Becoming a teacher comes with a whole set of requirements, demands and behaviours and “being professional” is a whole concept of its own. When I first qualified to be a teacher I also had to learn how to be “professional”. What did this actually mean? Well, I soon learned that there are many levels to being a professional but most of all it was about my own behaviour within school.
When we enter our workplace, it is important to distinguish between our professional, teacher persona to that of the person we are outside of the school, on a social level. Although not massively different, it is important to remember that we are in a role of leadership and responsibility and to that end we have to set an example of correct behaviour and presentation of ourselves. This allows our learners to understand that we are not on the same level as them and in fact, they should mirror our attitudes and presentation.
What is important to remember however, is that although we need to exhibit behaviour with a professional distance, it is equally vital that we don’t lose our sense of self, our personality and what makes us who we are as individuals.
There are many variations of behaving professionally and many levels to consider also. The very first aspect is our presentation – what we wear to work. I call my work clothes my “uniform”; they are not clothes/outfits that I would wear on a social occasion but clothes that represent what I am in my workplace; I am in my role as a learning leader. They also allow me to feel empowered and give me status as someone who is fulfilling a professional role. What do your clothes say about you? Do they make you feel empowered and come across as knowledgeable and authoritative?
Following on from clothes is our interaction with others. There are 2 parts to this – interaction with colleagues and interactions with students. The people we work with should all be regarded as professionals in their field – just as you would like to be. I very much subscribe to the “treat others as you would like to be treated” mantra and I find that manners and respect go a long way. When working with others, it is important not to speak down to those less experienced than you; they also have a role to fulfil. It is also unprofessional to gossip or talk casually about others in the workplace; this is not portraying professionalism. We keep our inner thoughts to ourselves as we do not want to be hurtful, demeaning or disrespectful to anyone just as much as we would not like to be treated disrespectfully.
Professional interaction with students is also important; if we treat people of all ages with respect, I find we tend to receive a much more productive outcome.
Even with young people.
Rather than drawing assumptions or making judgements, it is more beneficial to treat each student with the respect you would hope they would have for you. When we receive respect, it makes us feel valued and positive – this counts for all ages; children and adults alike. When we feel positive, we feel inspired and enthused to work harder. Again, this can be said for the young people we teach. Even those most challenging students are hoping for some respect deep down. They are likely misbehaving because everyone treats them the same. Maybe you could be the one who acts professionally and treats them with respect.
Try it today!
In addition to our professional daily contact with individual students, it is important to be mindful of their attainment, their background or any other pertinent information and treat it professionally. In our role as a professional, we need to hold back key information rather than share it “unprofessionally” with others, particularly other students. It is our job to enable students to reach their potential without barriers. If we create barriers by sharing personal information then we are limiting our learners and not behaving in a professional manner.
The whole concept of professionalism is quite mind-boggling at times but if we focus on a few things at a time, it becomes more manageable to comprehend and to carry out.
Have a think about your professional persona.
Are they separate from the social you?
Are there any changes in your mannerisms or behaviour at work you could implement to present yourself in a more professional manner?