I recently spent time with a former colleague in southern France. She is a 30-year world languages teacher from California. We were having dinner with her brother, and at one point, he said, “I love my job, and you also love yours. But I think perhaps they make us disconnected from who we truly are.”
This statement made me consider how we often divide our personal lives from our professional ones. A teacher cannot effectively teach while living a divided life. Relational teachers bring their undivided selves to the classroom every day. They do not separate the personal self from the professional self. Educational thought-leader Parker Palmer would advocate that to be a good thing.
And so did the French teacher, who corroborated with her brother, saying that as an undivided teacher, she is given a rich set of tools she can use to teach her courses. She is able to draw from lived experiences spent all over the world, a life opened up to her largely due to her facility in languages. The stories she shares with her students trick them into learning. At times, her students don’t even know that they’re on the hook. This is deeply gratifying to her.
A teacher’s vocation is grounded in relationships. The opportunity to capitalize on relationships in order to foster connection-based learning is what fulfills so many. On page 186 of Time to Teach: Time to Reach, there are several quotes from teachers that echo this message: “I didn’t choose teaching; teaching chose me.” “Teaching is a vocation and a calling—definitely not just a job.” “Teaching has made my life rich in value and experience, if not money.” “Because I have taught for so long, I know that my legacy will live on far after my earthly years.”
And that is why this teacher leads an undivided personal and professional life. She knows that when she leaves the field, she will also leave behind a legacy shaped by thousands of teachable micro-moments. Each of them have a positive impact on student learning because this teacher was able to share parts of herself—in all her humanness—in order to serve the learning.
For more about the power of relationships in teaching, check out a previous blog here. Being an undivided teacher is also a theme of my online course, which concludes registration this upcoming Friday.