What makes teaching a profession?

I was asked this question in an education exam during my degree years. I failed that exam first time round. Many of my friends at the time managed to pass this test by talking of the “round table” and king Arthur. I, on the other hand,found this question to be bizarre and a difficult one to answer.

After 3 years of teaching in mainstream Secondary Education I am still struggling to answer this question. I have come to the conclusion that, unfortunately, professionalism means different things to different teachers.
To some it means that you always put the kids first and that every decision you make has to be weighed up, not only on its merits for you as an individual, but also for the merits of the pupils.
To others it means that you don’t gossip behind other staff members backs, you keep excellent records so that when a parent calls and complains you can justify yourself (I would have loved to see a parent try that on Ms. Maguire back in day) and you always follow the government protocol’s to the letter.
Some believe that professionalism is routed in the head and that you should do as he does and say as he says.

Teaching it seems is a very confused profession. At least in my eyes.

How will teaching ever begin to be a profession if we, as teachers, don’t ever exercise our rights to make our own decisions in the classroom? How will I ever be allowed to do all the good that I can for the young people in my care if instead of prioritising the pupils in my Year 9 form, I am told that a small black folder which should be returned to the office daily, should be my “top priority”. Surely he can’t mean that?

For now, I’ve decided that professionalism has to involve child centred thought processes. If it isn’t going to help it goes to the bottom of my priority list. If I think it will damage the kid’s future I’ll make a professional judgement and I won’t do it. I have a right to remain a professional. I have a right to be treated as one.


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