Category Archives: Teachers’ Qualifications

Professionalism Among Teachers

The complexities involving the teaching profession and the importance of the role of teachers in the holistic development of learners require strict adherence to the tenets of professionalism. There are expectations that teachers need to meet and there are qualities that they are expected to possess. These expectations and qualities are the ones that should inform the decision to hire somebody applying for a teaching position.

All the qualities teachers ought to have and what are expected of them can be summed up in one concept – “teacher professionalism.”

“Teacher professionalism” is an idea  that can be defined differently based on multiple perspectives and its merits scrutinized according to various arguments. It is considered a broad concept consisting of several dimensions.  However, for delimitation purposes, the discussion on the subject in this article is anchored only on the definitions of the term “professionalism” given in the next two (2) paragraphs.

Evans pointed out that “professionalism means different things to different people.”1 The Oxford dictionary simply defines the term as “the competence or skills expected of a professional.”It is the level of excellence or competence that professionals should manifest in their chosen fields of specialization.

Tichenorexplains that professionalism  are the expected  behaviors of individuals  in a specific occupation.  Professionals need to conduct themselves in accordance to set standards.

Boyt, Lusch and Naylor4 combined  the said views about professionalism when they describe it as a multi-dimensional structure consisting of one’s attitudes  and behaviors towards  his/her job and the achievement of high level of standards. Similarly, Hargreavesdefines professionalism as the conduct, demeanor and standards which guide the work of professionals.

The terms associated to professionalism as seen from the definitions and explanations given are as follows: competence, skills, behaviors, conduct, demeanor, and standards. Competence and skills are synonymous and so are behaviors, conduct, and demeanor. Standards refer to the quality or accepted norms for competence and behaviors.

Skills are not the only components that make up teacher’s competence. Knowledge is, of course, an integral part of it.

Skills and knowledge are very broad attributions to a teacher’s competence. What specifically are the skills and knowledge that would make a teacher competent?

As Baggini puts it, “To be a professional or a professor  was to profess in some skill or field of knowledge.” It’s a given that teachers should have knowledge of the subject matter or expertise in a particular skill. Teachers are expected to know not a little but much about what they are teaching.

What adds challenge to being a teacher  is the ability to dig (whenever applicable) into the scientific, philosophical, legal, sociological, and psychological foundations of what is being taught. It is important that teachers are able to relate whatever they are discussing to other  fields. Such an ability would enable teachers to enrich the discussion.

But teaching and learning are complex processes that involve a lot more… not just knowing what to teach and being able to connect a topic to other disciplines. What would make teachers truly competent are the corresponding skills that enable them to effectively teach what they know and make the students learn. Such skills are acquired through training in pedagogy.

Pedagogy is commonly defined as “the art, science, or profession of teaching.” Pedagogy informs teaching strategies, teacher actions, and teacher judgments and decisions by taking into consideration theories of learning, understandings of students and their needs, and the backgrounds and interests of individual students.7

Pedagogy, in a nutshell, tells how best to teach and how best the students learn.

Knowledge and expertise in a field would not make one a teacher. Pedagogical skills are needed. Competent teachers SHOULD know, not just the subject matter, but how to  set learning objectives, motivate students, design learning activities, facilitate learning, construct assessment, and assess learning.

In addition, another skill through which the competence of 21st-century teachers is gauged is how extensive and effectively do they apply technology (computer) to teaching and learning.

Aside from competence, the other dimension of teacher’s professionalism this article is exploring is behavior.

Teachers are aware that they should behave in accordance with the ethical standards set for the teaching profession. They are expected to speak, act and dress accordingly. Barberpointed this out when he identifies as one of the main characteristics of professional behavior  a “high degree of self-control of behavior through codes of ethics.”

But the behavior dimension of professionalism among teachers goes beyond proper manner and decorum.

Another characteristic of professional behavior identified by Barber is “orientation primarily to community interest rather than to  individual self-interest.” It is no secret that teachers sacrifice a lot to help their students. Teachers work long hours and practice a lot of patience. As Orlin puts it, “ I see it (teaching) as an act of self-sacrifice, as a hard path undertaken for the greater good.”9

Teachers also know that they need to keep learning. They need to have a continuing professional development plan for them to be better equipped in dealing with the challenges of the profession. They need to keep abreast of the current trends and innovations in the field of education.

