Newsletter December 2014

Professionally Speaking…

It is my firm belief, that of all professions, teaching is the most important of them. The teaching profession is noble, honourable and marked by benevolence. In the community, the teaching profession should be respected, valued and viewed as the foundation of our society. As members of this great profession, we are aware of the many professional obligations we need to fulfill. The document that is of the singularly greatest significance to the teaching profession is The Code of Professional Practice. The Code clearly states the professional expectations of all members and all members are bound by the Code.

The Code (which appears later in this issue) is the minimum standard of Professional Practice for teachers. The Code of Professional Practice does not set a standard for teachers to strive to achieve, but rather, teachers must achieve this standard at all times! Being unaware of the Code and the related obligations it places upon all members is not an excuse. Neither is the absence of intent when the Code is violated. At all times “A teacher’s professional behaviour must reflect the spirit as well as the letter of the Code”.

The Code of Professional Practice lists the professional obligations that we must meet. For instance, the Code states that:

“A member first directs any criticism of the professional activity and related work of a colleague to that colleague in private. Only after informing the colleague of the intent to do so, the complainant may direct in confidence the criticism to appropriate officials through the proper channels of communication.”

This aspect of the Code is not intended to restrict communication, but rather to enhance it. Simply put, all members must treat each other in a manner that they, themselves, would want to be treated. By clearly stating the expectations for communicating with colleagues, the Code requires that the highest degree of professionalism be maintained in our thoughts, actions and deeds. With all members following this aspect of the Code, communication is upfront, transparent and succinct. Eliminated are the destructive possibilities created by rumour, innuendo and gossip. With all members following this stated professional obligation, the highest standard of member professionalism is maintained by the membership itself.

The previous example is but one of the required standards of conduct from the Code for all members of the Manitoba Teachers’ Society. By being familiar and abiding with the Code, members are fulfilling their professional obligations and, at the same time, preventing contraventions of the Code. As well, abiding by The Code of Professional Practice protects members in other areas as well.

Abiding by the Code considerably lessens, if not completely eliminates, violations of the Collective Agreement, violations of privacy rights and violations of Workplace Safety and Health legislation. For instance, the Code specifically states that all members adhere to Collective Agreements. Other points of the Code deal with privacy and the confidential nature of information. As well, if our conduct is always characterized by consideration and good faith, if we speak and act with respect and dignity and if we deal judiciously with others always being mindful of their rights as outlined in the Code, it is very unlikely that harassment under Workplace Safety and Health legislation would ever occur!

The above article is reprinted with permission from Frank Restall, President, Louis Riel Teachers’ Association

By the time you sit down to read this month’s WTA newsletter, the long awaited Winter Break has probably begun. Please remember to take care of yourself as you turn your mind to your own physical, mental and emotional wellness. Do what YOU want to do. If you want to sleep in, sleep! If you want to go the gym, go! If you want to eat, drink and be merry (in moderation), go for it! It’s important to make time for yourself over the next two weeks and schedule some down time in between all of the usual holiday obligations. This will help you return to school in January in a healthy state of body and mind, with the energy to face the challenges of your position.

Nathan Martindale
President

Think Before You Speak

By: Kristin Insull, WTA Vice-President

Beginning in the Faculties of Education, and continuing into all stages of a teaching career, teachers are offered professional development related to classroom management, behaviour management techniques, conflict mediation and various methods of crisis intervention to facilitate their interactions between themselves and students, and between students. This vital training provides teachers with the tools necessary to create respectful environments conducive to learning and growing for students.

Recognizing that schools are also workplaces, where is the parallel training and in-servicing necessary to create respectful work environments? In particular, how often are teachers reminded of their professional obligations under the Manitoba Teachers’ Society Code of Professional Practice?

Perhaps your first exposure to the Code was similar to mine – a 20-minute speech on Orientation Day in the Faculty of Education. Fresh from my undergrad science degree, my 21-year old self had no experience in an educational setting other than as a student, and therefore, the concept of a Code that was to govern interactions between colleagues was a foreign concept. Like many foreign concepts we endured in our time in the Faculty of Education, they only began to take on relevance once I had a classroom of my own, with no safety net of a cooperating teacher or faculty advisor, and a teaching certificate that was subject to revocation if I didn’t fulfill my duties.

