Professionalism means many things to different people. If a group of people were to gather together to define what professionalism means to them, they will end up with a very long list. The Merrian-Webster defines professionalism as "the conduct, aims, or qualities that characterize or mark a profession or a professional person". This sums it up neatly, but as there are several thousand discussions and opinions out there about professionalism, I want to cover what I believe the spirit of the word as it applies to IT professionals supporting the public K12 community.
For most of the business world, the IT group is usually a group or department that does not generate any additional profit for the bottom line. In general terms, the main focus of IT is to support the business by providing technology support and services. The expectation is that the Return on Investment (ROI) for IT is that the support and service provided lowers the overall cost of business to the point were having an IT group is more productive or cost effective than not having one. It is expected that at least the IT managers have a good grasp on what the product(s) or service(s) that the company is producing/offering, and the process of those goods or services. The point of knowing and understanding what goods or services are being delivered is that they (IT) will do what is necessary, IT-wise, to help lower the overall cost of doing business. This is a professional way to manage IT.
In the K12 education world, it is not always something that comes to the minds of many IT professionals. I have a lot of opinions about this, but the main one that constantly floats to the top, is that IT professionals do not really understand the end goal of education. I am not going to get into why, as the direction of IT in education is slowly changing toward a more program/classroom focus. This is good news for education as a whole, as it is important that all the stakeholders work towards the goal of educating our youth. Learning about the educational goals and the process to achieve them is an important step in being an educational IT leader.
The professionals of K12 IT really need to seek out the educators to find out what is being taught, what a classroom looks like, what tools are being used by the teachers and students, and most importantly what is the overall goal of a teacher, school, and the district. Knowing the endgame does not count anymore, the process must be understood. Once IT folks can understand the process and the curriculum goals, they can take steps to help the teacher, school, district become more efficient and contribute as a valid stakeholder in every student's success in school.
Geralt. (2012). Head Face Silhouette Clock Time Gear Gears Blue [Online image]. Retrieved February 18, 2013 from http://pixabay.com/en/head-face-silhouette-clock-time-70184/