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
Search any site in the internet for the highest paid professionals 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 do 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.”
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) do, maintenance and restoration of good health, is very important. For that, they deserve the pay they get. 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, 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. 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 for sure, all the 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.
1 Tichenor M.S., Tichenor, J.M. (2005). Understanding teachers’ perspective on professionalism. ERIC.
How many times have we heard this – “It’s not easy being a teacher.”
Is it true that teaching is a difficult job?
Ask the teachers.
Only the teachers themselves, the real ones and the pretenders, can answer that question. Real teachers who prepare lesson plans, motivate and treat students properly, teach them, and assess their learning, will answer emphatically with a YES.
Don’t expect from the pretenders the same answer. For them teaching is a walk in the park. They don’t take it seriously. They are the ones who became teachers by accident… or perhaps necessity forced them to embrace the profession. They were lucky to have been offered teaching positions by virtue of some factors that only those who hired them know. They may possess “knowledge of the subject matter” but they don’t have training in (or they don’t have knowledge of) pedagogy for them to understand that teachers need to have a plan before they enter the class…that they need to motivate the students, establish rapport with them…that teaching is different from talking in front of students…and that they need to assess learning.
Yes, real teachers prepare (or have) lessons. They never come to class unprepared. They always have a plan, written or otherwise. They know the parts and components of a lesson plan…objectives, topic/topics to teach, activities, materials, methods of assessment and assignments…and they know how to effectively execute it. Most importantly, they know how to improvise when the plan they prepared for the day is seemingly not working.
Real teachers also motivate and treat students properly. They believe in the basic tenet in education that students learn best in a positive and nurturing environment thus the first thing they do at the beginning of a term is to win the students’ trust and make them feel comfortable. They respect their students and believe that each of them has the capability to learn.
Conversely, the pretenders say that their students are dumb, lazy, hopeless and incapable of learning… that they are not worthy of their time… that having students like them in their classes is an insult to their intelligence.
The pretenders don’t care if the students learn or not. They maintain standards and set expectations that no matter what the students must meet. They don’t understand that they need to prepare and patiently guide the students in their difficult journey towards meeting those standards and expectations.
While the pretenders deliver a monologue and recite information from the book in front of their students, the real teachers TEACH. And when they teach, they do so guided by established norms and standards of teaching and learning. They know what methods and strategies are best suited for the kind of students they have and for the topic/topics they discuss.
The real teachers also keep up with the current trends and innovations in their fields wanting to improve themselves not only for their personal growth but also for them to be better equipped and have more to share with their students. They also know how important is technology to education thus they do not only exert effort to learn how to use them but invest on them as well.
Real teachers also know that assessment is a vital component of the learning process. They understand that the evaluation of the performance of the students is a continuous process…done while the school term progresses. They keep a record of the performance of their students and, accordingly, inform them about it. So, their students are aware of their standing in the class…their students know in what areas they need to improve.
What about the pretenders? How do they grade their students?
The pretenders believe that they are very smart…very sharp to know their students and determine what grade do they deserve even if they don’t assess periodically. They have so retentive a memory that they can recall the everyday performance of their students for the entire term. Thus, their grading is a one-time deal. They do it at the end of the term. It is during the last days of the term that they check exercises, quizzes and test papers. They don’t believe that students need feedback about their performance during the term. They don’t understand that returning “marked” exercises, quizzes and tests is a form of feedbacking…that through it the students get to monitor their performance.
Don’t ask the pretenders if they keep (or if they can show) at any given time a record of the scores of their students in quizzes, exercises and tests. They have nothing to show.
Well! That’s just the way pretenders are. They believe that they have their own way of doing things. They exist in their own world. They have their own standards.They would argue that asking them to do something they don’t believe in is an infringement of their academic freedom… unaware that the institution where they are employed and their students do enjoy also academic freedom that may possibly supersede theirs.
Of course there is no such thing as a perfect school organization anywhere in the world. Issues and problems come out anytime. Both real teachers and pretenders are affected by all of those but the former and the latter deal with them in different ways.
While real teachers try to find solutions to problems that they are capable of solving, the pretenders just whine and try to find more faults. The more faults they find the better so they can justify their indifference and non-performance.
Real teachers may also disagree with policies being implemented. They are not blind not to see loopholes in a system. They are not naive not to feel and be not aware of a prevailing organizational climate. But they would never allow those to distract them from carrying out their obligations. They know that no organization is perfect. Issues and disagreements may arise among teachers themselves and between teachers and administrators. But that notwithstanding the real teachers know that they need to carry out their assigned tasks , especially in the area of instruction. They honor their commitment to their students.
It is when confronted with uncertainties in the workplace that a teacher’s sense of professionalism could be put to a real test. Real teachers know that their students deserve nothing but the best from them every time, even if they are suffering from anxieties and stressed by some personal and organizational concerns.
Another question that people ask teachers – ‘Is it the joy of teaching that makes you stay with the profession…or the money?”
Only the teachers themselves also can answer that question. One thing certain… real teachers, satisfied or not with their remunerations, make sure that they deserve every penny they are paid.