Nature of Teaching DutiesTop of page

For the purposes of this monograph, teaching duties are defined as all those professional tasks encountered by teachers in the course of their activities concerned with the instruction of pupils. Included would be (a) the actual conducting of classes and presentation of lessons; (b) the preparation of lessons; (c) requisitioning of audio-visual and other materials and equipment; (d) evaluation and reporting of student progress; and (e) maintenance of such classroom order as is necessary to promote a healthy learning climate. Implied, as well, is an expectation for a teacher to carry out such general pupil supervision as may be required by law, by regulation or by agreement to assist to a reasonable extent with the school program as agreed to by the staff, to cooperate with other teachers in the best interests of students and generally to act as an enthusiastic member of the school’s educational team. School Act sections 18 (shown on page 10) and 20 (shown on page 13) form the legislative basis for these duties. Also included in the term teaching duties are the tasks of such functional specialist assignments as administrator, teacher-librarian, counsellor, supervisor and so forth.

Duties in Classroom InstructionTop of page


It is axiomatic that a teacher has a duty to prepare adequately for daily teaching assignments and to plan the semester’s or year’s work in each subject to promote orderly development and progress. Good conscientious preparation of lessons would seem to demand that a teacher know exactly what is to be attempted from the beginning to the end of each lesson period. As well, teachers should have a very clear idea of how they and their students are going to accomplish the objectives set. This requires that teachers make advance decisions as to the method of presentation; proportions of teacher and student activity; student assignments, both in class and for homework; and the audio-visual and other teaching aids that will be used.

It would be absurd to attempt here to specify the length or nature of preparation since it will vary widely with the subject, the topic and the experience and qualifications of the teacher. Many authorities believe that proper lesson preparation gives the teacher a confidence and enthusiasm that is reflected in the attitudes of students. On the other hand, there is little doubt

that inadequate preparation contributes to student apathy and to the serious discipline problems that often accompany it.

It is obvious that in cooperative or team-teaching arrangements a substantial amount of time will be required for group planning in addition to the individual preparation time needed.


One of the most frequently heard criticisms of unsuccessful or marginally successful teachers is that they lack the quality of enthusiasm and cannot excite their students about learning. Probably this quality is a result of many things, including depth of knowledge, clearly defined objectives, careful planning, a sincere liking for children, good health, job satisfaction, a well-modulated manner of speech and willingness to adjust and to innovate. Whatever its components may be, a teacher who aspires to excellence would do well to strive to project an image of enthusiasm.

No two teachers could, or should, present a lesson in exactly the same way. The choice of the methods by which a professional carries on practice is a matter for individual decision. A professional is obliged to keep abreast of the best in current practice and to be accountable for the success of the methods chosen. Major reliance on the lecture type of lesson presentation is currently in disfavour both with teachers and students; more stimulating methods of teaching do exist and should be used. Use of persons from the community who have expertise in specific topics is frequently advocated. When such people are brought in, it must be recognized that the teacher is still in charge and is responsible for student supervision and evaluation. With the current emphasis on the use of the inquiry method and other participative techniques, teachers should find it possible to devise lessons that will motivate students and encourage their participation.

Evaluation of students

This topic is discussed in some detail in a succeeding section. Accordingly, it should be sufficient here to point out that a teacher’s duties include the systematic, objective and continuous evaluation of the progress being made by each of the students, having in mind their abilities, the general objectives of education and the specific objectives of each course.

Duties as a Staff MemberTop of page

Records and reports

Teachers are required by law to keep accurate records of the attendance of pupils in their charge, including absences and lateness. In many schools, the traditional room register, kept by each teacher, has been supplanted by central record keeping, generally with the aid of a computer. Nonetheless, teachers will still frequently have a responsibility for providing input information. This information must be accurate and promptly supplied.

In addition to routine attendance records, teachers are obligated to keep systematic records of evaluations of student progress, including test and examination results. This matter may assume great importance if a parent questions the grading assigned to a child by a teacher or the decision to withhold advancement to a succeeding grade. Anecdotal records have also proved useful.

School Act

Section 23

Student records

23(1) A board shall establish and maintain pursuant to the regulations a student record for each student enrolled in its schools.

(2) Subject to subsection (4), the following persons may review the student record maintained in respect of a student:

(a) the student;
(b) the student’s parent, except where the student is an independent student;
(c) a person who has access to the student under a separation agreement or an order of a court.

(3) A person who is entitled to review a student record under subsection (2) may request a copy of the student record from the board, and the secretary of the board shall provide, or on request shall send, the copy to the person on receiving payment for it at the rate prescribed by the board.

(4) Where a student record contains

(a) a test, a test result or an evaluation of a student that is given by a person who has a recognized expertise or training in respect of that test or evaluation, or
(b) information relating to a test, test result or evaluation referred to in clause (a),

the individuals referred to in subsection (2) are entitled to the things referred to in subsection (5).

