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?