There are also general teaching behaviors which, according to a study, are the most important for effective teaching (as perceived by students). Hativa identified five (5) of them, namely, making the lessons clearorganizedengaging/interestingmaintaining interactions, and rapport with students.10

Two (2) of the said general teaching behaviors (making the lessons clear and organized) are related to the first dimension of teacher professionalism (competence and skills). The rest are more indicative of the second dimension (behavior).

Teacher professionalism strongly implies the demands and complexities of teaching making it harder to understand why the profession doesn’t get due recognition. Teaching is not just any profession. Not just anybody can be a teacher. Not just anybody can be entrusted the responsibility of developing the mind and body.

References:   

  1. Evans, Linda (2008) Professionalism, professionality and the development of education professionals. British Journal of Educational Studies, 56 (1). pp. 20-38.
  2. Definition of “professionalism” – Oxford English Dictionary
  3. Tichenor, M. S., Tichenor, J. M. (2005). Understanding teachers’ perspectives on professionalism. ERIC.
  4. Boyt, T., Lusch, R. F. ve Naylor, G. (2001). The role of professionalism in determining job satisfaction in professional services: a study of marketing researchers, Journal of Service Research, 3(4), 321-330
  5. Hargreaves, A. (2000). Four ages of professionalism and professional learning. Teachers and Teaching: History and Practice, 6 (2),151-182. 
  6. Baggini, J. (2005). What professionalism means for teachers today? Education Review, 18 (2), 5-11.
  7. Shulman, Lee (1987). “Knowledge and Teaching: Foundations of the New Reform”(PDF). Harvard Educational Review. 15(2): 4–14. Retrieved 12 June 2017.
  8. Barber, B. (1965). Some Problems in the Sociology of the Professions. In K. S. Lynn (Edt.), The Professions in America (pp. 669-688). Boston: Houghton Mifflin.
  9. Orlin, Ben “Teaching As Self Sacrifice.” Match With Bad Drawing. WordPress, March 10, 2014. Web. 19 July, 2017.
  10. Hativa, N. (2014). A pratical approach to designing, operating, and reporting, 2nd, Tel Aviv: Oron Publications.

The Extra Mile Teachers Walk

Search any site on the Internet for the highest paid professions in the world and you will not find “teachers” in the top 30. Expand your search and look for the list of professions in different countries where the practitioners receive the best compensation packages and you will find out that teaching is not among them. You will not find a country where teachers are ranked among the highest money-earners.

Teaching not classified among the highest paying jobs, of course, is not surprising. That has been the case since time immemorial and it is not expected to change anytime soon. However, insufficient remuneration does not deter teachers from performing the role they have embraced. Such is only one of the steps in the extra mile that teachers need to walk when they have accepted that teaching is not merely a profession but a vocation. It is not merely a job to perform but an obligation to carry out.

Acknowledging that teaching is not merely a job but an obligation to carry out is what makes teachers go the extra mile, to do what is more than required in the performance of their tasks, including sacrificing personal resources…sometimes happiness. Teachers know the nature of the responsibility that they agreed to fulfill when they signed up for the job. They know it’s not easy. How in the world would one consider being responsible for the education of other people, especially the young ones, easy? When did it become easy to facilitate the acquisition of knowledge and values and the development of skills of your fellow human beings?

If only pay would be commensurate to how significant is one’s job in the enlightenment of the soul, the preservation and enhancement of the fabric of society, and the socio-economic development of a nation then teachers would get paid handsomely.

But it is what it is. Teaching is not a profitable profession. Realities teachers confront in the academe could really make them say a lot of things in the “present unreal conditional” form. There are times that they couldn’t also help but make a “wish-statement” like “I wish that I were a health care professional.”

Why?

Health care professionals (physicians, surgeons, anesthesiologists, dentists, etc.) consistently round out the top 10 in the lists of highest-paid professionals.

