Teaching: a profession and identity

The readings this week mostly surrounded ideas about how we define teaching. The readings illustrate the dichotomy between views of teaching as a profession and how teachers self identify.

In the reading taken from Understanding Canadian Schools  we look a lot at how the idea of a profession is defined. Many would think of the colloquial usage as a profession being any thing that you are paid to do. I once described myself as a professional magician because I was paid to do a magic show for a child’s birthday when I as 12. However the article defines a profession by much stricter standards. By using the “characteristics of the so-called true professions (e.g., medicine and law)” (p.275). These characteristics include- a unique body of knowledge obtained by its members through formal training, an essential service held in high regard by the society and is self-regulated based on a code of ethics. For many people this sounds like a simple answer- yes teaching is a true profession. However it is not until recently in many places that teaching has become considered self-regulated. The STF is believed by many to be a regulatory board but it is not. It is a Union focused on collective bargaining and employee welfare. There has recently however been a regulatory board introduced in Saskatchewan. This is know as the Saskatchewan Professional Teachers Regulatory Board. More can by found out about the board here. As we can see the push to legitimize teaching as a profession is still on-going.

The second take away from the chapter in Understanding Canadian Schools is understanding the impact of a professional code of ethics on the lives of teachers. It is often implied that teachers “lead morally exemplary lives” (p.288) but the legal implications of a professional code of ethics take it beyond an implication and into a legal responsibility to uphold these standards. As is illustrated by many court rulings from decisions within Canada it is critical that teachers are aware that what they do in and out of the classroom has implications professionally. Teaching as a profession is not separate therefore from the life of the teacher. This resonates most for me  in the cases where teachers when acting under the role of parent were accused of violations of the code of ethics. In both cases illustrated in the text the role of the individual as a member of the teaching profession was not separate from their role as teacher. In both cases the way teachers behaved even outside of their professional lives was legally held to the same code of ethics. This idea ties into the next reading which discussed the transition from student to teacher and the idea of teacher identity.

In the paper Exploring Teacher Identity: a year long recount of growing from teacher to student  Krista Yerkes examines the transition from student to professional. It is interesting to see that she struggles with issues of identity as she goes from being Krista the college student to Miss Yerkes. This struggle may not be one that is faced by all professions but is certainly one that is tied to teaching. This is because of the connection between teaching and teacher identity. As I mentioned before if your life in and outside of your profession is tied to a legal code of ethics and you are held to the same standard while working as you are at all times of your life it is obvious that there becomes a struggle to separate the individual from the professional. This is an interesting dilemma that faces many new teachers as a profession starts to shape who you are in and out of the classroom. The link between a profession and the individual is key in how we start to form our teacher identity. Teacher Identity can also be linked to one’s teaching philosophy. I can certainly identify with the issues faced in this paper as well. As we transition into our roles as professional teachers it is important to understand how we begin to shape our identity. The struggle to identify as a professional is easy to understand and I think that we can do it by starting to think about our identity as a teacher by starting to form our own teaching philosophies.

One question I still have after this week’s reading is how do we as a teacher start to transition into the role that we are legally and morally obligated to fulfill while still maintaining our identity as an individual without sacrificing our beliefs and values or abilities to question the Educational practices of our Province?

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