Teaching from your identity

Prior to teaching, I had found my niche at the company I worked for. I was the go-to person for things and the problem solver. I was quick on my feet and I was calm with my customers. I could give and receive feedback and I knew how to use the feedback I was given.  This became who I was. It was my identity.

Teaching has been a chance to really learn who I am as a teacher. In university we were given books to read that told me many things about what my identity as a teacher. I was told that teaching was a performance and that I was to be always “on”. I was told to teach like a Pirate, a Champion, that my hair should be on fire and a variety of other things. Most of these were good books but I never could finish them. Once I got into the class and learned about who my students were and what they needed from me, I realized that none of those books were about my kids.

My students were not looking for me to be a rockstar teacher and to entertain them day in and day out. They were there to learn and I was there to facilitate that learning. They wanted me to be me and I realized that they thrive on the relationships we built out of trust. I was able to be myself – a little bit goofy and weird but fun yet calm.

My classroom left arena where I felt I was on stage and became the garageband practice where we all learned together. We made mistakes and learned from them. We improved with feedback and challenged each other to grow. We help each other and want us all to succeed at something. We work together, not against each other because we take time to connect and evaluate what is working for us and what needs to change.

I have been fortunate to learn from some of the best in a variety of industries who had similar mindsets. When something wasn’t working for us, we went and changed it. They built something new if it was missing. They tried hundreds of things before they found what worked. They embraced mistakes and realized they learned more from making them. They helped shape my identity as a teacher before I even realized it.

Teaching is about being comfortable with the unknown. Realizing it is about growing and learning who you are. Just like my students thrive on relationships, I learn from those that dare to think differently and challenge me to improve my practice. Some of those people are teachers, some are friends and some are people who just took the time to connect with me for one reason or another.

There are many times that I meet a teacher or have worked with a teacher I did not see eye to eye with on something but I have taken that chance to reflect on what they could share with me and could teach me. Professionally, those teachers are some of my favourites because they challenge me to be the person I want to me. I respect the fact that they can share their identities and their beliefs because I have learned that approaching it from the mindset of wanting to learn about them and how they do things allows me to build a relationship built on respect. Sometimes I still need to ask someone else how to best approach that person first but it is out of respect to that person’s identity and needs. The same way I ask parents about their kids, I want to learn about who a person is to respect them.

My identity shifts and changes as I experience different things but at the core of it all, it is all about relationships and being willing to grown. My needs change as well. We are always learning, growing and changing. This is who I am as a teacher and a person. By recognizing it, my students are better for it.