hema’s sphere

losing yourself in the classroom

Posted by hema on October 20, 2007

random friend: i can’t imagine you teaching you know…i mean in a classroom. it’s weird to think, you’re so quiet and timid

random student:  you must be like a human being at home (i hope so..) i mean, you can’t always be doing this..and walking up and down and looking all stern but it’s weird to think of you not doing teaching stuff.you might even drink!(!)

maybe i have multiple identities or something!

during teacher training, you’re always taught to leave any issues you have outside of the classroom, because it’s not the students’ fault if you have problems,  so they shouldn’t have to deal with it or know about it. you’re also encouraged to develop a teaching persona, almost- like an exaggerated version of everything that happens. for example, you might not think that it’s the end of the world if a student’s tie isn’t exactly the right length, or if they’re five minutes late, but you have to act like it is to set the right standard. act confident and in control even if you don’t feel it. body language is 60% of the way we communicate. encourage positive behaviour by modelling it. don’t lose your cool. don’t show panic. don’t show anger. don’t show your nerves. don’t show your problems.

don’t show you’re human?

i know this might cause problems for some people, this idea of separating your identity as a teacher to that of who you might be outside of the classroom. but for me it never has. for me the classroom is almost my chance to be someone else. some people liken teaching to acting, because it’s almost like giving a performance. putting on a show, keeping the audiences’ attention. it’s not just what you teach, it’s how you teach. just because you have said it, it doesn’t mean they have understood it. act the part and you will become the part.

in the classroom, for that length of time, to those students, for those students, i can forget about my own problems and issues and how i feel, and do something positive. i can lose myself in a lesson and forget about anything else.

i can hopefully impart some knowledge to the students, and help them gain confidence in their own abilities, but i can gain much more. i can increase my own confidence, my own experience.

there is something about the buzz of coming out of a lesson thinking “that’s why i do this job”. it isn’t always because of the fantastic lesson plan you spent hours on, or the students who will probably come out with an A anyway, it can be something which may seem small but for you it isn’t. like the student who has been struggling for days with a problem, and all of a sudden you can almost visibly see the click when they get it, or the rebellious student who always sits with a look of apathy on his face and then one lesson he actually gets in volved in a discussion and looks like he is enjoying it. it can be when you receive a quick thank you on results day from the student you almost gave up on, but didn’t.

i’ve always been one of those people that take a background role and let other people lead if i have the choice. i’m not a natural leader. but when i’m in my classroom, and i know i have to take control, i don’t really have a choice! and it’s helped me a lot in having confidence in myself and what i’m capable of. of course, i still have my bad days and days when i think it would have been better if i’d stayed in bed, but if you didn’t have the bad days, you wouldn’t appreciate the good days!

if i’m being very honest, i always thought teaching would be something i try out for a while and leave after a couple of years. one of the reasons i didn’t do a B.ED was to keep my options open. in case it was too much, or the stress wasn’t worth it. and i never really saw myself as a career girl either. but somewhere along the line, teaching has become more than a job for me. it’s become an important part of who i am, and how i define myself. whether that’s right or wrong, it’s how i feel now. i can’t imagine ever wanting to give it up.

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7 Responses to “losing yourself in the classroom”

  1. Micah Tillman said

    I agree wholeheartedly with those who say teaching is a performance art. The feeling is very similar to being on stage with a band (the other type of performance with which I am familiar). It’s just not as “rockin’.”

    It is a wonderful thing to be allowed to do.

  2. samia said

    “in the classroom, for that length of time, to those students, for those students, i can forget about my own problems and issues and how i feel, and do something positive. i can lose myself in a lesson and forget about anything else.”

    I believe this to be your call, i remember the story you told, on how you one day gave up the thought of law for this, after the prayer of salatul istikhaara- i think about it quite often.
    Mash’Allah for the gift of teaching you have been granted and Mash’Allah for everything you do for your students and for yourself in this job.

    you are not my teacher and you do not preach to me in any way, but i thank you still for the things you have learnt me, and the things you have shown.

    As Salaamu Aleykum my friend.
    kys xxx

  3. iMuslim said

    I think teaching is a noble career, but just like being a doctor, or a lawyer, or any skilled profession, it’s not for everyone… that’s why i really admire good teachers, cos they have that thing – that elusive trait – that allows them to do their job well, mashallah. And no-one forgets a good teacher – ever!

    It’s interesting to see you compare it to acting… i personally would find that very tiring. I’m rubbish at keeping my problems out of my behaviour; people can read my face like a book. I’m glad poker is haram, else i’d lose my life savings in Las Vegas!! :/

  4. Sumera said

    My friend is like that – she actually acts CRAZY at home; really loud and quirky because she says she has to be “reserved” and “professional” when at school in the classroom and amongst her work colleagues 😉 And of course she rants about her “children” too 😛

    Its the same for most professions I suppose; you rarely are the same person at home as you are at work 🙂

  5. hema said

    micah-Hi and welcome. do you teach? what do you teach?

    samia-aaw thank you, you’re comment just made my day:)
    i think back to that time quite often too, for lots of different reasons, but it amazing how some decisions can affect the rest of your life. i can’t imagine me as a lawyer now! you’ve only ever known me as a teacher, but it was a big shock to people at the time.

    iMuslim, teaching is not for everyone, but i also think people give up on it too easily, or get too scared away by horror stories.
    i think i’d be rubbish at poker too! i’m no good under pressure.

    sumera- your friend sounds exactly like me! sometimes i get so fed up of being responsible all the time and just want to behave like a kid.

  6. 'liya said

    “random friend: i can’t imagine you teaching you know…i mean in a classroom. it’s weird to think, you’re so quiet and timid” — I get that from my friends all the time because I was always the quiet one (and still am), though I think teaching has actually helped me open up more.

  7. amal said

    I always found it facinating about teachers how they just seem teachers , like that is their identity , just being a teacher , I always looked at teachers and thought hmmm do you have alife outside the classroom ? or are you just a teacher ?
    so hema how do you cope ?

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