After sitting in a meeting and listening to school administrators express concerns about the professionalism of teachers, it became more and more apparent that the issue of professionalism makes or breaks many new teachers. The administrators were involved in discussing the licensure issue for teachers in our state, and a task force representative was outlining the minimum competencies developed for teacher licensure. These competencies will be used to certify and re-certify teachers. The topics discussed included content knowledge, teaching methodology, relationships with students, assessment techniques, meeting student needs, student diversity issues, classroom management, and the ability to work with others.
Review of the competencies discussed by over sixty administrators brought several comments, but one of the most significant involved concerns over the professionalism of teachers. Several administrators indicated that many teachers, even experienced teachers, find it difficult to meet the expectations of a professional educator. Administrators felt that being an excellent classroom teacher was only one component of being a quality educator. These administrators felt that essential in the development of a teacher are characteristics that impact professional behavior.
Two administrators indicated that most teachers are released from their teaching contracts because of an inability to meet professional expectations (those non-teaching activities which include community activities, being a role model, interpersonal relations, etc.), and not because of the inability to teach. (For the purpose of this article, inability to teach would include all classroom-related activities such as planning lessons, giving clear instructions, maintaining an appropriate classroom atmosphere, etc.) There was a consensus from other members present that teachers are more likely to encounter difficulties because of non-professional behavior than because of poor teaching. Participants indicated that most negative community concerns about teachers derive from activities outside the classroom and that poor teaching is not usually an issue that causes community activism. The consensus of administrators was that some teachers are, in fact, removed for poor teaching, but administrators can usually address these issues without a lot of community pressure.
From these observations, it is obvious that present and future teachers not only have the responsibility to perform effectively in the classroom, but must also be good employees. It is not enough to teach effectively, it is also essential to develop and follow a set of professional responsibilities and expectations that will help support the school, the district, and fellow professionals.One important professional expectation may be: "As a teacher I not only have an obligation to perform effectively in the classroom, but I must maintain a professionalism that enhances the working environment for students, colleagues, and the school."
When reviewing the issues of professionalism, there are several factors, outlined below, that must be discussed with beginning and future teachers. Each of these factors contributes, in part, to the total professionalism of the teacher. The list is not all-inclusive and readers will be able to identify and discuss other significant factors. Issues affecting the professionalism of the teacher include positive attitude/friendliness, relationships with professionals and others, being a good professional, teacher as a role model, treatment of non-teaching staff, and confidentiality/discretion.
These concepts are listed first for a reason - without them, nothing else works. It is essential that as educators we view life and the profession in a positive manner. There are hundreds of seminars conducted each year for business and governmental leaders with the key message of: "A positive approach to life and to a profession will make you successful. …