Does your job define who you are?

11 January 2011


Over the Christmas holidays I have been thinking a lot about classroom management and strategies to help new teachers survive the first three years of teaching.  I think one of the problems with the teaching profession is that the longer you are a teacher the more myopic and insular you become.  Teaching is one of those professions where it is very easy to draw your identity from your job.

Have you realised that you are a teacher regardless of where you are?  You can be at the shops and one of your students is there.  The fact that you are not at school is irrelevant – you are the teacher and they are the student and you relate to them as such.  I can still remember the first time I encountered a group of year 7 girls in a large shopping mall.  I had been teaching for a year and so was still quite naive.  I went up to the girls and tried to have a ‘normal conversation’ with them…told them to call me by my first name but at the end of the day I was the teacher and they were the student.

Realise that your job does not define your identity any more than an accountants defines his or hers.

For some teachers it can become a more serious issue.

Some of you parent like your children are your students, and for those who have been teaching for a while you can’t attend a child’s birthday party without wanting to go into teacher mode and bring some order to the chaos!

The problem is only exacerbated by the fact that because we are teachers 24/7 we tend to hang out with teachers on the weekends.  As a result all we talk about in the staff room is what a student is up to and when we go out for a staff dinner all we do is talk about students.

One of the healthiest things you can do is realise that your job does not define your identity any more than an accountants defines his or hers.  My suggestion to new teachers would be to break out of the teacher mould and talk to someone about anything other teaching or classroom management.  It is healthy to actively pursue friendships outside your profession as a means of keeping you balanced.  Do this and you will be surprised at how refreshing this can be.

So…have you fallen into this trap?  What do you do to stop becoming too insular?

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