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.
“Read at least one education book per year during the long school holiday, that has new ideas. Don’t stop learning.”
The Professional Teaching standards require teachers to continuously improve their teaching practice. There is nothing worse than seeing a student stop learning, the same for teachers. In my first year of teaching after graduation, the Western Australian Education Department invited new teachers to a Professional Teacher 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.”
When a professional 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. Not only do you want to be a true professional in your area of specialisation which is teaching, your students will feel more cared for and at ease.
So how do you show your professionalism as you go about your craft of teaching?
For one thing, you should 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.
A professional always knows what to do both long range and right now. That means you come prepared. 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 or two 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.
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 history in teaching 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.
A byproduct of being consummately prepared and so well versed in what your lesson plans say 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. 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.
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 . . . . ‘
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.