In his book, Jim Scrivener advises teachers to “be themselves”. I really respect those who can be both teachers and themselves at the same time. I’d rather not, thanks 😉 I support a more Shakespearean approach, simply, the classroom is a stage, I’m an actress and as a bonus, I also write the script 🙂
I remember vividly that when I started teaching I was 23 and I was lost. I barely knew what I was supposed to do in the classroom and I was thrown into the environment expecting me to be a professional. A piece of advice like “be yourself” wouldn’t have helped me at all, how can you be yourself when you’re 23?
Well, a blessing in disguise, my parents were teachers (yeah, they both taught Maths and dad used to be my teacher at school, I grew up in hell 😉 ) so I picked the only strategy I could have thought of – to pretend I actually was a professional and that I knew what I was doing.
Surprisingly, it worked well. To be honest, it still does, because my style of teaching includes a lot of acting, luckily, it’s the type of performance I can run. I am an entertainer, a show runner, just to keep my students interested in the lesson, as simple as that.
To be honest, I don’t really believe in teachers being themselves. We’re only humans, after all, having our good days and bad days, but I’m not convinced that students should ever spot the difference during the class. Playing a role I feel comfortable in helps me hide insecurities and pretend I’m totally enjoying myself. Even when I am experiencing some tough stuff at the same time.
I don’t mean we have to play absolutely confident roles, I have no problems with admitting I don’t know all the things my students want to know, that I need to double check some grammar issues (articles!). I just believe teachers are professionals and no student should ever suspect their private life might be somewhat messy 😉 and while it’s quite a truism, assuming a role makes it way easier for me.
Also, accepting teaching as some kind of performance helps me detach myself from teaching right after I leave the classroom. You know, the audience is gone, the lights are off…
…and I may comfortably get back to my real life as the Evil Empress of the World 😉