“Education is dependent on the quality of the personal relationships between teachers and children” (van Manen, 1991)
Several classical educational writers, e.g., St. Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) and JF Pestallozzi (1746-1827), highlight that personality and moral qualities of teachers are of utmost importance.
With the end of this academic year and the opportunity to pause and reflect, I started thinking of the meaning of being an authentic teacher. Should teachers be authentic? How does authenticity translate in a classroom scenario?
At the start of my teacher training, the first thing I was told by my mentor was to use all the ready-prepared materials available in the department. The scheme of work was directly linked to resources and assessment. I felt demoralised, deflated. In my mind, I had a clear image of the teacher I wanted to be: John Keating, the progressive English teacher from Dead Poets Society. What I did not realise was that in my quest, I was not being authentic! I wanted to be John Keating.
The truth is, you cannot be authentic until you critically reflect on your own teaching path and get to know yourself. You cannot be authentic until you start to take risks in a safe environment. The type of environment that allows thinking to progress, that allows questions to flow and that allows a passion for learning to develop.
Authenticity is closely linked to one’s beliefs in the value of your subject and the commitment to engage students fully and meaningfully. The development of authenticity in the classroom is an art. The art of connecting the student with the subject.
Should teachers be authentic in the classroom?
Authentic teachers are often perceived as approachable, passionate for their subject, capable and attentive.
Students greatly benefit from a reliable teacher with excellent subject knowledge, a fully self-aware person who shows a commitment to education and a commitment to learning, not because they must but because they genuinely want to.
Authenticity though, extends beyond the individual. Teachers are genuinely caring towards their students and want them not only to succeed but to thrive.
By Marilena Pevreall
Head of Secondary Education at The University of Buckingham
Coming Soon: ‘S’ is for September and Supportive.