ESL Employment

The Qualities of a Truly Professional Teacher

Have you ever wondered what the qualities of a really professional teacher are? I know that all teachers want their students to like them, but being liked isn't the be-all and end-all really, is it? I mean teachers have to make some unpopular decisions sometimes.

Teachers can be popular just because they are friendly and helpful, but to be truly professional and effective they need other qualities. Students may not be able to put their finger on just why one teacher is more effective than another but we need to be able to identify the skills and behavior we require in a true professional.

A professional teacher needs to be confident without being arrogant. Nobody can expect to have all the answers, so if a student asks a real stinker, the professional teacher should be able to admit defeat but offer to find out more for the student. And they must carry that promise out.

Proper preparation is another crucial requirement of professionalism. When the teacher enters the classroom s/he should have all the required materials and the lesson plan ready. Nothing is more sloppy than poor preparation.

Interaction with the group needs professional standards of behavior: polite, firm and fair just about sum it up. And in orchestrating the class the teacher must give everyone their chance to contribute and should be flexible enough to modify lessons if they are obviously not going to plan. Indeed a fall-back position is part of good planning.

It stands to reason also that teacher must observe punctuality and appropriate tidiness and dress: it is not possible to demand such behavior from students if the teacher doesn"t set the standards. Indeed I can remember occasions on which students have complained to me about "scruffy- teachers.

The last thing I would mention is that teachers should be able to feel that their professionalism entitles them to back-up from the school directors. If a teacher has a problem class or student then the school should have procedures for handling the difficulties. The teacher should not have to feel alone and vulnerable if a difficult situation arises. So, yes, professionalism cuts both ways: in the standards we demand of teachers and the framework we have for giving them support.

By Brenda Townsend Hall

ESLemployment, Contributing Editor
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