Keeping Up Appearances – Discovering Your Teaching Persona
The great 20th-century poet T.S. Eliot put it perfectly. ‘Prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet.’ This sums up the teaching profession brilliantly – when we teach, who really are we? What kind of masks do we wear?
Your teaching persona can make a huge difference to the way you are perceived by your students and this is especially true for online teaching!
Teaching is a performative profession, and part of teaching practice is the ability to step up and act in a ‘role.’ This may be completely different from your day-to-day personality, partly because of the fact that you are in front of an ‘audience’ of students, and partly because there are always certain professional standards to maintain.
However, it is important to reflect on how we can incorporate our own personalities into who we are as teachers, and we can discover an approachable, professional, yet authentic teaching persona.
Let’s look at some of the main factors that help you find your teaching identity.
Number 1 – Authenticity
Your teaching persona is essentially an exaggerated version of yourself.
However, which ‘you’ we are talking about can vary dramatically. Some teachers put on an authoritative mask, living by adages such as ‘don’t smile until Christmas’ whilst others change very little between their professional and personal identities. Whilst both of these approaches are entirely valid, it is true to say that the most effective teaching personae synthesise your own, authentic personality with the professional expectations required by being a teacher.
If you attempt to come over as something that you aren’t, it’s never quite authentic- your bready will totally see through it, and besides, you’ll never feel quite as comfortable as you do in your own skin.
Of course, we all act differently in different contexts and with different people, but the key here is how to incorporate these performances into our own individual personalities.
Number 2 – Body Language is key
You’d be amazed at how much your teaching persona is shaped by the little things. How much are you smiling or frowning? What are your eyes doing? What does the way that you breathe say about you? How much are you talking? Are you speaking to your students or at them? Are you sitting up straight at the desk, or relaxing all cool? How high is your chair – are you towering above your students, looking down at them?
It’s really useful to reflect on this part of our practice, as it helps us understand how the way that we present our individual personalities. Perhaps even more importantly, it also helps mold the ways in which we are perceived by our breadies.
Number 3 – Confidence, confidence, confidence
Here’s the thing. If you’re just starting out on your teaching journey, and haven’t quite got that ‘teaching authority’ thing down just yet – there’s a bit of a secret. You can, actually, totally fake it! Have false confidence, even if it doesn’t feel particularly natural to you. The way that you pretend to present yourself can very quickly become the way you present yourself for real – so have faith in the power of pretending!
What few people like to admit is that we are making life up as we go along, all the time – the trick to it is appearing as though you’ve got it in the bag.
Be like the graceful swan, gracefully gliding on the surface of a glassy lake, even if your little orange legs are paddling like mad.
So there we have it, a few things to consider when we’re thinking about who we are as teachers, and the performances that we put on every single lesson. Hopefully, that’s given you some food for thought, and let us know what you think!