Since then, it is only through my involvement with the Winnipeg Teachers’ Association and The Manitoba Teachers’ Society that the Code has remained forefront in my mind, as there have been few subsequent mentions, or learning opportunities, provided related to teaching as a profession. In any workplace, difference of opinion and conflict are inevitable. Given human nature, rumour, gossip and innuendo are likely to creep in as well. While we are all likely to agree that these are toxic to the work environment, as teachers, they are also risky behaviours that may bring your professionalism and future as a teacher into question.

An example:

Suppose one of your students approaches you with complaints of another one of their teachers. How do you react?

Statement 4 of the Code of Professional Practice:

“A Member’s conduct is characterised by consideration and good faith. The Member speaks and acts with respect and dignity, and deals judiciously with others, always mindful of their rights;”

It is not your job to mediate problems between colleagues and students. It is also not appropriate for you to act as a sounding board for students who wish to vent their frustrations. Redirecting the student to an administrator, or the teacher involved, and refusing to become involved in the discussion shows your colleague that you are acting in good faith towards them, and models appropriate conflict resolution for the student.

One more example:

A colleague, infuriated with ongoing differences of pedagogy with another colleague, rants about their frustrations in the staffroom. Should you participate, commiserate, or walk away?

Statement 6 of the Code of Professional Practice:

“A Member first directs any criticism of the professional activity and related work of a colleague to that colleague in private. Only after informing the colleague of the intent to do so, the complainant may direct in confidence the criticism to appropriate officials through the proper channels of communication. A Member shall not be considered in contravention of this Article in the following circumstances:

  1. consulting with the Society or the Member’s Local president;
  2. taking any action that is allowed or mandated by legislation;
  3. where the Member is acting in good faith and without malice in the discharge of the legitimate duties of the Member’s appointed or elected position;”

If you have an issue with the choices a colleague is making in their work, it is not appropriate to publicly disparage them. If you believe the colleague’s choices are to students’ detriment, then you must inform your colleague prior to taking an action, such as speaking to your administrators. It wouldn’t hurt to gently remind your colleague of their obligations towards their colleague, no matter how frustrated they are.

No tidbit of juicy gossip, moment of commiseration, or snarky remark is worth the penalties that can be levied for a breach of the Code of Professional Practice. T.H.I.N.K before you speak – is it TRUE? Is itHELPFUL? Is it INSPIRNG? Is it NECESSARY? Is it KIND? And have you met your professional obligations as a member of The Manitoba Teachers’ Society?

THE MANITOBA TEACHERS’ SOCIETY CODE OF PROFESSIONAL PRACTICE

Members are bound by the following principles and each Member’s professional behaviour must reflect the spirit as well as the letter of these principles:

  1. A Member’s first professional responsibility is to the Member’s students;
  2. A Member acts following circumstances:
    1. consulting with the Society or the Member’s Local president;
    2. taking any action that is allowed or mandated by legislation;
    3. where the Member is acting in good faith and without malice in the discharge of the legitimate duties of the Member’s appointed or elected position;”
      If you have an issue with the choices a colleague is making in their work, it is not appropriate to publicly disparage them. If you believe the colleague’s choices are to students’ detriment, then you must inform your colleague prior to taking an action, such as speaking to your administrators. It wouldn’t hurt to gently remind your colleague of their obligations towards their colleague, no matter with integrity and diligence in carrying out professional responsibilities;
  3. A Member avoids involvement in a conflict of interest, recognizes that a privileged relationship with students exists and refrains from exploiting that relationship for material, ideological or other advantage;
  4. A Member’s conduct is characterised by consideration and good faith. The Member speaks and acts with respect and dignity, and deals judiciously with others, always mindful of their rights;
  5. A Member respects the confidential nature of information concerning students and may give the information only to authorized personnel or agencies directly concerned with the individual student’s welfare;
  6. A Member first directs any criticism of the professional activity and related work of a colleague to that colleague in private. Only after informing the colleague of the intent to do so, the complainant may direct in confidence the criticism to appropriate officials through the proper channels of communication. A Member shall not be considered in contravention of this Article in the following circumstances:
    1. consulting with the Society or the Member’s Local president;
    2. taking any action that is allowed or mandated by legislation;
    3. where the Member is acting in good faith and without malice in the discharge of the legitimate duties of the Member’s appointed or elected position;
  7. A Member does not bypass immediate authority to reach higher authority without first exhausting the proper channels of communication;
  8. A Member makes an ongoing effort to improve professionally;
  9. A Member adheres to collective agreements negotiated by the Society and its Local; and
  10. A Member or group of Members makes only authorized representations to Outside Bodies on behalf of the Society or its Locals. Without the express permission of the Society, no Members conferring with Outside Bodies may explicitly or implicitly claim that they represent the Society or its Locals.