(5) If subsection (4) applies, the individuals referred to in subsection (2) are entitled

(a) to review that test, test result or  evaluation referred to in subsection (4)(a) or information referred to in subsection (4)(b), and
(b) to receive from a person who is competent to explain and interpret it an explanation and interpretation of the test, test result, evaluation or information.

(6) If a person reviewing a student record referred to in subsection (4) so requests, the board shall ensure that a person who is competent to explain and interpret the test, test result, evaluation or information is available to explain and interpret that test, test result, evaluation or information.

(7) A person who contributes information to a student record is exempt from any liability with respect to the provision of that information if that person, in providing that information,

(a) acted in good faith,
(b) acted within the scope of that person’s duties and responsibilities, and
(c) did not act in a negligent manner.

(8) If, on examining a student record, a person is of the opinion that the student record contains inaccurate or incomplete information, that person may request the board to rectify the matter.

(9) The Minister may make regulations respecting student records.

Efficient evaluation and accurate records are particularly important for use in regular parent–teacher interviews, which are scheduled by many schools, as well as for individual interviews, which parents have the right to request if they are concerned about their child’s progress.

Another and very important use of pupil evaluation records is to aid teachers in their own self-evaluation. If student-evaluation procedures are adequate and records good, a teacher can often assess the success of the teaching methods being used and devise more effective ones if individual or general progress do not meet expectations.

Section 23 of the School Act gives parents rights to examine and to appeal student records. Moreover, the minister may make regulations on this topic. Teachers’ and schools’ student records must conform to section 23 and to any subsequent regulations made by the minister.

Staff meetings

Schools have an obligation to hold staff meetings at regular intervals and teachers have a duty to attend these meetings. A teacher who fails to attend the staff meeting without being previously excused for adequate reason could well be charged with neglect of duty, which, in turn, might lead to disciplinary action.

On the other hand, teachers have a right to expect that staff meetings will not be called with unreasonable frequency, with inadequate notice or without taking into consideration other employment and/or professional commitments of teachers. Consideration must be given to scheduling meetings at reasonable times for part-time teachers to attend. Normally this would mean at a time during or close to their assigned work hours. All teachers also have a right to expect that an agenda will be prepared by the staff and administration in cooperation and that the meetings will be of reasonable length.

Curricular activities

School staffs often schedule activities involving students and teachers that are related directly to the function of the school and to the general objectives of education but that occur outside of regularly scheduled classroom periods. They may arise out of any program undertaken by the school. They are designed primarily to be additional educational experiences for the students and often aid both students and teachers by creating an atmosphere in which mutual understanding can be enhanced.

Most educational authorities agree that such activities not only are desirable but also form an integral part of the educational process. Expectations for involvement in curricular activities beyond the classroom must be reasonable in both scope and commitment.

A school staff should agree on the nature and extent of the program to be undertaken for the year. Since each teacher is a member of the educational team and must be reasonably in accord with the educational philosophy of the school, it follows that the teacher has a responsibility to support whatever program of curricular activities colleagues collectively agree to institute. A reasonable interpretation of this responsibility might be that all teachers should be willing to contribute to curricular activities within the limits imposed by their teaching assignments, skills and abilities and health. It is inherent in this attitude that the participation by teachers in a given activity and in the total program should be voluntary and not assigned by the school administration or the board and should be shared as equitably as possible by the staff as a whole.

If the trend toward defining the teacher’s workday in terms of a required amount of instructional time plus a required amount of time devoted to other assigned duties continues, it may be that the assignment of broad-based curricular activities to teachers will tend to be more directive. Should this happen, some of teachers’ spontaneity and enthusiasm for such activities will be lost.

Extracurricular activities

School programs are enhanced with a program of activities designed to motivate students and enrich their educational experience by going outside the curriculum. These activities are voluntary for both students and teachers and may include athletic, cultural or other special-interest activities.

An individual teacher’s involvement will reflect the personal time available to the teacher and the individual’s skill, abilities and health.

School discipline

As with many other aspects of teaching, student discipline is not the same for every teacher. Some teachers find class control a constant struggle while others seem to cope effortlessly. While a good deal of latitude should be, and is, allowed to teachers in discipline within their own classes, there must be a considerable degree of consistency within a school staff covering student conduct and control between classes, in hallways and washrooms, on playgrounds, on excursions and in assemblies. Most schools have developed and publicized concise policies and these must be supported by all staff members, at least until the rest of the staff can be persuaded, through proper processes, to implement a change. Workshops, presentations and materials on student discipline are available from the Association. Contact the Professional Development program area for workshops and presentations and the ATA library for print and digital resources.

