“Sometimes I feel
The whole world looks at me like I’m crazy…”
In the hustle and bustle of the classroom, it’s so easy to lose track of who you are or to allow yourself to be defined by others’ false perceptions of you as a teacher. Especially as a new teacher, you’re juggling many new responsibilities and receiving numerous critiques about your teaching that can be quite confusing and seemingly contradictory. So in the scramble, you try to become the teacher you think you administration wants. However, being someone you’re not is exhausting. Yet, how do you become successful in the classroom? How do you balance the expectations of administrators, students, and parents without becoming a morphed version of your former self?
While accepting constructive feedback from parents, administrators and students is important in the process of becoming a successful teacher, I can also testify that the greatest struggle I ever had in the classroom was when I tried to be someone I’m not. Although I have always been professional, I’m naturally quite expressive. I have a little urban edge and my “Detroit” shows up in my expressions. However, when I first began teaching, I thought I had to become a subdued Little House on the Prairie schoolmarm in front of administrators. Trust me, my early years as a teacher were a struggle and I’m pretty sure students were confused by my Jekyll and Hyde routine during evaluations.
While I frequently used my “Detroit” as a way to relate to the students and convey the content in a more interesting way in the classroom, I was always afraid to be myself when I was being evaluated. As the only African American teacher on staff, I hid my “Detroit” from my administrators during evaluations because I was afraid of how I would be perceived. Somehow, I thought my colloquialisms and unique expressions wouldn’t be as valued and it would be just another way that I would be seen as “different” or even worse viewed as less educated.
Then one year, I simply could not hide. That school year I received, as did the rest of my school, nearly 40 walk-throughs. My administrators went from being random strangers to common fixtures in my classroom. As I became more accustomed to their presence, I slowly began to relax. Then one day I received a really wonderful compliment when my “Detroit” escaped while I was explaining a really difficult content concept to the class. My administrator also noted that she didn’t realize I could make class so much fun since I seemed so serious during my other walk-throughs. After hearing this, I finally felt I could breathe. And although it was not an overnight transformation, my administrator’s comments resonated with me. Steadily I brought more of my authentic self to my classroom and my teacher evaluations have flourished. During this process, I learned that my authenticity was not only accepted, but welcomed.
So, if you would like to be more successful in the classroom, know who you are and use it!!! It is important to slow down, re-center, and bring your authentic self to class everyday regardless of parents, students, or administrators. However, the key is to find a way to actively combine constructive feedback with your own unique flair. I bet you’ll be happier and your students will be too.
“This above all to thy own self be true.” –William Shakespeare