Professionalism Through the Eyes of Female Elementary Teachers in Ontario
Bell, Sherrilee Marlene
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Numerous changes in education in Ontario in the past few decades have lead to much discussion regarding the professionalism of teaching in Ontario. Some theorists suggest the changes are deprofessionalizing, leading to an intensification of work that detracts from the professional status of teaching by causing work overload and breaking larger tasks into smaller ones requiring less thought or decision-making by the teachers themselves. Others consider the changes reprofessionalizing, in that they are simply changing what it means to be in the profession of teaching, mostly by moving towards a system of collaboration. At the same time, the Ontario College of Teachers (2009) has declared teaching an official profession by allowing for the acronym OCT (Ontario Certified Teachers) to be added to the signature of teachers to denote their status. While others have certainly had their say, teachers themselves were the missing voice in this controversy. The purpose of this study was to examine the views of some female elementary teachers towards professionalism. This qualitative study consisted of interviews with seven female elementary teachers from one Ontario public school board to describe and examine their perceptions of professions in general, and what enhances or detracts from their sense of professionalism as teachers. Data analysis showed the emergence of themes regarding responsibilities, relationships, board and Ministry policies, job compensation, professional organization, job learning, and personal privileges. Within these themes a great deal of variance existed regarding what enhanced and what detracted from the sense of professionalism for the teachers interviewed. Of the many themes discussed, some teachers found them professionalizing, and other teachers found them deprofessionalizing. The teachers’ own personal standards and beliefs about professions and the standards and attitudes towards teachers held by their administrator seemed to be the deciding factor in what they found professionalizing and deprofessionalizing. While the theorists suggest deprofessionalization or reprofessionalization is based on the specifics of the changes themselves, this study suggests that a teacher’s sense of professionalism is constructed in a much more complex and personal manner, making it difficult to categorize certain changes or initiatives in education the way the theorists have.