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4 Necessary Steps to Professionalize the Teaching Profession


Creating that “aha moment” of understanding requires no shortage of finesse.


You not only need to understand the topic yourself, but you also need to know how to explain it to another person and work through any disconnections for that learner. Now, add 25 more people to that experience — each with their own needs and realities — and it’s easy to see why teaching is such a demanding, challenging, and rewarding profession.


Yet many people don’t see teaching as a profession; they view it as a job that attracts people who want summer breaks. But those of us in the industry know that this couldn’t be further from the truth, and it’s up to us to lend authority to the profession.


Here are four steps you can take to professionalize teaching:


  1. Recognize the importance of your work. Doctors aren’t the only professionals with bragging rights. The ability to inspire others to learn can be just as impactful as fixing a broken limb. In fact, some would argue that it’s more influential. 


Start encouraging conversations about the significance of your work, and explain the challenges of doing it well. Most people have spent at least one year in the classroom of a teacher that inspired them to learn, and they would probably agree that this person had a greater impact on their future than their pediatrician.


  1. Use supporting research. There’s plenty of research that highlights how highly trained, effective teachers are critical to students’ short- and long-term success.


A study by the RAND Corporation found that teachers have two to three times the impact on a student’s test performance in reading and math than any other school-related factor, including leadership.


Another study by a trio of economists out of Harvard and Columbia universities tracked 2.5 million students for 20 years and found that a “high value-added teacher” provided a variety of benefits, including an immediate increase in end-of-year test scores. Students of high value-added teachers are also more likely to attend college, avoid teen pregnancy, and earn more money. In fact, learning under a high value-added teacher for just one year can increase a child’s lifetime income by an average of $80,000.


  1. Stress the multifaceted nature of teaching. As a teacher, you can’t assume you know enough about a subject to teach it to a room full of students with 100 percent success 100 percent of the time. Much like other professions, to teach effectively, you need to have experience in a wide range of topics — often with hands-on experience and in-depth training.

Additionally, teachers must be effective communicators, social organizers, problem solvers, and (depending on the district) school counselors. On top of that, it takes a great deal of innovation to find the funds — sometimes out of your own pocket — to secure necessary supplies.


  1. Contribute to the teaching community at large. While it can take just one teacher to inspire a student, it’s important to remember that you’re not the only teacher shaping minds. That being said, it’s essential to be involved in the general teaching community.


Look for ways to work with colleagues to create a supportive and successful learning environment and identify opportunities for improvement and ongoing education about the craft of teaching. Learning Forward, an association devoted to the advancement of professional learning for student success, has a number of learning opportunities available, including conferences, seminars, webinars, e-learning courses, and a training academy.


But continued education isn’t always enough. Even the best teachers struggle with putting new learning approaches into practice, and it can actually take upward of 20 separate practice teaching exercises to master a new skill. Instituting a mentorship program at your school to advise teachers before, during, and after a class can make continued education more worthwhile. If the school becomes a successful learning environment, you further legitimize the importance of your profession.


Professionalizing the teaching industry advances the profession as a whole and goes a long way to create better opportunities for student success. But it also has a significant impact on attracting more talented people to the profession and retaining the highest performers, which creates a win-win situation for students and teachers.


Article by Jason Lange.

Lange is the CEO and co-founder of BloomBoard, a company dedicated to bettering the K-12 education space by providing a marketplace for personalizing educator development. BloomBoard uses the data collected from free observational and evaluation tools to create individualized learning plans and recommendations for teacher growth.