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To quote the late Rodney Dangerfield, “I just can’t get no respect." is often the unfortunate and fair lament of eductors. Yet there are actions an educator can undertake to market themselves and make it known to their administrator, the parents of their students, and their community, “I am an expert educator and I do deserve your respect." This is the first in a series of articles as to how one veteran educator would accomplish this.
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Your Image as a Professional
Educators often leave it at the end of the “to do" list to let your school community understand who you really are; the consummate professional. Your classroom entry needs to be distinct, personal and powerfully intriguing. Whether you teach kindergarten or high school, use your own style and creativity to make it grade appropriate, but informative. Lawyers, doctors, accountants, and other professionals hang their licenses & credentials on their walls to inform their clients they are fully trained. Teachers should not be informing their public of anything less.
On the Door: Room #, Teacher name, Subject(s), Teacher Schedule: This is posted to the inside (and optionally the outside) of your door so that when it is open everyone knows whether or not they have found the correct class. This information invaluable to new students and visitor’s especially.
Beside the Door: These items are optional yet they do assist in creating a first impression that you are important to your students. Two items could be laminated copy of a piece of prose a student once wrote for you or a grateful note or letter they wrote to you. These provide visitors with the first impression, “This teacher has a real connection with his/her students," and is something personal that let's everyone perceive one as an educator respected by one’s students.
On the Wall: A few times my principal was making visits with visitors, but I was on prep and out of the room. The placement of a poster made on Word (photo optional, but everyone appreciates a smile) beside my philosophy of teaching or mission statement assisted my administrator in marketing me to the visitors or parent. The photo could be last year's school photo or one that shows you involved in a hobby or leisure time skill you have. Sometimes an administrator will bring parents through our rooms that are looking for an inter-district transfer for their student. This gives them an idea of who at least one of their child's teachers would be and what teaching is all about to that educator.
Another tool I use to teach students and visitors alike as to who I am and what is meaningful to me is a quote poster. This quote is about teaching or education that says a lot about how you teach or the importance of education. Any quote you like about teaching, teachers, education, etc. will work as long as it is important to you. It leaves visitors something to talk about after they’ve left your room. There are famous quote websites all over the internet, but here is one I like: www.quotegarden.com .
All doctors, attorneys, CPA’s, etc. place their diplomas and certifications around their offices in highly visible places. Avoid hiding your diplomas and credentials on a bulletin board at your desk. Place copies of them in matching frames at eye level right beside your door. As well, if you’ve ever received a participation certificate for any training or seminar you’ve attended or in which you became certified, they should all be there, marketing you as an educator always adhering to being a lifetime learner yourself. I even put up my high school diploma. Additionally, I framed an 8 x 10 poster of how much more one earns in a lifetime with different college degrees as opposed to a high school diploma only, right beside it. You can find it here.
This was a powerful conversation tool with my middle grade students. They didn't even know that there were higher and higher levels of degrees. My experience in thirty-five years was that teachers did not get much in terms of awards. Yet if you are lucky enough to have them, hang them up, also. Everything counts. Be prepared and professional, perception matters. I received nothing but positive feedback from following through with these ideas in my own school room. Encourage your fellow teachers to try it as well.
What have you placed beside the entry door to your own learning zone? Is there anything you are now considering adding or replacing?
Working on your Image as a Professional
There are several different methods teachers can take to promote themselves as professionals. Some of the ideas discussed in this series include displaying your credentials, how your personal demeanor affects how others perceive you and effective use of technology.