Teachers are identifiable. Many of us can look back on our lives and still remember, years (or decades) later, those teachers who had an impact on us. Their influence may have been positive or negative. Rarely did such influence remain attached to the classroom, but rather extended well beyond. One of the challenges that we face as teachers is the extent of our power (or supposed extent of our power), and how we participate with this sense of influence on others, individually and collectively.
I know, for myself, I have almost buckled under this perception from time to time. I have arisen on some days, wondering how I was going to get through a day of engagement and leading students, where we needed to be, on so many levels. As teachers, we show up as us, as individuals, but the expectation is that a singular “me” can, somehow, meet the needs of all.
Do you think it is realistic for each individual teacher to meet the needs of all? As a teacher, what is your perception of the actual level of influence you have on others?
Do you think your students have an accurate understanding of how much influence you have on their success as a teacher? What feelings does your answer evoke?
Engaging in the act of teaching often requires us to engage with a sense of vulnerability – both our own and that of our students. Learning is inherently a vulnerable act. When we are learning, we are in a position of unknowing and uncertainty. As teachers, we often sense this vulnerability in our students, but we may overlook it in ourselves.
This sense of our own vulnerability while teaching can be one of the more challenging aspects of our jobs. This vulnerability can emerge due to such things as constantly feeling like we have to be “on”, our own inner critic and sense of failure, or the idea that we are under unremitting evaluation from ourselves, administrators, and students. This sense of vulnerability may never go away completely, but we can bring an awareness to our teaching that lessens our sense of risk.
Which aspects of teaching make you feel most vulnerable? What are some places of vulnerability that teachers experience that you wish those who did not teach would understand?
How does your sense of vulnerability affect what you do in the classroom? What is one way your students ask you to engage with their sense of vulnerability?
Some have said that a teacher’s work is never done. In that statement, we see a reflection of the infinite cycle we live as teachers, the constant flux and flow between acts of teaching and learning.
As teachers, we are constantly learning. We grow in our understanding, our ability to perceive and respond, and our effectiveness as guides for the development of others. At the same time, we shepherd our students through their transformations, as they learn to become teachers of themselves. The gift of the teacher is to hold the space within these exchanges, allowing for the evolvement of both teacher and student.
Every teacher serves as a placeholder, a touchstone, a point of stillness, by which others move and develop.
Within your teaching experience, do you still see yourself as a student? Why or why not?
How may you help your students understand that all teachers are students, as they continue to learn, and all students are teachers, as they learn to teach themselves?