Did you ever think of a teacher as an actor? Considering teachers have to keep a room full of students entertained and learning for close to 8 hours per day, sometimes teacher begin to develop a persona which they never thought possible.
There are many different teaching styles from the lecturer, the dictator, the mellow “friend,” and a mixture of all three. Some teachers enjoy being feared and not developing any form of a professional relationship with their students while other teachers are involved with after school activities and fundraisers.
When in the front of the classroom, how do students perceive a teacher?
The one thing all teachers demand is respect for their job and the subject being taught. Each teacher approaches it differently; some raise their voice while others ask nicely, and even some just continue teaching while being spoken over by their students.
I discovered I had a persona when I began my teaching career in middle school. This age is a challenge but one of the most fun to work with as they have so many ideas. When they connect with a teacher, the respect never goes away. It is hard to earn their respect, but once earned, the pleasures of teaching are reminded everyday.
Then I began teaching at the college level; a very different ballgame, though I loved it! The hardest part in this situation is being a twenty-something, looking the age of a college student and having the male students hit on you (which was pretty funny when I began class as Prof. Weinberger and their faces dropped).
The other issue was having older male adult students who could not get by the fact I was half their age, teaching college English to them. Very quickly I developed a persona that was much different than I did at the middle school level which included my dress, my speech, and how I conducted myself in and out of the classroom. The older male students felt that any lesson I taught needed to be challenged by them or any question I was asked, they could answer better before I even had a chance to. The other students were getting quite annoyed and expressed their concern so I decided it was time to stop the behavior. After the first week, I put a stop to it by simply addressing the problem openly in front of the class.
I simply said, “If anyone in class seems to have a problem with my age and being a Professor, this is college and you have the right to switch classes.” I pointed and said, ‘There’s the door and I won’t be insulted; I expect to be respected as I studied just like you are and EARNED my degree to be standing here.” While I said it, of course my speech addressed the entire classroom but my body language and eyes focused on the individuals who felt the need to challenge me each class.
In all five of my courses, only one student dropped out. I guess my persona worked.