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BCTF Advantage
Teacher Magazine Volume 30, Number 2
November/December 2017

When teachers reach their breaking point, the BCTF can help

By Michelle Davies, Assistant Director, Professional and Social Issues Division and Ethics Administrator

Internal Mediation Services assist members to resolve conflicts

While hope is on the horizon with an infusion of new teachers this fall, the reality in the classroom remains stressful, and the BCTF Internal Mediation Service (IMS) is busy organizing mediations across the province. Meditations are facilitated conversations between BCTF members and anyone at the workplace who is interfering with them doing their best work. Colleagues overwhelmed by their workload, and scrambling to meet the distinct needs of the students in their classes, while simultaneously trying to be effective and imaginative with the revised curriculum, are not always at their finest in dealing with each other. Typically, the person who bears the brunt of a teacher's frustrations may not be the one who is causing the issue, but is the one either closest to them in proximity or in relationship.

Who are the mediators?
The IMS team consists of 22 BCTF member-volunteers with extensive backgrounds in counselling and in building and repairing interpersonal relationships. They receive in-depth training in communication skills for facilitating difficult conversations, equity and inclusion sensitivity, and mental health first aid. Their mandate is to listen objectively to all sides in a situation and facilitate a fulsome discussion between members experiencing conflict in their professional relationships, with a “do no harm” focus, in an atmosphere of safety and confidentiality.

Mediation is a voluntary process open and free of charge to all BCTF members. The BCTF covers all costs for the mediators who travel to the local to do the mediation. The local union or school district is requested to cover cost of leaves for the participants.

How to get mediation-who can refer?
A member can request mediation through the BCTF Executive Director, the BCTF President, or through Michelle Davies at the BCTF.

 “I just wanted to pass on to you that [name withheld] and I have had more positive interactions with each other in the last three days than in our whole history. And I believe this will only get better. I have so much respect for what you (two) did for us. Thank you, again.”
-Feedback from a member

Peer Support Services (PSS) help teachers improve their teaching
The PSS provides trained BCTF volunteer-member consultants to assist members in their classrooms. Our 25 consultants provide one-on-one support to a teacher struggling with classroom management, planning and organization, curriculum, teaching students with special needs, planning for a new assignment, or an official plan of assistance resulting from a less than satisfactory Teacher Performance Evaluation. Members returning from a leave may request support for their re-entry into the workplace. PSS consultants are teachers trained to assist with planning, assessment, classroom management, all areas of the curriculum and implementation, digital literacy, multigrade classrooms, French immersion, infusing Aboriginal culture, and re-adjusting to a new classroom or grade level, to name just a few.

There has been a steady increase in PSS requests over the past few years and with the influx of thousands of new teachers into the system, we expect to support teachers new to their positions. We have also noticed a recent trend for districts to use the evaluation process more often to deal with discipline issues. Through short bursts of intensive coaching in the workplace, we support teachers to be ready to put their best foot forward.

How to get Peer Support-who can refer?
•          self-referral
•          Local Presidents
•          health and wellness consultants may refer members returning from medical leave.

To access Peer Support
There are three forms that need to be completed: one by the Local President requesting permission for us to work in the building, one by the member, and one for the school district. The process is kept strictly confidential. We work with the Local President so they can advise on local issues and be aware of any necessary follow up. Cases can take anywhere from a month to over a year. BCTF staff may speak with school district personnel to explain the PSS process. No report is written or given to anyone under any circumstances. The BCTF pays all expenses for the PSS consultant. The local union is asked to provide the leave of absence cost should the member need to be out of their classroom for debrief sessions or to visit another class for observation purposes. The employer often funds official plans of assistance.

“I am thankful for the support that I have received from BCTF's Peer Support Program. I had been away from work on a lengthy medical leave and had lost confidence in my ability to teach. The consultant's warm smile, genuine, caring nature, and her creative ideas helped to calm my spirit and get me settled into my classroom again. She helped me to find new routines to make my time management more efficient, taught me new ways to find and keep track of student information to help me feel on top of things, and generated new ideas for organizing my room to create a more relaxed and focused atmosphere. I can also count on (my Peer Support teacher) to be confidential and give advice when situations come up at work that I am unsure how to tackle. She has definitely been instrumental in my successful return to work.”
-Feedback from a member

Judicial Council (JC) enforces the BCTF Code of Ethics
The mandate of the JC is to address alleged breaches of the BCTF Code of Ethics in a manner that focuses on educating teachers on their rights and responsibilities as BCTF members, through the enforcement of the Code of Ethics.

The process
•          Any member is entitled to file a complaint with the Judicial Council if they feel that a colleague has breached the Code of Ethics.
•          Complaint forms are sent out through the Ethics Administrator after a discussion with the complainant. When a complaint first comes to the BCTF, a mediation is offered as the preferred method of dealing with the dispute. Many alleged breaches of the Code of Ethics have been successfully resolved though the voluntary mediation process.
•          If the complaint is not resolved by mediation or if mediation is refused, a complainant may return to the JC process. No information regarding the mediation is sent on to any of the JC panels.
•          The complaint is then sent on to a screening panel consisting of three council members to deal with the case.
•          The screening panel will either dismiss the charge; facilitate an ethics advisory discussion, wherein two members of the screening panel will travel to the local and have a discussion with the member(s) on the ethics involved to resolve the issue; or refer the case on to a hearing panel for deliberation and judgment.
•          At any point in the process the complainant may choose to invite the other party to enter mediation or withdraw the charge.

“I felt fully supported by my union from the beginning to the end of a stressful professional situation. I am also more certain now than ever that we, as teaching professionals in BC, can handle our own complex collegial matters internally. Thanks to you all, I am a believer in the Judicial Council process.”
-Feedback from a member  

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