Professionalism in Education: Much more than dressing for success

dress-for-successBy Joel O’Brien — A couple weeks ago, I had the opportunity to speak with sophomore education majors about the importance of professionalism in and out of the classroom, as they prepared to begin their field experiences.

During this presentation it became clear that professional dress is the first item that students link with professionalism. While dress can play a significant role in establishing a professional image, it is only one of several factors that make up professionalism, below are FIVE additional factors that every educator should consider, as they begin their teaching career.

1)      Make a good first impression to other constituents in the school. Make sure to utilize good eye contact and a brief, firm handshake when introducing yourself to others. These factors demonstrate a sense of confidence. Additionally, putting a smile on your face and simply acknowledging people in passing exudes a sense of positivity, which can go a long way when building professional relationships with colleagues. Additionally, provide yourself with plenty of time to ensure that you are on-time or early to your field experience.

2)      Show initiative; do not wait for your cooperating teacher to always ask you to do everything.  This is a fine line for new teacher, but it is important to always be asking your cooperating teacher “Is there anything else that I can help you with today?”  Such questions are indicative of motivated individuals that want to learn and do a job to the best of their ability. However, make sure to always ask what the instructor needs assistance with in order to avoid “going rogue” and offending your cooperating teacher.

3)      Utilize effective communication both verbally and electronically when interacting with teachers and administrators. If you do not understand a procedure within the classroom or school, make sure to ask the cooperating teacher or a school administrator, as this is an important tool in learning and developing professionally.  To learn more about appropriate email etiquette visit the following MU Career Center Blog.

4)      Monitor your online presence. Do not assume that anything you post is private, especially in the age of camera phones, where you can be photographed or video-recorded and on the Internet without even knowing it. Whether it is fair or not, perception is reality so make sure to use good judgment when determining which social situation you choose to put yourself in. Conducting a Google search of your name is a solid method for evaluating your online presence.

5)      Express appreciation toward your cooperating teacher. Most cooperating teachers do receive much compensation for being a mentor. It is important that you express appreciation for the experiences that they allow you to gain while in their classroom.  Whether you viewed the experience as positive or negative, a small gift or handwritten thank you note is always appreciated.  Furthermore, these small acts can be beneficial when asking individuals to serve as a positive reference during the job search.

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