The Complexity of Teacher Identity: Who am I?

For three long days I have sat on this blog post, constantly rewording and thinking over and over the validity of my opinion. With music blasting from my set up, I’ve taken ample breaks to attempt to memorise my materials for my Kodaly Summer School materials test in less than a month.


The idea that people spend time to find themselves is not a new concept. I’m sure we all have stories of travel and life, so that we openly share and others that otherwise stay unspoken. As a preservice teacher it is easy to get caught in the system. How many preservice teachers have ‘experienced’ life or have even began to sort out the complicated puzzle of ‘who am I?’.


It would be fair to suggest that a number of (certainly not all) young emerging teachers are presented with the complex issues of identity. This might prove more complex given the environment and context that the teacher is found in. However I do honestly believe that a number of these issues stem from teacher education.


How often are university students (of any major) exposed to quality teachers (and not just ‘masters of their fields’)? Would it be fair to suggest that sometimes the best teachers are those still in the classroom, working in industry and perhaps as far away as possible from universities?


For education students, even practicum placements are not guaranteed in regards to quality for every student. Typically can we expect every preservice teacher to have an experience with a good teacher to observe? In addition to this, traditional teacher education from my experience is limited.


Reflection and professional development are the last two areas of teacher education that seem to be rather interesting. Reflection is pushed as a major way to encourage development throughout the program. Critical reflection that is not always accurate, well founded or even agreed upon. In my time as a preservice teacher we have never reflected on us, only ever have we looked critically towards our practice.


For me teaching is just as much about who I am as it is about the subject I teach. Content can be learnt and revised in regards to facts and figures. Musicianship, or very specific subject skills (a skill that is left very much in the elementary stages at university) and knowledge about myself as a person seem to be my major deficits. It seems quite damaging considering I am entering the final semester of my undergraduate journey.


This concept of teacher identity has been a major interest of mine. This evening I came across ‘The onion model’, a concept for core reflection. I’ve decided to answer these questions and hopefully analyse them in the future to provide myself with a greater understanding of the type of teacher that I will become.


There appears to be a section of teacher whom believe that teacher education is somewhat of an oxymoron. If we consider someone who was a great teacher in our experience in our school life and answer the following:

What was this teacher’s strengths?

  • They saw the individual
  • Passion
  • Trust
  • Good entertainer/ humour
  • Fairness

We tend to mention strength that are personal qualities, also known as core qualities. However the question is also open to people mentioning competency based answers such as ‘without fail they remembered to mark the roll at the beginning of each class.’

The core qualities listed as strengths are innate to the person and due to that are genuinely conveyed by the teacher. The good teachers that we describe have the ability to use these qualities professionally.


In my previous blog post I asked of the universe, how can we make teacher education more meaningful to make people into people, instead of robots with information and pedagogy. I completed a small piece of research in my down time. I came across the onion model for core reflection. A concept that an educator from the Netherlands deducted to assist preservice teachers in aligning their knowledge, thoughts and mission to enact a solid teacher identity. The questions (bolded) have been provided below. I have answered these questions to the best of my ability currently. The notion is that once all layers of the onion are aligned we then receive a good teacher. Hmmm I wonder?




Environment – What do I encounter? (What am I dealing with?)

I am dealing with students (primary/ secondary), their parents/ caregivers, other teachers, professionals, specialists, experts.

Behaviour – What do I do?

I teach music and learning support. I am an instrumentalist, a conductor, a singer, a leader and I work hard.

Competencies – What am I competent at?

Working hard, time management, reflection, providing feedback, critical analysis, music, playing and teaching brass and percussion, conducting, directing, leading, taking direction, listening, writing lists, completing lists, being a friend, management, learning set information, reading and writing policy.

Beliefs – What do I believe?

I belief in myself, if I have put the work in. I believe in my selected mentors. I believe in evidence, information and facts.

Identity – Who am I (in my work)?

I am a bright and bubbly humorous individual who aims to make children feel safe, secure and connected. I have a fascination with connection and the power of this in regards to education (especially in the co-curricular music department).

What inspires me? (What greater entity do I feel connected with?)

I am inspired by the teachers who have taught me, the good and the bad. The idea of achieving something great in one student drives me to be the best teacher that I can. I am inspired by great thoughts and ideas of overcoming diversity. I am inspired to work hard because I have seen those before me reap the benefits of hard work. I am connected professionally with my peers and mentors through ideals and the love of learning. I believe that theory becomes practice which is embodied by the individual. Theory does not come alive until it becomes embodied and perhaps it is not truly understood by the individual until this transferal of knowledge is complete. I am inspired by the idea that every child is an individual and can offer something different to the classroom environment. This meaning that the class dynamic changes with or without the input of a certain individual.

I look forward to revising this as it becomes time for me to further my portfolio (and I become less naive and learn more about myself) and learn more about the idea of teacher identity.



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