Raising Professionalism

I fully support the Teachers in NZ wanting better conditions for students and their pay claims as I totally believe Teachers make every other profession possible. Your job is critical to the success of future generations.

I’ve been torn about whether to say this or publish the following thoughts. After speaking to a few Teachers & Principals and I now see ‘it is time.’

As I said, I totally support the actions of teachers towards wanting better conditions and pay – and undoubtedly what I’m about to express is not aimed at all Teachers, just those, possibly unintentionally, demeaning the profession.

My eyes were widened on strike day. I watched with pride as thousands of Teachers marched and gave a voice towards better education for our young. I was out of town and had based myself at a cafe to work for the day. After Teachers marched down the main street two groups came to the cafe for lunch. The talk started. I was horrified at the lack of professionalism in a public place! The way teachers spoke about students, parents and other colleagues made me feel extremely embarrassed to be in this profession. My eyes were opened wide.

So here is my piece: If you want to be treated and paid like a professional you need to act like one – in public and private. We demand this of our sport stars, CEO’s, and all other professional bodies and I’m asking this of Teachers.

There is a old English proverb a colleague often quotes: “Even birds don’t sh!t in their own nest.”  Dissing your own profession is akin to birds pooping in their own nests.

You only have to look at social media feeds for Teachers to see how fast an opinion can be shot down, nullified or destroyed to see evidence of this. You only have to ask students if they would like to work as a teacher to see the negative effect we have had on our own profession.

The Responsibility Chart

There is a strong victim mentality prevalent in many areas of education. The belief that students are supposed to learn from us, and if they don’t it is their fault, the parents fault, the governments fault, the classroom layout fault, not enough time etc – never the teachers. There are a myriad of excuses. Yet there are many teachers out there having huge success as they are continuous learners, acting on valuable feedback and taking responsibility for their actions and results.

Stephanie Burns talks about teaching in the military when people are of a higher rank than you and how she had to take 100% responsibility for ALL her students success or fail rates. This forced her to change the way she taught to ensure every student succeeded.

I’m not saying this is easy – it’s not, and complaining and blaming will not help.  Living above ‘the line of life’ on the responsibility chart will and does help.

You are a role model for the students and as such have an obligation to be professional in all you do – whether they are in view or not. Here is a short list of ideas/opinions (there must be thousands of ways to be professional)

  • build other Teachers up rather than cutting them down
  • celebrate other Teachers’ successes
  • be proud of your profession and the focus on positives (every job has challenges)
  • find the good in all students (all behaviour has a positive intent)
  • find the good in all colleagues (all behaviour has a positive intent)
  • avoid people who gossip and are negative, and/or help them to focus on the good
  • have a solution focused outlook, rather than focusing on the problems
  • learn to disagree respectfully – this is a skill in of itself and one we teach students
  • speak only positivity of team members in public
  • dress professionally (can’t see down it, up it or through it)
  • be on time (early) for meetings to respect everyone there
  • apologise for doing something wrong (see previous article on how to give and receive an apology)
  • sit with students at assembly – not at the back whispering to other teachers
  • only use email for good news – call or face to face if there is a challenge
  • listen to understand not to respond

It is time to raise our professionalism, stop being a victim and show the value we add, the impact we make. Don’t wait for others to do this – create higher expectations for yourself and be the role model for others.

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Published on Monday, August 27th, 2018, under Teacher Effectiveness

Karen Tui Boyes is a champion for Life Long Learning across nations, industries and organisations. Winner of the NZ Educator of the Year 2017 and 2014 and the NZ Speaker of the Year award in 2013 & 2019, Karen is a sought after speaker who continually gets rave reviews from audiences around the world. Her dynamic style and highly informative content—which turns the latest educational research into easy-to-implement strategies and techniques — sets her apart from others in her field.

4 Responses to “Raising Professionalism”

  1. Linda says:

    Well said Karen. I wholeheartedly agree, professional standards in behaviour, dress and attitudes – especially in public places are vital. I often feel these are slipping and the casual Kiwi way is becoming the norm. I’ve been wondering if I was just being old fashioned.

  2. Kim says:

    I agree with what you say and I also believe that so many of us teachers are extremely exhausted and when you are constantly in this state you are not being your best self – we do need gentle reminders.
    Much respect to all x

  3. Teachers’ Contract Agreements need to be solved using a non-adversarial model if they are to keep and raise their status. The current model seems to involve two opposing groups, the Government and Teacher Unions, developing claims, then presenting these to their opposite group. This always results in anger and decreased status for both groups when there is a lack of agreement. This model reflects both a lack of understanding and a lack of future perspective. In 1977 the two groups managed a cooperative agreement through understanding. We must understand the needs of 21C students and learning needs of the wider spectrum of students to establish a Contract Resolution team with representatives from both groups.

  4. Alex Delaforce says:

    Thanks Karen,
    Very worthwhile article. I too support teachers in wanting (needing) improved recognition and work conditions. To progress as quickly as possible the best approach is to always assume ‘professional’ is being used as a verb. This infers ethical, social and vocational standards and norms that must overtly guide any industrial negotiation including discourse between educators. Respect before expecting respect.

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