Welcome to teaching – promoting professionalism with new teachers

How can new teachers reflect on their emerging sense of professionalism as they enter the teaching profession?

One way is to generate discussion and debate around thought-provoking scenarios that make explicit the values that inform professional judgement.

I meet thousands of student teachers at hundreds of colleges and universities and discuss such issues. I pose questions like, for example, what is a profession?   How is a ‘profession’ different from any other kind of job?   Do your professional judgements reveal particular values?

Discussing these questions invariably sets off a flurry of debate about the boundaries of personal and professional life.  So for example, I ask: “If you are a good teacher, does it matter if you…

  • get drunk in pubs or clubs at weekends?
  • regularly exceed the speed limit in your own car?
  • use recreational drugs with friends in the privacy of your own home?
  • engage in flirtatious and sexualised banter with colleagues?
  • network with your pupils and students on educational matters using Facebook outside of school hours?
  • become active in an extreme political party?”

The diversity of opinion is fascinating.  Some students will say ‘Yes, it does matter – I’m seen as a role model’.   Others will argue that their private life should be kept separate so why should they be accountable for it professionally?

Read more and get involved in these discussions, go to the top of this page, click on POSTS, and tell me what you think…!

  1. February 27, 2011 at 1:03 pm | #1

    Very interesting. As an English teacher of four years who is just starting to figure out how to combine the various strands of my existence, this is all very relevant.

    Will keep an eye on this blog.

    All the best,

    -Unseen Flirt
    http://www.unseenflirtspoetry.wordpress.com

    • February 28, 2011 at 5:22 pm | #2

      Thanks Unseenflirt. Keep in touch – the idea of this blog is that new teachers get a sense of how they as ‘individuals’ emerge in to the uncertain and moving landscape of being a ‘professional’ and the implications that has for personal identity. So do post some comments occasionally in response to blogs – or anything else for that matter – about how you think that affects you. And good luck with your career too..!

  2. June 8, 2011 at 2:41 am | #3

    get drunk in pubs or clubs at weekends?
    Teachers would not want their students to see them being ridiculous, or out of control, but that doesn’t mean you have to stay home cleaning your chalk brushes.
    regularly exceed the speed limit in your own car?
    You are as accountable as anyone for public safety, if not more accountable. Act as a careful prudent parent.
    No one should speed or use drugs.

    use recreational drugs with friends in the privacy of your own home?
    download pornography on your home computer?

    No pornography, I personally think this is not viable entertainment. Pornography can lead to boundary violations, and objectifying people.
    engage in flirtatious and sexualised banter with colleagues? Not a great example to set and is detracts from the school atmosphere.
    network with your pupils and students on educational matters using Facebook outside of school hours? That is a matter that may change as social media evolves, but most schools say no to teachers on face book with students.
    become active in an extreme political party?”
    I don’t know! You may have to be aware of the political climate in your community. If you are wildly out of step with your community you may be at the wrong school, anyway and they will hold you accountable for your extreme stance as you are seen as role model for youth.

    • June 8, 2011 at 2:38 pm | #4

      Thanks for that Krista – interesting responses. But I’m going to challenge you a little bit if I may…

      you say, “No-one should speed or use drugs” but the reality of life is that sometimes they do. My question is… “Does that make them a bad teacher?” and some people reply to me “Yes it does. You can’t break the law and be a good teacher.”

      OK. I’m not condoning breaking the law but let’s consider this: Your teenage son (who up until now has hated school and has shown no interest in studying) has got a brilliant teacher who has inspired him to study seriously, do homeowrk diligently and aspire to go to university. One day your son comes home devastated. His teacher has been fired because they were speeding down a motorway at 90 mph to get to a holiday flight they were late for due to a traffic jam. Now, your son doesn’t want to go to school anymore, has lost interest in studying and going to university. Do you feel so intolerant of speeding in that context?

      Here’s another (gentle) challenge…. Your comment about a teacher downloading (adult) pornography on their home computer. Is that a moral judgment or a professional judgment? Do you have right to extend your moral judgments to other people’s private (but legal) behaviour?

      Thanks a lot for post. I’d be interested in your response if you have time.

      • November 29, 2011 at 10:45 pm | #5

        Hello :)
        I think that part of becoming a Teacher is acknowledging that you should always think about your behaviour, because it is that kind of profession. When you are a teacher, you are putting yourself in the front of a whole class of children/other adults that are observing you and learning from you, and that doesn’t just stop in the classroom. Is this why a lot of teachers don’t live in the same town that they teach? I know that everyone is entitled to a private life and what they do in their own time is up to them, but when you are a teacher you are entering a profession that requires good moral judgement. But is this asking quite a lot from people?

      • November 29, 2011 at 10:52 pm | #6

        Thanks for that Katherine – I think you ask some very pertinent questions, not least the one at the end – “is all this asking a lot from people?” I think the answer is ‘yes’ but with a very big ‘but’… you have to protect your privacy to maintain a balance in your life and protect yourself from being overwhelmed. Don’t be apologetic about telling people to mind their own business when you think they are intruding in to aspects of your life that are legitimately private. But in order to do that, you must take responsibility for protecting your privacy in the first place.
        Good Luck! and thanks for posting.

  3. CableJunction
    June 29, 2011 at 11:16 pm | #7

    Personally, I feel that what you do in your private life, providing it doesn’t encroach on your professional life (i.e. alcoholism or drug abuse that starts to interfere with your work), is indeed private.
    I will admit I have seen students out whilst I have been well & truly inebriated. They smiled & said “Did you have a good weekend, Miss?” and left the matter there. I do not feel being a teacher should dictate your entire essence as a human being – yes, we too have desires & want to do naughty things! Shock horror! And there was me thinking that teachers didn’t have any form of social life & were put on this planet solely to mark my work when I was at school. Oh, how things have changed now I’m one of ‘them’.
    I would be more concerned about a teacher thrusting their religious views on children as opposed to whether they enjoyed a glass, or even a bottle, or two of their favourite tipple at the weekend.

    • June 29, 2011 at 11:24 pm | #8

      Thanks very much for that really measured and witty response CableJunction. It’s interesting isn’t it – how some teachers are absolutely convinced that their image, reputation and effectiveness is damaged by being seen by pupils in a compromised position while others are equally convinced that it adds a dimension to the personality and character of a well-rounded and balanced teacher. It’s yet another good example of how we all bring our personal values to merge with professional values and that, in all cases, that’s a negotiated position with a different starting and end point for us all. Thanks for that great comment.

  4. CableJunction
    June 29, 2011 at 11:27 pm | #9

    As for the contentious issue of FaceBook, this one is more tricky. I set up a separate FB profile for my students as I do indeed want the last remaining shreds of my private life kept private. I let the students who wanted to add me; mostly my exam groups of Yrs11-13. They would use it to ask me questions through the instant chat forum & also enjoyed some of the pictures I uploaded from trips & the school prom, etc. It was rather pleasant & they all responded in a mature way.
    The thing that made me delete it was the idea it wasn’t regulated & therefore we, as teachers, were open to accusations, etc, as was highlighted by colleagues. I thought this was very sad. It makes me wonder what the world is coming to. I appreciate professional distance, but we are dealing with young adults who are human beings & probably spend more time talking to us (I am what I suppose would be considered a reasonably young & ‘trendy’ teacher – the kids like my Shakespeare lessons which pleases me no end) than their parents. Ultimately, like much in life, there is a very fine line, but we are human & I am very fond of my students & still wish I was able to use the FB page I set up to stay in contact with some of them as few drop me emails, but they would pop a quick note on my wall.

    • June 30, 2011 at 5:12 am | #10

      Again CableJunction, thank you for a very thought-provoking and unusual take on FB, which goes to the heart of what teachers should be trying to do – which is put the best interests of their students first – whatever channels they use to do that. Of course teachers must be cautious to protect themselves and employ proper and appropriate means to safeguard children, but the idea that FB per se should be ruled out as a means of educating students is in my view nonsense.

      I have met a number of teachers like you, who with sensible precautions have used FB very effectively. One such was a peripatetic dance teacher who worked with 80+ in six different schools (so she couldn’t use a single school intranet to cover them all) and set up a FB Group to organise all the various rehearsals and performances. The kids had to apply for membership and she approved it and so was able to regulate content, which was of course quite separate from personal FB pages. Again like you, she said how effective that was, not just for organising the dance groups, but the kids would respond sensibly to other things like adding other dance related content and occasional minor requests for homework help or advice on bullying. She found that it enhanced her trusting professional relationship with those students in a way that she had found difficult to develop in the school setting alone. She knew there was a risk (FB is defined as a ‘social’ network for one thing), but she was taking that risk in a controlled, well managed and measured way out of the best of intentions for the students’ educational interests.

