It is known that professionalism plays a significant role in any sphere of human activity, including education. According to Peter Clamp (1990), professionalism is a state of mind(p. 53).Â In other words, professionalism is focused on the ideal that helps to guide individuals in their dealings with others in their profession. It is a so-called foundation of certain behaviors and attitudes that help to succeed in this or that sphere of human activity. The major goal of this paper is to discuss the main characteristics of professionalism and prove the fact that educational assistants can demonstrate professionalism through their attitude towards work characterized by competence, collegial integrity, reliability and empathy.
THE MAJOR CHARACTERISTICS OF PROFESSIONALISM
According to Peter Clamp (1990), professionalism is characterized by the following traits of personality: competence, collegial integrity, reliability and empathy. The representatives of all professions can be called professionals if they possess these traits of personality and demonstrate the appropriate behavior.
Competence is one of the most important characteristics of professionalism. Only intellectually competent specialists are honored in our society. Competency is based on the concept of know how. According to Mike Fleming (2009), people can acquire intellectual competence through experience, travel, meeting new people and being in different situations(p. 2). Competence helps teachers to achieve the major educational goals. In addition, competence is associated with success, while incompetence is associated with failure. A competent specialist is a well-trained specialist. In order to develop competence, it is necessary to develop professional knowledge. Professional knowledge can be developed thorough training systems and the systems of assessment of knowledge.
Collegial integrity is another characteristic of professionalism in education. According to Peter Cramp (1990), professionals always conduct themselves in a manner likely to reflect credit on themselves, their job, and their company(p. 53). That is why it is necessary to act honestly in any situation. Only collegial integrity provides good reputation in the workplace. Professionals trust their colleagues and are often ready give them good advice. Peter Clamp (1990) states that collegial integrity is a keystone in the arch of professionalism; remove it, and the arch collapses (p. 54).
The third trait of personality which characterizes professionalism is reliability. Reliability provides punctuality, stability, and commitment, according to Peter Clamp (1990, p. 54). Good human relationships with other people can help an individual to become a reliable person. A reliable person is well-trained to the competency level required for the professional activity.
The fourth trait of personality that can be applied to professionalism is empathic humanism. Peter Clamp (1990) states that the humanist aspect is displayed in professionals by their conduct and attitude toward those around them(p. 55). Professionals are those who have equal attitudes towards others and avoid arrogance and abrasiveness towards the subordinates, as well as fawning and obsequious behavior towards the authority. Â Empathy is closely connected with motivation which plays a significant role in any educational process.
SOME SPECIFIC EXAMPLES THAT DEMONSTRATE PROFESSIONALISM
As an educational assistant, I demonstrate my competence through my experience in the process of work with children and with people with disabilities. For example, I demonstrate my deep knowledge and effectively use different teaching methods. Moreover, I try to use innovative technologies in the process of work in order to motivate my students, including the Internet, digital libraries, special educational programs, etc.
In order to develop collegial integrity, I try to build good reputation in the workplace. As an educational assistant, I try to perform my duties in a proper way, be honest with my colleagues and students and follow the established rules and regulations. I try to be communicative and full of enthusiasm. I am sure that openness in communication, enthusiasm and optimism can help to develop collegial integrity and demonstrate professionalism.
In addition, I am a reliable personal as I demonstrate my reliability to others. For example, I always strive to be on time, follow the established rules and regulations, and pay special attention to disciplinary issues. I always try to keep my promises even if I face difficulties. I know that as an educational assistant, I should do everything possible to make students trust me. It is very important for a teacher to act as a role model for students.
Moreover, I can demonstrate empathy in my attitude towards people with disabilities. I can listen to their problems and try to find the appropriate solutions. For example, I always try to create an empathic atmosphere in the classroom and try to avoid conflict situations, stereotyping and prejudices. In addition, I have no disrespect for those people who have some health problems. Empathy and truth are closely connected with each other because only honest people can have empathic humanism.
HANDLING STRESS ONE OF THE MAJOR TASKS OF A TEACHER
In order to become a professional, a teacher should learn to handle stress. Stress has always been a serious problem for teachers. It is clear that stress in life, in one form or another, is inescapable (Gold & Roth, 1993, p. 14). That is why teachers should pay special attention to this problem. The term stress can be defined in different ways. First, stress is caused by some external factors and it is the result of something outside of the individual; second, stress is caused by some internal factors and depends on what goes on inside the individual (Gold & Roth, 1993, p. 14). Today teachers often experience high anxiety reactions to what they perceive in the process of teaching, but they should learn to control their emotions. When teachers experience some stressors such as lack of discipline, disruptive students, poor academic progress of students, noisy environments, or heavy paper loads, they may perceive them as a threat to their self-esteem (Gold & Roth, 1993, p. 17). That is why today teachers should develop the appropriate mechanisms to cope with stressors they face in the process of teaching. In case they fail to apply the appropriate coping mechanisms, the results often are chronic illnesses and employment termination.Â All teachers should be trained to handle stress. Such emotions as depression, frustration, anger, fear, irritability and hurt should be under control in any situation. The following stress reduction techniques can help teachers to handle stress in the classroom: relaxation techniques that are focused on the relaxation of the body; breathing exercises and physical exercises, including yoga; diet; developing stress-reduction communication, etc. It is clear that any professional should be ready to handle stress in any situation.
THE EDUCATOR AS A MORAL EXAMPLE TO STUDENTS
It is known that any educator should set moral example to his/her students. William Aiken and John Haldane (2004) state that the slogan every teacher is a moral educator’ captures the important point that a teacher cannot avoid moral responsibility (p. 72). It is clear that educational process and teaching practices are focused on moral values. According to William Aiken and John Haldane (2004), moral considerations are of great importance for educators as they are deeply implicated in all properly educational aims, relationships and processes (p. 72). Teachers are responsible for moral education of students that is why they should control and discipline their students. However, they should not merely exercise their power, but they should apply the appropriate form of authority based on fair practices and justification. In other words, teachers should avoid discrimination, intimidation, indoctrination, etc. William Aiken and John Haldane (2004) argue that teachers should take account of morally significant considerations, such as respect for the autonomy and dignity of the pupil (p. 72). The forms of teachers’ moral examples include their actions, attitudes, reactions and even gestures.
In conclusion, it is necessary to say that professionalism in education can be achieved not only through previous experience, proper education, communication strategies, continuing professional development, ethnical conduct, handling stress, but also through the following characteristics: competence, collegial integrity, reliability and empathy. In addition, teachers should act as role models to their students. It is very important for educational assistants to take into consideration the above mentioned facts in order to become professionals in the sphere of education.