Not too long ago, a group of my colleagues got into an after school discussion about professionalism. It came up because it was Friday, which is a short day at my school. (The kids leave a couple of hours early to allow the teachers some planning time.) On this particular Friday, people were leaving the school about 1 ½ hours before contract time ends.
Honestly, I was amazed at the viewpoints of some of the teachers. They felt that since they do so much school work at home, that they didn’t need to stay the full time on Friday afternoons. Other topics about professionalism came up as well. Although I understand the thinking of my colleagues, I do not agree.
What happened to professionalism? Is my definition completely outdated? Does the idea of professionalism differ because of various generations in the workplace?
I feel that teachers are responsible for fulfilling their contract hours. They should come before school and stay after school for the appropriate amount of time. Situations arise where a teacher will need to leave a little early, but the administrator should be informed and approve the teacher’s actions. For example, I had a class at a downtown Salt Lake City location. I had to leave the school 10 minutes earlier once a week to make it to my class on time. As a future administrator, I never want to be in a position of policing people coming and leaving school. But fulfilling the contract time would be an expectation that is part of being professional.
Another part of being professional, to me, is dressing professionally. Dress codes can be a hot topic. I’m an elementary teacher, and there are times when I know I do not want to wear my best clothes because of working with paint or plans of having the kids participate in a messy activity. I don’t think that a less effective teacher becomes a better teacher because of clothes nor that an effective teacher becomes less effective by dressing casually. But, I do wonder about the mindset of those teachers who wear grubbies every day. As educators, we’re asking the public to treat us as professionals. I think that dress has some influence on how the public views the teaching profession.
There are many subtopics for the discussion of professionalism. I understand the many points of view. I am not perfect! But, I’m wondering how teachers can feel prepared when they arrive at school as the first bell rings and leave when the students leave. I’m wondering about the mindset of teachers who have such a drastic difference of opinion from my own about what being professional means.To me, professionalism is about the kids! Our students deserve well-prepared teachers! They deserve teachers who read and stay updated with the research and current practices. They deserve to have teachers speak, dress and act professionally. Students deserve our best!