibilities and their leadership roles in order to
.     facilitate student success (para. 4–5).
In addition, a set of Ethical Standards for the Teaching Profession exists to outline teachers’ ethical responsibilities and commitments. These are: care, respect, trust, and integrity; all are self-explanatory.
   In my own words, because the standards call for a commitment to currency and growth (both personally and for students), this therefore implies a subversion of the status quo. It is our responsibility as educators to keep informed of educational theory and research, which suggests we must avail ourselves to change and adaptation as new understandings are brought to light over time. Our praxis is manifested through not just what we know of research but also through our own anecdotal experience; therefore it is our responsibility as teachers to be critically reflexive. Because there is no absolute right and wrong in education, only left and right, teachers are left to define for ourselves as individuals what, in our opinion, is of critical importance in education and to thereby adapt our practice accordingly. And, because education is so subjective, it is especially important that teachers participate in discussion around educational issues from the front line. As a teacher-scholar interested in critical pedagogy, I believe it is a teacher’s duty to act principally with empathy and democratic fairness as his or her guide. This means, therefore, that in the current mainstream schooling system, it is necessity for teachers to be agents of change and outspoken advocates of matters pertaining to student welfare. It is presently culturally taboo for a teacher to speak ill of the system that is meant to enrich the minds of young children; for this reason I have been slightly worried about how Raising Creativity may be received. However, growth can come only by being honest about weakness, and the gumption to force positive change comes ultimately from a sense of care, respect, trust, and integrity. Freire (1970) tells us that engaging in dialogue is how we can transform our reality; change starts with the recognition of the power of voice and the will to stand up for those who may be unable to speak for themselves (like young students). In sum, teachers must cultivate their capacity for agency as they seek to model the standards of practice and the ethical standards for teaching.



Freire, P. (1970). Pedagogy of the oppressed. New York, NY: Continuum.
Ontario College of Teachers. (2013). Standards of practice. Retrieved on
.        April 10, 2013, from http://www.oct.ca

Posted by Rebecca Zak

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