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Professional effectiveness (part three)

February 27, 2008

Hello again,
I want just briefly to finish the topics under the heading of professional effectiveness. To stress my main point, professional effectiveness comes from within, from learning how to deal with the opportunities and...

... challenges that come our way in the classroom and with our colleagues. The key is to remember that each of us is different and we have to find our own style, our own voice, our own sense of what works.

Change can be unsettling and as it often happens without warning and consultation, many of us find it hard to deal with. Even the addition of a student to a class, or a student leaving, can have effects that we don’t foresee. But we have to try to be philosophical about change because nothing in any aspect of our lives is ever permanent. If we are the people who impose change, we can at least try to prepare those affected in advance by giving information. Allowing discussion and, if possible, allow those affected to be part of the decision-making process. It is not helpful to pretend that change will be easy to deal with. Instead explain why it is necessary and how the new arrangements will work. If possible give people time to adapt and be ready to listen to their concerns. As for reacting to change, don’t be deliberately negative. Try to find the advantages in what is new. Give yourself time to adapt and monitor your feelings about it. If, in the longer term, the changes are causing you distress, then think about your options. Would a different job be more or less stressful?

Dealing with stress is another important aspect of professional life. If you have too much stress your professional standards will suffer but so will your health. Occasionally extra stress has to be handled: you may have more work because a colleague is sick; you may be getting used to a new group; you may experiencing culture shock. But temporary stress is something we all face from time to time and we get through. Try making sure that once the stressful period is over, you have an opportunity to unwind.

More insidious is relentless stress: from an over-demanding boss, from overwork. From students you have no real empathy with. If you find yourself faced with this kind of stress, then you must make the move to change your way of life. We all have choices and you need to know when it is time to turn away from a stressful job.

Conflicts come and go. Differentiate between a different point of view and conflict that affects your work. You may hold different ideas about effective teaching from some colleagues: sobeit; we are all different. But if you have a colleague who never returns resources to their proper place, then your valuable time is wasted when you can’t find them easily. In dealing with this type of conflict concentrate on cooperation and efficient systems, not on personalities. Meet the people concerned and explain your difficulty. Ask everyone to agree a system and the means of monitoring it. The key is to focus on the issues and solutions rather than the personalities.

I really do not claim to have the answers! But I do know that professionalism comes from within and cannot be imposed by others. That’s why I have chosen to raise some of the issues and suggest some approaches.

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