Are you a teacher?

Why did you become a principal?

Why would you want to be a superintendent?

The above questions are asked of educators every single day by people outside of the educational field. Often the comment provided by the person asking is, “You must really care about kids”. Those answering the questions often state, “I want to make a difference with my students”. Both of these statements should be true and unspoken expectations. Anyone in education who does not care about the students or doesn’t want to make a difference in the lives of those who walk through our school doors everyday should not be in the profession.

There are a slew of other reasons why we enter the field of education. Some are personal and others are professional. No matter the reason, we need to understand that education is a profession and those who are employed in the field are professional educators. However, the term “professional educator” is foreign to our field and not common language for the vast majority of people outside of education.  But it should be a common term used by those in and outside the field. As professional educators it is our responsibility to demonstrate why our jobs should be considered and defined as professional, and how being a professional educator is beneficial to the field.

Here are 5 aspects of our profession that must occur for those outside education to see us as professional educators.

  1. Staying current in our field. Knowledge of educating students, engaging other educators outside our standard sphere of connections, and encouraging others to learn more about what we do each day provides educators an opportunity to discuss our profession and stay current in this era of change. Every profession changes over time but education is now in a period of tremendous change that requires all of us to stay current with the trends, laws, and learning environments.
  2. Look to learn from others in our field.  There are professional educators who have a skill set you would like to understand and will help you improve as a professional. Those professional educators could be in the classroom next to you, down the hall, in the next school, in the school office, in another state, or another part of the world. In the medical field specialists develop new ways of caring for the sick and new surgeries to address problems with no previous solution. This is done through learning from their medical peers. Education is no different. There are educators around the globe who are innovative in their approaches to teaching and learning. We need to learn from them. Being a professional educator means we look to colleagues for continued learning. We look to colleagues to improve our profession.
  3. Be an active participant in an educational association, professional development group or professional learning network. Being a professional educator means we take an active role in the profession. We advocate for education, discuss education, and support education.
  4. Set high professional standards for ourselves and those professional educators we associate with. Within our profession there is a lot of discussion about standards, expectations, and achievement. We as professional educators should set the bar higher for ourselves than anyone else does for us.
  5. Be passionate about education. In the end we are professional educators because we want our students to be successful and enjoy learning. But it is also the profession we picked. So we need to have the drive and energy necessary to demonstrate how great a profession education really is and why we choose this career.

The rise of the professional educator starts with each of us. Are we up to the challenge? Can we demonstrate these aspects of the profession and make the term professional educator common among the public and synonymous with high quality education? I think so because I’ve already heard about the efforts of many who epitomize those five aspects.

What do you think?