When it comes to classrooms, persona is good, but characters are bad. Persona is an outward expression of our teacher identities. It’s what makes Daniel slow and introspective, and what makes Jackie fiery and honest. It’s the difference between an understated approach and an exuberant one. It’s why some students always ask Sue when they need historical reference or Monica when they need tips on writing. Nurturing our teaching personas is an important, natural part of our evolution as craftspeople. Yet, there’s a fine line between persona and character.
Characters are creations. We can love a Mr. Holland or be entertained by a Stephen Colbert. We can be enamored by an Erin Gruwell or challenged by a Lena Dunham. But classrooms aren’t stages and they don’t require sages or entertainers dispensing their knowledge in infectious ways. Rather, they require teachers who are self-assured in what makes them unique, a clarity about her strongest skills or his greatest quirk. Classrooms aren’t places for popularity, they’re communities for change.
Teaching is hard work. Period. But if we’re working hard to stay in character, we’re locking ourselves and our students out of a learner's life.