What does it mean to be professional? More money? More prestige? More respectability? The act of being professional implies a level of courtesy and respect. In an educational and professional environment, respect and courtesy for others is essential to the success of an individual, group, school, business or organization.
All that students do and say, and the way we as teachers and students present ourselves visually, orally, and in our writing, elevates or diminishes our professional image. What we do and say impacts others’ perceptions of who we are and what kind of work ethic and character we own.
You have worked twelve years to get to college and I have worked even longer to get here to teach college. College is a privilege, not a right, and we should all afford ourselves the opportunity to get the most out of why we are here. To succeed as a class we all must demonstrate respect and contribute to a learning experience that is positive and productive for everyone in the classroom, even if that classroom is a virtual one.
Some expectations for creating a positive professional learning environment include:
- Be a professional. Professional communication is required in college. E-mails should include both opening and closing salutations. Don’t forget, you are likely one of one hundred and twenty three students on your instructor’s roll, so be sure your subject line includes your course and section number. Make sure your spelling is spot on and never use text message language. Text message language is informal and unprofessional. Know your audience and save ROTFL for your weekend warriors.
- Be respectful. Remember to turn off your cell phone as you enter the classroom. Do not make or receive phone calls while in class. If you must answer your phone, or respond to a text message, please do so in the hall. If you are taking an online class, create times that are cell phone free so you can focus and participate fully with fellow students. Fewer distractions will make for better learning.
- Be quiet when not contributing to class discussion. College level courses are challenging. Side conversations, while faculty members are teaching, distract those around you and infringe on their learning. Help each other by ensuring that private conversations are held only outside of class.
- Be engaged. We are lucky to have computers in college. We are luckier to have them in our classrooms. Like you would not have a conversation, you would not have a chat online while class is in session. Check e-mail in the hall or before class. Don’t cheat yourself. Focus on what’s happening in the classroom, real or virtual. You won’t regret it. And, you may not realize this, but your teacher is extraordinarily offended if she is talking or facilitating an activity and students’ heads are bowed reading social networks and sports pages. It is simply unprofessional.
- Be on time. Most people, who are late on occasion, are late for good reason. Those others who are late quite often simply feel they are more important than anyone else in the room. Your teacher expects you to be on time. In a classroom environment you may be docked points, or marked absent losing credit for the whole class period. In the workforce, you will be fired. There are plenty of on time people waiting to be hired that would appreciate your job.
- Be motivated. You should always attempt to find out about missing work from another student in class before requesting missed work and information from your instructor. You wouldn’t march into the bosses office after missing a day of work demanding to be caught up. That’s your job.
- Be attentive. Respect those teaching, whether your professors or classmates. Your full attention is required in school as it is on the job. Your very success depends on it. Being a good college student and employee means giving more than you get. Learning is your responsibility.
- Be a leader. Good employees and good students always ask questions when they feel unsure or need clarification. It is better to ask and learn than to muddle through uniformed. If you have questions so do others. Take the lead to help yourself and others in class.
What does this all mean? It means I expect from you what your employer will expect of you. College is a great place to hone these skills, to learn to be the best, and to succeed. The longer I teach, the longer my list of pet peeves seems to get. Most of these pet peeve’s stem from the growing lack of professionalism and courtesy I see in colleagues and students. I may be old fashion and may somewhat resemble the stereotype of an old English teacher living alone with cats, her head buried deep into a grammar book, but that’s fine with me. I know better.
A lack of professionalism will likely allow you to get that degree and even get that job you so desperately seek, but common sense, courtesy, and professionalism will get you that promotion which may allow you to live in a manner to which you would like to be accustom, or better yet, the promotion that puts you into a position that will help you make this world a better place. Be professional. Respect yourself. You will thank me later.
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