      I am often dismayed at how many teachers, perhaps particularly of an older generation less familiar with social media tools, take with a knee-jerk response to anything around FB or social media – as if there was something inherently suspicious about the behaviour or the motives of teachers who can see an educational use for it or who can se a use for it to make their jobs more effective.

      It seems to me that your example and hers are exactly what we’re there for – putting the best interests of children first – and sometimes that involves an element of risk.

      If a student or pupil approached us and asked could they speak to us privately on a personal matter that was troubling them, we would (I hope) all respond in an appropriate manner using the kind of of judgment that put the interests of the child first. That would probably involve a conversation conducted with discretion away from ear-shot of others (unless they judged that for a particular child for very specific reasons that would be unwise). If someone wanted to be sceptical and suspicious about such a conversation they could define it as a “unregulated” – but it’s the kind of risk teachers take every working day of their lives and thank goodness they do – because that is what we are there for – to put the interest of the child first, even where and when that involves some risk.

      That was an excellent post CableJunction, thank you for responding with the comment and I hope we get a lot of readers to it – it raises a very important issue.

  5. CableJunction
    June 30, 2011 at 10:05 am | #11

    Thank you so much for your comments back, Alan. I have thoroughly enjoyed reading some of your posts as they are issues we rarely discuss in school; often it’s a case of following protocol & there is little room (or time) for questions about what is actually underlying some of the regulations.

    As teachers, I think we have all sadly heard of scare stories which we heed warning to. There are ones of teachers who’ve started inappropriate relationships with students (something unthinkable as far as I’m concerned) &, likewise, students who have spread false allegations about teachers. Simply because they are children, many people assume they do not have this capability yet, just like adults, there are some very ‘messed up’ ones out there. It is definitely prudent to protect yourself but in the same vein most people don’t take the decision to become a teacher lightly & absolutely have the kids’ best interests at heart.

    I totally agree with your comment about many conversations, in whatever forum they may be, being ‘unregulated’ to some extent. This year I have had the pleasure of teaching my first Top Set, Year 10 into 11, and I can honestly say it has been an absolute pleasure. All the additional hours after work, at weekends & through our ‘holidays’ has been worth it to see these kids enjoying learning, taking pride in their work and aiming for the best marks possible. However, this did entail, from both sides, a lot of additional after school revision sessions & coursework workshops. For my efforts I received card, flowers, chocolates, a keyring, and photos of me with my form & top set (which are now proudly positioned on my desk). This for me was what teaching was all about & how I envisaged it, but had yet to find, when I entered the profession.
    Some of these students have now left to go to college or sixth forms at other schools and many of them wanted to add me as a friend on FB. I too wanted to add them so I could keep in touch, possibly still help out, and find out how they are getting along. The ‘student’ FB account I deleted would have been a perfect way to do this as it’s something they all use. I guess my point to this thread is that I do feel sad & a little bit angry that we can be trusted enough to look after these kids in many ways but ultimately our personal / professional judgement over what is & isn’t acceptable counts for very little. I just hope they will email me from time to time & that in so doing this won’t be seen as something that pushes the professional boundaries.

    • June 30, 2011 at 4:18 pm | #12

      You sound like a fantastic teacher CableJunction with bags of enthusiasm, commitment and talent – just what young people need – so it’s no surprise to me they responded the way they did to you. The point I was trying to make in the ‘The End is Nigh’ blog was that it is their prerogative and privilege to want to keep in touch with you – and I’m not saying don’t – I’m just saying that we must be wary of being a bit ‘sentimental’ and ‘clingy’ and self indulgent when actually these kids need to fly the nest and find other “significant others”. It’s a bit like good parenting – we love them to bits but eventually a good parent tells them to go and make a family of their own.

      Excellent post – thanks very much again.

      • June 30, 2011 at 6:52 pm | #13

        Then it sounds like you’ve got it about right CableJunction. Good posts – thanks for the exchange, keep reading and posting… and enjoy the summer..!

  6. CableJunction
    June 30, 2011 at 6:43 pm | #14

    I totally agree with your comments – although I am not one of these ‘super’ teachers we hear about (sadly), but what I lack in finesse I do make up for in enthusiasm, as you say :) . I am of an age where I would like my own children & some of the kids I teach I’d be proud to have as my own. As for sentimental – absolutely! Self-indulgent – more than I’d like. But, it’s not that I don’t want them to fly the nest, I just want to hear how well they are doing & the odd wall post about a first or a 2:1 in an assignment would be rather fantastic; somehow emails seem to formalise that to a certain extent. Blogging, twittering, FB & Google+ , etc, seem to be making head-way in every other profession, why not in teaching – we devote a lot of our lives to the interest of the younger generations, so why not integrate it sensibly into something practical & a little self-indulgent? I never was the type to stand on formality . . .

  7. Sarah
    July 4, 2011 at 9:14 am | #15

    I was first introduced to this website by Alan Newland while at Winchester University. Alan came in to give us a lecture based around the GTC and discussed what our first year may be like, with some very funny anecdotes based around his own experiences, as well as asking us some challenging and thought provoking questions! Since then I have kept an eye on this blog and have very much enjoyed the discussions that have taken place. This blog always gives me something to think about and is a very interesting read. I have also found it very useful since I have been offered my first post as it has offered me ideas to help get me started. Alan is a very helpful man who provides an excellent service here, he has offered fantastic advice and wonderful thought provoking views that have challenged me as a proffessional and provided me and my friends with fantastic topics that we have in fact debated ourselves. A fantastic blog that is a credit to its creator.

    • July 5, 2011 at 8:47 pm | #16

      Sarah thanks for those kind words – and I’m glad I was able to provide some amusement as well as advice to you and your fellow students in the final days of your course. Even gladder that you seem to be continuing discussing some of the topics and issues… that’s great.

      Just be careful that you don’t spend all your waking (and some of your sleeping) hours hours thinking and talking about them too, you may find your friends say to you what they said to me when I started teaching: “Don’t you think about anything else..!”

      Good Luck with the new job.

  8. Mezzle
    July 4, 2011 at 7:28 pm | #17

    As a NQT, I have found a huge amount of support from this blog. I first heard of it when Alan Newland came to lecture us on professionalism on our last day at University. I found the lecture informative, thought provoking and very relevant. Since that day, I have used this blog to help me in preparation for interview and when dealing with challenging children, to mention a few! Newteacherstalk is also on Twitter and there is always a relevant issue to be read and discussed. Most are issues that are not covered in University and because I was completed a part time PGCE, everything was a little rushed. This blog has helped me think through some of the reasons why I got into teaching in the first place, especially when things have become difficult. Now after almost five months in full time teaching, I feel like I am finally there and know that if I need support out of school or have a question, this blog is there to help. The views and opinions of others has definitely helped me shape my own.

    • July 5, 2011 at 9:01 pm | #18

      Mezzle, thanks for those very kind words and I’m very glad that the blog has been useful to you in your first year, challenging though that has been. I was very glad to hear that the views and opinions of others help you shape your own – in a sense, that’s a very good way of defining ‘a profession’ – a community of shared values.

      Thanks again and I hope you’ll continue to find the blog useful in the coming years too.

  9. July 16, 2011 at 12:20 am | #19

    Teachers saved my life.

    I was a Catholic school girl who was raised by a mentally ill mother who believed she killed Jesus. I get so tired of hearing the 24-hour media whining about how to improve education to better serve at-risk children. More testing is not the answer. Connecting with students is what matters! My brothers and sisters and I grew up on welfare, with a mentally ill mother and an absentee father. When we were teens and my mother was committed again and again to mental institutions, we had to steal food, clothing and toiletries to survive.

    Yet, today, we have all broken the cycle of poverty and abuse for ourselves and our children. How? We had exceptional teachers. They didn’t just dispense facts. Instead, they provided opportunities for us to confirm our self worth. Money is not what is needed to improve education. Making it possible for caring, competent teachers to make a meaningful connection with EVERY child in the classroom makes all the difference. A high school teacher’s few positive comments scribbled in my weekly journal were enough to sustain me for a week. Soon, one week led to another and before I knew it, I was graduating from college. This magical connection in the classroom can never be measured by a standardized test. Just take the time to really see every child and you’ll save lives too!

    So if you ever need inspiration as a new teacher, I hope you’ll consider reading my book. My Mother Killed Christ: But God Loves Me Anyway.

