Professional Identity

Today I (Clive) was teaching my School and Society (social foundations) course in the preservice program. Our topic was professional identity. What a class we had! We discussed:

·      Teachers’ perception of their role

·      Motivation and satisfaction

·      Challenges of teaching

·      Work-life balance

·      Confidence

·      Stance in relation to system mandates

I selected a number of quotes from our chapter on professional identity from our upcoming text: Growing as a Teacher (Sense Publishers). The students took turns reading these quotes aloud which proved to be very powerful. We brought the “voices” of the teachers into the class. Here are a few of the quotes we read:

Classroom teachers have an enormously challenging job; I didn’t realize that when I first started teaching, but now I do. And that hasn’t made me any less effective, if anything it’s made me somewhat more; because now I’m kinder to myself. I see that basically the teacher sets the atmosphere of the classroom, and if you’re constantly stressed out and trying to attain the impossible you become a frustrated and burnt out person. (Felicity, eighth year teacher)

The most important aspects of my role are ensuring that my students develop a positive sense of self; that they acquire a love of learning; and that they develop a world perspective, with compassion and understanding for other people. Embedded in that are social skills; but it’s bigger than that, because I want them to see beyond their own life and community. This view of my role is broader than it used to be. If you’d asked me when I started teaching I would have said the world citizenship component was important, but it didn’t play into my daily practice to the extent it does now. (Tanya, eighth year teacher)

Coming out of my inner-city pre-service program, where the emphasis was on being a change-maker and inspiring every kid, I had to learn that it can often be slow going and I have to not feel defeated if I fail to accomplish everything I hoped for. Because…you really, really need to enjoy teaching to last in the profession, and it’s draining and can get frustrating. I’ve always worked in inner-city schools, so I’m mentally prepared for it…[but] I’ve had to learn not to take things personally. Otherwise you go home and things rest in your mind and you get physically sick.  (Jessica, fifth year teacher)

Basing my teaching on where the students are and where they need to be [according to the standards-based approach], I found I ended up teaching to the test; and the whole fun and love of learning went out the door. So I changed my process, and asked: What am I teaching? What skills need to be taught? How can I get that across to them in a way that they’ll enjoy? And then after reflecting on it, and seeing where it didn’t work so well, I asked: What should I change?   (Lucy, fifth year teacher)

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