Module 2: Teacher Professionalism

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I am blessed to be studying teaching at a time when the profession of teaching is receiving much attention for its role in the entire educational system. In my naivete, I also didn’t favor a teaching course in my younger days because of the controversies surrounding the profession. But it is never too late to correct those mistakes as I am doing now.

Autonomy or Subservience? 

Perhaps one of the reasons why teaching used to be relegated to a semi-professional level was how intrinsically teachers followed protocols of authority in schools and the community.  Even the state used educational policies to control the profession, despite it being at the forefront in developing codes of practices and some job standardization. Thus followed their low salary grades and obvious lack of opportunities for growth and career advancement

To a large extent, the professional in a teacher must be given the responsibility to make decisions utilising personal styles and strategies, but always in accordance to the criterion set by the school on evaluating students and the like.  In some organizations, collaborative autonomy works by making the teacher take the lead in such alliances. If the teacher is student-centered and service-oriented, autonomy would serve well to help build a sense of respectability to the profession. (Kennedy, 2007)

Quality and Performance

The awareness to bring serious change to the plight of teaching professionalism came as a result of the need to focus on the quality of learning. The quality of practice, then, is really more than just content, academic proficiency or certain competencies. When all of these elements of quality service bring about high-performing learners, it follows that you have an institution of highly-professional educators.

Commitment and Accountability

In trying to come up with the most important behaviors of a professional teacher, these would be on top of the list, hence we sometimes regard teachers as unsung heroes, always on a self-sacrifice mode. No wonder, some of our best teachers never married or had families; there was too much commitment at work to begin with.

I also agree that teaching must be non-sectarian and apolitical.  It is, however, a basic tenet of being a professional, to live by global core values of respect, equality and integrity – across subjects or courses to be taught.  This is probably as far as I would go in controlling the personal lives of teachers and preserving their right to privacy.

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On accountability, I still would like to bring home the point that a code of practice must also ensure fairness to the teaching professionals. In our local version, Code of Ethics for Professional Teachers (RA 7836, 1994), teaching is a multi-faceted profession that seeks to make good teachers, bastions of morals and community stalwarts. I feel that our standards do not focus on teaching excellence and how to attain that to bring about quality learning.

If I were to look into a mirror right now and see myself as a teaching professional, I would like to have the following embedded in me, as gleaned from this module:

  • a certification of passing a qualification process and periodic continuing training as regulated and monitored by law
  • competence and skills to effectively transfer the same to students, with best practices in methodology
  • a broadened sense of responsibility, purpose and devotion to the profession

This is why I believe the McKinsey Report (2007) when it said that “the quality of an education system (school), cannot exceed the quality of its teachers.”

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