The Teaching Profession

Flickr Photo “Teaching” by Adriaan Bloem

In an ongoing conversation at Will Richardson’s Weblogg-ed blog, Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach commented on March 23,

I think it is a hard sell to say teaching as it is currently structured is a profession– it is at best a semi-profession for the very reasons you cite.

I would like to respectfully and conditionally disagree.  If you think of teaching as something you do in one room, beside the room of another teacher, beside the room of another teacher, delivering content or directing skill development, checking off standards sheets, and doing pretty much the same thing year after year — then I would agree with Sheryl.  Semi-profession might actually be generous.  Much of the job, especially as addressed by NCLB, is more like being a technician, applying prescribed, researched, and government-approved techniques on students, based on high-precision measurements.

I suspect that the term professional, has described teachers because they’ve earn a college degree, and years ago they were among the only people in many communities who were educated to that level.

It’s an interesting conversation that Will has instigated, because it asks us to think hard about what a teacher is and does in this technology-rich, information-driven, and rapidly changing world.  As I think about it, it seems that teaching well and appropriately to these new conditions involves:

  • Constantly researching and re-experting yourself in your subject area.
  • Continually accessing, evaluating, and appropriately applying new techniques and strategies with your learners.
  • Engage in action-research to test original and class situation-specific strategies.
  • Engaging in ongoing and constructive conversations that extend the knowledge and experience of individual educators to group knowledge.
  • Skillfully finding and developing authentic learning resources and sharing them with a greater education community.
  • Remaining aware of current events, advances in technology, and social conditions and engaging in ongoing and collaborative curriculum development that addresses and leverages change.
  • Liaising with the local community to bring the village into the classroom, and to project the classroom out into the community.
  • Engaging in professional development, including self-directed, local school authority opportunities, and larger conferences.
  • Practicing a learning lifestyle, sharing personal learning within your professional environment, modeling lifelong learning.

As I stated in my comment on Will’s original post,

I think that we have to start emphasizing to our communities that being an educator today involves more than standing in front of the classroom (keeping their children). In our blogs, classroom web sites, newsletters, Tweeted picts, and in every other way possible, we need to include images (picts/texts) showing teachers engaged in professional development, self-development, research, collaboration, liaising with the community, materials development, evaluation of assessment, planning, …

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Author: David Warlick

David Warlick has been an educator for the past 40+ years. He continues to do some writing, but is mostly seeking his next intersect between play, passion and purpose, dabbling in photography, drone videography and music production.