  10. July 29, 2011 at 4:38 pm | #20

    The ‘put your own oxygen mask on first’ advice is written in code on my desk at school. Thank you for being somewhere I could visit for advice this year and, hopefully, the years to come.

    • July 29, 2011 at 4:41 pm | #21

      It’s a pleasure. And thanks for your interaction on the blog – which was great. I’ve enjoyed your writing too. Have a lovely summer and re-charge the oxygen cylinder..!

  11. August 6, 2011 at 12:05 am | #22

    I’ve spent a lot of time over the last few months reading your posts and thinking about some of the philosophical dilemmas that you pose. Your words are thought provoking. You offer useful and insightful viewpoints and your personal reflections are authentic and sincere.

    As someone who works continuously with student teachers, it is crucial that I read what they have to say about some of the discussion points you raise. You’ve developed an open forum for honest, professional debate.

    Your blog is sharp and to the point but best of all, consistent. You tackle the relevant issues that face our newest colleagues. I will be recommending it to the university students that I work with out here in New Zealand.

    • August 6, 2011 at 5:37 am | #23

      Thanks very much for that osheahq. I’m glad that you find the blog both thought provoking and useful for your work with new teachers in New Zealand.

      Some years ago I did similar work and it was great fun, especially as it was at a university that pioneered entry in to teaching via ‘non-traditional’ routes. That meant we had students who came from a wide variety of social and ethnic backgrounds with varying educational qualifications – but by the time they had finished a (then) four year course they were fantastic teachers.

      What made it particularly interesting was the variety and diversity of values that they brought in – everything from “archetypal East End working class” women who had messed up at school but having had their own children now realised how much they had to offer as a teacher; through to Caribbean, African and Asian multi-lingual students who came in speaking sometimes three or four languages and sometimes with very ‘conservative’ views about how to teach in a liberal, democratic society like the UK. It was fascinating, challenging and huge fun.

      I will look forward to contributions from you and hopefully your students for that reason (and others). Your perspective from New Zealand on the issues raised in the blog will be particularly interesting to people in other parts of the world I think. One of the questions I raise in the blogs is: “Are the values of teaching universal?” Well, with contributions like yours… we’re about to find out..!

      Thanks again for the kind words and I look forward to your posts.

  12. August 7, 2011 at 3:27 pm | #24

    Being only 22 and embarking on a secondary PGCE is a little daunting. I’ve spent the summer teaching ESL to teens only a few years younger than me and I’ve found that drawing the line between professional teacher-student interactions and young person-young person interaction is quite tough. I found myself explaining the third conditional by discussing the probability of marrying Brad Pitt to chatting to students about the weekend’s gossip, hearing their stories about sex, answering questions about my favourite cocktail and being asked for my Facebook name. When do I step back and say “No guys, although we’re almost the same age, share similar hobbies and follow the same youth culture, I’m your teacher and as a result any interaction that is not strictly educational is forbidden.” But is it? Naturally I wouldn’t embark on a tirade about my weekend shenanigans (not that in fact I’d have any scandals to hide) but should it really be so tightly bound that we can’t “chat” about the heres and theres of life, even if it means sharing personal stuff, admitting to, say, smoking (I don’t smoke)?

    • August 8, 2011 at 7:36 pm | #25

      Hi Mella, you have raised an interesting set of dilemmas to think about here – thanks for the challenge..!

      Of course, one of the really interesting (and challenging) aspects of hosting this blog is that there aren’t necessarily ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ answers – and some of the discussions (and my anecdotes) have illustrated what was once a ‘right’ answer when I started teaching may have since become a ‘wrong’ answer – so it’s interesting the way values changes. So you are right to ask “But is it…?”

      This is my view…

      As an ESL ‘teacher’ I think you are in a slightly different position. I’m not denigrating the skills, knowledge or professionalism of ESL teachers, but you were (presumably) being employed as an ‘instructor / tutor’ rather than as a ‘qualified teacher’. Once you do your PGCE and qualify with QTS you’ll have wider pastoral and even legal responsibilities that come as part of the territory .

      I have some friends who taught ESL abroad and it was even part of their contract to spend a few hours a week socialising with students so that they could practise their English in social contexts outside the classroom, and some have talked about having become friends with their students. In such situations it is inevitable that adults of a similar age will talk about all kinds of things and some of the topics will inevitably get on to personal matters. The question for you is how much you want that to happen. Some of my friends were working (almost) alone in a foreign country. Making friends with students seemed an inviting thing to do at the time – especially if it didn’t impact upon their effectiveness to teach and manage the class the next day.

      But this time next year, you’ll be someone who is recognised by society as a ‘qualified teacher’ with a set of responsibilities and expectations as a role model to young people. Then I think you have to be a little more cautious. First, to remember that it is your primary duty to prioritise the best interests of your clients. Secondly to protect yourself.

      So ask yourself whether it serves your clients (that is your students and pupils) interests to reveal things about yourself and your private life. Secondly ask yourself could you be compromised by those revelations?

      Some years ago, a child in my Year 6 class (only eleven years old) asked me out of the blue: “Sir, have you ever taken drugs?” I answered him directly. I said: “Yes, when I was a student, I smoked dope a couple of times and on another occasion I once took a drug called LSD. But I was experimenting with friends and I found out I didn’t like the way I felt, it made me sick. And the way my friends behaved actually frightened me . So I didn’t do it again and regret I did it in the first place.”

      Actually I was lying. (I had smoked dope on a further couple of occasions during the early years of my teaching career). But I had fulfilled the two criteria I was talking about just now. I tried to put the interest of the child first by using my example as a mistake that I later regretted. Though it was a risk. I hoped the child might listen more intently to the implied advice I was offering by appearing to be honest.

      But I wasn’t totally honest, because I didn’t want to compromise myself or my career.

      Look Mella, you’re going to make lots of mistakes – that’s natural, human and understandable. (Apart from anything, you’ll learn by your mistakes – we tell the kids that much..!). Just try not to make the kind of mistakes that put the safety or interests of the children in jeopardy or your promising career at risk.

      Good Luck with the PGCE and keep me posted on how tit goes..!

  13. Lauren
    August 18, 2011 at 7:40 pm | #26

    Having just completed my PGCE and done the first 5 weeks of my NQT post, I have found this post and blog very interesting!

    At 22, I’m the youngest an NQT can be and having a social life and coming straight from University I can completely resonate with the work Vs social issues.

    I ran into a student whilst walking to a friends in Mcr town centre… I was going for a quiet night and had a bottle of wine in my hand. However, I could of very easily been in a mini skirt on my way out for the night! I hid my face in my hair and quickly swapped sides of the road, but I was utterly mortified.

    This boy would have clearly made it known I was out/dressed up/etc, and I do feel like it could have affected my professionalism in front of my class.
    But I don’t feel like it should of, as going out on a Saturday night with friends does not affect my ability to teach good lessons.

    Would love to know what others think.

    Excellent blog btw! :)

    • August 18, 2011 at 9:50 pm | #27

      Thanks Lauren – congratulations on completing your PGCE and getting the job.

      I also applaud the mature and professional attitude you take to all of this. However, I would totally agree with you – you are a young woman who has every right to go out and have a good time with her friends on a Saturday night (or any other night you choose for that matter) and you shouldn’t feel guilty about it. I don’t think being seen by that boy would have affected your professionalism, but he may have tried to undermine your personal reputation. Even if people make a moral judgment about you – it doesn’t mean they have a right to do so – so stand your ground and live your private life the way you have a right to.

      But as you correctly identify… it’s hard to manage other people’s perceptions of your private actions – so be discreet and protect your privacy where and when you can.

      Thanks for your post – and I hope other NQTs respond to it with examples of their own.

      Good luck when the new term starts..!

  14. l. grace siodora
    October 31, 2011 at 7:24 am | #28

    Teachers are not perfect. If teachers are to be able to contextualize their lesson beyond the four walls of their classrooms, into a relevant socio-cultural milieu, they should have knowledge(although not experientially) of these realities and their influence as well as the legal consequences (e.g. alcohol and drug abuse, driving tickets etc.). I believe with Freire, that true education is “emancipatory” in nature, and that literacy should eventually lead learners to be in touch with each, their own experiences and culture, question it or affirm it, and liberate themselves through “conscientization” and transformative actions. So we do not only teach students “how to count” but “what counts most in life”.
    Teaching is a high calling that demands strict ethical professionalism especially because as an authority figure, his/her every action is backed by the “color of law”, and is presumed lawful.
    However, as to a teacher’s misconduct occuring off-campus and during non-working hours, in the state of California, the school district has the burden to prove that the alleged misconduct has an “effect” on the performance of his duties before a dismissal can take place and that the 14th Amendment of the US Constitution requires a just hearing to afford the teacher “due process” (Calif. Education Code 44932 ff.) For new teachers, there is a probationary period and at any time, dismissal is at the discretion of the school Administrator.It is wise, therefore, to rethink about the demands of the vocation before making a commitment.

