No two teachers use the same lens when they view teaching as a profession. They 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.
Even if teachers are made to use a 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.
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.
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 preceding paragraph.
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.”
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 – to agree with what Ben Orlin said that he 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 pardon me 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 to 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.
“What is done in the classroom today becomes the indelible memories of tomorrow.” – Robert Brooks
What do we remember most about our teachers? Is it their intelligence or their wit and humor?
Why do we say that we’ll never forget some of our teachers? What made it hard to erase them from our memory – the positive influences they exerted on us or the emotional wounds they may have directly or indirectly inflicted? Do they remain in our memory because of the words of encouragement they said that motivated us to excel or the mouthful they delivered with the meanest of intentions that destroyed (or almost destroyed) our self-esteem?
Do we recall the lessons our teachers taught in the class or is it the jokes they shared that we cannot forget to the point that to date those same jokes we also share with others?
Think about this – Is it our teachers’ impeccable display of mastery of the subject matter we remember about them or is it their compassion and gentleness that made us feel so comfortable in the classroom?
Being a teacher myself I often wonder what my students remember about me, or do they remember me at all. Imagine how many students I already had having been a teacher since 1988. Has anyone of them proudly announced my name when asked “Who’s your most favorite teacher?” or “Who among your teachers influenced you most positively?”
Constantly asking myself such questions makes me conscious about my performance in the class. Not that I wish to be popular among my students. Teaching is not a popularity contest. But if I get to be remembered by my former students, I wish that it is for the right reasons and not the wrong ones.
As part of my planning, each time a school term begins I make a conscious effort of remembering my former teachers. Why? My teachers in the past, aside from the subjects they taught, they directly and indirectly showed me “what to do” and “what not to do” as an educator. They contributed the pieces in the teaching-learning model that guides me as I practice pedagogy.
There are several teachers whose names were etched in my memory (although I wish to keep their identities under wraps except for some clues). There are a variety of reasons why after all these years I have not forgotten them.
During my PhD days at Bulacan State University I always looked forward to attending the classes of two professors. One of them taught me that “Whatever we don’t use will die of disuse.” and “In onion there is strength.” Yes, that’s onion… not “union.” The other one bragged that “His PEN IS six inches long.”
I didn’t consider their brand of humor offensive although I know some of the ladies in those classes felt uncomfortable whenever those professors deliver those double-meaning sentences. I am not sure what made the students pay attention to those professors – the ideas they were expounding or the jokes they interspersed in their discussions.
Even without those double-meaning sentences those two professors were really committed to bringing humor into the classroom. A lot of times that they shared hilarious personal stories. Three classes in one day, with each class 3-hour long, in the graduate school are stressful and the best known antidote to stress is laughter.
That’s what they did…gave entertainment on the side while we go through the rigors of graduate school.
But when it comes to sense of humor, no one beats my Psychology and Political Science teacher during my first year in college. Aside from his contagious smile, he had the knack for injecting humor during discussions. I remember him making exaggerated facial expressions and movements.
As Maurice Elias suggests, “Let’s add some more enjoyment to school. We don’t need guffaws — a smile and a little levity can go a long way.”
Let me just clarify that the said professors are not just humorous – they are very intelligent educators.
I was also blessed to have three teachers (one each in High School, College and Master’s) who modeled academic excellence. Each meeting with them was always an opportunity to learn something new. Of course I learned from all of my teachers and they all contributed to my development but these three are simply a cut above the rest.
Their common denominator is they never came to class unprepared and demanded nothing less from the students. They were demanding but were very supportive. I don’t know but there was something different in the way that they taught and the way they carried out their duties as mentors.
Because of this dedication to excellence, one of them (the professor in the Master’s program who influenced me the most), became “the avoided one.” Students, as much as possible, would avoid enrolling in her classes. They were students who wanted their grades to be given to them in a silver platter. They were the ones who consider a weekly reaction paper and several book reviews too much for a graduate student. For me, that was the challenge that I wanted to undergo to test my mettle, to hone my skills. I wanted to be deserving of any degree I would be conferred with.
That was the kind of attitude inculcated upon me by my High School Biology and English 2 (and 4) teacher. She gave us assignments and projects that I considered at that time as requirements done by college students. It was difficult but it prepared me to the rigors of college life.
