being a teacher, personality

Do We Dare to Show Ourselves?

The split personality syndrome; an affliction that most teachers suffer from.  We all have our “other”s sides that the students don’t see; maybe it is the side that has tattoos, that swears occassionally or that lives passionaltely for domething that society has not deemed 100% acceptable.  Whatever it is, we hide it, in order to be proper teachers.  Not because we are told but it is expected of us.  You see, being a teacher is not just a job; it’s a life.

I first remember when it happened to me.  Walking in as a practicum student, realizing the immense importance of my future job, and knowing that not all sides of my sparkling personality would see the light.  Not that there is some dark hidden life that I cannot confess to in the daylight, but rather those things we don’t speak of, those things we do not do in front of others.  At least if those others are fellow educators, parents, or students.  Taking those first steps into the building, shelving away part of my personality, inducted me into something special; the cult of teaching.

Teachers are pristine, angelic creatures that live passionately only for their students.  Society has put us on such a high pedestal that most of us struggle to even reach it, let alone remain on it.  We are not just role models for the students when it comes to being passionate learners, but also when it comes to how we live our life.  So we don’t swear (ever!), we certainly do not drink alcohol, smoke, have tattoos, go-go dance, or whatever it is that we do as part of our other life.  We keep it secret, speaking only of noble adventures and how they strengthen our pursuit to be the very best teacher we can be.

I know of very few other profession that puts such high moral demands on its participants and yet we are supposed to willingly accept it because we were the the ones that chose to be teachers.  No longer allowed to be fully human, we instead become caricatures of ourselves, always smiling, always perfect, never gritty or tarnished.  And of course, I agree that we shouldn’t swear, or drink alcohol or any of those things in front of our students, but we are allowed as adults to go out and have a drink and a dance on Saturday night without looking over our shoulder and worrying about who sees us.  And while I relish the fact that I am role model and take it very seriously, I have also found that students respond to us better when we let them in a little; show them a little of our true personality, warts and all. 

So I wonder when teachers will have their fall from grace?  When will society realize that the expectations to us as human beings are so ridiculously distorted that no one will want to even try to be that perfect.  Is this something we must just accept or is there a way to turn it around?  How do we continue on as educators but perhaps show ourselves as fully human?  How do we escape the cult of teaching, the personality we are expected to have, or do we not want to? 

5 thoughts on “Do We Dare to Show Ourselves?”

  1. Wow! What a great post!i wonder why not so many people commented yet. Are they afraid to confess how they feel? lolHave you noticed that the only "profession" which may seem to have the same effect on society is being a priest? People think we do not have private live, we don't go out or have a drink over a loud crowd on a big table. Myths! Great post! Keep it up!

  2. I'll chime in. :)I don't think anyone expects us to be perfect. But I do think that we are held to a higher standard, and for good reason.Parents send their children to us for 7+ hours per day. To care for them. They trust us. We need to prove we deserve that trust. I agree it's important to show students you're human. Share anecdotes about your family, your pets, your travels… show them you make mistakes while learning. Apologize when necessary. You can display humanistic qualities and develop personal relationships with students without crossing the line. And you can drink a glass of wine and relax on the weekends without fear of public admonishment. Just don't go in Monday morning and tell your class about it. Common sense is a requisite skill here.I support my teachers who display tattoos or facial piercings. Self-expression is encouraged for teachers and students. And parents!We're models and guides. We're teachers. We can't selfishly put our need to "be human" ahead of the incredible power we have to positively influence children. You ask, "How do we escape the cult of teaching, the personality we are expected to have, or do we not want to?"This is one cult that I do not wish to escape from.

  3. Interesting. I think it's really important to be yourself in the classroom (maybe tattoos aside if against school policy). I'm not suggesting we share every detail of our private lives, but we wouldn't do that with anyone. But I think kids see straight through teachers who aren't genuine, honest and authentic. I could never teach if I had to be 'not fully human'. I agree wholeheartedly with Lyn.

  4. The "human" side of our faculty came out at a Christmas party when we were asked to write down two things about ourselves that no one would know. We had teachers that had been jailed in a foreign country, one even met his wife through the experience, but the topper was our PE teacher who worked as a male stripper to pay his tuition.The point is those that "put it our there" were totally comfortable with themselves. When I think about how these particular teachers relate with kids and parents, they are the ones who are well liked and do a tremedous job in the classroom.So be who you are and be the best you can be.

  5. Hello everyone and thank you so much for adding your voices to this post. This post came from several years of conversation between my husband, a non-teacher, and I about the difference between the Danish and American societal view of teachers and their roles. I absolutely agree that we should be held to a high standard as teachers, just as we do with other adults, but I am continuously amazed at how far encroaching that standard can become. I remember one conversation vividly with a fellow teacher that scolded me for not wearing a helmet while riding a motorcycle. Wisconsin does not have a helmet law and I choose therefore as an adult not to wear one, well knowing that I put my life in the hands of my husband whenever I get on the back of his bike. This teacher was appalled that I as a role-model would dare to be seen without a helmet and took the attitude of "how dare you?" At that moment, I realized just how different these two seemingly similar nations are.I think therefore that we all essentially agree, we must share ourselves with our students to cerate genuine connection, however, there are "sides" that we do not share whether that be as teachers or as adults. I still wonder though where this all comes from because it is certainly a much stricter moral standard that is applied to teachers than just to adults in generals. And I am not just thinking of the common sense things you do not share since it seems to be even more. This is always a topic that is discussed amongst my teacher friends and I and I therefore thought I would get other perspectives as well. Keep them coming as you are enlightening me and bringing more thought to the discussion.

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