Under All These Clothes, I Too Am Naked

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“Stand and Deliver”I’ve been reading a few books here and there about education, from The First Days of School by Harry K. and Rosemary T. Wong to the previously mentioned The Reluctant Disciplinarian by Gary Rubenstein. A common theme (that even this article seems to justify) is that there’s a sort of acting that goes on with the role of a teacher. I previously discussed this as being in one’s avatar state, vis-a-vis Avatar the Last Airbender. Edward James Olmos also made mention in a speech I heard a few years ago, stating that “acting is the art of being.” It’s never been more apparent lately that teachers are truly method actors who’ve done extensive research.

And by acting, I mean, we bring elements of what a teacher should look like, but adjust it to accommodate our true personalities. For instance, I hate having to ask my teachers if I can use the bathroom, but it’s a good rule for younger kids because it teaches them discipline. That’s the contrast between the acting me and the real me. Yet, as a teacher, I use slang every so often to help kids better understand the material I’m teaching. That’s a comparison.

Many of the blogs I’ve read here in the blogosphere have only proven just how stressful and worn out teachers are from their professions, having a (albeit highly sensitive) outlook on their performance as a reflection of the kids’ success. While it’s great to have high expectations and follow through with great performance, it’s also important to understand that too much of anything isn’t good. For instance, many teachers often jump into their roles as teachers too deeply (present writer included), but it usually means that the teacher will someday act out in frustration when their acting becomes too much of their person, and hence makes them vulnerable to kids’ shortcomings and shifting personalities.

This becomes even more evident in the extracurriculars that many of the student personnel take on. Some of us do mild things, like redesign our houses, go fish with our (biological) kids, or even :: gasp:: teach summer schools. Others of us, though, and especially the younger generation, tend to drink heavily, take on extreme sports, or go off to remote parts of the world. The latter, some safe and some not as much, is an indication that teaching isn’t this pretty ready-made profession outliers make it out to be. To the contrary, the sense of personal risk and the responsibility for a whole generation of kids often takes a toll on the person underneath the professional attire.

Yet, on the first day of school, I realized the only thing I got going for me besides my boyish charms and way with words is my teacher look.  With no kids around and the chance to just get acquainted with my room, I saw how my persona / performance on the stage would really have to capture the audience this year, a crew of 6th graders on the precipice of adolescence and hanging on to a branch of childhood. My sincerity in my acting I hope stands in contrast to people who act like they care but don’t.

Underneath that self-assured and undeniable exterior most of the good teachers wear, there’s this vulnerable skin, much like the audiences we perform for 180 or so days does …

jose, who’s less than 1/2way done with his classroom setup

About Jose Vilson

José Luis Vilson is a math educator, blogger, speaker, and activist. For more of my writing, buy my book This Is Not A Test: A New Narrative on Race, Class, and Education, on sale now.

Jose VilsonUnder All These Clothes, I Too Am Naked

Comments 8

  1. Frumteacher

    This is so true! You are right about the need to act, but making the role a personal one. I always regarded ‘being yourself’ and ‘acting’ to be opposites. But I start to feel more and more how I can be myself, even as my frumteacher-avatar :-) I now see that this is what defines a good actor: to take the script, and see how he can put as much of himself into the part as possible (like Tom Hulce’s depiction of Mozart in Amadeus). Great post.

  2. Bam

    Bam.. who loves that Jose is a teacher. I’m telling you. I was sold on you after the little boy and the gum incident in Chicago. It belongs in a movie, it said so much, without any words between the two of you.

    You should share that story at least once a year. I do.

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    Jose

    @ Frum: Yeah, my thoughts exactly. Though I definitely need to do more research on Mozart in Amadeus

    @ Bam: You tell the story better. I’ma go link it from your blog

    @ pissedoffteacher: thanks

    @ Ms. Whatsit: Thanks for linking me to flow theory. I’m glad I didn’t have to look up that really long name ;-)

  4. capcity

    Thanx to BygBaby for “introducing” me to your spot! Thanx, Jose for coming to visit my Intimate Side. U r inspiring me to re-activate my Teacher’s Side:
    http://cap4educatorcoach.blogspot.com/
    - i think i need to get some of those tales out of me to release the bitterness toward the other adults in education…though i’ll be honest – part of me wants all that educator’s perspective to gain $ome type of compensation;-)….great Blog!

  5. Mz. H

    Thanks for this post (I found it through Ms. Whatsit) – I start the “stage show” tomorrow. But it’s funny: I never feel more natural or more myself than when I’m interacting with a bunch of teenagers. I feel the weight of the “teacher responsibility” when I have too much time to ruminate. The more time I have with the kids, the more hopeful I become. And hopefully that shows.

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