Many teachers I know began their careers by doing what they had seen their teachers do. They were teaching like they thought teaching was supposed to be like. However, it wasn’t long until they realized that what they thought teaching was like and the reality of everyday teaching wasn’t the same.
For myself, I was confused because I thought I was doing all the things I was suppose to do. Sitting around with other new teachers, we discussed what we thought we were supposed to be doing, what was going wrong, and why we thought there were problems. Most of it was the students’ fault. If only they’d just listen. Or focus. Or or or.
It seemed that no matter how hard we were trying, things just didn’t seem to be working like next door in the classroom of the veteran teachers.
It took me a few more years to realize that what I was missing was my own authentic voice. I was trying to teach in a way I thought I should teach based on what I experienced as a student. I didn’t realize that each teacher had their own unique voice. I was trying to copy them to be successful, not realizing that to be successful I really had to develop my own voice.
Voice – A United Convergence
What does it mean for a teacher to develop their own voice? How does someone new to teaching figure all this out? I mean, each of us has spent about 12 years watching teachers teach and what they do each day. We know what the teachers we like did and the one’s we weren’t too keen on did and didn’t do. Can’t we just go from there?
Unfortunately, it’s not that simple. Although we’ve seen teachers in the classroom, we don’t really know what teachers do each day or why we think this one is “good” and this other one “not so good”. As students, we really don’t know what teachers are doing or what is involved in teaching. Especially if we have great teachers because they make it look effortless and easy.
It’s anything but!
So how does one go about finding one’s voice?
Stephen R. Covey in his book The 8th Habit – From Effectiveness to Greatness outlines finding one’s voice as:
Covey goes on to explain that to find one’s voice, there is need to refelct on each of these areas in order to identify your unique, personal significance.
Todd Henry, in his book Louder Than Words, describes finding your voice as:
Your authentic voice is the expression of your compelling “why.” It defines the space that you are wired to occupy, and the unique value you are capable of contributing, which means that if you don’t use it, then that contribution is unlikely ever to be seen.Todd Henry p. 10
For me, it’s the latter part of that quote that rings so true ” … if you don’t use it, then that contribution is unlikely ever to be seen.” That is so important. How many of us have not done something because we thought it wouldn’t matter or it really wasn’t a big deal? Have followed what others said would work or what they did?
If you have a moment or two, take a look at this interview with Todd Henry and the discussion about developing your authentic voice.
How many teachers never find their authentic voice because they are trying to copy someone else or use someone else’s work without taking the time to infuse it with their voice? In an age where classroom decorations are posted on Instagram and TikTok teachers are growing in number, it can be very hard to find your authentic voice. There’s pressure to “have it all together” which, from my own experience, only happens before the students arrive. After that, it’s all a moving target!
So how does a teacher develop their authentic voice?
Experience, Talents, Passions, & Pedagogy/Curricula
Experience, Talents, Passions and Pedagogy/Curriculaof are all important in developing an authentic voice as a teacher. Now, copying someone may be a way to start but eventually, you have to develop your voice in order to tap into the creativity and passion that is within you and express your uniqueness as a person. Very few cover bands ever go on to experience greatness.
This takes time to explore and there will be some faux pas moments, total crashes, and moments of “I can’t do this. I’m the worst teacher!” It’s part of the journey. It’s part of finding your authentic voice as a teacher.
When beginning, it’s only natural to look to other teachers to see how they do things and to emulate the practices of teachers you thought were good teachers. But it won’t take too long to see that until you step out and begin to develop your authentic voice, you will always be looking for that “something” that seems to be missing. That feeling that you could do something more. Great teachers have a lot of commonalities and one of them is that they develop their authentic voice as a teacher.
Current Time of Dissonance
So what about our current situation?
Right now, many teachers are struggling with finding/rediscovering their voice during this time of great change. Many teachers who developed their own unique voices as teachers are finding their voices need to change and they are experiencing dissonance.
Dissonance is when “ there is an inconsistency between the beliefs one holds or between one’s actions and one’s beliefs.” Teachers are struggling as their current voice isn’t quite fitting into this new experience of teaching. Although they have teaching experience, they lack experience in this situation. They are having to make changes in much the same way they did when they first developed their own voice. They know how important it is for them as a teacher.
It’s hard work.
They are uncomfortable.
They have been developing their unique voice as a teacher over their career. Many feel pressure, with so many things to do and experiencing a dissonance between what they typically do and what is happening now.
Yet, without taking the time to make adjustments and become comfortable with the changes they need to make, the dissonance they are feeling will continue.
As you move forward:
Are you experiencing dissonance? What have you been doing to overcome this dissonance? In which areas are you experiencing the greatest dissonance?
Where do you need support in harmonizing in this new situation?
I’d appreciate your comments and feedback. You can leave a comment or contact me at www.mypd2day.weebly.com and click the contact button.