Ontario English Catholic Teachers

Professional Insight

From the Association's @OECTA magazine and written by Doug McCarthy, former OECTA member and professional mediator.


First Time Speaker at the Mic

“I am very comfortable about being in front of students but I am very nervous about speaking in front of a room full of adults.”

This is a common lament voiced by teachers. And teachers are not alone. In his 1977 publication The Book of Lists, David Wallenchinskey noted that 41 per cent of survey respondents feared speaking before a group, while only 19 per cent feared death. The good news is that public speaking is a learned skill.

Not on the Same Page: The importance of communicating clearly

Most of us have experienced or witnessed two people trying to communicate when they are "not on the same page." A question gets asked, an answer is given, and the questioner replies, “That is not what I meant!”

In his book, The Conflict Resolution Toolbox, Gary Furlong says the common cause of communication problems and the unsuccessful attempts to resolve them stem from the lack of information required for an adequate diagnosis.

Saying Yes, Feeling No: Agreeing for all the wrong reasons can be hazardous to your health

There was a time in my life when I believed that to improve and be successful, it was important to say “yes” to every significant challenge, opportunity and request. The thinking was that self-improvement and advancement were only available to those who made things happen in life.

Even today, some self-improvement gurus put greater emphasis on grabbing hold of all opportunities and only giving a token nod to a balanced lifestyle. The outcome can be high stress levels caused by long to-do lists and a calendar crammed with deadlines and obligations.

Is Your School Climate a Positive One?

Many of you have likely had an experience similar to one I had recently. I offered to help a friend with a home project, and when I arrived I could tell that he and his wife had been arguing. I didn’t hear them fighting; my friend didn’t tell me they had been fighting; and he and his wife were polite and courteous to me. But even though there were no obvious signs, I knew they had been quarreling. There was an undefined “something-in-the-air” that made me feel uncomfortable. I just wanted to leave.

I'm sorry, was that an apology?

It is purported that as Canadians we say “sorry” a lot – more as a courtesy than as an apology. There are times when a person says, “I’m sorry,” claiming to be making an apology when, in fact, they are not.

In “What It Means To Be Sorry,” an article that appeared in the Mediation Quarterly in 2000, Carl D. Schneider outlined the elements of a good apology.

The Gift of Story Telling

A well-told story that makes a point or teaches a value is a gift from the storyteller to the listeners. It is a wonderful meeting place because a story provides a gentle entry to the minds and hearts of the listeners. Storytelling is also a powerful and dynamic form of communication that reaches out and touches on a personal level.

Carpe Diem

“In the end we only regret the chances we didn’t take, relationships we were afraid to have, and the decisions we waited too long to make.”

These are definitely inspiring words, but in the strictest sense, not motivational. What’s the difference? People can be motivated by words that promise reward or punishment. Inspirational words on the other hand carry with them the kind of truth and courage that inspires others to change from within.

Avoiding a Hardening of the Attitudes

Teachers do not live easy lives. Higher expectations, increased responsibilities and intense accountability have made the job challenging and demanding. Theirs is a difficult task that few people would be willing, or even able, to shoulder professionally. And the expectation is that teachers are to be perfect, in spite of the imperfections of others, and they are not let off lightly when they are perceived to be less than perfect.

Dealing with Those Everyday Issues

After 20 years of being a member of OECTA’s Speakers’ Bureau, I have come to the conclusion that people coming together to make decisions and solve problems is a very complex human endeavour. Sometimes, even two people will have difficulty becoming of “one mind.” Imagine the challenge for 10 people, 100 people, 600 people.

The Power of Words

Meeting former students who are now adults is usually a delight. But recently, I had a chance meeting with a former student and I worried that our conversation would be awkward because of an incident that happened years before.

Lightening the Load with Humour

Have you noticed that when you enter a school or workplace, you can easily tell whether or not that community has been graced with good humour? There is just ‘something in the air.’

Walk a Mile in My Shoes

This quotation from rabbi and author Neil Kurshan builds on an ancient proverb usually attributed to First Nations peoples; that we are not in a position to criticize another if we have not walked a mile in their moccasins. Not only can this piece of wisdom help make us less judgmental of others, it can also teach us to respect others.