As teachers and supply teachers, we are all aware of the Professional Standards in education which set out how we should behave within school. However, being professional is more than that. It is a sad fact that teachers, and those who work in education, are held to higher standards than other occupations. It is very easy for our personal lives to cross over into our teaching career with, sometimes, career ending results. There are, however, a few things we can do to protect ourselves both in and out of school.
Top Tip 1: Don’t gossip
This might seem obvious but you never know who you are talking to in a school. That friendly face could be a TA, teacher or parent volunteer. Anything said could easily be misunderstood and reported back to your agency, making life very difficult for everyone. Because of misunderstandings, potentially, you might find that you don’t get to work in a professional capacity in that school again. Further advice on working with adults can be found here.
Top Tip 2: Marking work
How much time spent on marking is always a matter of debate. However, in my opinion, it is always a good idea to mark all the work you’ve done and follow the schools marking scheme as much as possible. Not only does this give the class teacher a good idea of how the lesson went but it also helps create a really good impression with the school. This in turn can lead to more work in the future.
Top tip 3: Have work prepared
In most cases work will be left. If not, there is usually someone else you can ask. However, it is always a good idea to have a range of potential lessons or backups available just in case. Not only does this create a good impression with the school but it also reduces the stress of going into a school unprepared. There is a range of emergency lesson plans available here.
Top tip 4: Respect your agency
If you work for an agency it is important to remember they are your employer and not the school. Any issues within the school should be reported to them. Equally, you should not criticise the agency to the school or work direct for a school if you have been sent there by an agency. This article give top tips on developing an effective relationship with your agency.
Outside of school
Top tip 5: Careful use of social media
It goes without saying that we should all have high security settings on Facebook etc. But did you know that your profile picture is almost always viewable even with high privacy settings? That picture of you on holiday set as a profile picture 3 years ago will be public even when you subsequently change the picture to a more acceptable one.
What about your friends? Anything your friends post will also, potentially, be seen by parents of any school you work in. Ask your friends to also have their privacy settings as high as possible or, better yet, not post pictures of you in the first place.
The golden rule of social media is if you don’t want someone to know it, then don’t post it!
Top tip 6: Nights out
Firstly no one is saying that teachers have to never go out. But it is worth considering whether a wild night on the town is worth the potential for embarrassment, or worse, at school the next day. Consider carefully where you go with your friends. If you know of a particular pub or club which is frequented by parents then probably best to avoid that place and chose somewhere else. If you do find yourself in a situation where there are parents then it is probably safer to keep your distance and not start accepting drinks etc.
It can be difficult for teachers who have children to avoid social situations with other parents. Many children go to so many clubs and after school activities that it is almost inevitable that some of your children’s friends will be in a school you work in. This can prove to be a dilemma as you wouldn’t want to be ‘stand offish’ but at the same time you don’t want to risk being too familiar and unprofessional. Really there is no clear answer to this other than to attempt to keep your home life and professional life separate. For example introduce a ‘no work talk’ rule when at parties etc. If parents try to talk about school issues then they need to see you during the normal school day.
None of the advice above should be taken as an instruction to cut yourself off from friends and family. You are still entitled to a life! However, it is worth reducing the risk of embarrassment or accusations of ‘unprofessionalism’ as much as possible.