Teacher Professionalism

As a big Japanese culture fan, I’ve always wondered why most professionals (lawyers, doctors, writers, composers, painters, etc.) in Japan are called “sensei” when its literal definition is “teacher”. According to Doshu Yoshigaki, President of the Ki No Kenkyukai Association International, explained in an article that “senseis” are professionals who are expected to always reflect their practice, even outside the workplace:

“Sen means before and Sei means to be born. So sensei literally means a person who is born before. This birth is a spiritual, not physical birth. The original meaning of sensei is one who is spiritually born before others. If one sticks to the original meaning, only those who understand life should be called sensei and a sensei is behaving like a teacher 24 hours a day, even in his daily life.”

With this thought in mind and the topic of this week’s module, questions about being a “professional” stayed afloat in my head: Am I considered a professional? Am I acting like one?

Before starting on the readings for this module, our professor/facilitator asked us to think of our personal definition of “teacher professionalism” and compare it to the definitions and explanations that we would encounter in the readings. This was my initial answer:

  • Set rules of behaviour of how a teacher should present his/her to students
  • Has a clear distinction of student-teacher roles
  • Teacher is an example of good conduct and morality
  • No biases towards students, parents, or other teachers
  • Student growth is priority

Obviously, my knowledge of “professional” is limited to what I have experienced and observed. According to “Teacher Professionalism: A Literature Review” by Jeanne Gamble (2010), I cannot be considered a “professional” as I am without formal training in my field (yet), no specific area of expertise, not licensed or certified as one, and lacking in theoretical knowledge and years of practical experience.

Well, to all that, I agree. I am at the benchmark of what I hope is a trajectory towards professionalism, in mind, heart, and actions. I am not aspiring to be just a teacher with the PRC license, but I hope to be the type of teacher who would have the proper qualifications, so that I can be a more credible torch and bearer of knowledge and skills towards my present and future students.

As teachers, we are entrusted by parents, or by society at large to hone these individuals: from guiding their hands into learning what they find curious, to gaining various skills to make them physically and emotionally independent, to developing their understanding of their roles as social being and as part of a larger community. Therefore, I hope that more support would be given to Filipino teachers in terms of trainings, seminars, materials to study and even modern gadgets that would aid new teaching techniques fit to the new generation. For a country who needs to convince more teachers to stop leaving the country for “greener pastures” and for the remaining demographic of illiterate individuals, we want more teachers to realize their best potentials through these kinds of support, and be the citizens that can embody their professions like how Yoshigaki defined a sensei.


Gamble, J. (2010). Teacher professionalism: A literature review. Retrieved from http://jet.org.za/publications/research/Gamble%20TEACHER%20PROFESSIONALISM%20-FINAL-%20-2.pdfSections 1 & 2, pg. 3 – 24.

Yoshigaki, D. (n.d). What is sensei. The British Ki Society. Retrieved from http://ki-society.org.uk/the-meaning-of-sensei/


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