Profession: a job that needs training and a formal qualification
Professional: relating to our belonging to a profession; engaged in an activity as a paid job rather than as an amateur
Professionalism: the ability or skill expected of a professional
Sorry to be defining words (thank you, Oxford Dictionary) but we need to be on the same wavelength, you and I. If you are a teacher then it is good to know if there are any other angles that I may have left out. If you are not a teacher, then it would be good to know if you had ever thought of the teacher as a professional or wished to make some addition of your own.
Of course, teaching is a profession. It is a job that needs training and a formal qualification. Like all qualification-seekers, the teacher needs some basic qualities, some characteristics which will give her a reasonable chance of success. School-leavers have always been advised by adults in the family thus: it would be a dogmatic ‘All eldest sons in this family are doctors’ or ‘Girls in our family don’t work, but you can be a teacher, it is respectable’. Thank goodness we have gone beyond that stage and most young adults are able to join whatever profession pleases them.
Now for our would-be teacher comes the next phase – where do I take my teacher-training? At what level? Primary, Secondary? There are now umpteen training colleges and one needs to make some decisions about one’s ability and interest in a particular age group. If I may be allowed a personal grouch for a minute – those who are in education understand the need for specialists – you need specialists at all levels, but what each teacherneeds is what is special to the particular teaching level. Those with a B.Ed degree are trained to teach beyond Class VI; M.As are acceptable for Class XI and XII, but surely a B.Ed. would be a necessary qualification? And at the four years-old level, the teacher needs to be a specialist with the young, vulnerable first-timer in school. She needs a T.T.C. At Montessori schools you need a Montessori training which is very specialised.
Now comes the latest phenomena. Schools have become BIG BUSINESS – we get a new one each week, offering yet another great facility usually associated with a five-star hotel. Recruiting teachers for such BIG BUSINESS becomes quite a problem unless there is a professional at the helm! After all, it may be the newest form of commercial enterprise, but you need to have an educationist to remind the entrepreneur of the objectives of a school, and thereafter comes the task of finding suitable professionals to achieve the objectives.
I read somewhere that a good teacher never dies, she becomes a Consultant! There is surely some professionalism required there as well. Quite frightening!
What makes a professional?
A professional is not just able, authorised, licensed and educated. A professional is experienced, skilled and competent. One would expect that being efficient, thorough and conscientious, the professional is, in a word, committed. As a teacher/co-ordinator/principal/consultant, all these points of professionalism need to be evaluated – self-evaluated – so that levels of accountability are back on track.
Ayesha Das is a teacher educator at Teachers’ Centre, Loreto House, Kolkata.