I’m not a professional

I’m not a professional in the current sense of the word. I’m not terribly interested in advancing my “professional skills”, i.e., giving presentations, computer skills, project management skills, etc. I know, I know, I know – these are all important things to work on as a professional person in a professional world. I’m likely just being stubborn – maybe even lazy? But I get frustrated with people and offices that only push this kind of professionalism. I’ve actually been thinking about this a lot this semester, and wondering if I’m in the right field. A significant portion of my work and schooling has revolved around professional development this year. But I don’t feel it’s truly adding to my skills as an educator. Attend this conference for planning flawless events, attend that workshop for learning about eportfolios, listen to this speaker for interview skills. All of these things are helpful to a degree. But they’re helping me climb a professional ladder that I don’t necessarily care to reach the top of in my career. As a professional, I want to be kind, honest, open, patient, and groundbreaking, all while remembering the passion for learning that brought me here in the first place.

A line from Parker J. Palmer’s “A New Professional: The Aims of Education Revisted” encompasses everything I’ve been thinking in regards to professionalism over the last few months. Palmer writes, “We will not teach future professionals emotional distancing as a strategy for personal survival. We will teach them instead how to stay close to emotions that can generate energy for institutional change, which might help everyone survive.” Reading this put a big smile on my face. I’m not crazy; at least one other person out there feels the way I feel. To me, professionalism has become such a cold term. It’s routine, controlled, and adding to a boring, systemic way of carrying out work. I nearly cheered out loud reading Palmer’s line that reveals the original meaning of the word professional, “. . . someone who makes a ‘profession of faith’ in the midst of a disheartening world.” Now I have the perfect excuse any time I don’t want to participate in a “professional” development activity 😉

In all seriousness, I’ve felt disheartened lately in my own profession of higher education. So much of it is focused on my personal growth as a professional, working on largely administrative skills that will make me appear organized, well-spoken, and accomplished. I want to be a higher education professional because I could walk around a college campus all day and not get bored. I could sit in a class for hours and be intrigued for every second of it. I could listen to students talk about their interests and goals for days, and never wish to be doing something else. Education isn’t my key to professional stardom, it’s a feeling and a way of life that I value above all else.