At the start of a new school year, it's time to think about the importance of creating the right reputation for yourself. Being known as a teacher with integrity is one of the keys to a successful career.
Although there not much (if any) time in teacher preparation courses devoted to the idea, teaching is a profession where being trustworthy is a crucial part of what is expected of us. Parents and guardians trust us to take care of their children and keep them safe and our students trust us to treat them with fairness and respect. The expectations that others have of us are very high. As a teacher, you are expected to uphold the values of your community—to live up to the high standards that your students, colleagues, and community have for its professional educators.
One of the most important facets of your professional reputation—one that you should establish as quickly as possible—is your reputation for integrity. One of the distinguishing hallmarks of our profession is that no matter where we are, we are still teachers.
The rewards of this reputation are significant. Teachers with a spotless reputation are the ones on whom other staff members can rely for help with both big and small tasks. Collaboration with your colleagues as well as with the parents and guardians of your students will be much easier. You will find yourself working in a supportive environment with others who value your contributions and who trust you to do the right thing. Here are some of the large and small ways that you can begin to establish your professional reputation:
• Keep your promises. Because this is so important, be very careful not to make promises you cannot keep. It is very easy to become caught up in the enthusiasm of a moment and agree to something you may regret later. Take your time, and ease into your new responsibilities.
• Do not purchase alcohol, tobacco products, or other very personal items in a place where you could run into your students, their family members, or unsympathetic colleagues.
• Avoid sharing too much information about your personal life at work. Before you reveal anything about your personal life, ask yourself, “Would I be comfortable revealing this if a school board member were in the room?”
• Do not make personal phone calls or send personal e-mail messages while you are at school. The phone calls may be overheard, and school e-mail is not private.
• If you decide to date a staff member, keep your relationship as private as possible. Your students should have absolutely no idea that you are involved with a fellow staff member.
• Do not talk about students when you are not at school. When you do this, you violate their privacy and your professional ethics.
• Refuse to talk about other staff members in an unpleasant way. In a social setting, it is not acceptable for you to discuss the failings of other staff members. People who do not work at your school should not be privy to the disagreeable quirks of your coworkers.
• Be especially careful to model honest behavior in regard to copyright laws and in giving credit to sources that you use for your work. Your students learn more from your example than you can ever realize.
• Don’t rehash a disagreeable incident. When something unpleasant happens at school, it is tempting to discuss it. Discussing your school’s problems around people who are not involved is not acceptable. You will only spread ill will about your school if you do so.