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The Importance of Identity

In conducting my research as to why teachers leave the profession, I am noticing something that would make for interesting research all on it’s own later on.  There are some people who have left teaching, and they made a relatively seamless transition to some other career area.  Then there are people who have left teaching, only to land in one major identity crisis.

Ebberwein, et al* conducted a study of career adaptability.  One interesting tidbit from that was this,

Participants who anticipated career change planfully and realistically, even when their jobs appeared to be secure, cited better experiences of the transition and perceived themselves to be coping better than did participants who ignored signs of change or reacted unrealistically soon after the job loss.

In other words, as the Boy Scout motto goes, “Always Be Prepared.”

Which leads me to this – I’m going to ask you a question. This is perhaps one of the most difficult questions I have ever personally encountered in my life, but I think I’m getting there on an answer at the ripe old age of almost 46. I will warn you, the answer sometimes changes.  Ok.  Here comes the question.

Who are you?

If you say “I am a …teacher…parent…wife/husband…daughter/son…  I’m going to tell you, “TRY AGAIN.”  Those things are not who you are – they are what you do. They are the context in which you are you.  You may not have an answer right away.  In fact, it could take years to answer the question, “Who are you,”   who is this person being the teacher, parent, partner, or whatever your roles are?

Part of remaining resilient through the course of being an educator, is hanging on to your own identity. That is, knowing who you are.  You might not know who you are – might need to explore this still.

The most important thing you bring to your job is YOU.  That person whom you are – that’s the important thing, so you must not lose that person.  It’s easier said than done.

If you don’t have a good, clear idea of who you are, then it’s time you found that person within yourself.  Let him/her out of the cage.  It will make you a better educator.  And if, somewhere down the road, something happens to change your world, and you find it’s time to move on, you will have an identity that stands alone.

*Ebberwein, Christopher A., Krieshok, Thomas S.,Ulven, Jon C.Prosser, Ellie C.     Career Development Quarterly; Jun2004, Vol. 52 Issue 4, p292-308, 17p

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