As many of you know, I am modeling being a life long learner
and have started a PhD. I am really enjoying the reading that I have been doing
and as a part of that, I have been thinking and reading a lot lately
around the idea of professionalism and what it means to be a 'professional'.
I came across some research that presented an extended and
possibly unconventional idea of what it means to be a 'professional'. This
model consisted of three themes, each one I believe relevant to us as a school
community and certainly expands what many of us see as constituting this
concept. I was privileged recently, to open the first ESF conference for
our Educational Assistants and used this research as the basis for my opening
speech, an amended 'blog' version of which follows.
The first theme of the research is that professional
practice is relational involvement -we are all part of each other’s
lives and each of us has an impact on those around us. All those seemingly
trivial conversations that we have with our students about the smallest things that
may seem isolated, but they actually link to a much larger pedagogical goal:
that of creating and maintaining personal connections that refer back to their
Everyday, we engage in numerous and fleeting conversations
that demonstrate a deep layer of connection based on our shared personal
knowledge and shared reference points. By having this involvement, also
nurtured through these conversations are caring relationships and a sense of
togetherness. So: being professional is personal, it is about relationships.
Secondly, professional practice is teamwork and attunement
to one’s colleagues. Teamwork occurs not only at the structural level of
agreeing on responsibilities, but also at the level of day to day
negotiations of our relationships with our colleagues. Here collegial
support is the key, looking out for one another and supporting each other.
This sense of team is renewed daily through preparations for
the day, through chats over morning tea, over the photocopier, actually in a myriad
of situations! Teamwork requires regular communication- touching base during
the day to see how students are going and to see if there is anything that
needs to be passed on. It may be an observation made on the playground or on
the way into school about a child who is not in the direct care of the
observer, but it is important to let those involved with the child know. We all
have a personal relationship with our colleagues individually and we also have
a collegial responsibility to support our colleagues by sharing that
Finally, the third theme about being professional
means acting professionally: ‘being fully present’ and bringing it all
together. Acting professionally means to bring together
multiple layers of thinking, understandings and knowledge from
diverse sources. That moment of balancing - what needs to happen now for this
child to move their learning forward? Each of us at school makes that kind of
decision everyday, many times a day.
So, in this model, there are three key elements of
educational professional practice:
· A focus on
relational involvement in our student’s life
· Teamwork that
goes beyond structural planning and which includes ongoing relational
attunement to our colleagues
decision making- the bringing it all together in an act of balancing in order
to make the right decisions for learning.
What I like about this research is its inclusive approach.
While the concept of 'professionalism' is a highly complex one, this simple
definition means that everyone who works in our school can display attitudes,
behaviours and dispositions that are professional in nature.