Teaching–Job or Profession?

Sep 13, 2019 by

Is teaching a job or a profession?  Six of one, half-dozen . No difference.  Or to the extent there is, it is artificial.

As commonly understood, a job is “lower” than a profession.  Duties are rigidly spelled out and handed down with little room for individual judgement deviation, initiative or ingenuity., unless one is the manager or owner. They require compliance by employees. Typically, even when they enviable carry economic  status, there is little social prestige. Most jobs are more likely to have been settled for than aspired to.  

“Professionals” are more likely to be free to set their own rules and perform their work according to their personal style and preference.  Rarely do they face the potential contravention, interference or punishment from bosses.

Any line of work, regardless of its nature, can be “elevated” to a “profession” or demeaned to a “job”, depending on the attitude of workers and how they are treated.  An employee who keeps a highly-trafficked Burger King cleaner than a city hospital’s operating theater, is a consummate professional.  A “slip and fall” lawyer, may be university-credentialed, but nothing above a street assassin.

What are teachers?  In terms of the level of preparation required of them to become qualified, they are professionals.  But too often they are “professionals” in name only, such as when they must submit to mindless and vindictive administrative bullying or constricting bureaucratic regulations that strangle incentive and choke creativity.

There is much mythology embedded in the word “professional.” At the end of the day, it comes down to an abstraction that is usually most irritating but fits in this instance: self-concept.  Because of the caliber of people who are attracted to the classroom, most New York City public schools are not job-holders, but true professionals.

And they validate that every day until they turn in their papers.

Ron Isaac

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