You can listen to the podcast version of this blog post here.
What makes you, you?
After listening to episode 136: Understand your Teacher Brand on the Burned In Teacher podcast, I was inspired to respond to the Call to Action prompts presented:
What are 10 words people would describe me as? Is this how I want to be known as?
Who are the top 5 people I associate with the most? How do they negatively and positively influence me?
What is my personal mission statement? My core values as a teacher?
When I first heard of the term “teacher brand,” on the Burned In teacher podcast, I thought that Amber Harper, the podcast host, would list out different specific types of “brands” or kinds of teachers. She kind of referenced how people might connect the word, “brand,” to social media marketing and who you want to be known as online in the content creation field, but this is not what she was going for.
According to Harper, she asserts that a teacher brand goes beyond how you put yourself together, diving into what kind of vibe you give off to everyone around you, what people say about you when you are not around. Interestingly, she said people should be able to predict how you are like in the classroom based on how you made them feel in your repeated interactions with them. Do I radiate positivity, gratefulness, and gratitude?
At first, I was kind of defensive when I heard this, and a bit self-conscious. Do I have pride in myself? Am I well put-together enough? Do I have to always give off a positive energy vibe? I still remember ranting to my teacher lunch buddies about how stressed I felt about getting an aggressive e-mail from my school district about my reading decathlon field trip on the same day I listened to the podcast episode on the way home. It made me even more critical of myself. I don’t want to give off negative vibes to those around me. Hearing this made me check myself honestly: I do not want to be known as a teacher who is constantly venting. After this day, I’ve been more intentional in spreading positive energy to my colleagues.
10+ Words people would describe me as
All over the place
Looking at all these words, I seem like a mixed bag of impressions. Different people see different, more vulnerable sides of me. I am an oxymoron of sorts. After writing all these words down, I have come to accept all these parts of me. I am a multifaceted ISFJ human being and teacher. I only allow my students to see a sliver of my vulnerable parts. I want to add “positive” to the list, but to be honest, I struggle with staying positive, and am not sure if I send out enough positive vibes in my classroom.
During my first two to three years of teaching, I may have even been described as “sacrificial” because I did sacrifice a lot of my time and mental health in planning lesson plans, grading student work, managing my classroom, and trying to connect with my students. As I hear more about shootings, especially school shootings, like the one in Texas, hearing how two teachers died trying to protect the students traumatizes me a bit. I would not want to be described as “sacrificial” in such a dangerous situation. I personally experienced one “cat fight” in my classroom and stopped a potential fight during my third year of teaching, by putting myself between the two students in the latter situation. For the cat fight, I could not do much besides calling for “security” or support. As teachers, we have to be very careful to not lay our hands on our students, especially in this event. I have shared more about my views about physical boundaries with students in the past (episode 4).
I honestly am not totally sure if I would “take a bullet” for my students. I do not think it is, or should be, part of a teacher’s job description. Does this make me a bad teacher?
Shootings do easily get “politicized,” but there needs to be change. I honestly would feel safer if there was someone armed, like a police officer, specifically tasked to protect students and staff on campus. It makes me shake my head, however, when I see people comment online on how teachers should be armed and trained on how to use a gun. I signed up to be a teacher, not a solider or security guard. I would rather be sent to a self-defense class. Personally, I feel that stricter gun laws may be able to help, but banning guns would not be possible. There will always be people out there wanting to hurt others, and they will still do it whether it is “legal” or “illegal.”
The top 5 people I associate with
Harper mentions in her episode that we are “the average of the 5 people we hang around the most with.” It’s an interesting statement. I find myself associating with a lot of different colleagues at my school and these individuals vary slightly from year to year as new and old teachers and staff members come and go, so I’m not sure how much essence of these people I capture within myself as a teacher. But here it goes…
- A “jaded” math veteran teacher
- A 5-year science teacher that started teaching the same year as me in this same school, a.k.a. now known as my “best (teacher) friend”
- An extroverted first-year English teacher
- A serious and solemn 6-year history teacher that teaches the same students as me
- A supportive assistant principal
The first two teachers I listed are the top two people I associate the most with every year. I guess the mixed adjectives that described me earlier make sense when juxtaposed with the diverse personalities I associate with at my school site. When I look at these five people from my school, I can now see that I try to hold on to different worlds of this vast education field. I desire to be seen as a good teacher who is not afraid to associate with teachers that other people might assume I would not get along with. Perhaps I do not want to be seen as “one dimensional” before my colleagues’ eyes. However, I stay away from any school politics as much as possible. I want to be that supportive teacher who radiates a realistic relatable energy and someone that is always open to growing and being better. And as much as possible, I do not want the media to box me in to a certain image of a political narrative of either side of the spectrum.
My Personal Mission Statement
So, what is my “teacher brand”? What is my “why”?
My feelings about teaching, about why I want to teach has been shifting with the stormy seas of public education. Before going into my teaching credential program, I desired to really help struggling students improve in English. I befriended many international students during my last year of college and really enjoyed connecting with peers desiring to learn and speak English better. I especially enjoyed tutoring a friend’s cousin who recently arrived from China for three years. As I tutored him for three years, I was able to see him grow immensely. From barely being able to speak, read, and write in English in fifth grade, he opened up and started to initiate conversations with me and befriend his peers at school in 7th grade.
I wanted to carry this same passion of helping students grow in English skills as a teacher. After the teaching credential program, I carried this vision of creating a classroom where students can thrive and learn in a positive environment where I am more of a facilitator and not an authoritarian. It was a very idealistic vision of a self-functioning classroom.
However, I lost all hope for this vision after my first year of teaching at my school. My previous experiences of tutoring and international students interactions seemed like an idyllic dream. In my second year, I had a mentor telling me that I need to be the “Alpha” in the room, and after giving me a lot of strategies to work with, he left me questioning if I should be in the teaching field because I was in a constant depressing, negative slump after teaching each day.
Nevertheless, I managed to push through each year. The pandemic ironically gave me a much needed clarity and reset to refill my passion for helping struggling students.
So, my mission is to support struggling students to grow, to move beyond what they think they “can’t do.” I don’t want my students to stay stuck in a negative mindset of complacency. With the help of God, I want to be that firm, but gentle guidance for my students to always push to do their best.