Developing a Professional Mindset

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It’s not always easy to be an educator, especially at the beginning of your career, but consciously deciding to develop a professional mindset is a sound decision with positive long-lasting effects. You will not only earn the respect of your students, their families and your colleagues, but you also will be able to enjoy the time you spend with your students instead of struggling to manage each day.

“Professional mindset” is not always a term with a straightforward definition. Instead, educators tend to recognize it when they see it in action but may not be able to articulate exactly what the term means. For many educators, having a professional mindset means being the very best teacher you can be every day and being in control of your classroom, your responsibilities and yourself.

Although there can be many different indicators of a professional mindset, it is really based on just three guiding principles. Teachers with a professional mindset:

  • Focus on their students—their strengths, their needs and their well-being.
  • Work well with colleagues at all levels of the school community as well as the parents or guardians of their students.
  • Seek opportunities to improve their skills, increase their knowledge and take responsibility for their own professional growth.

With these three principles as a guide, developing a professional mindset is not the intimidating task that it would seem to be at first. In fact, with just a bit of effort each day, a professional mindset can soon be the hallmark of your reputation. Here are some suggestions for developing the attitudes that will serve you well as an educator.

Teachers with a professional mindset focus on their students—their strengths, their needs, their comfort and their well-being.

When teachers follow this principle, they:

  • Spend enough time preparing instruction so that they are prepared for class each day.
  • Are familiar with their students’ families, cultural backgrounds and communities.
  • Strive to teach the whole child by showing respect, approval, and affection for their students and their unique contributions to the class.
  • Maintain an orderly learning environment with carefully planned policies, procedures and rules.
  • Design and deliver lessons that are meaningful, interesting, and based on district or state curriculum guidelines.
  • Embrace opportunities to positively influence their students by serving as a role model.
  • Differentiate instruction to address student learning styles.
  • Let students know that their teachers care about them and won’t give up on them when things are difficult.

Teachers with a professional mindset work well with colleagues at all levels of the school community as well as the parents or guardians of their students.

When teachers follow this principle, they:

  • Allow their enthusiasm for their profession, their school, the material they teach and their students to be evident.
  • Treat all other staff members with courtesy and respect. They are especially careful to follow the chain of command and to try to understand the “big picture” of the school community.
  • Project confidence and competence. No one wants to babysit a colleague who appears frightened or unsure all the time.
  • Offer to help others. They use their strengths to make a positive difference for colleagues and the families of their students.
  • Listen more than they speak so that they can learn from their colleagues. While they are willing to contribute ideas during meetings, they recognize that their colleagues have valuable skills and knowledge to share.
  • Are punctual getting to school and take their out-of-classroom responsibilities such as lunch duty or bus duty seriously so that no one else has to cover for them.
  • Are the first to reach out to the parents or guardians of their students and are steadfast in maintaining open lines of communication between school and home.

Teachers with a professional mindset seek opportunities to improve their skills, to increase their knowledge and to take responsibility for their own professional growth.

When teachers follow this principle, they:

  • Accept criticism from supervisors in a calm and professional manner. Instead of being defensive, they work to correct the problem.
  • Set their own professional goals and work diligently to meet them.
  • Join professional organizations, read professional publications, and use action research to stay up to date.
  • Establish professional learning networks with other educators online and with their school colleagues.
  • Learn about the best practices that affect their particular teaching discipline and use those practices in their own classrooms.
  • Ask colleagues to observe them as they teach and to provide feedback.
  • Use a systematic method of reflection to think deeply about their instruction methods, their students’ needs and other classroom issues.