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4 Proven Steps to Being A Professional Teacher

So, you’ve completed your teaching degree but becoming a professional teacher requires more than that. Being a professional means teaching to the highest standards and building relationships amongst the whole school community.  

There is something so satisfying about working with a true professional in any line of work. When you have a professional on the job in any area of specialisation watching that person in action is like watching a work of art. They exude the knowledge, the skill, the devotion to doing a top notch job and the confidence that they are the professional who can do the job.

Professional Teacher Infographic

There is something so satisfying about working with a true professional in any line of work. When you have a professional on the job in any area of specialisation watching that person in action is like watching a work of art. They exude the knowledge, the skill, the devotion to doing a top notch job and the confidence that they are the professional who can do the job.

John and Mercedes Tichenor study: Understanding teachers perspectives on professionalism, quotes Hugh Socket (1993) who  ‘identifies five major aspects of professionalism for teachers: character, commitment to change and continuous improvement, subject knowledge, pedagogical knowledge, and obligations and working relationships beyond the classroom’. 

1 - Continue professional teacher development

The Professional Teaching standards require teachers to commit to change and continuous improvement. There is nothing worse than seeing a student stop learning, the same is true for teachers. 

The Teaching Standards offer a common language and framework to measure teacher professionalism. We should not be afraid of them but make them our friend and use them as a means of professional self assessment. 

In my first year of teaching after graduation, the Western Australian Education Department invited new teachers to a Professional Teacher Development Conference at a Beachside Hotel. There were a selection of speakers and they were all very good. There was one that stood out above all else. He was an excellent speaker with very practical ideas for the classroom that have worked. There was one piece of advice he added at the end that has stuck with me forever. 

“Read at least one education book per year during the long school holiday, that has new ideas. Don’t stop learning.”

I know whole school professional development can be tedious when it is not a topic you’re interested in. They often involve a team building task (which we can resent, as we would much rather be planning, marking or doing anything else to reduce our teacher workload) or being introduced to the latest fad in education.

Professional development days can be beneficial but you can’t leave it there. We must be proactive and take responsibility for our own development. Don’t just sit there and complain.

I am a powerful advocate for teachers taking ownership of their personal and professional teacher development. Taking responsibility for my own development enhances and transforms my teaching practice and many aspects of my personal life.

When a professional teacher is on the case, everybody relaxes because they know the job will be done right. That is the level we all want to reach in the field of teaching if that is your calling. Your students will feel more cared for and at ease.

Never stop learning
2 - Collaborate with teachers, parents and the community

A professional teacher is proactive in communicating with parents. Not just telling parents the rules or what’s wrong with little Johnny but developing positive relationships. Look for good in every student. Find ways to work with the wider community – participate in carnivals, fete’s, local competitions that your class can be involved in or some community service. One year my class cleaned the gardens of some elderly people in the community. What better way for students to learn to care for others and not just themselves.

As an experienced teacher, you’ve learned over the years how to deal with the stresses and responsibilities of the profession. New teachers, on the other hand, feel completely overwhelmed and at a loss for what to do. Unfortunately, new teachers and even some returning mature teachers want to look like they’re prepared and have everything under control. 

Very few teachers will ever ask openly for help. That cries, I don’t know what I’m doing! Therefore, teacher collaboration is the best thing we can do to help each other. Whether it’s to offer some of your best teaching tools and tips – even if you weren’t asked. Do it gently though. Bombarding a new or returning teacher will only make matters worse. Try not to overwhelm the very person you want to help. From lesson plans and templates, to tricks for efficient copying and teaching strategies, will help. Every piece of advice you give helps a teacher create the toolbox they need to succeed. 

Teacher Wellness Stories

3 - Develop character

Your lesson plans are in order, your room is prepared and your paperwork is organised. At no time do you have to pause and get yourself together when you are in the process of teaching your students. 

This will take some time for you to get to that level of organisation when you walk in the door of your classroom the next day. Putting in that hour each night so you are that organised not only makes you a better teacher, it lets the students know that this is a professional teacher so be ready.

Students, can tell the difference between someone who knows what they are doing and someone who is floundering. As the saying goes, they can smell fear. It gives young people confidence and a sense of security that you are organised. 

You not only know what you are going to do each moment of the teaching day, you know what your students are going to do as well. That is professionalism and it will make a world of difference in how your teaching goes.

You should always dress the part. Modest attire is paramount. Leave the skin tight attire for the night club or not at all. If the Queen came to visit what would you wear? Aren’t our students and peers worthy of some respect? 

Focus on maintaining a professional look. Take pride in your wardrobe and present yourself to your class each day in a garment that says, I came ready to teach so you should come ready to learn. That is what happens when a professional teacher is on the job. Everybody wants to get on board with the program.

Professional Teacher reading - photo by bruce-mars-xj8qrWvuOEs-unsplash

4 - Know the Curriculum and Pedagogical Development

While the curriculum is the content that education departments mandate must be taught, we teachers have control over, how the curriculum is delivered. An inspired, talented and professional teacher, can energise dull content and find ways to link it to real life. While an unmotivated teacher can demolish the most imaginative curriculum with poor delivery.

A professional teacher also responds to interruptions and even disturbances calmly. You have seen it before and you know what to do. Of course developing a knowledge of curriculum and pedagogy to where you really do know what to do in each circumstance takes time. If you are completely prepared in every other respect, interruptions won’t throw you. 

Disruptions can sometimes offer an off the cuff lesson opportunity not an hinderance. You can address them and be right back to you lesson smoothly and calmly. If you can incorporate the interruption into your lesson or make a new lesson. It naturally changes the lesson which can be refreshing for students without loss to the curriculum.

A professional teacher always knows what to do both long range and right now. That means you come prepared. A byproduct of being consummately prepared and so well versed in what the curriculum says, allows you to be flexible. It gives you a calm confidence that frees you up to be relaxed and even humorous with your students. 

When your students see you smile because everything is going exactly the way you want it to go, they will respond and open up to you.  Students can sense your confidence and they want to see where you are going to take them. 

I recommend watching this video by Azul Terronez for further thoughts on ‘What makes a good teacher great?’ – I love the student quote ‘Good Teachers Sing . . . . ‘

When you are relaxed and at ease, your students are at ease as well. This encourages them to open up and interact with you as you teach. That kind of interactive dialog is what makes the difference in the lives of students and makes you a true professional teacher.

Spread the word . . .  .

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About the author: 5000 Credits 10000 Credits 15000 Credits PRO Badge sylvias Visit My Stall
I am a K-12 Australian Teacher, with 25+ years of teaching experience. My Honours research investigated how teachers succeed in teaching English in a TEFL context. Originally from the UK, I lived and worked for 15 years in the Pacific Islands. During that time I was Principal of a school for 5 years, training teachers, teaching a class, and building a school from the ground up. I'm now back in Australia teaching and having fun!