690: Official Teacher

A Thousand Things to Talk About
690: Official Teacher

Learning is a lifelong process, and that means in many ways so is teaching. While many or most of us have the experience of interacting with official teachers that have been given or have taken the official role of providing instruction, that doesn’t necessarily mean that they are the only teachers we interact with.

But perhaps not surprisingly, there’s a debate over what exactly makes someone an official teacher or not – and it’s a debate that goes a lot further than the fact teachers in the USA are horribly underpaid.

Specifically, the debate is if teaching is a quote-unquote professional position — or quote-unquote just a job.

In the 2010 Procedia Social and Behavioral Sciences, a faculty member of the Educational Sciences department at Ankora University in Turkey wrote a breakdown entitled “Defining “Teacher Professionalism” from different perspectives“ .

Quoting from that paper:

In scholarly debates, two versions of teacher professionalism are portrayed as “old professionalism” and “new professionalism”. These two approaches emerged upon the changing social, political and cultural circumstances. […] Sachs (2003) who developed this classification differentiates these two approaches as those: Old professionalism is concerned with; (a) exclusive membership, (b) conservative practices, (c) self-interest, (d) external regulation, (e) slow to change and, (f) reactive.

The characteristics of new (transformative) professionalism are; (a) inclusive membership, (b) public ethical code of practice, (c) collaborative and collegial, (d) activist orientation, (e) flexible and progressive, (f) responsive to change, (g) self-regulating, (h) policy-active, (i) enquiry-oriented, (j) knowledge building. According to Ozga and Lawn (1981), professionalism could operate “as a strategy for control of teachers manipulated by the State, while also being used by teachers to protect themselves against dilution”. Furthermore, they claim that professionalism is used as an ideological weapon aimed at controlling teachers, at the same time as a weapon of self-defense for teachers in their struggle against dilution. Additionally, Evans (2007) remarks that a common feature of many conceptions of new professionalism is a focus on practitioner control and proactivity.

In other words, the whole question of professionalism is about more than being hired to teach – or even just doing it on the side. I can say that I’m thoroughly under qualified to offer an actual answer to this question. What I can offer, thorough, is this quote from Rob Jenkins in the Chronicle for Higher Education:

When I say “best teachers,” I’m not just talking about the ones I liked best. I mean the teachers who had the greatest influence on me — the ones whose names I still remember to this day, even though in some cases it’s been more than 40 years since I sat in their classrooms.