    • October 31, 2011 at 11:59 am | #29

      Hi l.grace,

      thanks for such a considered, extended and thought-provoking response. It is very interesting to see how these issues are addressed in different parts of the world and the comparison between the west coast of the US and England in the UK is fascinating.

      In another blog on the site, I write and ask about whether we are a profession that has a shared set of values and codes across societies and cultures. For example, do we as teachers in “liberal deomocracies” like California and England have the same set of values and codes as teachers in countries that are “conservative and authoritarian” (like Saudi Arabia or Zimbabwe)? One issue that divides us from societies like those might be the principle of equality for example (around things like gender, sexuality, etc) both in terms of our principled commitment to client impartiality and the freedom of a teacher to practise their profession unhindered.

      Any views on that?

      Thanks again for your comments – fascinating stuff.

  15. February 29, 2012 at 1:11 pm | #30

    It’s great to see someone urging new teachers to consider these serious issues. I think there is a credible argument to be made that it is precisely the lack of professionalism within the “profession” that has led to it being such a political football in recent decades.

    For me, it’s the political question on your list which causes me most concern. I yearn for the days when teachers realise that simply because they are dealing with other peoples’ children (not adults) they have no right to air their personal political views and concerns, ever.

    • February 29, 2012 at 1:48 pm | #31

      Hi Joe, thanks for that and you raise a very important issue – though I’d hate for you to think that I’m suggesting that teachers shouldn’t express ‘political views’ – (depending what you and I define as ‘political views’ of course…)

      Let me clarify. Sometimes children would ask me “Sir, who do you vote for?” and as a matter of principle, I would say: “That’s a private matter. When you grow up to vote you can keep it a secret too if you like, so that people won’t be able to judge you on the way you vote. And because I don’t want you to judge me on the way I vote, I keep that a private matter from you.” Usually, they’d walk away with a quizzical look – probably because I had bored them to death..!

      On the other hand, I think ‘teaching’ and ‘education’ are both fundamentally political processes and that responsibility can’t be abdicated by teachers. Teaching and education are about values and imbued within those values are political philosophies.

      For example, the very fact that (as a society) we choose to teach certain things (and not others) reveals that we teach within the accepted consensus of “a liberal, democratic, pluralistic, capitalistic society” – and examples of that are teaching things like “Business Studies” or the “Jewish Holocaust” or “Modern Languages” that include French as well as Bengali.

      Where I think we agree completely is that teachers should not, in my view, seek to influence the political views of pupils and students (for example, by saying that “You should support Labour” or “You should not support the renewal of Trident missiles”). However, I do think we are in the business of trying to be influential in the way pupils and students adopt and build personal and social values. And I accept there is a fine line between the two..!

      Thanks again for a very thought-provoking post.

  16. June 3, 2012 at 5:43 pm | #32

    Such a tough question! I teach in a small town, too, so anonymity is impossible–I always have to be aware of what I am teaching my students when they see me in public!

    • June 3, 2012 at 6:53 pm | #33

      Thanks for that post thatwritinglady. It is a tough question and you have a tough job trying to maintain privacy and balancing your role as a teacher with that of just being a ‘normal’ person. I went to meet some new teachers on the Isle of Wight in the UK recently – which is also a small community – and they said there was nowhere on the island where they could drink in a pub or socialise in a club with out being recognised by someone they know.

      I would be really interested for you to read some of the oher blogs and see how you respond to them. I look forward to that. Thanks again for posting.

  17. Asha Crocker
    June 15, 2012 at 7:30 am | #34

    I am after some advice- I have recently signed up to Twitter. I think it is an invaluable tool for resources and encourages debate. However, I’ve noticed that several of my Yr11 students now ‘follow’ me. I do not follow them, as our school policy is not to have students as ‘friends’ on Facebook. How do I handle this effectively, without compromising my professionalism and my private life?

    • June 15, 2012 at 9:18 pm | #35

      Hi Asha, thanks for that – I’m sure you’re in the same boat as many new teachers but given that your school has a restrictive policy on social media use I’d suggest the following:

      have two separate Twitter accounts, one for completely private use and the other (the existing one) for tweets that you can use for professional reasons like tweeting resources etc that you referred to earlier. To enable you to keep the private one private, I would suggest creating a pseudonym without a personal picture on the profile page and no other identifying features, so that when you launch the private twitter account, your students won’t recognise you or know it’s you. Just tell your family, friends and associates about it. Others, not students, will follow you eventually.

      The fact that some students are already followers should not be a problem for the school, as being followed on Twitter is a passive thing as far as you’re concerned – you have not solicited them – it’s not like actively friending someone on Facebook either. So if they ask, explain that to them. You have said that you do not follow them – that’s good – keep to that.

      Try that and let me know how it goes – good luck..!

      • Asha Crocker
        June 17, 2012 at 5:43 pm | #36

        Thank you very much for your help- and a shout out to the @TeacherToolkit for recommending you! Thanks again!

  18. PJ
    June 19, 2012 at 1:32 am | #37

    I received an excellent piece of advice from a veteran teacher: do not go out for drinks in the same town where you teach. Someone from either the parental arena or the school committee will be lurking in the background, just in time to hear you call their child ‘a pain in the neck’ – or worse. Take a quick jaunt but five minutes out of town and hunker down there to partake in social niceties… or not-so-niceties.

  19. July 20, 2012 at 6:08 pm | #39

    I can hardly call myself a new school teacher after having been in the profession for almost 21 years now. But let me tell you that my awe is no less open-mouthed than the youngest one in the brotherhood as I come across the ‘gentle’ challenges and ‘dilemmas’ that this blog presents. You have, in one of your quips, ventured into a comparison between the sets of codes and values for teachers in “liberal democracies” and “conservative and authoritarian” societies.

    I am from India, where the teacher or the ‘guru’ or the ‘acharya’ (literally – ‘worthy of emulation’) once enjoyed a very high pedestal. I am not talking about the ‘hoary past’, mind you, but even about the time we had started teaching we could feel the aura our predecessors had left behind and could reasonably well bask in it. Things have taken an abrupt and unfortunate(?) turn over the last – say – fifteen years; and I really don’t know whether it is the globalization, the commercialization or the information technology boom that is to be held culprit.

    Teachers, as a general phenomenon, have lost the ‘acharya’ pedestal. Perhaps because, unlike their predecessors, they would not mind a raunchy gossip now and then, a lewd text message from a friend or a hefty remuneration for a private coaching session. Very much like the child-lost-in-the-tube incident, while no body (neither the student, nor the parents) would then mind a teacher thrashing a child; today a simple “how dare you” could invite ‘earaches’ from not only the parents, their lawyer, the media, but the student himself. Here we have the ‘chicken and the egg’ problem. We don’t know if it was the teacher who shed his conservative garb first, or it was a reaction to the students’ (now empowered with the information technology) effort to dethrone him from his ‘demigodliness’.

    Of course, we still have popular teachers, but their cause of popularity could very well be their advocacy for an extreme political view or any such non-academic attributes. Conservatism or liberalism are mere passers-bye in this (I suppose, global) phenomenon.

    May I inform about a new development in the Indian society (definitely a by-product of globalization), which has further jeopardized the teachers’ position? The recent government diktat stops schools to detain a child in any class (grade/form) resulting in some students throwing blank test papers at their teachers with the utterance, “C’mon – show me how you are going to fail me !” Some boys, I am told, engage themselves in part time trades during school hours, hardly ever studying, and are promoted to the higher class every year by default.

    • July 21, 2012 at 9:45 am | #40

      Hi Gurudev – what a brilliant, insightful and wise series of remarks you make there. Thank you so much for taking the time to write them. Thank you also for reading so many of the blogs and bringing your wide ranging comments altogether the way you have.

      It is fascinating how access to a globalised media is having an effect on the attitudes and behaviour of children and students across the world towards teachers, authority and the ‘culture of education’ and perhaps on the attitudes and behaviours of teachers too – by the evidence you provide. Though in spite of the increasing homogenisation of popular culture and the effect it has even on professional life, I think there are still huge contrasts even between ‘liberal’ societies like our own – India and the UK – and particularly between ours and more ‘authoritarian’ societies like Saudi Arabia or Iran.

