Last week a colleague and I were asked to lead a workshop that centered on our standards of professionalism in teaching. We decided to title this workshops “What do our values mean?” Of all the workshops that I have facilitated, this was the most daunting. Firstly, I myself have never been in a workshop that focused on professionalism and standards of conduct in schools. Secondly, I know that while I try to hold myself to the highest standards possible and make a rule to not ask something of someone that I would not be prepared to do myself, deep down I know that there have been occasions where I have not been able to meet the high standard that I expect. Nevertheless, a workshop focusing on our professionalism and how we engage with each other in the workplace is certainly an important topic to put on the agenda.

Our workshop had the following aims:

  1. To understand that shared understanding and implementation of our school values is important
  2. There is a difference to being professional and being a professional
  3. Agreements and protocols are great but implementing them is not so easy

We started out by developing a shared essential understanding that good teachers are role-models. This I believe was crucial to setting the point of reference for any point of discussion when things go wrong in schools. We must always take our cues from the common situation.

We took the notion that there we may view ourselves as being professional in terms of how we behave and the standard we hold ourselves to. This, however, is not enough, as we are judged as being a professional by our colleagues, students, parents and the wider community. Therefore, we must consider these viewpoints to fully develop ourselves as professionals.

Through the concepts of being a professional and a role-model we were able to explore our school’s Code of Ethics and values with our staff. We looked at scenarios that create tension and conflict, where we do not meet the standards that we hold ourselves to and how we resolve the associated issues.

Predictably, the discussions were comfortable for some and awkward for others. This is the way it should be. We need to engage in dialogue about what we do and when we our behaviour create problems and how we handle them. We ask students to resolve their conflicts but, as adults, we have a tendency to avoid these tough conversations. But we are teachers, we are role-models, double-standards are not acceptable, we all agreed.

So, let’s set our standards high, be the best professionals that we can be, so that our students can learn from us what it means to ‘do the right thing’.

Interestingly, my own professional fault was recognised by a colleague during the workshop; I am often late for the afternoon bus. Certainly, something to work on!