The Youth Criminal Justice Act is federal legislation that redefined disciplinary rights for children in some circumstances. Among the implications is the concept that a young person has the same civil rights as an adult and, in addition, further rights because of being young. This comes into play in schools in such serious breaches of discipline as to constitute possible criminal charges. In this type of circumstance, teachers must be careful to carry out procedures in such a way that the student’s rights are not violated, thereby enabling him or her to escape punishment on these grounds. Teachers and principals must act in parens patriae, which requires that they protect the rights of the student. Students have the same rights as adults in criminal matters. Those rights include the right to remain silent, the right to counsel and the right to know what the charges are. Before allowing the police to interview students, principals should contact both the Association and the school division for advice.

Noncertificated PersonnelTop of page

The term educational assistant(s) is used by the Association to designate noncertificated personnel of all kinds employed to assist teachers.

The Association favours the use of educational assistants provided they are used in accordance with Association policy. The major aspects of that policy are as follows:

  • The purpose of educational assistants is to enable teachers to extend their professional service.
  • The deployment and assignment of duties of educational assistants is the responsibility of the teachers in the school.
  • Assistants are responsible to teachers to whom they are assigned.
  • The assignment of an educational assistant must have the approval of the teacher to whom the assistant is assigned, and the teacher must determine the assistant’s specific duties.

Code of Professional Conduct

2 (1) The teacher is responsible for diagnosing educational needs, prescribing and implementing instructional programs and evaluating progress of pupils.

   (2) The teacher may not delegate these responsibilities to any person who is not a teacher.

3 The teacher may delegate specific and limited aspects of instructional activity to noncertificated personnel, provided that the teacher supervises and directs such activity.

A teacher who assigns an assistant responsibility for professional services or who has an assistant do a major share of services that ought to be performed by the teacher may be charged with unprofessional conduct.

Another category of noncertificated personnel is parent volunteers. In many schools, especially at the elementary level, large numbers of parents assist in the school on a regular basis. Their help is very much appreciated, and the increased community awareness of the school’s tasks and difficulties is beneficial. The work volunteers undertake is similar to that done by educational assistants, and the same restrictions apply. The teacher has a greater responsibility for supervision to compensate for the lower level of responsibility inherent in the role of volunteer as compared with the role of employee.

See the ATA publication Teachers and Educational Assistants: Roles and Responsibilities for further information.

Financial ResponsibilitiesTop of page

School funds

Teachers, especially principals, often have occasion to handle and administer school funds either provided by the board or acquired through fund-raising activities. There may be arguments as to whether it is a legal duty of teachers to collect or handle such monies, but there is little question that any teacher who accepts the responsibility must safeguard the funds, see that they are properly expended, take reasonable precautions to guard them from loss or theft and account for them meticulously. Carelessness in handling money or poorly kept records can lead only to embarrassment and possibly to serious trouble.

When teachers have been delegated authority to make purchases on behalf of the board, they must conform scrupulously to any relevant regulations and give proper attention to accounts and forms.

School purchases

Proper procedure in making purchases for a school has been a sensitive area of concern and has even led to termination of designations or contracts. Trouble seems to arise most often when a principal neglects to follow purchasing procedures laid down by the school board. A common example is the forwarding of purchase orders directly to supplying firms without the countersignature of the secretary-treasurer or other designated official. Another example is failure on the principal’s part to forward invoices promptly to the board office.

School administrators and others involved are advised to become familiar with purchasing procedures adopted by their boards and to adhere meticulously to such procedures. Failure to do so may lead to charges of refusal to obey a lawful board order and, at the least, can cause deterioration of relations with the board.

Hours of WorkTop of page

Preparing lessons, marking and other tasks that must be performed to provide proper instruction add many hours each day and week to the more visible part of a teacher’s job. Research shows that teachers spend between 1 and 1.5 hours preparing and marking for each hour spent on instruction. Section 97(2) of the School Act states that a board may not require a teacher to instruct for more than 1,100 hours or more than 200 days in a school year. Most teachers would maintain that 5.5 hours of instruction a day is not merely excessive but also nearly impossible to carry out enthusiastically and efficiently. Some school boards appear to agree. This is shown by provisions in the collective agreement or otherwise for periods of preparation time or other limits on instructional load.

Teachers working in schools, distributed learning centres, central office positions and administrative designations have become increasingly concerned about the intensification of their workloads. As of June 2013, the Joint C2 Committees on Teachers’ Workload*, mandated by the Assurance for Students Act, is providing an opportunity to identify teachers’ tasks and determine what can be eliminated or modified to reduce teacher workload and improve teacher efficacy. The ministerial order associated with the act also stipulates a maximum of 907 hours of instruction per year for teachers.

*The C2 Committee derives its name from part C and clause 2 of the framework that refers to teacher workload and formation of a joint committee between school jurisdictions and bargaining units.

« PreviousNext »