So, I’ve been thinking about what kind of teacher I am. There are lots of option here. Some folks go for the grandmother or avuncular role. Others do the absent-minded professor thing. There are the mean/scary teachers and the cool teachers.
The thing is, what if the way you see yourself is different from the way others see you or at least the way you are used to seeing yourself? Because, really, who isn’t a little of all of those things, depending on the day?
I’m not old enough, yet, to do the grandmotherly thing. And even though I’m getting more white hair all the time, I’m keeping it covered in purple for now. My personal kids are too young for me to go that route yet. It’s just not me. Next. I’m too convinced that organization and structure are important for learning to commit to the absent-minded professor deal. Well, that and I think teaching 10 and 11 year olds is best done when not absent-minded. The mean option is not really for me either, although there are those rumors out there that suggest otherwise. Don’t get me wrong, I can get mad, but I just have no desire to be that way all the time, nor do I think it is necessary. Even when I taught in the Chicago Public School system at a school that had a hard time getting substitutes to come there, I didn’t find it effective to attempt to be mean all the time.
That leaves me with cool. The problem is I have never, ever been cool. As soon as there was cool and uncool, I was uncool. When I was in school I was sure I was the most uncool. Upon further reflection, I think there
was one person were a few people who were even less cool than I was. Even so, I certainly was not in the cool crowd. Yet I have heard from more than a few parents that their students think I am cool. (I guess if you stay in the grade long enough you get to be cool?) Sometimes it’s the shoes that get me the votes. I have a problem, ok I admit it. Sometimes it’s that I know what happened in the Phillies (or whoever) game last night. (I do like baseball, can keep up with the major football highlights, used to really like hockey, can be convinced to watch a little soccer, and have no interest whatsoever in basketball.) The fact that I really like to use technology and try new things on the computers goes over well with others. It might be the book suggestion or shared favorite, maybe even a comment about a very fluffy TV show. For some it’s that I use examples from my life as a kid, student, parent, and person to help illustrate my points. Ant then there are those for whom I’m just not their cup of tea. I have been teaching too long to think everyone will like me.
What all of this means, I think, is not that I am cool. That’s just a catch-all word. What it means, I hope, is that my students feel that I have interests that might intersect with theirs. (I’m a decent faker about a lot of interests. All those trivia facts that are cluttering my head come in handy sometimes. I am not at all above pretending to have more interest in a topic than I actually have.) It means that they feel that I am sharing who I am as a person with them and speaking and interacting with them in a respectful way. I think it is important for it to be clear who the adult in the room is; so,it does not mean that we are peers, but we are colleagues.
In the end, whatever cool factor I might have attributed to me,whether I believe it or not, needs to be reflected back on each student individually so that every person in the room believes that I think he or she is interesting and that I am interested, cool or not.
(photo by Dottie Mae, used under creative commons license)