What they (the medical practitioners and their fellow health workers) do, maintenance and restoration of  good health is very important. For that, they deserve the pay they get, most especially during this time that the coronavirus pandemic is still raging. But nurturing the human spirit…helping a person achieve holistic development is as equally important, if not more important. What professional endeavor could be more meaningful than helping your fellow men achieve their full potential for them to become responsible human beings and productive members of society?

And not only are the teachers not getting the pay commensurate to the importance of the work they do and the effort they need to exert when doing their job, but they don’t also get the recognition they deserve.

American society, for example, does not generally view teachers in the same way, as they view other professionals; the belief that “anyone can teach” is not found in other professions (i.e., not just anyone can play professional baseball, or be an accountant or engineer, or practice law or medicine.)1

Such is the indifference teachers, as professionals, are getting.

How true is the contention that “anyone can teach?” Those who know what it takes to become a teacher would say it is a fallacy.

Education is not just a matter of whether you can teach or not but also whether or not you can make the students learn. Even if a person is an expert in a field of learning it is not a guarantee that he can teach what he knows. Knowing something is different from knowing how to teach it.

Hiring just anyone to become a teacher would be a huge mistake. Hiring somebody to teach a language just because he or she could speak that language  is a huge mistake. It takes a lot to become a teacher. Teachers undergo rigid training for them to hone their pedagogical skills. They read a lot knowing that teaching and learning are both grounded on Philosophy, Psychology, Sociology and other related fields. They know they need to be familiar not only in their field of expertise but with different principles and strategies to effectively deliver learning and teaching. They know that when they are done teaching they still have to evaluate the learning.

The list of the things that teachers need to know and to do is long. At the end of that long list are two characteristics that teachers need to develop if they wish to succeed in the profession – PASSION for their work and COMPASSION for the students.

How then in the world it becomes possible that just “anyone can teach?”

Be that as it may, teaching will forever be a NOBLE PROFESSION! Nothing can diminish its intrinsic value.

One thing is for sure, all successful professionals in the world – business executives, lawyers, architects, engineers, surgeons, physicians, dentists, nurses, brokers, etc. – know that their teachers contributed a thing or two into whatever they have become.

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1 Tichenor M.S., Tichenor, J.M. (2005). Understanding teachers’ perspectives on professionalism. ERIC.

How Different Are Teachers From One Another

teacherprofiles-infographic11No two teachers use the same lens when they view teaching as a profession. Even if  teachers are made to use similar lens, they would still look at their job (as teachers) differently. They have perspectives, educational and personal,  that are uniquely theirs – or  some of them may have none at all.

Teachers don’t have the same set of knowledge, skills, attitudes, and values either. Like their fingerprints, their mindsets, tendencies and other personal qualities are very unlikely to be identical.

When given the same course syllabus, we should not expect them to map out their daily lesson plans in the same manner. They would design learning activities and deliver or carry them out in ways they see fit. Some would not bother to plan anything

The work attitudes of teachers are also not the same.

There are those who are so conscious about the number of hours they are required to serve as stipulated in their contracts. You could not expect them to go overtime and do extra job – unless you give them extra pay or service credits.

Conversely,  there are teachers who are willing to go the extra mile. They assist their students beyond their assigned teaching hours and volunteer for tasks and do things not  written in their job description, expecting nothing in return.

Of course, the worst are those teachers who either come to class late or dismiss their classes earlier than expected – or both. For reasons only them know, they do not perform their assigned tasks the way they ought to. They submit required paperwork either late  or not at all.

If you are a teacher reading this, here is a question for you, “In which of the three groups do you belong? Of course, only you know. At the very least, be not the one described in the paragraph right above this one.

There are teachers who are eternal fault-finders always trying to find something wrong – either with the policies being implemented or with their colleagues and administrators.  And should they succeed in finding one, they would either whine or gossip about it, or both.

Teachers also differ in the way they treat their students.

Some teachers would set standards that are difficult to achieve while others know how to calibrate their standards to give even the slowest of learners a chance to succeed. There are teachers who have “one-size-fits-all” mentality thinking that educational processes  and approaches to teaching and learning are standard and could not be tailored to meet individual needs. Conversely, they have counterparts who understand that students have different learning styles, abilities, and personal backgrounds. They know that they must recognize the uniqueness of each student (or groups of students) and differentiate their methods and strategies as teachers. These teachers don’t believe  that standards are absolute.

