25 May 2017

One More Smile’s All I Can Fake

Let’s be honest. Nobody loves teaching every single day. If you’re lucky, you love teaching most days, but all of us, at some time or another, have to fake it. Maybe we’re distracted by something happening at home; maybe we’re teaching a topic that doesn’t fully capture our interest; or maybe (especially this time of year) we’re just tired. In any case, we put on our smiles, try our best to connect with the content and the kids, and we make it through.

Even when everything is clicking and we’re confident in the material we need to teach and looking forward to the lesson, there’s an element of faking it. We have to back up and cover background information; we have to conjure up a sometimes sickening level of enthusiasm because we feel it’s the only way to engage some students.

Here’s the thing: Good teachers are almost always good actors. For all the reasons above, we have to be. But acting a part every day is exhausting! It’s no wonder so many teachers burn out and leave the profession. Here’s an alternative: Strive for authenticity over enthusiasm. You can only summon up so much enthusiasm for “measurement” or  “an insect’s life cycle.” But, I can very naturally share about the time my mom mis-measured my dance costume and my step-father had to stay up all night re-making it. Or, I could talk about how I lit up Facebook recently with an innocent post about pill bugs and doodle bugs.

Of course, embedding something of your authentic self into each and every lesson benefits students too, but that’s for another blog. This is about how it helps you. Stop trying to plan the most engaging lesson. Instead, bring your most engaging stories into the lesson. The pressure and stress will diminish while your energy and interest will increase. Acting is still a requirement, but authenticity brings necessary balance to the teacher’s perpetual stage.

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