How We Can Professionalise Teaching

We all know that teaching is complicated, challenging work.

On a daily basis, teachers assess complex, unpredictable situations and make suitable decisions for their classroom of 35 students. To do this, teachers draw from vast subject, professional and contextual knowledge, as well as years of experience. They need to consider the knowledge of the subjects they teach and the students they work with in order to decide how best to foster learning within their environmental context. Dedicated, capable and knowledgeable teachers are some of South Africa’s greatest assets.

But why don’t the public view teachers in the same light? Society views teaching as a job for people who want long holidays, rather than a serious profession. It’s up to us to lend authority to the profession. Here are five steps for how we can professionalise teaching:

1. Collaborate with and support other parties in education

It takes a village to raise a child.

The wellbeing and learning of students require the support of their teacher, school principal, colleagues, parents, friends and other professionals. Let’s make this a team effort.

Teachers should also collaborate with professional bodies to ensure their ongoing personal, academic and professional development. Attend development opportunities organised by subject associations, professional learning communities and teaching unions.

2. Promote social justice and address inequalities

As teachers, we are at the forefront of the fight against inequalities within educational institutions and society. We should not take the opportunity to impact our students in this regard lightly.

We are responsible for identifying and confronting entities that hinder students’ access to quality teaching and learning. Onwards and upwards!

3. Recognise the significance of our work

A teacher’s work is important.

Doctors shouldn’t get all the bragging rights here. The ability to inspire someone to learn and create a space for them to do so is just as, if not more, impressive as mending a broken leg.

A study by RAND Education found that teachers matter more to student achievement than any other aspect of schooling, including services, amenities and leadership. Specifically with regards to reading and mathematics, a teacher can have two to three times the impact of any other school factor towards student success.

We need to be having conversations about our work’s significance and impact on society.

4. Be committed to the learning and wellbeing of all students

As teachers, we have a deep understanding of how children develop and learn. We also understand the ideal circumstances to foster a safe learning environment.

Due to certain difficulties students and their families may face, this safe learning environment may be difficult to create in some students’ homes. It is our mandate to realise how these challenges may confront and affect students, and determine how they can be overcome.

5. Keep up-to-date with our subject matter

We can’t know or be expected to know 100% about a subject. We also can’t achieve 100% pass rate 100% of the time. But we can make sure we are continuously learning about our subjects.

To teach effectively we need to have experience in a wide range of topics. Moreover, we need to understand how the concepts within our subject matter can be used to address real world issues. We need to keep ourselves informed.

Professional teaching is in our hands. Let’s stand together and professionalise the amazing work we do.

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