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Professionalism and personality

If you are about to embark on a teacher-training course, your next few weeks will be a bombardment of advice (heavy-handed in some cases) that tells you: what you can and can’t do; how you should dress and not dress; how you should act, speak and behave that is considered ‘professional’.

The reason that tutors at teacher-training centres and universities emphasise this so much is that ‘adopting professional behaviours’ is a necessary requirement to become a teacher. It is a formal part of the new ITT Core Content (the schedule by which you will be trained) and of the Teachers’ Standards (the ethical code by which you will be judged).

These documents say things like:

“teachers are expected to demonstrate consistently high standards of personal and professional conduct…(and) … uphold public trust in the profession and maintain high standards of ethics and behaviour, within and outside school…”

However, in my view, even the highest standards of professionalism should not get in the way of you expressing your personality.

Given that… let me give you a little test of your values in this area…

Do you think teachers should be allowed to:


· Wear visible tattoos and body piercings?

· Adopt a ‘Mohican’ hairstyle or dye it ‘shocking pink’ or bright blue?

· Post personal messages or photos to friends on social media about their job?

· Wear pin badges for various political, charitable or social causes?

· Reveal their sexuality to teenage pupils (even as part of an age-appropriate discussion on a relevant topic)

Think about that if you like….

Or even discuss these questions with other people you are training with…

You cannot be a good teacher if you are hiding your ‘real self’ behind a persona that is a barrier to you expressing your personality or one that is preventing you from developing your character as a teacher.

On the one hand you will need to acquire and develop professional virtues that enable you to show you are dependable, efficient, respectable, diligent, leaderly and effective (among many others).

But you will also need to acquire (if you haven’t already) and develop virtues in your personality too – and that may include virtues such as being kind, sympathetic, charming, fun, friendly (without needing to make friends of pupils), humorous and gracious.

Perhaps above all, the character virtues you’ll most need to acquire and develop as a new teacher will be a sense of balance, creativity and courage.

The real question is not what you think of your personality, but what you want people to think of you – both as an individual and now, as a teacher.

That will come with challenges. Relish them.

Good Luck!

Alan Newland taught in schools and universities for over 20 years and was an advisor at the DfE and GTC for over a decade. He now writes and lectures on professional ethics and values in teaching and runs the award-winning newteacherstalk network.

You may be interested in his course in ‘The Foundations of Professionalism in Teaching’ – a 3-module course with over 4.5 hours of HD quality video presentations, additional course reading and materials, self assessment exercises and completion certificates.

Other related blogs to this are:

· “Sir, have you ever taken drugs?’

· Your right to Tweet

· Teacher? Anything to declare?