With a fair amount of frequency, I hear teachers say, “I just want to be treated like a professional.” I get this. We all want to be treated like professionals. We paid for the degree, we put in the time, we have ___ years of experience.
Often times, the people expressing the desire to be treated like professionals are the very people who appear to be unhappy with the profession of teaching. They are the folks that arrive at 8:00, leave at 3:30, and make it clear that they do not take work home because home time is family time. And it is. And it should be. And for me… this method doesn’t always work. Twenty-seven years in, and I still can’t manage to do this job effectively within the contracted hours. I’m jealous of the people who can. On those days when I do have an 8 – 3:30 timeframe, I feel disjointed, ill-prepared, and on edge. I’m unable to bring my “A” game. Those days do happen, but I sure do my best to avoid them.
Someone (I wish I could remember who… and it’s likely more than one person) wrote about the myth of the work-life balance. I think the gist was this: there isn’t really a 50/50 balance of work and life outside of work. There are times when we are dedicating more of our energy to work, and other times when that percentage tips toward family life. I can get on board with this idea – it makes sense and when I analyze my own habits, I recognize just how true that is. There are times when I spend the majority of a day/week/month focused on work-related “stuff,” and times when I spend the majority of a day/week/month focused on family/life-related “stuff.”
When I wrote about this topic in April of this year, I was feeling “nudges” about backing off of work a bit. I wrote two things that resonate with me now as I write today: “The thing I haven’t yet figured out, but am clearly being nudged to, is how to feed my passions, while taking care of myself (not over-working), and truly being present with those that I care about.” And later in the same post: “Awareness of those work-life patterns, and awareness of our tendencies (to be truly present or not) during those times, may be the key to striking the just-right balance.”
Does my commitment to higher percentages of energy dedicated to work make me more of a “professional” than someone with lower percentages? Not necessarily. But I am confident that those of us who have embraced a “Forever a Learner“/growth mindset have a professional edge over those colleagues who embrace a “fixed” mindset. Merriam Webster defines a profession as “a calling requiring specialized knowledge and often long and intensive academic preparation.” It is my firm belief that “long and intensive academic preparation” does not end when the education degree is attained. Rather, “long and intensive academic preparation” is a life-long endeavor.
I certainly wouldn’t want my doctor or my car mechanic to end their learning journey upon embarking on their career. When I go to the doctor, I am trusting that they are employing techniques that align with what has long been established as solid medical care, coupled with the latest medical science has to offer. When I go to the car mechanic, I am trusting that they are employing techniques that align with what has long been established as solid mechanical practice no matter the make or model of the car, coupled with the latest knowledge around contemporary transportation. Isn’t this what continuing education is all about?
At the risk of sounding like I’m engaging in a tit-for-tat “I’m better than you argument,” I want to be clear that my point here is this: when we adopt a fixed mindset, one where we “have arrived,” the casualties of this mindset are the very people we are here to serve – our students.
Perhaps in our quest to be treated as professionals, we could act the part. We could be open to and model a passion for learning. We could do our part to embrace collective efficacy (“the shared belief that through their collective action, educators can influence student outcomes and increase achievement for all students”). We could do our part to contribute to the the positive culture that we desire. We could forge a path to “getting it right, rather than being right.”
I said it last week, and I’ll say it again: the day I think I have arrived is the day I need to exit left. There will always be more to learn. In a profession that is defined by “the action or process of educating or of being educated,” perhaps those doing the educating can, in turn, continue to be educated. That, my friends, is how we earn the right to be treated as professionals.