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Are teachers perceived as professionals?

Are teachers perceived as professionals?
  1. 1.
    a person engaged or qualified in a profession.
    "professionals such as lawyers and surveyors"
    synonyms:white-collar worker, office worker
    "affluent young professionals."
  2.      Are teachers perceived as professionals?    When you Google the definition and images of professional, images of professionally dressed individuals appear. Teachers are professional but are often not perceived as such. SO, how do we change this ingrained, often negative perception?
  3.      Changing perceptions takes time. I write for myself only, not my school or any organizations of which I am a member.  I will readily admit that I was born at the end of the Baby Boomer generation. I was raised with the idea that I should dress for success. Lately, teachers come to school dressed as if they are ready for yoga. Stretchy pants and t-shirts have replaced cute skirts, slacks, and blouses for women. It is rare to see a man wearing a tie or even a collared shirt.  My son, completing his final student teaching internship this fall, told me that all the teachers at his school dress down, including the principal. Does it matter? Yes!
  4.      If teachers want to be perceived as professionals, we simply must dress the part. It is not unusual for administrators to wear a blazer or suit. Many districts have upgraded their faculty dress code with the preference for no athletic wear or jeans for teachers. There has been quite a bit of pushback from teachers. They want to wear clothing that allows them to move and meet the needs of their students. I would agree that Elementary teachers have different needs than secondary teachers. Having been both an elementary teacher and a secondary teacher, I did dress up when I was an elementary teacher.  Many of my dresses required dry cleaning. I wanted my parents and my students to view me as a professional.  As a secondary teacher, I view my attire as an important part of modeling adulthood to my students. 
  5.      Modeling for our students is important. If you are interested in the current statistics for who is attending public schools in the US, here are some fast facts from the National Center for Education Statistics. Our largely white faculties are teaching an increasing number of non-white students with higher rates of poverty. When I consider what to wear each morning, I must consider that I am modeling for my students the image of mature adulthood.
  6.      Teacher salary is often ballyhooed as an issue.  Teachers say that they want to be perceived and paid as professionals. Considering that beginning lawyers make $46,000 with one week of vacation. I have a minimum of 5 weeks in the summer, Thanksgiving, two weeks for winter break, and one week for spring break. The average starting salary for University of Arkansas graduates is $33,000. So, the starting salary for teachers of roughly $34,000 in our state is quite reasonable. It would be nice if teachers earned overtime pay for hours worked in the school building. I am contractually obligated to work 45 hours a week as a minimum. My contract stipulates that I will not receive overtime pay.
  7.      It is true that a teacher's day does not end with the bell. That is often the time when planning, grading, and phone calls get made. Also, we often have weekend school activities. I have begun to notice the number of times a doctor or dentist will call to check up on a patient after a procedure. Each time someone in my family had a procedure and was sent home the same day, the doctor himself called us in the evening to check on the progress. Our vet does the same thing to check on our the progress of our pet.
  8.      All of this is to say that teachers do work hard, and do earn a good living with benefits. If teachers want to be perceived as professionals, we need to dress and perform as professionals. View these photos of Teacher of the Year in Arkansas.  All three women in the center are past or present teachers of the year in Arkansas. They are dressed professionally and received the resulting respect from their profession.
  9. So, look to the teacher leaders in your school. Determine the appropriate dress for your location and know that you stand shoulder to shoulder with other professionals working hard for their achievements. Know that you have made a wise choice to be an educator.

Suzanne Rogers, M.Ed.


District Director of Professional development, AP English teacher, ELA Coach and cradle United Methodist. 



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