The Meaning of “Pro”

Reprinted from the Spring 2015 PMEA News

Are you a professional? Do you have the skills, habits, and attitudes of a professional in the field of education?

Webster’s New World dictionary defines the term “profession” as “a vocation or occupation requiring advanced education and training.”

However, what makes someone a true professional? What are the qualities of an individual who devotes his or her life in a profession? How can you tell the difference between just going to work in a “job” and reaching for the highest professional standards?

In short, here are some of the qualities of professionalism that school administrators seek in new candidates for music (or any subject) teaching positions. Here’s an opportunity to do a personal professional inventory.

  • A professional succeeded in and continues to embrace “higher education” and personal development. He/she updates self with “constant education” and retooling of knowledge and skills.
  • Professionals tend to seek and encourage change, to find better ways of doing something. They propose new things “for the good of the order.”
  • Like lawyers and doctors, they “practice” the job, using different techniques and resources for different situations as needed. Professionals are good problem solvers and critical thinkers.
  • Professionals accept criticism, frequently assess their job performance, and always try to self-improve.
  • They agree to adopt an open or flexible assignment of hours to work or plan/prepare/think about their job throughout the week and weekends (seemingly, on occasion, a commitment to a “24/7” schedule). They bring home their work… what the students call homework!
  • Professionals are salaried, and do not think in terms of hourly compensation, nor even expect extra pay for every task of the job assignment. They do not “punch a clock” nor count hours at their job.
  • Professional workers are generally responsible for themselves and many others. When assigned to a “team,” they allow other team-members to reap benefits and take credit for the work/successes they have done.
  • Members of a professional community have obligations for communications, attending meetings, completing paperwork, and fulfilling deadlines, and value the application of accountability, teamwork, group goals, compromise and unity of purpose, vision, creativity, perseverance, honesty/integrity, fairness, patience/calm demure, and timeliness/promptness. Professionals define and regularly model these best practices.
  • Professionals readily accept and model a corporate standard of behavior and appearance.

Remember your most inspiring teacher? Who motivated you to go into the teaching profession? Did you notice the level of commitment he or she brought to the profession… to the classroom every day?

Becoming a professional music educator is a lofty goal with high standards. It seems like there is never enough time in a day to complete everything. Music teachers (especially at the secondary level) are usually the first to arrive and the last to leave the parking lot, and often sponsor or participate in activities of their profession after-school, evenings, and even on weekends back at school… everything from directing extra rehearsals to composing/arranging/preparing music, accompaniments, lessons, etc.

Many have said that aspiring to be a music educator is a lot like a calling. One school superintendent said he expected prospective new recruits to show high energy, enthusiasm, sense of purpose, and dedication during the interview… even a supposed willingness to “lay down in front of a school bus” or “do what ever it takes” to make the students (and educational program) successful.

A professional music teacher must also achieve a balance between his/her high level musical expertise and the essential focus on the needs of “students as people” first. Ultimately, it is our privilege and mission to teach children (not just the subject matter) through the enormously powerful vehicle of music.

So, are you ready to wear the badge of a professional?

PKF

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