In common with other teacher education institutions in Scotland, we refer student teachers to the Standard for Full Registration produced by the General Teaching Council for Scotland, and discuss the transition from student teacher to teacher.
As you would expect, we examine what being a professional means and tackle various issues of the informed professional throughout our courses, including questions of professional values and commitments. As a parent and a teacher educator, I want to ensure that students enter the profession with not only the necessary professional skills, abilities, knowledge and understanding, but also the professional values and personal commitment needed within the profession.
I wonder how many teachers are actually aware of the Standard for Full Registration, which states that "registered teachers show in their day-to-day practice a commitment to social justice, inclusion and caring for and protecting children"?
It is not uncommon to hear teachers discuss pupils and their family life in an almost "busybody" manner, waiting for the next instalment to tarnish the pupils' character or lower expectations. You may even have heard comments such as, "Oh, her mum was just the same." Some appear to believe that this sharing of information, no matter how personal, demonstrates that they care for pupils. There is a fine line between care and protection and "tittle-tattle".
I recently attended a concert at the Albert Hall in Stirling. This was a fabulous event where children from primary and secondary schools were performing. However, it was marred by what can only be seen as the unprofessional attitude of a teacher. I was concerned to hear her discuss a pupil with the person next to her, seemingly oblivious of her neighbours.
I was concerned not only because she was discussing personal information in a very public place without feeling the need to lower her voice, but also because of her unprofessional attitude. This young adult had just performed on stage and had received rapturous applause. As he left the stage, the teacher provided the person next to her and everyone in the near vicinity with a full account of the pupil's alleged lack of achievements and attainment. More disturbing was the insight into this teacher and, unfortunately, into her school when she continued by saying that "not a lot of the staff have time for him".
This incident and the various throwaway comments which can be heard on a daily basis in our schools make me wonder about the professional values and personal commitment of some teachers. More importantly, we need to address these issues effectively in schools and not develop a culture where student teachers and newly-qualified teachers see this as the norm.
Fully-qualified teachers should be reminded of the Standard for Full Registration and its role as a baseline for the professional standards which apply to all teachers throughout their careers. It should not be the case that meeting these standards is a one-off event.
Perhaps as part of continuing professional development for experienced teachers, there should be opportunities to reflect on the demands of the standards, possibly using scenarios of the kind I have described as a stimulus for discussion.
Lynne Grant, is a lecturer on the primary curriculum at the University of the West of Scotland.