Then in College I had this teacher who taught Shakespeare (and his plays) rarely bringing instructional materials to the class from beginning up to the end of the semester. She did not use audio-visual materials when teaching. She would just stay seated the whole period. But when she talked it was like listening to an audio book. There was never a question from us (the students) she did not satisfactorily answer.
However, I don’t remember the said teachers only because of their brilliance. I had a lot of equally intelligent teachers but whose names I could no longer recall. But these mesdames are different. They displayed enthusiasm while teaching. I witnessed how much they loved what they were doing.
I would also not forget my Grade VI adviser. I felt so sleepy in her class one day but I was trying very hard not to fall asleep. The reason was during my Elementary days, almost every morning I needed to wake up around 4:00 AM in order to sell “pandesal” (bread) before going to school so I would have extra allowance.
One day, while she was discussing I closed my eyes but I was awake. Then one of my classmates said, “Look ma’am! Ching (that’s my nick name when I was a kid) is sleeping.” My eyelids were a bit heavy so I couldn’t open my eyes immediately when I heard a classmate say that. Then my adviser responded, “It’s okay. Let him sleep for a few minutes. I saw him selling “pandesal” this morning.”
That for me was a display of compassion. My teacher did not get angry. She was aware of my situation and she tried to understand. Her simple act of kindness made me feel I am important. It started to develop my self-esteem.
Then I had these experiences with two of my High School teachers that reinforced my self-esteem. My English 1 teacher told me one day, “You’re performing well in the subject. Keep it up!” That was the first time I received a positive comment about my academic performance. Then my Biology and English 2 (and 4) teacher, the same one I previously mentioned, told me also that I can be a good student if I study harder. In addition, she told me that I can be a writer.
The words they said nurtured my self-esteem. The things they told me awakened a self-confidence that until now is alive and strong in me. The words they said encouraged me to excel.
Those teachers believed in me and I promised myself not to disappoint them.
In his book entitled “Self-Esteem Teacher,” Robert Brooks explained that “Teachers have a very significant, lifelong impact on all of their students. This impact involves not only the teaching of particular academic skills, but as importantly, the fostering of student self-esteem.”
What do I remember most about my teachers? What qualities did they have that made their memories persisted in my mind and continued to influence my practices as an educator?
It is their sense of humor, enthusiasm, dedication to the craft, compassion for the students, and the practice of praising students – of telling them what they are capable of.
The foregoing are the building blocks of the educational philosophy that I have embraced.
“Most children will not remember what a teacher taught as much as how he or she made them feel. Children who perceive themselves as accepted and valued will work harder and have positive feelings about their school experience.”
~ Leah Davies
Source: Remembering My 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.
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.”2 It is the level of excellence or competence that professionals should manifest in their chosen fields of specialization.
Tichenor3 explains 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, Hargreaves5 defines 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 teacher’s competence however. 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.”6 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 competence of 21st century teachers is gauged, is how extensive and effective 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 to the ethical standards set for the teaching profession. They are expected to speak, act and dress accordingly. Barber8 pointed 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 the 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 with 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 clear, organized, engaging/interesting, maintaining 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.
– SDG –
- Evans, Linda (2008) Professionalism, professionality and the development of education professionals. British Journal of Educational Studies, 56 (1). pp. 20-38.
- Definition of “professionalism” – Oxford English Dictionary
- Tichenor, M. S., Tichenor, J. M. (2005). Understanding teachers’ perspectives on professionalism. ERIC.
- 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
- Hargreaves, A. (2000). Four ages of professionalism and professional learning. Teachers and Teaching: History and Practice, 6 (2),151-182.
- Baggini, J. (2005). What professionalism means for teachers today? Education Review, 18 (2), 5-11.
- Shulman, Lee (1987). “Knowledge and Teaching: Foundations of the New Reform”(PDF). Harvard Educational Review. 15(2): 4–14. Retrieved 12 June 2017.
- 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.
- Orlin, Ben “Teaching As Self Sacrifice.” Match With Bad Drawing. WordPress, March 10, 2014. Web. 19 July, 2017.
- Hativa, N. (2014). A pratical approach to designing, operating, and reporting, 2nd, Tel Aviv: Oron Publications.
Source: Professionalism Among Teachers