(The Society approved new Bylaws at its 2014 AGM. Bylaw IV includes the Code of Professional Practice that applies to all teachers who are members of the Society. Bylaw IV also outlines what constitutes professional misconduct and how the Code is enforced. The Society’s Constitution and Bylaws outline the remedies or sanctions that can be imposed against any teacher who violates the Code of Professional Practice.)

General Information

Distinguished Service Award and Honourary Distinguished Service Award – February 15 Deadline

The WTA awards distinguished service of its members and provides an aweard to non-members for honourary distinguished service. The Distinguished Service Award Application form is available under the “Forms” section of the WTA website. If you are interested in nominating a WTA member or a “Honourary” member for receipt of the award, please fill out the application form and forward it to the WTA office by February 15th, 2015.

Criteria for these awards are:

  1. The awards shall be called the Distinguished Service Award (for members or individuals who have been members within 18 months prior to receiving the award) and the Honourary Distinguished Service Award (for non-members)
  2. An individual shall receive an award only once.
  3. Completed nomination forms shall be forwarded to the WTA office by February 15th of each year and shall be accompanied by supporting evidence.
  4. The awards shall be presented at the June meeting of Council
  5. The award committee shall have the right to nominate candidates.
  6. The award shall consist of an engraved plaque.
  7. Awards may be posthumous.
  8. The award committee shall be chaired by the Past-President or designate and shall be composed of two (2) Executive members, two (2) members-at-large chosen by Council and one past Distinguished Service Award recipient.
  9. The Distinguished Service Award Committee shall reserve the right not to name a recipient.
  10. The criteria shall be: Major involvement and/or contribution to the Association.

Teacher Wellness Grants

Schools can apply to the WTA to provide wellness grants to WTA members. Wellness events attended by: 1-15 WTA members may be funded to a maximum of $300; 16-30 WTA members may be funded to a maximum of $400; 31-50 WTA members may be funded to a maximum of $500; 50+ WTA members may be funded to a maximum of $600.

Applications must be received six weeks in advance of the wellness event. Applications received after the wellness event will not be considered. Applications must be submitted between September 1 and April 30. Wellness events must be held within the City of Winnipeg. Wellness grants will be paid after receipts and a completed evaluation form have been submitted to the WTA office. Download a Teacher Welfare Wellness Grant Application Form.

Dependant Care Funds Available

The WTA provides dependent care expenses for school representatives, Executive members, Council Representatives and committee members to attend meetings up to a maximum of current MTS rates. Members can claim actual expenses up to $10.70 per hour. Claim actual expenses up to a maximum of $200.00 per day for dependents requiring specialized care. Specialized care is for care required on evenings and weekends, outside of normal working hours. A dependent is a person who cannot socially, emotionally, or medically look after oneself and may be in physical, social, or emotional danger if left alone. To make a claim for dependent care, contact the WTA office at 204-831-7104 or mkrauss@wta.mb.ca. Submit receipts for specialized care only.

An Important Group Benefits Consideration

When can I make an enrolment status change in my Manulife Extended Health Care Plan?

Participation in the Extended Health Care plan is mandatory for all new employees. Benefits may only be waived with proof that you are covered for Extended Health Care under your spouse’s plan.

