How Professional Are You?

At this time of year, school can be stressful for everyone. The days are short, but our workloads remain heavy. It is easy to lose focus and become negative about school. One of the best ways to keep your students and yourself on a positive track is to conduct yourself as professionally as possible. While the word professionalism is one of those words that tends to be bandied about often in schools, it can be hard to pin it down.

Exactly what is professionalism? It means being the very best teacher and employee that you can be every day. When we choose to conduct ourselves in a professional manner, we set an example for our students to follow that will encourage them to behave in a productive way. Professionalism is an attitude that helps us earn our students’ respect because it sends a message that we are in control of the classroom and of ourselves.

Consistently make professionalism the underlying principle that governs your behavior toward your students. Use the following suggestions to improve the professional image you present to your students and to assume control of the discipline climate of your class:

  • Treat all of your students fairly. Not the same. Fairly.
  • Acquaint yourself with the curriculum of the other grade levels in your discipline. If you are going to be an effective teacher, then you should know where your students are headed as well as what they are expected to have learned before they got to your class.
  • Be understanding and flexible, but not a pushover for ridiculous excuses.
  • Plan carefully. Students without enough to do will quickly annoy all nearby adults. Perhaps this is the most common mistake teachers make: not giving students enough meaningful work to do.
  • If you are angry enough to raise your voice in front of your students, stop and reassess the situation.
  • Be excited about learning. Communicate that excitement to your students.
  • Treat all students with respect. Even the most difficult child’s feelings can be easily hurt.
  • Accept responsibility for student learning. As soon as you can, teach your students to accept responsibility for themselves.
  • Make lessons relevant and goals attainable.
  • Learn from your mistakes. One of the hardest things about our profession is that it provides plenty of opportunities for this kind of learning.
  • Have high expectations for your students. If you want to get a lot from them, you must expect a lot from them.
  • It’s often the small details that separate professional from unprofessional behavior. Be punctual, accurate and precise in your paperwork.
  • If a supervisor tells you that you have made a mistake, accept the correction with thanks. Work to correct the problem. Make sure your later success is evident.
  • Make all students see that they are important to the success of the entire class.
  • Take pride in your profession. Share this attitude with your students.
  • Continually add to your base of knowledge about education. Read professional literature, attend workshops and stay abreast of new developments in the field.
  • Make your students, colleagues and supervisors look good. Support other staff members with praise in front of students.