All of us are constantly challenged in our professional fields. We strive to be better at what we do and have better outcomes. Among all the others, teachers probably have one of the most challenging situations nowadays, having to deal with the digitalization of teaching and learning processes as well as still having to provide a proper educational environment for the learners.
While dealing with this, teachers still have to think about their professional growth and development and here is where certain things come to hinder the professional well-being of the teachers. Let’s look at three beliefs that negatively affect the advancement of teachers as professionals.
Minimum is Enough
To be happy and productive at work, you should have a pleasant and friendly working environment. It is not a secret that we lack that a lot in public schools and institutions. The thing is that teachers are expected to do their best, often not being provided even with the basics — equipped classrooms, support from the school administration, respect from the parents, etc.
All of it cannot but undermines the role of teachers as educators and equals them to servants, IMHO. This, in its turn, cannot leave the teachers’ professional well-being intact. Teachers start to feel bad about their job, to think that whatever they are doing is not enough, and, as a result, start to neglect the importance of regular PDPs.
At the same time, school administration does not often articulate the great job a teacher is doing and chooses not to praise them. As a result, teachers start to think that they are not good at what they are doing. When demotivation kicks in, there is no point in talking about professional well-being.
You should know it all
There is a common misconception that the teacher should know everything and anything in their subject. They don’t have the right to be mistaken, they should be able to address any question at any time. This puts teachers under extreme pressure — it’s quite stressful to know that you can be challenged at every second of the class and have to have a solution for each problem. Many teachers in an impossible are living with a constant feeling of guilt which cannot have a positive effect on the professional well-being of the teacher.
This, however, is far from being a fair treatment. If we are talking about language teachers who are not native speakers of the language, it is inadequate to demand them to know everything. Even native speakers don’t know every single rule of the language they speak. When doing my CELTA course, my group and I once asked our tutor, a native one, what the difference between Past Simple and Present Perfect tenses is. Do you know what he said? “I have to check the details and get back to you”. I suppose it is OK not to know it all. We are all human.
Absence of Autonomy
Freelance teachers have a lot more autonomy than those who are employed by schools and institutions. They are free to choose their groups, coursebooks, additional resources, etc. On the other hand, teachers who work for schools and educational centres have a lot less autonomy in decision making of any sort. They cannot change the coursebook if the school has chosen one, cannot add many extra resources to the course curriculum as they have a plan to cover, cannot change the approach or a method if the school has an adopted one, etc.
This is a huge source of demotivation for the teachers as their creativity and independence is hugely limited. This results in teachers thinking: “Why should I spend time and resources on professional development if my qualifications and professional opinions will not be considered in general?” Of course, we cannot say it is true for all, but I’d say, to most, as changing a system is a hard process.
To sum up, it is important to create a healthy working environment and favourable conditions for teachers to feel valued and appreciated. Doing this is beneficial for the school in the first place, as the teachers’ professional well-being and enthusiasm to work is the cornerstone to conducting productive and result oriented classes.