Trust and Professionalism

Last week, in my coaching, I got to talking with a teacher about the notion of professionalism. We thought about the peculiar duality we have in our paths as teachers. On the one hand, we are treated like hourly employees, with our contracted hours, documentation of professional development across a range of inane categories, recording of clock hours to move up the pay scale. On the other, there is an expectation that we behave like professionals – putting in all the hours necessary to get the job done, managing upwards of 25 separate projects (let’s face it: if we’re taking our jobs seriously, we’re managing each child’s learning trajectory separately), continuously advancing our professional knowledge “outside of the office.”

Today, our district has reminded us, over and over, that they don’t trust our professionalism. Email after email “reminds” us of our commitment to our children, laced with the implication that if we call in sick when we’re not really sick, we’ll be “in trouble.” And though I had no intention of doing so, and so this changes nothing in my actual behavior, it sure undermines my desire to work. Say all the nice words you want to me about my goals – I’m savvy enough to know when I’m being managed, and insulted that you don’t trust me to do my best work. And the more you insult me, the less I want to do good work for you.

This has me thinking about our workshop students, and the importance of building their independence not just so we are free to confer with other children, but because in doing so we trust them to be learning professionals. So often, I see teachers move their students toward independence, but then doubt them (or, perhaps, themselves) at the last minute and tuck in some ham-fisted management. And I’m suspecting that what the kids hear sounds a lot like what I’ve heard this week: “I know you’re capable of doing your best, but I don’t really think you’re going to do it.” I’m asking myself: how do I help teachers see the difference between having independent workers and learning professionals?

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