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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What is Common Sense and Why is it Important?

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This week in ECS 210, we were asked to respond to the following questions: How does Kumashiro define ‘commonsense’. Why is it so important to pay attention to the ‘commonsense’?  Kumashiro talks about and defines common sense in multiple ways.  In the end, it is all about what everyone considers “normal” and the expected practices, fuelled by social pressures.  He also explains that common sense gives us some sense of comfort because it helps make sense of our everyday lives.  This might be comforting, but norms privilege certain groups and identities.  Going further with social pressures, he discusses that common sense tells us what schools should be doing, and not what they could be doing.  He also talks about how protests against common sense are dismissed as irrelevant, inconsequential or inappropriate.  In this way, I feel like common sense is ruling our lives–it is almost like we don’t even have a say in what we feel is normal.  These ‘norms’ are definitely dominant and are social constructs.

So why is it important to pay attention to this idea of ‘common sense’?  I think there are endless reasons on why we should be more conscious of this term and on how we should think of the meaning of this term.  Kumashiro’s experience in Nepal is an example of differing common senses, culturally.  He liked to clean and realized that water was only located in the centre of the bazaar.  He also realized that different needs (showering, dishes, water jugs, etc.) were tended to at certain times of the day.  I think this tells us that we need to be aware of the difference of cultures, customs and daily lives in order to teach students in ways that tend their own particular needs, instead of being stuck on our own ideas of common sense.  This is also relevant when the students in his classroom told him that he wasn’t teaching right because his ideas were not strictly lecture-practice-exam.  It is very important to recognize these differences, also, because the Peace Corps had a failure to critique their own assumptions about how the U.S. were superior compared to Nepal.  Although it was not a goal to be oppressive, it definitely came across that way.

Since we are on the topic of oppression, I want to address how ideas of common sense and normalcy contribute to this.  When teachers in the Peace Corps went to places like Nepal, they would put off the message that the American way is the best way.  They were pretty much trying to assimilate these students into American culture, without even knowing it.  With this idea of common sense, students could think that they are unworthy or abnormal because they don’t relate to these ideals.  That is the scary thing.  You think that you are doing great things like bringing different approaches of teaching to other parts of the world (the main goal of Peace Corps), but you could also be oppressing others.  What bugs me about all of this is the fact that we have made it okay to oppress and discriminate because it is ‘common sense’.  Oppression is not recognized because common sense has convinced us that schools are neutral and non-oppressive.  This is absolutely ridiculous because this article has proved this idea to be the opposite.  I think that we need to carefully think about our goals and intentions because they may end up in a negative situation.  With this knowledge now, I think that we could become more conscious, open minded and genuine teachers.

Kumashiro says that values and priorities are embedded in approaches to teaching and learning.  Does this mean that our values are to oppress and to push our own ideas of what’s normal onto others?