      I’m fascinated by this stuff though Gurudev and your contribution has been really valued – so thanks again for making the comments… and I hope you keep reading the blog and use it to find ways of passing on your insights to other teachers in the UK and around the world.

  20. cw
    August 1, 2012 at 7:41 pm | #41

    Let me say that this is a wonderful discussion. Imagine the issues of privacy for me, a teacher working on a tiny island in the Caribbean. Whatever I do in public people are going to know about it. After many years as a teacher, I have taught thousands of children so there is absolutely nowhere I could go on the island and misbehave if I wanted to(not that I do) without it becoming a matter for gossip.

    Our system is based on the old English colonial education system. and teachers and priests were, at one time, the most educated people in the area. In fact, they were sometimes the only people who could read or write for miles. Teachers read important letters and documents for ordinary people. helped them write to loved ones overseas and mediated the printed word for fellow citizens. This required a very high level of trust and a lot of this still lingers even though the literacy rate has reached international standards.

    Young teachers coming into the profession are not interested in this history. They feel that any moral dimension to the profession, besides a general regard for law and order, is a strategem by old idiots who need to mind their own business. However experience is a harsh task master. Years ago an attractive new teacher came to teach a senior class and not only did her short skirts and fishnet stockings raise eyebrows but her wild dancing with some students at a local disco was the talk of the school. She spent an entire Monday morning crying in the bathroom after male students asked a few inappropriate questions.

    The kids were disciplined but kids look to adults for a model on how to set boundaries. Whether or not it is stated in the contract, it is much easier to have authority in a classroom if teachers have certain basic levels of behaviour and personal integrity in school and out.. My advice to teachers is that if you feel that when you are at work you are faking it and feeling phony, then maybe teaching is not for you or perhaps you need to teach at a level where the moral behaviour of instructors is not seen to be important.

    • August 2, 2012 at 8:14 pm | #42

      CW thank you so much for the very fascinating comment you have made and the insight in to the perceptions (and the reality) of the teaching profession in the Caribbean. One of the great things about writing this blog is getting responses like yours which provide such a wise and mature reflection on your experience which provides sage advice to younger teachers. I suggest you write a blog yourself – you sound like a wonderful teacher and a pillar to your island community. Thanks again for sharing your wisdom.

  21. Alison Bailey
    August 5, 2012 at 6:01 pm | #43

    A very interesting discussion with insightful comments, thank you. I am newly qualified at 51, a baby in teaching terms, I want my learners to respect me and consider me a role model, this takes conscious effort on my behalf. Is teaching a craft or a profession, well in my opinion it’s a craft to be honed whilst holding professional values all the way. Thank you for the thought provoking script.

    • August 5, 2012 at 7:52 pm | #44

      Hi Alison – thanks for that, and I think that’s a very compelling phrase you use – “a craft to be honed whilst holding professional values” – that’s hard to argue with. But I think I would still maintain that the public interest in the standards and integrity of teaching is so compelling that its professional values and practises should be have the status and gravitas of something more than a craft. Good Luck with your career and I hope you keep reading the blog.

  22. Katharine Harper
    September 2, 2012 at 10:30 pm | #45

    I am a primary NQT, I deliberately didn’t apply for schools close to home as I wanted to be judged on my performance as a teacher not through preconceived ideas about me (either first hand or gossip, positive or negative). My 3 children are now all at secondary school or working and I have been active in the community as they grew up.
    When I bump into placement pupils I have enjoyed a quick hello but its good to know I can go to the sports centre, cafe or pub without being on show.
    As for social networking, why not share learning via twitter? Facebook is for 13+ and my KS2 class shouldn’t be on it. I don’t have a problem with closed groups and events on fb organised by teachers for secondary school children, as there is no need for becoming ‘friends’. My children’s school is involved in Rock Challenge (google it, it’s amazing!). It requires many hours of rehearsals and commitment mostly outside normal school hours. Facebook was instrumental in providing a good communication channel and was a positive ‘space’ for pupils of different ages to ‘meet’ and motivate each other.
    Speeding regularly would result in a loss of licence but is a matter for the police not employer. Adult porn – is not illegal even if we may disapprove but it should not be in school.
    Drugs can impact on your general mental and physical state – as can alcohol which should be used sensibly by everyone, not just teachers.

    • September 3, 2012 at 11:12 am | #46

      Thanks Katherine – an interesting range of very balanced and mature views (in my view) about the various issues I’ve raised. I’d be very interested in your views on some of the other blogs when you have time (which you won’t..! at least not after next week..!) Good Luck with the new term.

  23. Mike
    September 3, 2012 at 10:32 am | #47

    Good morning. This strand actually raises some very interesting questions for me, and some of the points made above are excellent. You could almost make a “teacher’s checklist” …

    I am looking to become a MFL teacher in the next two years or so, and so will remove myself from my IT background of 15+ years and its habitual, associated behaviours (heavy online presence, outspoken views, very aggressive competitive nature, etc). One of the eternal questions for me is what jumping across into teaching will mean in terms of the different deltas between what is acceptable and what isn’t in each profession.

    The term “role model” is oft quoted, and I would like to think that this is what I would be with the knowledge of behaviours to avoid (I note the “Not drinking in the town where you work” above as a salient point, although perhaps “Not being drunk in the town where you work” may be more appropriate – teachers of mine certainly drank in the local town).

    A very interesting thread.

    • September 3, 2012 at 11:14 am | #48

      Thanks Mike – glad you found it interesting – and of you have time, please comment on some of the other issues and threads. Would value your feedback as someone thinking of entering the profession.

  24. September 24, 2012 at 11:28 am | #49

    HI all,
    I simply need some advice. I have done all my studies in French in Belgium and I have recently done a PGCE in the UK. I passed with Outstanding in my final Placement, but as my maths tuition was very different in the Belgian academic structure, I have failed 2 of my chances and, I can’t bare to fail again. I’ve been applying to Academies and International Schools, where apparently they don’t need QTS. I have found that this is not true, they are always willing to take me on, until they find out about my lack of QTS. Can anyone give me some advice, without crushing me please, as lots of people believe you shouldn’t even be a teacher if you don’t hold QTS. Thank you, Cait

    • September 24, 2012 at 10:42 pm | #50

      Hi Caitlin, this is a difficult question but I’ll do my best. You are right that academies and independent schools such as international schools don’t legally require QTS but the fact is that it is a marker of academic and professional standards that most employers, schools and other teachers recognise. This is why even though it is not legally required, most employers in any sector will expect it – especially from a new teacher. Prospective teachers with other experience or expertise – for example, someone coming out of the military with specific maths or physics knowledge and skills might be attractive to a particular school and they might be willing to overlook the lack of QTS in such a candidate, but a young new teacher without QTS might raise some questions in the minds of an employer.

      If you have failed the QTS tests twice then you’re only option it seems will be to keep plugging away at academies and independent schools. My advice would be give them reasons why it would be mad for them not to employ you. So don’t be shy about telling them the extra skills, expertise and experience you have which are so attractive that they will find it irresistible to employ you. Good Luck.

      • September 25, 2012 at 2:09 pm | #51

        Thank you for your honest and reassuring message. I will let you know how it all unfolds and if there is life after no QTS test! Caitlin

  25. October 23, 2012 at 6:31 pm | #52

    Very interesting. I would say that as long as your private life is kept just that, and you are a kind and conscientious and good teacher, there shouldn’t be a problem. As long as the children aren’t affected by what you do, you have as much a right to your own life as anyone else I would say.

    I have a blog focusing on my experience as a PGCE teacher here

    yououtnow.wordpress,com.

    Would be very grateful for people to have a look and comment and share!

    • October 23, 2012 at 9:04 pm | #53

      Thanks yououtnow – and thanks for your comment. Good luck with the PGCE and the blog.

  26. October 29, 2012 at 4:23 pm | #54

    I understand that everybody should have their private life but the teaching is not a job, it’s not something you do for money or making your life. It’s about educating and raising generations. Whenever we start seeing teaching as a regular job, this will be the downfall of the generations and it will be too late to discuss being a real teacher.

