Professionalism- What makes someone a professional?

What makes someone a professional? This is a question that is debated by many but there are some key aspects of a professional that few people deny to be true. We imagine professionals to have a certain degree of integrity and moral courage. We expect them to be compassionate, kind, patient and honest, particularly in professions such as teaching. In our society there is an expectation for professionals to: show respect, have a degree of tolerance, know what it is to be just or fair, have a good conscience, show empathy towards others and have the ability to be self-controlled.

In terms of a primary teacher as a professional, the first attribute that usually comes to mind is kindness. As this profession is primarily based on working with children, there is a fair expectation that a primary teacher should be kind towards their pupils. Everyone responds better in a situation where kindness is shown and it is particularly important around young children as they can become easily offended or upset. As a teacher you are also a role model and so in showing kindness towards other people you will be setting a positive example for the children to follow. It would be seen as unprofessional to be unkind to a child, parent or colleague as there is the underlying expectation that primary teachers will have a kind manner about them. I think that this is an important attribute to possess as it means you will be working in a friendly and happy environment, as oppose to one where people are horrible to each other and spread rumours.

As well as kindness it is important that teachers can show compassion. There will always be situations in the classroom when this is a key attribute to possess. As children come from all different situations and backgrounds it is vital that primary teachers are able to show compassion in every area of the curriculum. However, it is important that the level of compassion shown is kept to a strictly professional manner. The teacher should never get too emotionally involved in a child’s life and in the same way should not let their personal lives interfere with their career. This is where it is important to show empathy but in a controlled environment. Any serious issues that arise should be discussed with the child’s parent or guardian.

Although a positive atmosphere is key in the classroom it is also important that a primary teacher has the ability to discipline their class. This requires the teacher to be fair. If a teacher is not fair then this can be seen as very unprofessional because they can be seen to be taking sides with different children. This would portray that one child’s ideas are better, or more correct, than the other and would probably make the child on the ‘teacher’s side’ very boisterous and the other would be likely to get upset. This takes a certain degree of tolerance and patience from the teacher as children can be very persistent in their arguments and unwilling to compromise. As a teacher it is seen as professionally correct to stay as neutral as possible in such situations, to not get personally involved in the situation and encourage the children to learn about solving their own differences.

All in all, it is important that a primary teacher should be an all round professional, possessing all of the attributes listed above.

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