Arguably the largest factors of student engagement are the teacher and their teachings; without us there would be no structure, no lesson, no need for motivation. Its not just the obvious ‘how, or what we teach’, equally if not more important, is understanding who we are, and how we interact. This week I heard the term Teaching Persona for the first time whilst reading Faculty Focus. It is described as our teaching identity. As much as there are (and I can think of many from my childhood) teachers who are not reflective, being such allows us to self criticize, adapt, and overcome challenges in our practice. As the old saying goes, first impressions count and from the moment we set eyes on our students or engage in those first words, we are judged; every question we ask, our mannerisms, our approachability,our teaching technique, whether we like it or not who WE are directly effects the motivation and engagement of our learners. Linda Shadiow says:
The learning environment is better served when we start with our own identities and purposefully choose to draw on what will serve students learning in that environment
Of course, we can’t entirely change who we are in the classroom, our ‘normal’ personality will always play a huge part of who we are in the classroom, but having the ability to “draw on what will serve students” is a key attribute of a great teacher. We need to be acutely aware of the learners reactions to us, to be able to tune in and understand what works, and what doesn’t. We all make mistakes (I certainly have over the years) but over time, we can construct a persona that we can freely adapt to different students and environments. Build the tool kit and then pull out the the right tool when the job demands it.