Describing how teachers are different from one another could boil down to the following statements: 1. There are teachers who display both passion and compassion – they are passionate about their job and compassionate to their students; 2. There are teachers who have only one of the two; and 3. There are teachers who do not have both.

And again, if you are a teacher reading this, here is another question for you, “Which of the three statements in the paragraph above applies to you?”

If it’s the third one, you could be in the wrong profession. Think about it.

Now, let’s try to find out why teachers are not the same.

In doing so, let’s answer the following questions:

“Why do teachers view their profession (or approach teaching) differently?”

“Why do they have different work attitudes?”

“Why are some passionate with their job and compassionate to their students while the others are not?”

Before we answer those questions, it is important to note  that  there are only two ways to classify the way teachers perform – effective or ineffective; two ways to label their work attitude – good or bad; and two ways to view the way they treat their students – fairly or poorly.

What could be the reason teachers treat their students the way they do? Some teachers are perceived by their students as mean, unfair and inconsiderate. Is it because these teachers were not taught by their parents the values of kindness and fairness during their formative years? Did their experiences in life make them rude? Or were they treated in the same way by their former teachers and they are thinking that being mean, unfair, and inconsiderate to students is nothing but normal.

Teachers need to be reminded of the importance of establishing a good rapport with the students. In several studies conducted, what emerged as among the  top qualities of effective teachers as perceived by students include “the ability to develop relationships with their students” and “patient,  caring, and kind personality.”

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As Andrew Johnson puts it, “Teaching starts with a relationship. Until then, you are just a dancing monkey standing up in front of your students performing tricks.”

The hardest stone that school authorities could pick up and hit their heads with is if they would decide to hire a “nonteacher” to be a teacher. There are teachers in (some, a few, or is it many?) schools who are not really teachers by profession.  They either have non-Education degrees or they did not receive any kind of teacher-training but were lucky to be hired for whatever reasons only those who hired them know.

How could a “nonteacher” be effective and passionate in a job completely alien to him/her?

Being a math wizard doesn’t give one the right to become a Math teacher. Having a perfect accent and impeccable grammar in English doesn’t make one qualified to teach English. These are things I emphasized in one of my essays about teaching. It doesn’t mean that if you know it, you can teach it.

How do we expect somebody who has no training in pedagogy to be effective in preparing a lesson plan – to set objectives, to choose the strategies and methods appropriate for a lesson and the levels of students, to motivate students before delivering the lesson, and to create tests intended to measure and evaluate learning.

Do you really think that teaching is just another job?

How do we expect a “nonteacher” to understand what kind of work attitude teachers should have and to agree with Ben Orlin who sees teaching as an act of self-sacrifice, as a hard path undertaken for the greater good?

So, when colleagues in the academe are not performing and behaving the way a teacher should, check their academic background. They could be “nonteachers.” (And excuse me for using the word “nonteacher.” It’s not in any dictionaries I checked online, except for one – http://www.yourdictionary.com.)  I just can’t think of a word that could best label professionals in the academe that were allowed to teach even if their degrees are not related to education or they did not have any training as a teacher at all.

But a more serious concern in the academe is this – Why are there teachers who were trained  to be teachers who  act as if they themselves are “nonteachers”?

The way teachers perform are dictated by the personal educational philosophy they developed when they got exposed to the many isms they studied while pursuing their education degree. Such philosophy would evolve through time as they accumulate actual teaching experiences.  Teachers also have personal belief systems that inform whatever decision they make. Or their decisions are influenced by the colleague they surround themselves with.

The way teachers behave and talk reflect the kind of personal educational philosophy they have (or the absence of it). The way they conduct themselves as professionals depends on whether they adhere (or not) to the code of teacher professionalism.

When teachers act and speak strangely, it is possible that they don’t know that there exists a code of professionalism created so teachers would be guided accordingly. Or they chose to ignore it.

But even if let’s say teachers are not aware of the existence of such code of professionalism, common sense would tell them that they ought to be careful with whatever they say or do or else they will be charged with conduct unbecoming to a teacher.

That is if they care and it’s not only the paycheck they are after.

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