Identity:a: the distinguishing character or personality of an individual: individualityb: the relation established by psychological identification
— Merriam Webster
Ask people who they are, to tell you about themselves, and inevitably someone will answer with what they do for a living. For most Americans, at least, so much of who you are as a person is interwoven with what your job is.
So take away the job. What’s left?
Technically speaking, I was a teacher for 13 school days. I was hired August 24 and made the decision to leave September 23. Add my student teaching semester, and one could stretch out that title for a few more months.
But in that brief time, and the two years of education leading up to it, I had begun to see myself as a teacher. On my last day of student teaching, as I neared the door to leave my third-period classroom, I overheard one student say, “I feel like you’re our real teacher.” Moments like that — students like that — made me persevere months later when I was losing my confidence, health, and sanity in my own classroom.
So is a teacher who is no longer teaching still a teacher?
I think so. And no matter where I go from here, I will always have that experience.
I told my counselor I feel that when things get hard, I quit. She said, “That sounds like a rule you’ve made for yourself. But take away that rule, and what have you got? ‘I tried something. Now I’m trying something else.'”
I tried being a teacher. I’ll probably try again later. My degree isn’t going anywhere. There are so many avenues to pursue, here and abroad, in the private and public sector, tutoring and in classrooms, for teenagers and adults.
Right now I’m considering a different path. Today I was surrounded by old friends and acquaintances-suddenly-turned friends who rallied around me and encouraged me in my potential next chapter.
Teaching will always be a part of me. I think I’ll always miss certain kids. And I’ve been grieving the loss of not the job per se, but the relationships I’d started to form before they were abruptly cut short. With the kids, with the staff, even with the parents.
One of the last lesson plans I taught was a pre-reading activity for Oedipus on identity. Students watched this video on DNA testing and then answered the questions, “Who are you?” “How do you know?” “What components make you who you are?” “Describe a time when your identity completely shifted, and you had to question what made you you.”
As a good teacher should, I modeled my expectations by sharing examples of my answers.
Oh, but if they’d waited another week, they’d have seen a true identity shift in action.
So who am I? I am a child of God, a daughter, a sister, a friend, a writer, a singer, a coffee-maker, a family historian. I have a heart for people. And yes, I’m a teacher. But there’s more about me that’s yet to be determined.