As a young woman who embarked on instructing classes fairly early in my career, I often think about the notion of professionalism in the classroom. It seems as if students define instructors using common dichotomies: hard or easy, mean or ditsy. I have often tried to think about how to balance being professional and coming across as creditable while still being accessible and approachable.
This (along with my research in the Sociology of Work) has led me to investigate the true meaning of professionalism and classroom teaching.
Professionalism includes creditability, knowledge, and adherence to an ethical code. Working with students requires a firm grasp of subject matter, the desire to improve our teaching through professional development, and competent knowledge of what we are teaching. As academics, the knowledge required to teach is generally within our grasp. However, adherence to a code of ethics can be a bit tricky when informal rules and working relationships are involved. Formalizing a strict code of ethics that allows for approachability and classroom accessibility should be our goal as teachers. This involves defining lines between student-teacher relationships, paying attention to accessibility and workplace relations laws, and reflecting on elements of fairness and equity within the classroom.
I urge all of you out there who want to discuss ethics and professionalism in an open environment to attend my workshop on professionalism with the CTE on April 2nd. Professionalism in academia and teaching should be accompanied by open dialogue and discussion so we can better understand our role as professional educators.