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Sunday, June 22, 2014

What (Arche)Type of Teacher are You?

I was watching The Power of Myth recently, and I became intrigued by Joseph Campbell's claim that certain characters or archetypes can be found over and over again in traditional stories from around the world.

I thought it would be fun to come up with some "teacher archetypes." As I started doing this, I realized that not only have I worked with all of these different types, but I've also studied under them and even played each of the different roles myself at one time or another.  (I've given extreme examples here; in a future post, I'll give some real-life examples.)

[Update 1/17/16: I've posted a quiz to help you identify your archetype(s).]

The Buddy:
“Are we having fun yet?”

Taken to an extreme: Chatting during class about everything but today’s lesson.

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Benefits: Students have positive associations with your subject. They see you as a friend and ally.

Potential Dangers: There could be too much emphasis on enjoyment and not enough on learning. Some students might not respect you or take your class seriously.

Your new motto: “You can do it!”

The students will follow you anywhere. Make sure to lead them in rewarding, challenging directions.

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The Cop:
“Give ‘em an inch, and they’ll take a mile.”

Taken to an extreme: Is this kindergarten or boot camp?

Benefits: There are clear rules and consistent policies in your classroom, so students know what to expect.

Potential Dangers:  Students could be afraid to admit when they’re confused. They may form negative associations with your class and lose motivation to learn.

Your New Motto: “Choose your battles.”

A bit of high spirits never hurt anyone; you can draw the line at anything disrespectful or dangerous.

The Energizer Bunny:
“I’ll take care of it.”

Taken to an extreme: "Of course I can teach an extra class this semester, and coach the basketball team, and lead the workshop, and take minutes at the meeting, and make cookies for the bake sale, just as soon as I finish correcting the seventh draft of my students' essays..."
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Benefits: You're a star performer.  Everyone knows they can count on you. You're always willing to go the extra mile.

Potential Dangers:  Your family may feel neglected.  Students might be so used to hand-holding that they don't make enough of an effort.   Colleagues may resent the unrealistic standard you set.
Your new motto: “From each according to his or her abilities, to each according to his or her needs.”

If you keep burning the candle at both ends and in the middle, you'll quickly burn out.  Before taking on any more work, ask yourself whether it's really a priority and whether someone else could handle it.

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The Laid-Back Dude:
“Don't worry, be happy.”

Taken to an extreme: Leaving on summer vacation without turning in final grades.

Benefits: You don’t get drawn into colleagues' gripes and stress-related illnesses. You're a model of work-life balance.

Potential Dangers:  Students might be confused by or take advantage of a lack of standards; colleagues might become resentful of having to bear more of the administrative workload.
Your new motto: “Whistle while you work.”

As long as you're doing your fair share, colleagues will appreciate your positive spirit and students will have a pleasant learning experience.

The Perfectionist:
“You missed a spot.”

Taken to an extreme: Grading creative writing entirely on penmanship and spelling.

Benefits: Your students do well in fields requiring a high degree of precision.
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Potential Dangers:  There may be so much focus on details that students don’t understand the point of what they’re learning. They may be so afraid of making mistakes that they don't want to challenge themselves.
Your new motto: “Practice makes perfect.”

Sometimes students need to make mistakes in order to learn what not to do. If they’re making a sincere effort to improve, their accuracy will increase over time.

The Wizard:
“Look what I can do!”

Taken to an extreme: Demonstrating one-armed handstands to a beginning yoga class; blowing things up in the chemistry lab for no apparent reason. Castilo Dominici

Benefit: Students may be inspired to work hard so they can emulate you.

Potential Dangers:  Attention may stay focused on your expertise, rather than on students’ learning process. Students may be interested in the tricks but not in the principles behind them. They might expect to be dazzled and need a bigger “bang” each time to sustain their interest.
Your new motto: “The finger that points to the moon is not the moon.”

Students can admire your expertise, but the main focus should be on helping them to gain mastery in the field.

As you read the descriptions, you probably thought you spotted the "right" answer: that likely describes your dominant archetype. Another description may remind you of a colleague who really rubs you the wrong way: that could represent your “shadow,” a side of your teaching self you try to repress.

The truth is that all of these types of teachers can be effective.  The important thing is to make a conscious choice rather than falling into habitual patterns.