Your True Teacher Self

This post is inspired by Invisibilia’s podcast episode available here:

“You think that there is some essence of who you are that will endure regardless of the situation or the context but the fact is this is actually not the case.” 

The longer I’ve worked in schools, the more I’ve come to believe in our ability to transform, our capacity to construct our very own chrysalis.  But, time after time, I do hear people question whether or not people change and debate the power of personality.

Educators, perhaps more than any other profession, should advocate for a definition of self that is adaptable.

Transformation flickr photo by Marie-Pierre et Nathalie shared under a Creative Commons (BY-NC-ND) license

Like most opportunities to advocate, the learning needs to start from within.

How can we start to allow our ‘teacher-selves’ to see ourselves as adaptable?

Here are three approaches towards a self-reflection rethink for teachers:

  1. What mythology of your practice have you told yourself? 

When you think of your teaching style, how have you come to define it? Which anecdotes about educating have you most-shared about yourself, and why have they been ‘share-worthy’ in your mind?  Why is it important for you to match that definition? Where and when did you learn to be ‘that teacher’?

Then think: what would change if you abandoned that definition for a month? If you were to redefine the portrait of you, the educator, what ONE WORD would you want to introduce to the new definition and why?

      2.  Host office mix and match up week.

If you sit in an office with colleagues, pick one week to mix up departments.  If your classroom is in a corridor/section of similar subjects, relocate for a week.  If you aren’t in a classroom, but are in an office–move your office to a different location for a week, ie relocate into the library, or a public space.

Then think: how much of my definition of self comes from my routine surroundings?  What is one thing that changed as the direct result of the fresh perspective? 

        3. Rethink your next staff meeting.

Instead of zigging, zag.  When is the last time your meeting’s objective was to get to understand the way your colleagues think? The way you think? Here is my map for hosting a meeting as an open discussion, complete with prompts, questions, and sign ups–feel free to copy and remix. Here is the question guide for that meeting structure:

Then think: what about staff meetings limit our understanding of one another as educators? How can we maximize meeting time to rethink what we want our definitions of educators as educators to be?

Feature Image:
“Tent Caterpillar – Mother Natures Finest Weaver” flickr photo by docentjoyce shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license

5 Replies to “Your True Teacher Self”

  1. “You think that there is some essence of who you are that will endure regardless of the situation or the context but the fact is this is actually not the case.”

    Your quote here is true, I believe, in all domains of life. Great reminder; thank you.

  2. Wow. Thank you. You got my attention, and you’ve made me think…Like the above comment states, you’ve offered thoughts here that can be applied to not only my professional life, but personal and spiritual life. Cheers.

  3. Thanks Tricia for getting me to reflect on my practice over the years. If I look back at just the years at UWC in comparison to all my years of teacher pre-UWC I can see I have changed the most exponentially here. Whether that is because of technology integration, the people surrounding me, the sheer reputation of the school or just me I am not sure – perhaps it is a combination. But what I do know is I keep changing my practice as a result of new learning. Just this holiday I have devoured John Spencer and AJ Juliani’s Empower book and I can see further changes to my practice in helping students to own their learning more in my classroom as a result. Have you read it yet? I would love to hear how you have changed over the years as a teacher and when and what defined you.
    I really appreciate the Podcast Club guide and I was thinking how I can adapt it to a small group reflection/discussion in my classroom when students are discussing ideas or looking at their process/finished art work. What advice, from your experiences would you give me? I would like to model it with an initial group (fishbowl style) with a back channel, much in the way Kristen Ziemke demonstrated at Rethinking Lit this year.
    I will have to listen to the podcast when I am back on terra firma, as the internet up here in the hills of Tuscany is failing me!
    Thanks again and relax in the final weeks of summer bliss!

  4. Hi Tricia,
    Your post really made me think about when I became ‘that teacher’ that I tend to define myself as. It made me wonder about how I would have answered it earlier on in my career. I love the idea of changing things up to get fresh perspectives. I think people stick with routines and what they are used to because often it’s an easier route through the day. As a primary teacher, relocating my class for some lessons not only gives them a new environment but it also allows for different approaches to lessons that aren’t always manageable in the homeroom classroom.
    Something that resonated with me from your post was the idea of doing an activity that a whole grade level team would respond to. I think this has so many potential benefits and can see this being a great way to start off a new school year. Thanks for the inspiration!
    Hope you are enjoying your summer days.

  5. I really like the idea of changing the location of your office for a week. I have a physical distance between where my office is located and the elementary school. Moving to the elementary school for a week once a semester will definitely help make the teachers feel more supported. Thanks for the idea!

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