Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Is Teaching a Profession?

The following is an excerpt from an exciting blog for educators []:

Today marks the beginning of Teacher Appreciation Week. As I was writing a letter to my staff to tell them how much I appreciate all of their hard work this year, I found myself thanking them for their professionalism. The use of the word "professionalism" reminded me of an opinion paper I was required to write in a philosophy of education class I took when I was working toward my Master's degree in educational administration. The question I was asked to respond to was "Is teaching a profession?" That was back in 1991, and I was teaching 5th grade at the time.

My first reaction to this question was "Of course teaching is a profession. I am a teacher, and I am very professional in my daily work teaching children." I had a college degree in elementary education which I received from a well-respected teacher preparatory program, and I was certified by the state of Illinois after passing two different exams. Additionally, there is enough educational research published to fill a wing of the Library of Congress. The data collected constitute a scientific knowledge base from which teachers and their students will benefit. Teaching is a certainly a profession.

Then, as I thought about the question some more, I realized that there may be another side to the argument. The fact that teachers are unionized is the most glaring argument that teaching is not a profession. Teachers unions work hard to increase the salary and benefits of their members, and sometimes, they need to organize strikes or work slow-downs to get what they want. Also, professionals are exempt from the Fair Labor Standards Act which means they do not qualify for overtime. Conversely, non-exempt employees of a company typically do not require a college degree, and they receive overtime pay for hours worked in excess of their regular 40 hour week. Under most teachers union contracts, administrators must pay teachers for their time after school or over the summer. Try asking a teacher to stay after school or work through her duty-free lunch in order to complete a project. You may get hit with a grievance.

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