  27. January 25, 2013 at 4:04 am | #55

    What an enticing set of questions. I guess it really comes down to which philosophy one holds to answer the questions. One set of teacher’s values will be different from another set of teacher’s values. Is one right and the other wrong? Typically either side of this discussion would say yes they are right, while considering the other side to be wrong; however, the truth of the matter is… it depends. Really it depends on what the values the parents of the child who the teacher is teaching holds as valuable. Some parents will want their teachers to be good role models through and through, while others won’t care so much about a teachers character so long as she gets the student to perform.

    Great question!

    • January 25, 2013 at 7:36 am | #56

      Hi mr lee, thanks for that. My view is that teachers come in to teaching with a set of personal values and that they are often challenged by integrating them in to a set of professional values that are broadly shared by the profession itself (and often expressed through things like codes of practice) but more often expressed simply by the way teachers conduct themselves every day in the professional relationships they have with their clients. Often that integration is seamless and unproblematic, other times it involves some tension and resolution. But given the special nature of teaching, I think you are quite right in saying that role model status requires the acceptance of particular standards, at least in public. That means teachers need to protect their reputation more than the rest of the population. I don’t think they necessarily have to be more moral, but keeping their private life private, will help them manage their reputation. Good luck with yours and your career.

  28. February 20, 2013 at 10:40 am | #57

    I agree with Mr C, for me teaching isn’t a job to pay the bills, or even just a job I shall enjoy, but a lifestyle choice. I’m due to graduate this summer from my four year teaching degree and already, every place I visit or tv show I watch: “The kids would love this!” “This would be good for such a lesson!” Thankfully, my very understanding boyfriend and my family realise they are a part of this too!

    During my final placement I taught at a school about a10 minute drive from our house. Fantastic for those early morning starts! However, a weekend trip to the swimming pool was very uncomfortable when one of my year 6 boys was there. I have none of the children or their families on my Facebook, which contains an odd few holiday bikini snaps, but there I was in my swimming costume, no make up and with my boyfriend. I had done nothing wrong, yet it felt so inappropriate! Now, months on I still have to get nicely dressed and look presentable just to go to Asda, as I seem to see at least one family from the school each time I’ve been since. No dashing to the supermarket in my track suit bottoms for a last minute chocolate fix and a bottle of wine!! These are certainly things I shall consider on my job hunt. Some things, such as Facebook and other social media, we can control. It’s part of my responsibility as a teacher and part of my right to slice of private life.

  29. March 5, 2013 at 1:27 pm | #58

    I’ve been wondering the same thing as your post… I am starting my fifth year as an elementary school ESL teacher in Korea, and to be honest I don’t think it matters what teachers do in their own free time as long as they do not let it interfere in any negative way with work. I have not yet met ONE English teacher here who does not hit up the clubs and/or bars on weekends – but we all make sure that we are back in teacher-mode by Monday morning. This actually pertains to any career, really… everyone has their own way to relieve stress piled on from work. Whatever if may be, if you take that away, what is there to look forward to during the workweek? I’ve long stopped club-hopping and whatnot, and I still don’t judge others for spending their free time exactly the way they want to (although, I WILL shoot a look of disdain at anyone who actually uses the word ‘YOLO’ in real life).

    • March 5, 2013 at 2:30 pm | #59

      Good for you gewanita..! I could not agree more..! and thanks for your post too… any views on some of the other blogs…?

  30. April 11, 2013 at 9:44 am | #60

    As an NQT I’m still having internal battles with all these questions myself! Great post thanks

    missykes90
    http://inthenameofknowledge.wordpress.com/

    • April 11, 2013 at 2:10 pm | #61

      ha ha! but don’t let these questions change your life in to something unbearable. Remember… you are still young, need a social life and will make mistakes… just be discreet..!

  31. April 13, 2013 at 11:16 am | #62

    very interesting.
    Teachers are not merely educators who give dogmatic lectures of life. In the course of our formal education, teachers have shaped our lives, and formed our character to be the citizens we ought to be. It is then just right that the societies they have formed expect them to live the life they taught to be moral.
    Being a teacher does not start and end during school hours. It is a way of life that one nobly takes.
    These are excerpt from my new blog entry about TEACHER PROFESSIONALISM. ^_^
    The link is http://boyetme.blogspot.com/2013/04/does-professionalism-end-after-school.html
    Hope you can visit and leave any comment you have in mind.
    By the way, I am a Math teacher in an International School here in the Philippines.
    THANKS!

  32. james
    July 11, 2013 at 8:58 pm | #63

    hello there
    im a 23 year old guy who has always wanted to be a teacher and has worked within primary schools for the last two years working with a range of learning abilities. I am a uni grad and I am currently applying to do my PGCE.
    unfortunately I had ended up going through some problems since finishing my degree. I met someone who recently came out as gay and they left their current partner and my now step son who is four. over the period of June 2012 and January 2013 myself and my partner who looking after his child the majority of the time as his ex partner suffers from mental health issues. things came to a head when she took several overdoses and was demanding more money from my partner despite looking after his son the majority of the week. as my partner works full time I became their child’s primary carer and I always made sure they had a stable environment.
    unfortuntaley I made the mistake one evening when the child was continuingly enticing the family dog and after going through the process I ended up smacking him but leaving a mark. I was always very honest about it and I was so guilty over the incident but I was frightened something would happen to them and I panicked.
    following this my partner’s ex reported myself to social services and I had to speak to a police officer and was in tears and completely distraught by the whole incident. I was given Restorative Justice where I offered to do a parenting class. the woman I worked with told me they knew the kind of person I was and I a more than capable to look after children. All I am worried about is whther I will be able to become a teacher over this one mistake and whether it will appear on my DBS check although if anyone reads up about restorative justice it is not recorded in the national police computer. I am so worried and upset that this will effect my whole life. If someone could get in touch it would be really appreciated. Since then everything is back to normal and I am desperately trying to get my career on track and I have several volunterring offers at local primary schools and I have applied for my PGCE.
    please help xxx

    • July 11, 2013 at 10:10 pm | #64

      Hi James, thanks for posting in such a frank and honest way. It seems from what you have said that you have not got a criminal conviction for this offence, though you may have received a caution as part of the “restorative justice” decision (a caution is where you accept you have committed an offence but have shown remorse and accepted responsibility). In this case, it may show up on the DBS check depending on what the caution was given for. If it was for “physical assaulting a child” – then it probably will.

      However, it seems to me that it is at the lower end of the scale of seriousness and it should not be a irredeemable barrier to you entering teaching. When you apply for a PGCE, the application form will ask you to declare any convictions or cautions and the training provider will do a “suitability” check. Make sure you declare this and explain the circumstances. I think given the circumstances, and if it is an isolated incident as I’m sure it is, then you shouldn’t have an insurmountable problem – though you may be questioned about it at your PGCE interview, so be ready with a good but honest answer. You will need to convince any PGCE interviewer that this was a “one-off”, so be ready for that but I would be very surprised if they denied you place on the basis of this one incident.

      Good Luck!

  33. August 15, 2013 at 12:46 pm | #65

    I’ve just published a book Notes to a New Teacher, aimed at those entering the profession. It is described at http://www.chalkdustmemories.com. There is emphasis on the subjects of chemistry and journalism, with much of the book applicable to any teacher.

  34. September 27, 2013 at 3:24 pm | #67

    Once a month we write an article on the theme of values. One that has been read over 1,000 times in the past year is that on being a role model. It might stimulate some thoughts on establishing and maintaining one’s professionalism and reputation.

    http://www.innovatemyschool.com/industry-expert-articles/item/286-being-a-role-model.html

  35. Misty
    October 12, 2013 at 4:23 am | #69

    I want to know should something be said that my girls school principle was very drunk but my girls happen to not be around that day. It was at a fourwheeling club.I don’t drink. So am I judging her.

    • October 12, 2013 at 9:55 am | #70

      Hi Misty, thanks for your post.

      You are of course at liberty to judge your daughter’s principal’s drunken behaviour as distasteful and inappropriate. But it sounds as though “a four-wheeling event” is an ‘outside school’ event? If so, I think you should be aware that in judging her behaviour, you are judging her personal behaviour and not her professional behaviour or indeed her competence.

      It’s not clear from your post if the principal was about to drive a car under the influence of alcohol or whether she was just ‘worse for wear’ at a social event. Obviously if she was about to drive under the influence of alcohol that would be illegal and a much more serious matter.

      However, the way a teacher behaves outside school may not meet your own personal standards or personal morality and you have a right to judge that, as we all do. But we also live in a tolerant and liberal society where we should expect to have to tolerate the “deviant” behaviour of others – every so often – as long as it is not seriously criminal or seriously anti-social. For example, we might be at the cinema and someone starts eating popcorn noisily or whispers loudly… or we might be in the garden of a pub on a nice summer evening and someone starts smoking at the next table…
      If this was the behaviour of a perfect stranger we are annoyed and privately judge them as individuals. If this were our GP or our dentist or our solicitor or our child’s teacher… we should judge them the same – privately.

