OCT OEEO

PS_March_2021

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LETTERS TO THE EDITOR 9 March 2021 Professionally Speaking The College is the self-regulating professional body for Ontario teachers. Membership is open to anyone qualified to teach in the province and required to maintain an Ontario teaching certificate. The College is trusted to regulate the teaching profession by setting standards of practice and accrediting teacher education programs. The College also sets the requirements for entry into the profession, investigates complaints involving members and takes appropriate disciplinary action. Rethinking the word "friends" In light of the professional advisory, Professional Boundaries (approved by the College on October 1, 2020), this might be a good time to question the widespread practice of addressing students as "friends." Embraced by the education community as the preferred gender-neutral reference to class cohorts, this term is in fact loaded, hazardous and anything but neutral. Not only is it unnatural and untrue, but it appears to contradict the advisory, which states, "students may mistake an educator's friendliness for friendship." This begs the question: What do you expect a "friend" to think? The word friend has common semantic implications: closeness, intim- acy, an absence of boundaries that would otherwise separate individuals on the basis of power, authority or responsibility — adult from child, mentor from student. Used in our context, it is open to misinterpretation or misuse as a licence to engage in nefarious, improper and — at the very least — disrespectful conduct. This term should be expunged from our professional lexicon and teachers trusted to tap their professional judgment for suitable alternatives. Cheryl Agoston, OCT, is an occasional teacher.

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