This week's challenge requires that we reflect on strategies for staying positive during the semester. Maintaining a favorable attitude requires a strong sense of self and purpose. A teacher often guides her students by modeling a philosophy, which in turn provides a sense of stability. Just as sailors need to feel confidence in their leaders, students need to have faith in their teacher's abilities and commitment.
As a teacher, I sometimes encounter an identity crisis. This most often happens when a student questions some aspect of my approach (I'm working hard to develop a thicker skin). "Professor Merton's" defining features smudge and warp, leaving me wondering just what kind of teacher are you? My mind frantically jumps from movie archetypes. Should I be firmer and more authoritarian, like Mr. Hand in Fast Times at Ridgemont High? When faced with students who just won't seem to listen, I sometimes fantasize of adopting the persona of single minded focus and assuredness.
At other times, I fancy (or fantasize) I'm much like John Keating in Dead Poet's Society. Sure I have never walked on student desks (and if we're totally honest, poetry is my least favorite literary form), but surely I can adopt an more inspirational and selfless persona.
However, at the end of the day, I forever and always carry the heart of an elementary school teacher. When looking towards a role model that inspires me to focus on what matters most in my teaching, Mr. Ray from Finding Nemo is the absolute king.
What I find most inspirational and grounding about Mr. Ray are a few key attributes that I believe all teachers should share. First, he's welcoming to all, without being condescending. Second, he knows the value of teaching the material in an entertaining and fun way. Finally, he realizes the importance of providing his students with first hand experience in the subject matter.
So this semester, when I begin to feel grouchy, I plan to put on my copy of Finding Nemo and watch the master at work.