You may change dependent status within 90 days of one of the following Life Events:

  • legal separation,
  • marriage (including common-law after 1 year cohabitation),
  • divorce,
  • birth, legal guardianship or adoption of the first eligible child,
  • death of a spouse or dependent child,
  • termination of a common-law relationship, or
  • involuntary loss of coverage under your spouse’s benefit plan (example – job loss). The loss of coverage due to a spouse’s retirement is considered to be voluntary withdrawal and therefore is not considered a Life Event,
  • term teaching contract becoming permanent.

Enrolment Status Changes

Active Employees only: You are required to enroll in accordance with your true family status. You may however, choose to waive coverage if you are covered for similar benefits under your spouse’s plan by declaring this on your enrolment form. You will have the option to change your enrolment status (Single or Family) election following your initial enrolment only, when you have a Life Event. Application for changing your enrolment status must be made within 90 days of the Life Event, along with confirmation of the date of the Life Event. Applications will not be accepted under this plan beyond 90 days following the Life Event.

Retirees only: You are required to enroll in accordance to the status for which you were enrolled prior to your retirement date (Single or Family). Should you no longer have any eligible dependents, you may change from Family to Single status following your enrolment into the Retiree plan. Once Single coverage is elected, you can no longer change your coverage to Family status following your retirement date.

Manulife Health eLinks

The first step towards a healthier you is Health eLinks

When it comes to your health and well-being, how are you? Are you eating well? Getting enough exercise and sleep? Feeling stressed? Your answers to these questions could impact your health. Find out how and the simple steps you can take to make a change at Health eLinks®, available on your group benefits website by logging in atmanulife.ca/planmember.

Health eLinks offers direct access to a complete library of health-related information and resources, in addition to providing a Health Risk Assessment (HRA) that can identify up to 13 different health concerns. Powered by MediResource, Inc., a leading provider of interactive health information, tools and technology, Health eLinks connects you to resources that can help you better understand and improve your overall health and well-being.

Health eLinks is your easy access to an online wellness centre

Compiled by the in-house team of clinical health care professionals at MediResource, Health eLinks delivers:

Health risk assessment (HRA)

This interactive questionnaire helps you evaluate your current health and identify potential health risks. Scoring is based on a simple green, yellow, and red system: Green indicates you’re doing great – Yellow suggests you make changes – Red means take action to reduce your health risks!

Health libraries

Want to learn more about your health or a family member’s health?Health eLinks is your one-stop resource to online health libraries with information on medical conditions, medications, and tests and procedures. You’ll also find health articles featuring a wide range of topics on everything from caring for aging parents to managing stress, and more. You’ll also find a Community Resource Centre which helps identify supportive resources within your community, along with a Health Centre that compiles information related to a particular health issue.

Personal health improvement

Once you’ve completed both the HRA and a risk profile, what’s next? Start taking action! Put a personal health improvement plan together. Target areas where you have red or yellow scores. Suggested actions and articles are available for you to put a plan together to take steps towards a healthier you.

2014-2015 WTA Pre-Retirement Seminars

If you are 48 years of age or older and a WTA member, you can register for one of the two WTA Pre-retirement Seminars offered for the 2014/2015 school year.

The dates of the seminars are:

5:00 p.m., January 29, 2015 – Deadline for registration is January 15

5:00 p.m., March 24, 2015 – Deadline for registration is March 10

Please e-mail Michael Krauss at mkrauss@wta.mb.ca for your TRAF authorization number and process for registration.

Maternity, Parental, Adoptive Leave Seminar

The Group Benefits Committee of the Winnipeg Teachers Association is conducting a seminar on Maternity, Paternity and Adoptive Leave.

The seminar will take place starting at 4:30 p.m. on February 10, 2015, in the McMaster House Auditorium, 191 Harcourt Street.

The facilitator will be Nancy Kerr, MTS Staff Officer and WTA Business Agent. Information will be shared on EI benefits, sick leave and SUB Plan Benefits.

If you are interested in attending the seminar, please fill out the registration form here. The registration deadline is February 3, 2015, one week before the seminar.