Who are ya? – Reflecting on teacher persona

Today saw our year 11 pupils come in for one last day of celebrations and farewells. As I said goodbye and good luck to my wonderful group, it was a perfect opportunity for me to reflect on what I have found the most important part of my teaching career so far – my changing teacher persona. 

  

This phrase was thrown around at our Summer Institute and to be perfectly honest, I didn’t really take what was being said into account. My family and friends had told me that I would make a great teacher and something inside me simply believed them. I am a confident, extroverted individual who is very sociable, I believed I would have no trouble standing up in front of a class and controlling them. Right?

HA! That cocky person would get eaten alive by year 10..

The ‘me’ that makes a good teacher is not the ‘me’ my family and friends know. If they saw me actually up in front of my classes, teaching in the way that I do, they would be quite confused. I think if I were able to show a video of me teaching now to the ‘me’ that started in September, I wouldn’t believe it.

The day-to-day experiences have shaped who I am as a teacher at this early stage in my career. Every successful activity, every lightbulb moment, every near-tears experience, every answer and every answer-back all collaborate to fine tune the teacher part of me. At every teacher’s core is the desire to make a difference, and if that isn’t somewhere in your DNA then what are you doing teaching?! But every new experience shapes how you will act and react in each new situation, thus forming your own personalised teacher persona.

I asked teachers on twitter to describe their teacher persona in three words @MrBenWard chose: Enthusiastic, relentlessly positive and genuine. @CristaHazell chose: focused on students, fun and connecting (building bridges for learners). My HOD chose: inspirational, motivational and relatable. These are the sort of people we want our young people to be surrounded by. What would you describe yourself as?

Going back to why I was writing this post in the first place.. my year 11s.. I have realised that the students have picked up on the nuances in my own teacher persona. To choose three words for the teacher I feel I am at my core I would go for enthusiastic, energetic and empathetic. Saying goodbye to the twenty-four wonderful individuals I had in my classroom made me realise the parts of my persona I turn up or down depending on the needs of the students in front of me.

The extroverted members of the class left me comments such as “thanks for making maths so fun” or “you’re a bit mad but I learned a lot”, the hard working pupils wrote things such as “thank you for pushing me” and “believing in me.” The most tear-jerking card came from the quietest member of the class who has progressed so much over the year from a C grade to the A/A* border. It read ‘thank you for helping me find my confidence’.

I have made a difference.

I have made a different difference, to different pupils via the different aspects of who I am as a teacher.

If anyone is about to start TeachFirst and feel like you don’t know what your teacher persona is then please don’t panic. If you have making a difference to students at your core, love the subject you are teaching and care deeply about the young people in front of you then every great experience a will shape who you are as a teacher and will inform your ever adapting teacher persona. You will try out techniques from other teachers and pick the parts that fit in with your personality. If you aren’t the most energetic person in the world, then don’t expect teacher you to be bouncing off the walls. On the other hand, if you are more of a shy individual then be ready for a shock as your teacher persona may have other ideas!

Feel free to comment with your descriptions of either yourself or of your favourite teacher.

Thank you for reading (and well done for getting through it all!)

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