The qualities that define an effective teacher are very complex in my opinion. Everyone seems to have different ideas as to what the key indicators are. They range from; professionalism, communication, professional development, managing, guiding and strategies. There are even those of the opinion that it doesn’t matter what you do, children will always learn. However I have chosen professionalism as I believe that it is an essential attribute to being an effective teacher. Professionalism is defined by Merriam-Webster’s dictionary as “Characterised by or conforming to the technical or ethical standard of one’s profession.
(Belcher). In order to gain and preserve the respect and trust of students, parents and colleagues alike and to provide students with the best education possible it is important to demonstrate professional conduct and practice. The guidelines for professionalism in the teaching profession are provided by Code of Ethics, National Professional Standards for Teachers and Duty of Care. These define the “what”. The key however is being or acting professional, this is the “how”, the effectiveness of a teacher.
This is the true measure of professionalism.
Some of the primary demonstrable characteristics or attributes of a professional teacher are communication, morals and ethics and professional development. Communication is an essential aspect in education, the means to send and receive clear messages to and from students, teachers, parents and community members. It establishes positive and effective relationships and connections with the involved parties. Communication can be in many forms namely verbal, non-verbal or written and used by teachers to constantly impart new knowledge or important information.
The ability for teachers to apply the characteristics of good and effective communication in all its forms, to a diverse audience with different backgrounds and interests and to minimise the barriers, for example noise, misunderstanding or misinterpretation of the messages are the makings of an effective teacher. In the article by Prozesky, he states that the most effectual way to overcome these barriers is to have two-way communication with regular feedback provided by the receivers.
Professional ethics is not achieved by only purely applying the ethical codes of practice nor professional standards which embody the core principles but by also applying professional skills and personal skills (caring and nurturing) and ethical behaviour in the form of attitude, intention, words, acknowledgement, respect (inside and outside of the classroom), fairness and equity with regards to individual circumstances, colour, creed, age, social-economic status, to name a few.
Brock (1998) says that when dealing with ethics and professional standards there are two questions to ask; what should one do and what one should not do, what is right and what is wrong and what is appropriate and what is inappropriate. These questions result in a number of ethical dilemmas that face the teacher such as truth versus loyalty, individual versus community and religion versus morals. Early Childhood Australia has published a guide to help teachers deal with every day ethical dilemmas.
According to Marsh (2010) ethical decisions have been categorised into five different levels of decision making. Open decision making, limited decision making, decisions made by the teacher, security seeking (delegation) and avoidance. Several ethical relationships exist within the dynamics of a school environment; these include ethical relationship between the teacher and the education system for example, the education system restricts teachers on what they should teach.
The teacher and the principal, an example being that the teacher and principal have different values and the principal’s values will over ride those of the teacher. The teacher and the students where the teacher develops emotional bonds with his or her students and there is a mutual respect between teacher and student. The third quality that defines an effective teacher is professional development. In order to be a good teacher you need to be a good learner too.
The demands on teachers to find new ideas and forms of teaching are increasing. Teachers need to be innovative and therefore attend professional development days which will help them continuously enhance their competencies and provide their students with problem solving skills and advanced thinking thus elevating them to higher levels of achievement. The desire to expand their knowledge base, stay current and gain a broader exposure to information provides this opportunity.
Through numerous examples it is clear how important communication, ethics and professional development are to professionalism. These attributes will help teachers to be more effective in imparting knowledge and wisdom to their students. All of these attributes will allow the students to really focus their energies on learning and engaging with their education. Even though all of the attributes are vital for effective teaching one must never forget that the purpose of effective teaching is “that teachers make a difference”, (Boyd, 2009).
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