Professionalism among Jamaican Educators: Principles, Practices, and the Practitioners' Perspectives

Professionalism among Jamaican Educators: Principles, Practices, and the Practitioners' Perspectives

Nola Hill-Berry (UTECH, Jamaica)
Copyright: © 2017 |Pages: 22
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-1700-9.ch002
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Abstract

The issue of professionalism among Jamaican educators has occupied a significant portion of much discourse. In this chapter, the author discusses a small-scale study that sought to answer two main questions: What are the perspectives of the Jamaican teachers regarding professionalism and are Jamaican teachers professional? The aim of which was to generate information that the relevant technocrats within the education sector can use to inform decision making. Through convenience sampling, a cross-sectional survey was done to solicit responses across a select college and two high schools. Participants responded to these questions through a specifically designed questionnaire. The question of whether Jamaican teachers are professional was still unanswered. However, more efforts should be expended to ensure that teachers uphold professional standards, become acquainted with their code of ethics and improve the levels of compliance with these professional codes and standards. In the meantime, educators should be encouraged to continuously seek and engage in professional development activities to augment their personal and professional growth; as well as the growth and development of others. This chapter discusses professionalism among Jamaican educators and highlights the professional principles and code of conduct, daily practices of Jamaican educators, and their perspectives on teacher professional development, and wider stakeholder impact. The author challenges educational leaders to mobilize educators to attain higher levels of excellence and professionalize teaching by ensuring conformity with established standards and code of conduct.
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Introduction

The Jamaica Teachers’ Association (2013b) states that certified teachers should “assume a professional status which carries with it a set of behavioral expectations, which are outlined by the Jamaica Teachers' Association in its Code of Ethics” (n.p.). Observations of the Jamaican education system indicate efforts by educational administrators and leaders to foster an environment that embraces the notion of professionalization. As described by Hodson and Sullivan (2008), professionalization is “the process by which an occupational specialty seeks to emulate a profession by demonstrating the hallmarks of [that] profession” (p. 259). Despite these efforts, a concern is whether the Ministry of Education (MOE) is doing enough to advance professionalism among Jamaican educators. This concern arose as there are some educators who seemingly set out to engage in activities that deteriorate the professional fabric of the teaching profession; and the laxity in the system allows them the latitude to do so. Personal experiences and keen observation of the transactions of some educators, in institutions at different levels, have led the author to investigate this topic of professional development among Jamaican educators; with particular focus on related principles, the practices of Jamaican educators, and their perspectives on professionalism among their discipline.

The author has taken the position that the level of professionalism displayed by some teachers can influence their personal and professional development; and the growth and development of other stakeholders with whom they interact, particularly their students. This is especially noteworthy since professional development involves “improving employees’ present skills and preparing them for additional responsibilities or advancement in the organization” (Lunenburg & Ornstein, 2008, p. 486). Although some students are not yet employed, they are being groomed to assume employment. Likewise, educators are required to continuously upgrade their professional status to be adequately equipped to serve the growing needs. The focus on professionalism is underpinned by these reasons and it is in this light that terms growth and development are being used. According to Hodson and Sullivan (2008), “professionalism is the competence and effectiveness of workers in their job performance.” (p. 270). For this chapter, the practice of professionalism among educators includes aspects such as in-class conversation and behaviour, out-of-class communication and conduct, feedback, teacher/student relationship, along with ethics and morals.

Problems

In recent times, there has been much debate and several issues have emerged regarding professionalism among Jamaican educators. A few examples are mentioned here. There was one occurrence that sparked criticism from the education ministry and an institutional leader when a photograph of an inappropriately dressed teacher teaching a class, was widely circulated on social media (Johnson, 2015).

Media reports also highlighted the alleged indifference of one high school principal that caused teachers in his institution to display varying negative work attitudes such as absenteeism and lateness. The situation was such that students were being left at a disadvantage (Brown, 2013). It was also noted that, in that institution, in one school year, “lateness had been a chronic problem with one teacher being late 89 times, another 69 and yet another 61 times” and the administrators did nothing about it (Brown, 2013). Other reports surfaced of teachers making sexual advances on students and although having knowledge of it, their colleagues remained silent on the matter for the sake of shielding them (Boyd, 2014; Brown 2012; Campbell, 2014).

Moreover, in 2015, the media reported that a female teacher, assigned to a public school in the western part of the island, used expletives and carried an offensive weapon while at school (Jamaica Observer, 2015); and that a teacher had been charged for physically abusing a student (Jamaica Gleaner, 2015). These occurrences have questioned professionalism among Jamaican educators in relation to how their professionalism, or the absence of same, has implications for their personal and professional growth and development; as well as the growth and development of others with whom they interact, particularly their students.

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