Being a Professional

When you look up the word profession in the dictionary, it says something about a career requiring an advanced degree.  The majority of my colleagues don’t just have a BA.  They’ve got Master’s degrees in various educational areas.  We take our jobs seriously and put in the time it takes to get the job done.

Once again, we are facing the fact that the higher-ups want to micro-manage our day.  Two years ago I wrote a post about my work day.  It’s worth a re-post.

The Beauty of Ambiguity – November 27, 2009

As a math teacher, I always try to clear. I communicate my expectations to my students. I use multiple representations for math concepts. I repeat myself over and over. When teaching, one needs to be extremely direct and very clear. But in some situations, being vague works to your advantage.

The one area of my job that is rather ambiguous is my work day. My day is expected to begin 15 minutes prior to my first class and can end 15 minutes after the students leave. What is the reality? I arrive 40 minutes prior to my students, which is before 7am, and I leave anywhere between 3 and 5pm. On Sundays I can spend a little time or a lot of time prepping for the week. It often depends on what classes I’m teaching as to how much time I work on Sunday. The point I’m trying to make, is that even though I’m not required to be in the building and working a full 8 hours per day, I definitely put in the time.

Of the over 3000 teachers in my district, we all put in this kind of time. We do it because we are professionals and we care about kids. In other districts, teachers are required to be in their buildings for 8 hours.  My required “in the building” time is not 8 hours.  It is understood that even though I’m not required to be in that location, I will put in the time to get the job done well.

Why aren’t we required to be in the building for exactly 8 hours?  Years ago, teachers fought for this “undefined” day.  We are professionals.  We get it done.  The benefits of this kind of set-up are much more than the powers that be realize.

Don’t we all know that we set high expectations and lo and behold, they get met?  When we are treated like professionals instead of clock punching hourly employees, the expectation is that you will put in whatever time is necessary.  And guess what?  It happens.

By this point in my life, I’ve figured out where and when the most I’m productive.  For me, I’m productive after school and I tend to get more done when I’m there.  But if it’s 90 degrees and humid in my room, I’m not going to stay in that building, being miserable just to work there.  On the same note, if it’s the dead of winter and they’ve turned the heat down and I’m freezing while sitting at my desk and entering grades, I’m heading home and doing it there.  If I’m at home and I’ve been ruminating over some teaching idea, I can work it out there.  I don’t have to go into work to do my job.  And as every teacher knows, your job and responsibilities are always in the back of your mind.  The only time I am completely free of that is summer vacation.

But even when you are on your own time you’re finding ways to learn and improve yourself.  Many teachers spend time in the summer (or on weekends and evenings) taking classes.  After school we’re going to professional development on our own time to become better at our jobs.  So any argument that we’re not putting in the time, is not going to hold water.

I would hate to see the benevolent attitude of our teachers change because we went to a specified work day.  And I think it would.  We are very giving of our time, but it’s on our terms and it needs to stay that way.  The one thing that we do have control over is where and when we are doing all of the extra hours that it takes to prepare and doing the work of educating our kids.  In this case, ambiguity is a wonderful thing.

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