This new role that I am taking on this school year has caused me to do a lot of thinking. In past years I’ve spent the last bits of summer considering fresh activities that will engage my incoming students. Now that the students I have this fall are undergoing a transformative milieu–learning how to teach–I’ve spent less time on activity planning and more time considering the act of teaching in itself.
Teaching is an act. In the purest sense of what that word means as a verb. To teach is to be compelled to take action. To move. To react. To do something. Teaching is also an act in the purest sense of that word as a noun. An action. A performance.
This is why teaching is aptly referred to as a calling. That is why when teachers talk to other teachers whom they haven’t seen in a while they ask, “what role are you in this year?” It is difficult to tease out where teaching starts and performance stops or vice versa. But understanding that this line exists is one of the most important qualities a teacher can have. Knowing that there is a line, however hazy it may become, is vital in knowing thyself.
When a teacher truly knows themself, they are able to pursue the act of teaching in its truest sense. More simply, a teacher who is authentic to themselves takes action––teaches––in a way that can never be misconstrued as a charade. Authenticity, from a teacher, leaves little room for posturing for the sake of posturing. Authenticity is a quality that creates classrooms brimming with engagement, regardless of the activity. It creates conversations that lead to real learning within, and beyond, the content. The act of teaching through a real and authentic lens fosters rich classroom experiences that allow students to explore their own truths. Or at least parts of them.
Part of me learning how to teach required a willingness and preparedness to learn myself. Examining how I’ve become the way I am. Reflecting on how my school experiences affect how I now intersect with school. Excavating my truths, worldviews, biases, and all things in between to be better in my practice of teaching. This is an ongoing process. Like the act of teaching itself.