      My view is that this is not a matter to report to the the Chair of the school governors or to any ‘authority’.

      However, I do think the principal has made a serious lapse of personal judgment in not managing her personal reputation better, given that she will know that private behaviour is judged by others and will impact upon the way others perceive her.

      If you are a personal friend of the principal, you might consider having a quiet word with her but it would be very much “as a friend” – but in my view it is not your position to say something “as a parent” – she is at liberty to get drunk at a social event as much as you are at liberty to judge her for doing so – but privately.

      That’s my view anyway… what’s yours…?

      Thanks for your post Misty.

  36. October 15, 2013 at 5:07 pm | #71

    Silver River Productions is producing a new history series for Channel 4 that will tell the story of social change in Britain over the past 40 years through the eyes of four different professions. It’s history told from the perspective of the people who lived through it giving us a personal, human insight into social changes we’ve all taken for granted.

    Drawing on the testimonies of teachers this episode of the series will reveal how different the recent past was to education today and, through retired professionals’ accounts, explore themes that are relevant to us all such as respect for authority and social mobility.

    One theme we are interested in exploring is the changing attitude to romantic relationships between teachers and pupils over the age of 16 from 1970s to the modern day, looking at how society’s view of child autonomy has changed over time.

    If you have a personal story or an opinion on this sensitive subject or would like to find out more, please do contact Zehra in the strictest confidence on 020 7907 3469 or email zehra.yas@silverriver.tv with no obligation to take part.

  37. December 3, 2013 at 10:36 pm | #72

    Mr. Newland,
    I read your article named “Will convictions or cautions stop me getting a job in teaching?” Thank you for taking the time to write an informative article like that. It was very inspiring.

    I am very scared and uncertain what to do with my future right now. I am a career switcher. My dream is to teach school. I have never taught and would like to enroll in a Virginia teacher preparation program. However I have a criminal record which I think may prevent me from teaching. Today I went to the court house and obtained a complete copy of my criminal record. Here it is: I was charged in year 1999 with “contributing to the delinquency of a juvenile” – Class 1 Misdemeanor. I also have a reckless driving from 1999 and failure to appear 3 times in 1996,1998,and 1999 on traffic related offenses. Failure to appear is a misdemeanor in VA. I am now 40 years old so all of this happened 14 years ago.

    Explanation of the Contributing charge: I allowed a 16 year old drive my car to the store without a license and he got into a minor accident and I received a ticket for contributing to delinquency of juvenile for allowing him to drive my car without license. I am very sorry that it happened and I have not been in any kind of trouble for the past 14 years.

    By the time I finish the masters program the conviction will be 16 or 17 years old. I have not officially enrolled in the teacher program.I am explaining to you my criminal past so you can give me advice on whether or not I should proceed in enrolling in an education program because once I graduate I would like to teach. If you believe I would not receive a teachers license because of my past history then I will not enroll in an education program. Or possibly I could obtain a masters in education and work in college administration, I believe that is something I would enjoy doing as well.

    So with all the information you now have about my past criminal history and situation do you believe its still in my best interest to continue with the masters of special education program? Additionally my attorney said I cannot have the contributing charge expunged or sealed because I was found guilty.

    Thank you for your time,
    Chris

    • December 4, 2013 at 6:05 pm | #73

      Hi Chris, thanks for posting and for sharing your situation – which I have a lot of sympathy for. I’m afraid though I may not have very good advice for you, simply because I live in work in London, UK and the legal and professional situation in relation to teaching may be quite different to that pertaining to Virginia.

      However, I suggest you make some discreet enquiries about this – and in my view the best people to advise you about your chances of a successful entry to the teaching profession would be a teachers’ union. I understand that teaching is still quite a heavily unionised profession in the US and they will certainly have the resources to fund legal experts who advise them on professional and legal matters. They will surely know whether it is a waste of time even applying. If I were you I would start with a phone call, email or letter to the head office or the regional head office in Virginia.

      If you know any teachers, especially Principals of schools, well enough to have a discreet conversation about this that would be another good option to try. You could always say that you “have a friend who wants to be a teacher, but has a record… etc etc” to maintain your own confidentiality.

      I’m sorry I couldn’t be more help but I hesitate to say too much given the different legal and professional jurisdictions of the US and the UK. But I hope it works out that you can follow your dream of becoming a teacher. Good Luck!

    • December 5, 2013 at 6:49 am | #74

      Hi Chris-
      The above advice is excellent. You could also have someone contact the teacher certification board in your state department of education on your behalf.. They would likely be the arbiters of whether or not you get a teaching certificate.
      If you can get a certificate, I suspect you can get a job in your state. The need for special education teachers is high. Therefore,if you get a certificate, you can be open about your past with any employer, They need you, and you ought to find a good employer who will stand behind you and your (minor) criminal record.
      Dana Dunnan
      Walden Vermont
      http://www.chalkdustmemories.com

      • December 5, 2013 at 10:13 am | #75

        Thanks Dana – that’s very helpful of you to add that very useful and encouraging advice.

      • December 5, 2013 at 12:59 pm | #76

        Thanks for all the great advice everyone. This website is very helpful.

  38. December 5, 2013 at 8:49 am | #77

    Hi Alan – I work for BBC News. I wonder whether I might be able to have a chat with you about a story I’m working on about Teacher/pupil relationships? Anthony.

  39. December 7, 2013 at 8:57 am | #78

    Hello,

    I’m wondering if my criminal record will prevent me from getting a job as a teacher
    I was convicted of two class e misdemeanors (lowest class) during college. One was for failure to disperse in 2010 and the other was for a driving to endanger in 2012. I was also charged with resisting arrest and a violation of bail in 2010 but those charges were dropped. I plead to driving to endanger after originally being charged with a DUI.

    Basically, I want to know if these 2 minor misdemeanors will A. prevent me from receiving a certification and/or B. prevent me from getting a teaching job.

    Any helpful insight?

    • December 7, 2013 at 9:58 am | #79

      Hi James,

      I would suggest that these will be considered as minor offences and shouldn’t count against you – especially in terms of applying for a training place particularly if you go to a university setting and do something like a PGCE (or PGDE in Scotland). I am almost certain that if you del are these to the training provider they will not have a problem with taking you on and eventually awarding you a teaching qualification.

      I don’t know how old you are – if you were in college in 2010 then maybe 23-25? – but the issue for me here is that they may be perceived as relatively recent but that’s just my guess. If they involved violence against children, then we’d have a major problem, but it sounds like it didn’t.

      I think by the time you have completed a PGCE, they will seem even more distant and actually may not even show up on a Disclosure and Barring Service check for employers given they are minor offences.

      Don’t let it put you off applying to universities and declare it to them and ask their advice at interview.

      As for your prospects of getting a job, that’s always a difficult one to call – especially these days when they can reject you on the look of your face let alone a minor conviction. My advice is to go for it. Good Luck.

  40. December 10, 2013 at 2:27 am | #80

    Can someone in the U.S. be barred for teaching if they were suspended from college for a semester? While I was on work study at the college a coworker and I were working in the computer lab. We were sending nude photos of ADULT women back and forth through email..some in sexual acts.. Someone saw us emailing the photos and we both got in trouble for email abuse and emailing porn. The photos werent of young women or kids or anything. Just nude photos of women. Anyways the other guy and I were suspended from college for a semester and we were allowed to return the next semester no problem.
    Anyways the suspension is on my academic transcripts. It just says “year 2000 – Suspension Disciplinary”.
    I finished out the school year and I went on to get my bachelors and now I am in a masters program. My question is when I apply for my teachers license the state board will probably want to see my college transcripts to make sure i passed the program. They will probably see the suspension on my transcripts and may or may not ask what it is for.

    Do you think that will be a problem that will prevent me from receiving my teachers license?

    thanks

    • December 10, 2013 at 7:34 am | #81

      Hi Gerard,

      I’m afraid I can only speak for the UK but I would imagine the professional values and expectations in both systems are fairly similar.

      For the incidents you describe, such a disciplinary record would not be a serious impediment for a person in the UK to enter the teaching profession. Like in the US, it would have to be declared as a “suitability declaration” – but in my experience an incident like this would not be considered serious enough to deem the person “unsuitable to teach”. So I hope that is encouraging for you.

