civil servantThis is an interesting question that seems to spark a lot of heated reactions when I ask teachers which they think they are. Let me give you the following descriptions to use as a guide.
A professional

  1.  Expert and specialized knowledge in field which one is practising professionally.
  2. Excellent manual/practical and literary skills in relation to profession.
  3. High quality work in (examples): creations, products, services, presentations, consultancy, primary/other research, administrative, marketing, photography or other work endeavours.
  4. A high standard of professional ethics, behaviour and work activities while carrying out one’s profession (as an employee, self-employed person, career, enterprise, business, company, or partnership/associate/colleague, etc.). The professional owes a higher duty to a client, often a privilege of confidentiality, as well as a duty not to abandon the client just because he or she may not be able to pay or remunerate the professional. Often the professional is required to put the interest of the client ahead of his own interests.
  5. Reasonable work morale and motivation. Having interest and desire to do a job well as holding positive attitude towards the profession are important elements in attaining a high level of professionalism.
  6. Appropriate treatment of relationships with colleagues. Consideration should be shown to elderly, junior or inexperienced colleagues, as well as those with special needs. An example must be set to perpetuate the attitude of one’s business without doing it harm.
  7. A professional is an expert who is a master in a specific field.

A civil servant

Civil servants are professionals who work for the government and whose salaries are paid by taxpayers. Civil service can be conducted at the national, state and local level. The president is a civil servant, as is a civil engineer working for the Chicago Department of Transportation. Teachers who work for public schools also are considered civil servants, as are mayors and employees of the Department of Motor Vehicles. Civil service jobs are among the most secure and carry impressive benefits that aren’t always available in the private sector. Some common types of civil service jobs include teachers, museum curators, and government workers. You could also be considered a civil servant if you are a doctor, lawyer, or childcare provider who does these things as part of a government program, such as a free health clinic, or are employed by the state, such as a district attorney.

“Teaching is a profession and it should be treated like one,” President Obama said. “Educators like Jeff and everyone up here today, they represent the very best of America — committed professionals who give themselves fully to the growth and development of our kids. And with them at the front of the classroom and leading our schools, I am absolutely confident that our children are going to be prepared to meet the tests of our time and the tests of the future.”

I would say that most government officials see teachers as civil servants, employees of the state and country that are required to work within the parameters that are set forth before them. To them it seems, teachers must be held accountable the in the same ways government contractors, postal workers, and other civil servants are. It’s clear to me now why we have so many fingers in the pot of education who have never spent a minute teaching. Lawyers and politicians create educational law because that is the umbrella under which education resides. Of course it’s political; it’s run by the government.

On the flip side, teachers enter their careers being told they are professionals. Don’t they fit all the qualifications of one listed above? They are masters of their craft, specially trained and uniquely qualified to educate. Teaching is a soft science and doesn’t slip easily into convenient categories for evaluation. Great teachers can be loud, quiet, boisterous, strict, lax, methodical, free-spirited, rigid, confident, reserved. Can you see why it’s such a great offense when the qualifications of current teachers are brought into question as Teach For America teachers (who receive 5 weeks of training) are applauded for their credentials? They’re told they’re professionals yet temporary teachers can do as good or better with only 5 week’s training?

“In 2011, for example, nearly 90% of 1,824 principals in all of our partnership regions reported high levels of satisfaction with Teach For America and noted that corps members are as effective as, and in some cases more effective than, veteran faculty in their schools. In addition, 87% of school leaders said Teach For America corps members’ training is at least as effective as the training of other beginning teachers, and 53% found corps members’ training to be more effective.”

I now find it shockingly clear why there is such disconnect between those within education and those in government. No one can agree on what teachers actually are! Are they highly trained professionals or tools of the government? Are they skilled in the art and science of pedagogy or simply administers of facts and tests? Are they a combination of both and if so, where is the boundary drawn? Where can we start to find a common ground? I’ve also never seen this discussed to a great extent, so if you have any interesting links or comments please share them.