Going Pro

Going Pro

The World Wide Web is notorious for its ability—even tendency—to take us down rabbitholes. Sometimes, though, it leads us into a fragrant meadow where we see terrain for the first time. Recently, whilst searching out a code of professionalism that we might employ for staff at our own school, I discovered these hallmarks of a professional:

o A professional makes deliberate choices where others have choices made for them or they simply react to what comes their way.

o A professional is afforded the luxury of making deliberate choices because he has made deliberate preparations.

o A professional can make deliberate preparations because his understanding of and familiarity with the relevant (professional) landscape informs him on how to prepare. Also, like the chess master, he is trained to understand the inevitable results of hundreds of different patterns; he has disciplined himself to observe the whole board and not just the most immediate features or the area with the most tension in the game.

o A professional is seldom caught off-balance. The discipline for deliberate preparation and the understanding that comes with it allow that even when something unexpected or unfamiliar is introduced, a professional can quickly understand its basis and easily extrapolate the appropriate tactic, strategy, or process for ethically and successfully resolving issues.

o In this capacity, and most fundamentally, a professional habitually makes the right choices because all of his choices are based on the integrity provided by his moral and ethical foundation. Any choice of expedience over integrity can quite easily be recognized by anyone as the wrong choice. Here, the professional simply acknowledges what is obvious, makes the right choice, and acts deliberately.

The source for these hallmarks is not a site for teachers. It’s a perceptive posting in the Association of Accredited Public Policy Advocates to the European Union’s website (http://www.aalep.eu/fundamental-characteristics-profession). The language of the post is largely jargon-free, and most of all I relish the chess-master analogy that appears in the third hallmark.*

If you’re determined to become a classroom chess master, you can certainly read up on the game, and you may have the good fortune to learn from a Curriculum and Instruction professor who models the right moves. But mostly you have to play a lot of classroom chess—losing pieces, falling into embarrassing checkmates as you blunder through a lesson or a student’s bad day—but hopefully never flipping the board in a fit of rage. Since most of us are neither chess nor teaching prodigies, we find that logging in our requisitve 10,000 hours could take upwards of a decade or more.

Wits and instinct—and certainly humor--can help us master the board, but none of our skill matters if it isn’t founded on ethical bedrock. Expedience tempts us when we are in a hurry, when the strategy we learned at our last professional development seems to be failing us, or when we aspire to be “cool” rather than rely on our backbone. Underscoring professionalism is integrity, and mastering that soul-matter must happen long before we enter the doors of a university education department.

If we were fortunate, we began to master integrity when we were students of our parents and grandparents, or, lacking that, of that first elementary-school teacher we adored with all our heart.

*Consistent with the chess-master analogy: perhaps one of the reasons so many of us classroom teachers struggled during the Pandemic Zoom Era was that our pattern-recognition system had to be recalibrated for a grid of meditative faces (which grid, on harder days, was comprised mostly of black rectangles with an uncapitalized name printed on them).