      My advice however, would be to seek the counsel of a teachers’ union in the US. If they are like the teachers’ unions in the UK (and my experience is that they are), you may be able to provisionally join the union while you are still studying for your teacher’s licence, and they will give you some support and legal advice on this and information about the regulatory position.

      Good Luck.

  41. To raymond
    January 26, 2014 at 3:32 pm | #82

    Hi. Sorry to post here but am very concerned. As an existing teacher, if I get a criminal record for fare evasion will it (a) show up on my next crb check and (b) am I likely to be sacked?

    • January 26, 2014 at 3:47 pm | #83

      Hi Tom,

      yes and no, probably.
      How’s that for an answer ;-)

      Seriously, yes it will show up if you have been convicted for fare evasion, depending on how serious the evasion was (£1.20 on the bus? or £120 train fare?) and how efficient the police authority have been in reporting the conviction, first to your employer and secondly to the Disclosure & Barring Service. They tend to be variable across the country and more efficient at more serious offences. But in principle, yes, it will show up.

      No, you are not likely to lose your job for this. It will be considered a minor, non-relevant offence. For example, thousands of teachers get speeding fines and even bans for speeding and drink driving and don’t get sacked. It is usually considered not serious or relevant enough to undermine public confidence in you as a teacher and your role-model status.

      However, if you were to get banned for speeding or drink driving the school mini-bus with ten kids in the back… then that would be considered a different matter of course. That would be both serious and relevant and you’d more than likely be instantly dismissed.

      My advice is don’t worry about it, but try not to let it happen again. Everybody deserves being allowed a mistake and a second chance, but recidivists are less tolerated.

      Thanks for sharing your position Tom. Good Luck.

  42. To raymond
    January 26, 2014 at 4:28 pm | #84

    Thank you very much. Very relieved. :)

    • January 26, 2014 at 4:55 pm | #85

      Are you a member of a union? I would suggest you join one and consult with them for the next time you apply for a job. My advice would be the NUT, but they all offer similar support and advice.

  43. To raymond
    January 26, 2014 at 5:59 pm | #86

    I’m a member of the NUT. Thanks.

  44. Chris
    January 27, 2014 at 5:17 pm | #87

    Hi can someone help me … I am on a teaching assistant course and have a placement at a school . 16 years ago I was sent to prison for 2 weeks for receiving stolen goods . It was because I never turned up to probation services. Would this mean I would not be able to do the course and the placement. I’m sooooo worried because just applied for a dbs and I know it will be on there. Please help x

    • January 27, 2014 at 9:58 pm | #88

      Hi Chris,

      I’m afraid you’re right – a custodial sentence will show up on a DBS check . However, give the exact nature of the offence it might not be the end of your career as a teaching assistant. Given that it was a very short custodial sentence, that it was a long time ago and assuming hat there was no violence involved then you may be deemed ‘suitable’ to continue your course and work as a teaching assistant.

      However, the next issue is whether your prospective employer will consider it appropriate to appoint you in the circumstances – and that can only be gauged by knowing your employer. If they are tolerant, sympathetic to youthful mistakes and liberal minded, then you shouldn’t have a problem. If they are not, then you may find it difficult to get a job.

      My feeling is that given that you are on a teaching assistant’s course rather than a qualified teacher’s course, the relatively minor nature of the offence and sentence and the historic nature of it – you should be ok. I only hope I’m right.

      Good Luck and let me know what happens.

      Alan

      PS are you a member of a union? I would suggest joining the NUT – they will give you some good advice and support.

  45. mark
    January 31, 2014 at 9:35 pm | #89

    Hi
    I am a parent of a child at secondary school. We discovered one of her teachers has a conviction for criminal damage, a recent caution for harassment and works as an escort out of hours. We are extremely concerned about her suitability as a teacher and role model to impressionable children and would very much appreciate your expert advice on how we should deal with this matter.
    Thank you
    Mark and Ellie

    • January 31, 2014 at 11:50 pm | #90

      Hi Mark & Ellie,

      Thanks for your post and your questions. I will try to answer them as best I can from a UK perspective, though i would think that the legal and professional situation is broadly similar to that of Australia.

      First of all, I’m not sure how you came upon this information about your child’s teacher but before considering making a complaint you will need to ensure that you came upon it by means that are in the public domain. For example, in the UK the criminal record of an individual would not normally be information that was easily accessible and your complaint may be dismissed or challenged if it was acquired by illicit means.

      Having said that, I quite understand your concerns about the suitability of a teacher of your child who has a record of criminal damage and harassment.

      I understand that most states in Australia have professional regulatory bodies for the teaching profession (for example, I think the one in Victoria is called the Victoria Council of Teachers, something like that…) My advice would be to contact the one for your state and ask what the professional status of the teacher concerned is and whether he/she has these convictions and cautions listed against their status as a registered or qualified teacher. It may be that Australian teachers’ professional and regulatory bodies take action against teachers with serious criminal convictions and cautions and deem them “unsuitable” to teach.

      Of course, it would depend on whether the caution and conviction has been declared to the teacher’s employer and professional body in the first place. In the UK teaching is what is known as a “notifiable profession” in that if a teacher gets a conviction or caution, they must notify their employer and/or professional body about it to see whether it impacts on their professional status. Usually, only the most serious cases do so in the UK, though of course, parents and the public often take a very dim view of teachers being convicted of any crime.

      If the teacher has not declared these cautions and convictions that in itself may be a disciplinary issue.

      As far as working as an escort out of hours is concerned – this may be neither a professional nor a legal matter and any complaint may be dismissed as irrelevant. While you as individuals may find it distasteful for your child’s teacher to be working in such a way, if they are not doing anything illegal and it is being done in private time, then it is likely to be considered a private matter.

      However, the teacher’s employer may be unaware of it and if they have a clause in the employment contract stipulating that “no other employment may be undertaken without consent” then the employer may want to take up the matter with the teacher concerned. Additionally, there may be clauses that require employees “not to bring the school into disrepute” – similarly an employer may deem “working as an escort” as “disreputable”.

      This brings me back to my first point – if you came upon this information from a private or illicit source, you may find yourself being challenged about how you acquired it, especially if an employer attempts to use it against an employer at a tribunal or such like.

      I would suggest first approaching the State professional regulatory body for teaching, then the teacher’s employer (the school or the local/regional authority) and ask what procedures they have in place for making a complaint within the parameters I have discussed above.

      Forgive me for the long answer, but it was rather a complicated question – I only hope it has provided you with some information and options for the Australian context.

      Best wishes,

      Alan

  46. March 26, 2014 at 2:30 pm | #91

    Hi Alan,

    I am a teacher from Bahrain. I have read almost all of the posts on this website and watched all of your 9 videos on teaching’s values and ethics. I would like to thank you very much for your dedication to the profession of teaching.

    I am now a final year EdD TESOL (doctoral degree in teaching English to speakers of other languages) student at a UK university. My thesis focuses on school teachers’ professionalism. I would like to work with school teachers in pre- and in-service teacher education programs. However, the problem is that I have never worked in a school before. I have taught English at universities for about two years and also taught Arabic, my mother tongue, for one year in the USA. My question is: do you advise me to apply for a school teacher job so that I get to know how it feels like or apply for a job at a university to work with pre- and in-service teachers?

    Thanks so much.

    Mohamed

    • April 3, 2014 at 7:20 pm | #92

      Hi Mohamed,

      I’m so sorry it’s taken so long for me to respond – I have been on holiday without a wi-fi connection and it has been bliss without the internet for two weeks..!

      To answer your question – yes, I think it would be good to get a sense of what teachers have to do in terms of the pressures of lesson preparation, planning, assessing, marking etc etc so I think it would be an excellent idea to get some classroom-based school experience, but no, you don’t have to apply for a teaching job – you could apply for a place doing “school experience”. Lots of schools get requests from people to come and do school experience (usually from people about to start a teacher training course). But in your case, just explain that you want to observe classes for a PhD thesis and explain fully the reasons, and I’m sure, with the right kind of courtesy and consideration, that you will find schools that will accommodate you.

      As you are at a UK university, you may want to find out if the university has an education department. If they do, they may run PGCE or undergraduate courses to train teachers and will have contacts with many schools in the area. You could try asking the tutors at the university if you could observe in one or two of the schools they use for training.

      Good Luck!

  47. April 4, 2014 at 3:22 pm | #93

    Hi Alan,

    Thank you so much for your advice. I am in my country right now. I will try to get permission from the authorities here to access schools. Hope they will grant me one!

    Best,

    Mohamed

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