Personal Identity and Teacher Identity

It’s the beginning of a new school year, which means I should probably start blogging again!

A topic we talked about in one of our classes this week is whether or not personal identity and teacher identity should be separated or combined.  On one hand, you can’t change who you are, and on the other, certain aspects like language, casual drinking, etc. need to be separate from school.  I remember thinking it was so strange to see a teacher outside of class when I was in elementary school and high school.  Why did I think this way?  Did I think that teachers did not leave their houses or leave the school?  I think this is because I mainly only got to see their teacher identities, opposed to their personal identities.  So when teachers go out in public, they have to be conscious about how they are acting and thinking.  I have a friend that was doing her internship last year and she was always worried about how she was acting because she saw her students everywhere.  So where do you draw the line when it comes to your personal identity intertwining with your teacher identity?

In an article called, “Sense of Self: Embracing your Teacher Identity” by Carrie Donavon, she mentions, “we employ many of the techniques of actors, but in order to be most effective, our teaching must not be artificial”.  I’m not sure if I agree with a comparison to actors because they are the masters of making people believe anything based on their ability to act out an imaginary situation.  In this way, it it seems that by being an actor, we have to be someone we’re not–someone artificial.  But, as the quote says, we also have to not be artificial.  The standards of how a teacher should look and act is definitely a bump in the discussion of if our two identities should mesh, based on this point.  Especially as a new teacher, educators are very conscious about how they are portraying themselves, and they may forget to bring in their own personal qualities into the classroom because they are trying to become the “perfect teacher” and they are trying to avoid conflict.

The activities outside of work are another thing.  Obviously, teachers should not be heavily drinking or swearing in public, but are there other things that we need to avoid doing? Based on the stories I’ve heard about teachers going out in public, they have to go to extreme measures to even have a casual drink.  Do we need to avoid going out in public in fear of our words becoming misconstrued or our decisions looked down upon?  If a teacher goes out with his/her child and a parent of one of his/her students disagrees with their parenting style, will that affect their professional image?  I feel like every personal glimpse into a teacher’s life seems like the end of the world and that is strange to me.  Obviously, teachers are humans, too.  They have personal lives and a life in the classroom.

What do you think about this issue about separating teacher identity and personal identity?  Do you think they should be completely separate or have a healthy balance of the two?

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