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What’s Your Definition of Professional?

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Opinion Twitter Logo.In Friday’s Op-Ed piece in the New York Times, Jan Mehta, an assistant professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, discussed the problem with American schools. But instead of continuing the debate over standardized testing vs. privatization of schools, Mehta bluntly declares the problem to be the teachers.

He said, “Teaching requires a professional model, like we have in medicine, law, engineering, accounting, architecture and many other fields… building a body of knowledge, carefully training people in that knowledge, requiring them to show expertise before they become licensed, and then using their professions’ standards to guide their work.

By these criteria, American education is a failed profession. There is no widely agreed-upon knowledge base, training is brief or nonexistent, the criteria for passing licensing exams are much lower than in other fields, and there is little continuous professional guidance… we have teachers essentially winging it as they go along, with predictably uneven results.”

The question of qualification has commonly revolved around part-time vs. full-time, levels of degrees, and levels of teaching experience. It’s also become a question of workload and a question loaded with emotion. Adjuncts may feel that they’re not getting paid or recognized for extra effort. Full-time employees protest they’re overloaded now.

 Kyle  PiersonOne group of adjuncts, however, has set time aside specifically for professional development. Kyle Pierson (Communications, Seminole) shares her experience:

Thanks to the monthly part-time cohort meetings, I have met Clearwater ESL professors, Judy Macdonald and Melanie Paden. I found it refreshing to find another discipline where my colleagues teach making subjects/verbs agree and mastering verb tense. Drat those tricky verbs!

Our December CETL assignment was to visit a colleague’s classroom for an observation and share a report during the January meeting. I visited Melanie Paden’s class. Melanie, Judy, and I had become friendly while attending the CETL Part-Time Cohort meetings, so we already reached a comfort level with each other — another benefit of getting to know other adjuncts.

Melanie teaches EAP 0400, a speaking and presentation class, so I was curious to compare the tools Melanie uses with those that I use. For the most part, we use the same kinds of visuals and organizational strategies in ANGEL. One difference, however, is that Melanie uses the discussion tool in ANGEL. I haven’t used this so far, but her students routinely share written assignments for peer-to-peer critique. It is a new strategy that I will try.

This one AHA! moment helped me see new possibilities to extend my lessons. When all the cohorts met last month, the others also shared their experiences, and we all agreed this exercise opened up new perspectives and ideas for our own teaching.

 Thank you, Kyle, for sharing how you expanded your knowledge base and skills.

We all usually agree on the benefits of additional training, but how do we manage it? How do each of us, full-time and adjunct, define professional? What should our industry standard be? Share your thoughts in the comments section below:

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