I take my inspiration this week from Popeye, because if there’s anyone who really doesn’t give a flying saucer in space what anybody thinks, it’s that guy.
I was reading the posts of my fellow students, and there was a consensus that, in spite of everything else we’ve seen about how to be a Good Teacher™, authenticity is key. Heath’s post about how to negotiate the delicate balance between our many selves in and out of the classroom was especially striking to me: we have all been alive long enough to realize that we contain multitudes, but we are entering a phase of life in which we must strike a balance between authenticity and professional presentability. Before we entered these positions of relative authority (to our students, at least–and in some cases, our children), we were able to be more or less unfiltered in our interactions with others.
Some of us have been curating our public selves for years now, especially if we are shy or otherwise protective of more intimate aspects of ourselves, but the level of curation must now increase to such a degree that we have to maintain a guard when we are with our students, but as Heath mentioned in his post, that can give us the appearance of unapproachability or standoffishness, which is definitely not what we want to convey to those whom we are meant to teach. However, there may be a way to project our good intentions and authentic personalities to our students without being inappropriately informal with them (because, despite how much we want to maintain a rapport, there is still a power differential that makes a true friendship tricky, and arguably impossible for the duration of the student-teacher relationship): in the comments to Heath’s post, I mentioned the idea of three axes of Our Teaching Selves™ (borrowing from @rinaley‘s comment earlier in the thread): the x-axis is our level of introversion/extraversion, the y-axis is our professional enthusiasm, and the z-axis is the degree to which the other traits are presented in a social situation. I offered myself as the example: my x-values would be relatively low, because I am an introvert, my y-values would be high because I am enthusiastic about my chosen field or profession (if I were, say, an aerospace engineer, they would be significantly lower, because I would have absolutely no idea what I was doing and would likely be failing all my classes), and my z-axis would be variable, depending on the situation. In the classroom, it would be much higher because there is a certain threshold of interest necessary to even be in the class, let alone actually pay attention, and much lower in the outer world because there are fewer people outside my department and the university who even know or care what I do on a daily basis. So for me, I suppose my authentic teaching self would be who I am normally with some adjustments for social context, in other words, “I yam what I yam” (a huge nerd who gets way too into her metaphors), but I gesticulate a little less wildly when I’m in class.